The "Disco Era" is fraught with unusual style choices and some questionable music. It would stand to reason the disco movies would be questionable, too, but that's not necessarily the case. A believable story line is not essential, although it helps. The most important thing for any good disco movie is a memorable soundtrack. Therefore, the best of these movie soundtracks could have been blaring at Studio 54 back in the '70s, without causing even a moment of dance interruption.
"Saturday Night Fever"
This John Travolta breakthrough film pleases both the critics and the dance crowd. Travolta, who plays an emotionally conflicted disco dance addict spent most of his evening hours at clubs much like Studio 54 — albeit sans all the celebrities. The film's soundtrack also includes plenty of Bee Gees disco music that still stands up well today. This movie was not, however, created to capitalize on the disco music trend. Rather, it was a character study, which just happened to take place on the dance scene.
"Thank God It's Friday"
Set in The Zoo, the cool disco hangout, Donna Summer stars as Nicole, who plays a (you guessed it) singer trying to make it on stage. The plot involves the Commodores. You remember them, right? That was the funk band led by Lionel Richie, before he got all soft and mainly only sang ballads. Here, however, was a funky movie, with a funky soundtrack. The soundtrack is great, however, with Donna Summer's "Last Dance, as well as Diana Ross and Cameo songs.
"Can't Stop The Music"
This film starred The Village People. Comedienne Nancy Walker directed this movie, which supposedly tells the story of this famous disco group. The cast also incudes comedian Steve Guttenberg and sports star Bruce Jenner. The soundtrack features a lot of unfamiliar music. However, the big hit "Y.M.C.A" is included. Go ahead and do the letter hand motions for it when they sing it in the film!
In addition to this film's great soundtrack, there are also appearances by some fine comedians, including Franklyn Ajaye, George Carlin, and Danny De Vito. If Studio 54 had waterworks, it might look a little like this film. The story is set during a short 10-hour timeframe at a Los Angeles car wash. Rose Royce performs almost all the music, including the hit title song. It makes sense that a group with a car-like name does the music for a car wash movie, right?
Boogie Nights wasn't made in the disco era. Instead, this Mark Wahlberg vehicle looks back on the era. It's a sensitive film, which takes an empathetic look at the lives of those involved in adult films. Its Studio 54-ready music includes "Got To Give It Up (Part 1)" by Marvin Gaye, and "Machine Gun" from The Commodores. The soundtrack is top notch, but the movie is damn good too!
"Xanadu" has been described as mythology meets disco music. However, it's actually a star vehicle for Olivia Newton-John. What follows is disco music, roller dancing and a soundtrack with songs by ELO, Cliff Richard and the Tubes. In fact, Newton-John sings the title song with ELO. By the way, don't use this movie's story in your Greek mythology college course. It won't count toward your grade.
It's easier to roller boogie than it is to have a demon inside you. Just ask Linda Blair, who starred in this one. She's the one, you know, that played the lead in "The Exorcist." Blair's character, Terry Barkley, skips out on going to Julliard, in order to become a roller dancing star. Watch this one just to hear Cher belt out "Hell on Wheels." It ain't exactly the Hell's Angels theme, but it's nevertheless fun.
With a cast that includes Scott Baio-at the time a teen heartthrob-Ron Palillo and newcomer (at the time) Patrick Swayze, this film is like "Romeo and Juliet" with wheels. Flip Wilson and Ruth Buzzi also appeared. A couple of the best soundtrack songs are "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind & Fire and the Emotions, and Heatwave's "Boogie Nights." John Sebastian, that old hippie, also contributed "Roller Girl."