Top 10 Dance Scenes That Didn't Have to Go That HARD
VOICE OVER: Sophia Franklin
WRITTEN BY: Sammie Purcell
These movie dance scenes didn't need to go that hard, but they did! For this list, we'll be looking at the greatest choreographed sequences in films that make us gasp and squeal with delight. Our countdown includes "You Got Served," "Mary Poppin," "West Side Story," and more!
Top 10 Dance Scenes in Movies That Go Hard
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Dance Scenes in Movies That Go Hard.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the greatest choreographed sequences in films that make us gasp and squeal with delight.
Which of these scenes is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
#10: Dance Battle
“You Got Served” (2004)
You can’t make a list about dancing in movies without including a battle. And what a showdown this one is! A lot of the other entries we’ll look at today show dancers at peak physical stature, or performing dizzying stunts and moves. But the opening battle in “You Got Served” is able to not only show off the dancers’ prowess, but capture the intensity of a head-to-head competition. In the film, actors Omarion and Marques Houston head a street dancing crew that absolutely obliterates the competition. Each member has a shot to show off their solo stuff, and when the group works together, they’re perfectly in sync.
#9: “Rich Man's Frug”
“Sweet Charity” (1969)
With “Sweet Charity,” the iconic choreographer Bob Fosse – who also directed the flick – cemented himself as a movie musical legend. While this 1969 film’s most famous number is probably its opening, “Big Spender,” we wanted to shout out something a little different. “The Rich Man's Frug” is a roughly nine-minute long sequence, but blows by in a whirlwind of Fosse’s signature jazzy style. The choreography is marked by angles and fast, sharp movements that lend a sense of urgency to the dance. Yet somehow, those quick changes feel impossibly languid and sexy. Fosse’s impeccable direction only lends to the kinetic pace of the piece.
#8: Final Ballet
“An American in Paris” (1951)
Gene Kelly put his whole heart and soul into this one, folks. Throughout “An American in Paris,” Jerry – played by Kelly – is pursuing Lise, a young Parisian girl played by Leslie Caron. Near the end of the film, he imagines a world where the two of them galavant around the city together. What ensues is a 17-minute dream ballet completely devoid of dialogue. Kelly, Caron, and a slew of dancers parade around a grand, cartoonish version of Paris, marked by huge, colorful sets. But what makes the ballet so stunning is more than its scale. Kelly incorporates a number of different styles, including ballet, tap, and others, to create something never before seen.
#7: Barn Dance
“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954)
This one flies leaps and bounds beyond the rest – literally. “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is a pioneer-era musical about a group of brothers in need of a wife. This number focuses on a barn party, where the siblings pick a fight over some women with their would-be beaus. The dance sequence that follows is action-packed, filled with difficult partner dancing and plenty of gymnastics-style stunts. If cartwheels and flips aren’t your cup of tea, no need to worry. There are gorgeously executed lifts and twirls as well. There’s even a section where a man skillfully balances himself atop of a moving log! You’ve got to see it to believe it.
“A Chorus Line” (1985)
So far, we've seen the intensity and talent that can take place in front of the camera. Let’s take a step behind the scenes for a moment. 1985’s “A Chorus Line” opens on a massive Broadway audition, where multiple dancers perform their hearts out in the hopes they’ll get a callback. As the sequence goes on, we get to see how talented everyone is, but also fast-paced and extreme the audition lifestyle is. As each group of dancers takes the stage, a man screams directions to them over the music, calling out moves as loudly as possible. The sequence really puts into perspective just how fiercely competitive the industry can be.
#5: “Step in Time”
“Mary Poppins” (1964)
If you thought all a chimney sweep is good for is to … well, sweep the chimney, think again! “Mary Poppins” is probably best remembered for its celebrated tunes and innovative use of animation. But with this pick, we want to honor the film’s choreography – particularly, the athletic prowess of the chimney sweeps. Led by Dick Van Dyke, during “Step in Time,” they jump, flip, and kick their way all over the rooftop. Even though this particular moment in “Mary Poppins” doesn’t include any actual cartoons, every actor still has that perfectly over-the-top energy. The dance number is so lively, it feels like it’s picking up speed by the second. The whole thing makes our heads whirl as fast as Mary Poppins’!
#4: Lindy Hop
Get ready – you might have to play this one at half speed to understand what’s going on. “Hellzapoppin'” isn’t as well known as a lot of classic musicals today, and neither is its 1941 movie adaptation. But we’re looking to change that. The sequence we’re going to look at today includes Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, a group of some of the greatest swing dancers ever. The second you hear the drums kick in, you know you’re in for something special. As each new pair takes center stage, it’s astounding to see how loose and fun and QUICK everyone is with their movements. The dancers throw themselves around with such ease, you almost forget how difficult the steps are.
“West Side Story” (1961)
One of the best musicals around, the original movie version of “West Side Story” is renowned for its choreography. While we love the changes that the 2021 movie adaptation makes, there’s something special about the original “America.” And we don’t just mean Rita Moreno’s iconic purple dress. We could have gone with the 1961 version of “Cool,” an action-packed and dynamic force of nature. But failing to mention the joy and life that propels “America” forward would be a misgiving on our part. The ensemble performance is second to none, and Moreno adds a whole lot of power to the number. Watching her twirl her way around the set is watching a star in motion.
#2: "Singin' in the Rain"
“Singin' in the Rain” (1952)
It’s time to recognize a number that left us with an indelible image. Now, there’s a lot to love about 1952’s “Singin' in the Rain,” and a lot of musical dance sequences that take our breath away. “Good Morning” takes such tap prowess, we’re not sure we’ll ever get over it. Plus, Donald O'Connor could not be funnier in “Make ‘Em Laugh.” But how could we talk about “Singin' in the Rain” without mentioning its unforgettable titular number? Watching Gene Kelly splashing around in puddles like an unruly child or hanging off a lamp post shouting out his good fortune fills us with joy. No one else has ever made perfection look so whimsical.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Cheek to Cheek,” “Top Hat” (1935)
Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers Can Do No Wrong
“Take Off with Us,” All That Jazz” (1979)
We Don’t Think Anyone Was Prepared for This Stellar Showing on Their Flight
The Duet, “White Nights” (1985)
You Get Two Greats for the Price of One
Final Dance, “Flashdance” (1983)
She Truly Is Dancing for Her Life
“Another Day of Sun,” “La La Land” (2016)
Now That’s How You Open a Movie
#1: “Jumpin Jive”
“Stormy Weather” (1943)
In today’s movies, tap dancing is something of a lost art. But back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, tappers could capture the hearts of audiences with a quick slip of their heel. And looking back, no performers have quite embodied the magic of the art form like the Nicholas Brothers. 1943’s “Stormy Weather” is a showcase for Hollywood’s top Black actors of the time, but especially for this dynamic duo. During their performance of “Jumpin Jive,” the pair are so attuned, it almost looks like they’ve duplicated one person’s movements. There’s just so much energy and zeal packed into every single step. The taps are louder, the leaps are higher, and the splits are splittier. Everything is just that much more impressive.