There are plenty of classic films about dancing, from The Red Shoes to Black Swan, but there are also plenty more where the characters slip in a two-step or a spot of dirty dancing out of the blue. Man Up is the latest film to feature a soon-to-be-legendary moment of unplanned choreography and in its honour we’ve compiled a list of our Top 10 Unexpected Dance Scenes in Film.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
10. This is the End: Backstreet’s Back – The Backstreet Boys
After nearly two hours of lewd, crude and hilarious apocalypse evasion, Seth, Jay and Craig find themselves in Heaven, with anything they could wish for at their fingertips. And what do they choose? The Backstreet Boys of course. This is by far the most unexpected and ridiculous scene on the list, but it works so well. After all, if you can’t party to a guilty pleasure like it’s 1997 in heaven, where can you?
9. Risky Business: Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger
The parents are away. You’ve got a free house. What do you do (besides opening a brothel of course)? Pour yourself a glass of Chivas Regal on the rocks – other brands are available – and rock out to some Old Time Rock and Roll. With a powerslide and some tighty-whiteys a movie icon was born – and later spoofed – while Tom Cruise never quite lost the dancing bug.
8. (500) Days of Summer: You Make My Dreams – Hall & Oates
If you’d just slept with Zooey Deschanel you’d probably feel this good too. Walking to work the morning after, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is on top of the world, strutting to the joyous bounce of Hall & Oates. He’s so happy that everything around him turns into a magical wonderland, playing on the Musicals trope where every background actor suddenly develops incredible dancing skills the moment music starts playing. Erupting water fountains, home runs, Han Solo and marching bands: we’re left in no doubt that this is a very good day to be Tom.
7. Bande à part: The Madison Dance – Michael Legrand
Officially the oldest film on this list, the sequence unofficially referred to as “The Madison Dance” is also one of the most famous dance scenes in film history. The stars of Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande à part (Band of Outsiders), Arthur, Odile and Franz, are eating in a café when they decide to get up and perform this charming little stamp-and-clap dance. The steps are plain enough, but the real genius comes when the music cuts out, leaving only the sound of their movements and a voiceover articulating their thoughts. While plenty of the films on this list use dancing as a raw expression of emotion, Godard shows that even at such times, the mind is still ticking away with its own anxieties.
6. Pulp Fiction: You Never Can Tell – Chuck Berry
“Ladies and Gentlemen, now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: it’s the world-famous Jack Rabbit Slim’s Twist Contest!” Really, what kind of a list would this be if it didn’t feature Pulp Fiction? A film made out of legendary, quotable moments, this is the most famous. A sultry Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) and a reluctant Vincent Vega (John Travolta) take to the floor and deliver a woozy, seductive twist that is less about show-stopping moves than showing off the pair’s personalities and mutual attraction.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy: O-O-H Child – The Five Stairsteps
Guardians of the Galaxy featured plenty of moments of slapstick silliness, but none was quite as laugh-out-loud funny as this, one of the film’s final scenes. Ronan the Accuser delivers the kind of thundering victory speech that would signal a lot of explosions in most Marvel films, but he soon becomes Ronan the Interrupted as Star Lord (Man!) bursts into song and dance. What’s he doing? “Dance off, bro!” Or maybe just a distraction. You big turdblossom.
4. Mauvais Sang: Modern Love – David Bowie
Yeah, yeah, we all know you saw this song in Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, but Leos Carax did it first, and he did it better. His 1986 film Mauvais Sang (known as Bad Blood, or The Night is Young) is about a near-future Paris where a disease is killing people who have sex without any emotional connection, and Alex (Denis Lavant) is the man tasked with obtaining the cure. Along the way he falls in with his boss’ girlfriend Anna (Juliette Binoche), and in this beautiful moment, he also falls in love. Bursting with love and passion, just like Tom in (500) Days of Summer, Alex sprints down the street in a sinuous, wild dance, tracked by a relentless dolly shot. The railings behind him blur at speed, resembling in one surreal moment the image in a zoetrope and taking this shot back to the earliest days of film.
3. Ex Machina: Get Down Saturday Night – Oliver Cheatham
In a sinister film full of tense conversations and extreme paranoia, this moment of madness stands out for all the right reasons. Nathan (Oscar Isaac) is proving to be a more and more unhinged host by the second, and as Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) gets closer to the truth about his home, Nathan relies on some unusual diversionary tactics. Handsome, talented, and now, a great dancer. Is there anything Oscar Isaac can’t do?
2. Simple Men: Kool Thing – Sonic Youth
Just as Frances Ha explicitly references Mauvais Sang, Simple Men references Bande à part. Both feature a group of outsiders in a diner dancing their cares away, the two scenes separated only by time and musical genre. The beauty of this scene lies not in the choreography of the dance, but the way each character interprets the moves differently. That and the fact it’s effortlessly, mind-blowingly cool.
1. The Breakfast Club: We Are Not Alone – Karla DeVito
Could it be anything else? If you haven’t seen this scene or this film then press play immediately and thank us later. John Hughes was born to soundtrack teen movies and this is his greatest selection of all. After being trapped in their school library all day for detention, a Brain, an Athlete, a Basket Case, a Princess and a Criminal finally join forces in a riotous and glorious moment of energetic defiance. Has anyone ever looked cooler than Molly Ringwald busting a move on the staircase? No. No they haven’t.