There’s something so exciting about dancing. While many of us have two left feet, we love to live vicariously through dance films, especially those that push romance to the forefront. After all, is there anything sexier than two people in love getting close and knowing all the right moves?
If that’s your dream, we’ve got eight dance romance films to recommend for your next movie night in!
Baz Luhrmann made his name with bombastic movies of over-the-top romance, glitzy costumes, and pop music, and with his feature debut, Strictly Ballroom, he made ballroom dancing cool to a whole new generation.
Scott Hastings is one of the top ballroom dancers in Australia but he's bored stiff with the same old routines and his meddling mother's ambitions. He wants to experiment in ways that the dance committees won't allow, and neither will his partner. Fran, an overlooked dancer at his mom's studio, offers to partner with him and soon they find that opposites attract as they push the boundaries of dance.
On top of being very funny, Strictly Ballroom is achingly romantic (typical Luhrmann stuff!) and the dance scenes will make you dizzy with excitement. The show inspired a new era of Australian cinema and was later adapted into a stage musical.
Of course we have to include Dirty Dancing on a list like this! It’s a classic for a reason. It's been 35 years since the world was introduced to the beloved tale of a young woman who finds first love, a new skill, and her true self one summer in the Catskills.
To this day, people still throw Dirty Dancing-themed parties, quote along with its most famous scenes, and try to recreate that iconic lift. But amid all of those well-known beats, Dirty Dancing is a pretty dark movie about class, abortion, and young women trying to break free of society's constraints. Still, it’s also the perfect Friday night movie for anyone who’s ever wanted to dance their fears away.
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Making any kind of follow-up or prequel to Dirty Dancing was considered sacrilege by many. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, released in 2004, really has nothing to do with the original movie it gets its name from, but it's also a surprisingly good time with a scorching central couple.
In 1958, a young woman and her family arrive in Cuba during the Cuban revolution, much to her dismay. She feels out of place in her new home until she meets a waiter who introduces her to the world of dance.
While the plot feels predictable and many of the original story's political elements were cut out, what remains is the chemistry between Diego Luna and Romola Garai, as well as some jaw-dropping moves that fully earn the label of dirty dancing. It may not capture the magic of that iconic original but Havana Nights has much to recommend.
Over the course of ten movies, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers wholly redefined the movie musical with their scorching chemistry and absolute commitment to dance perfection. Of those films, we think Top Hat is our favorite and certainly the best one to introduce to classic movie novices.
Astaire plays an American tap dancer who moves to London to star in a new show. He immediately falls for Dale, played by Rogers, and pursues her across the city, but she thinks he's someone else and isn't interested, despite their incredible dancing abilities. Watching Rogers and Astaire dance is truly magical and it makes you yearn for someone to make more movies like this in 2022!
Magic Mike XXL
Sure, the first movie, Magic Mike, was the critically acclaimed title that used its flashy concept to explore issues like the 2008 economy crash and financial insecurities that plagued people in its aftermath. We respect that. But let’s be honest: Magic Mike XXL is just so much more fun!
If the first film was a way for Channing Tatum, a former exotic dancer, to dive seriously into his past, the follow-up is him letting those audiences of screaming women get exactly what we want (thanks, Channing!). What makes Magic Mike XXL so thrilling is how unabashedly focused it is on female pleasure, with the ensemble of muscled dancers doing everything to make the crowds happy.
It’s shockingly rare to see such things on the big screen, and we love it when it happens. Who wouldn’t want the likes of Tatum, Matt Bomer, and Joe Manganiello showing off their moves for our excitement? Bring on the next sequel!
Shall We Dance?
There are two versions of Shall We Dance? available, the most famous of which is the American remake starring Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere. That movie is a good time but we have to go with the Japanese original for the purposes of this list. It ended up becoming an unexpected smash hit in Japan when it was released in 1996, and we completely see why.
A successful businessman (played by Koji Yakusho) lives a comfortable life but struggles with depression and a sense that he's going nowhere too fast. One night, while coming home on the train, he passes a dance studio and spontaneously decides to take classes there. He quickly becomes infatuated with his instructor. Ballroom dancing gives him a new lease on life, but his wife worries he's having an affair while his friends think he's gone mad.
There are many Step Up movies available for your viewing experience, and we could argue all day about which one is the best and which dance scenes are the most exciting to watch. But if we’re here for some old-school romantic chemistry, we have to return to the film where it all started.
Channing Tatum burst into the spotlight by showing off those former stripper moves in a classic love story of the refined ballet dancer and the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who find common ground and red-hot chemistry together on the dance floor. What’s not to love?!
West Side Story
We can’t talk about films with romance and dancing without including one of the most iconic movie musicals ever made, or rather the two versions of it. West Side Story is an undisputed classic, a New York-set retelling of Romeo and Juliet centered on warring street gangs and the young lovers whose eyes meet across a crowded dancefloor.
You really can’t go wrong with either version of the story, whether it’s the 1961 adaptation starring Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno or Steven Spielberg’s recent remake that won Ariana DeBose an Oscar and reintroduced the show to a whole new generation. However, for our money, this might be a rare example of the remake being better than the original, thanks to Spielberg’s kinetic camera work, the vibrancy of the dance scenes, and the sheer energy of its gorgeous and talented cast. But if you’re looking to be swept away, West Side Story as a whole will get the job done.
Featured image from "Dirty Dancing" via Great American Films.