The movie musical was pretty much dead by the 1970s, but the 5 best 80's dance movies brought it back, although in a vastly changed form. The fast-paced MTV aesthetic and sense of realism made these very different from classics like “Singin’ in the Rain.” But they shared at least two things with the classic musicals: a love of great music and some trend-setting dance moves.
“Fame.” Alan Parker’s 1980 musical took the gritty feel of 1970s classics like “Saturday Night Fever” and peopled it with the talented young dreamers of New York City’s School for the Performing Arts. Influential dance numbers included one that took over a crowded New York street. The movie inspired a TV series and a 2009 remake.
“Flashdance.” Lovely Jennifer Beals has a day job in Pittsburgh industry and dances in a not-quite-strip club at night. Iconic dance numbers like “Maniac” are still being spoofed and imitated today. The runaway success of this flashy-yet-gritty fantasy changed the way both music and movies were made in the ‘80s.
“Footloose.” On the heels of “Flashdance” came 1984’s tale of small-town teen fighting for the right to dance. The plot was right out of the 1940s, but the music and MTV-style editing were thoroughly modern. Kevin Bacon’s dance double energetically explores a barnyard to the beat of the title tune.
“Thriller.” For the latest music video from his top-selling album, Michael Jackson hired director John Landis to make a 14-minute monster movie. Landis used the latest makeup and technology to create a homage to horror classics like his own “American Werewolf in London.” Meanwhile, Michael’s choreographers created a zombie dance number that has since become a Halloween tradition in cities around the globe.
“Dirty Dancing.”Ask any woman who was a teen in the ‘80s to list her favorite dance movies, and she’ll likely mention this one first. Adorable pre-op Jennifer Grey finds love while practicing lusty dance moves with Patrick Swayze. It’s almost impossible to dislike a film whose stars are so charming and sincere, a quality “Dirty Dancing” shares with the great musicals of Old Hollywood.