Dreamy and romantic, probably every one of us has once dreamt of waltzing around a grand ballroom in lockstep with a gorgeous partner. Well, you don’t have to fantasize anymore with these best ballroom dance movies.
Load up a good title and look upon the silver screen to vicariously waltz through the eyes of the characters!
Top 8 Best Ballroom Dance Movies To Watch
1. Strictly Ballroom (1992)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann as his directorial debut and released in 1992, Strictly Ballroom is a romcom that follows Scott Hastings – a son in a family filled with ballroom dancers.
Trained in the art since he was six by his mother, Scott seems to be a natural. However, he struggled to find acceptance as he preferred to dance his own techniques and steps instead of relying on traditional methods.
It ultimately led to his failure in the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship. All of the innovations and flashy new moves – while they pleased the crowd – didn’t impress the judge who deemed they weren’t “strictly ballroom”.
In the following competitions, he fell out with his dancing partner because of his unorthodox dancing style. Scott was soon approached by Fran, a plain and overlooked beginner at the dance. The two agreed to become partners.
Through a great many hardships and discoveries, the two discovered their love for the dance … and of course, for one another. The rest you may learn by yourself if the brief plot sounds interesting to you!
For a directorial debut, Luhrmann did quite well in terms of reception. Strictly Ballroom received an excellent 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. On Metacritic, the movie received “generally favorable reviews”.
The movie won a variety of awards, too, from the Cannes Film Festival Award and AFI Award in 1992 to the BAFTA Film Award in 1993. Strictly Ballroom was nominated for several awards, most recently in 2013 when it was put up as a contender for the 20/20 Award.
It’s quite rare for a theater or dance-theme movie to have such high critical acclaim. So, definitely put this classic on your “To-Watch” list.
2. Shall We Dance (2004)
Shall We Dance is a 2004 American remake of a 1996 Japanese movie with the same name.
The story’s main character is John Clark, a lawyer with a loving family and an enviable career. However, despite all of the apparent successes in life, Clark felt as if he was missing something. He spent his days just going through the motion listless and aimless.
A turning point came one night while he was commuting back home from work. Clark passed by a dancing studio and found a gorgeous woman practicing within. On a whim, he decided to sign up for a ballroom dancing class and found the spark that he’s been missing the entire time.
Just like everything in the beginning, it was difficult at first and Clark thought of giving up more than once. Worse, his instructor wasn’t the gorgeous woman that he saw earlier – whose name was Paulina – but another woman called Miss Mitzi.
But soon enough, Clark was hooked on the dance. However, he kept his newfound passion a secret from his family.
Light-hearted with a decent cast composed of big-shots like Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez, this is one of the better ballroom dance-themed movies that you can watch out there.
Although the movie has its own merits, it only received a mediocre rating of 47% on Rotten Tomatoes. Most of the criticisms regarding the movie are about the loss of contact between this remake and the fantastic cultural nuances of the original Japanese movie.
If you watch Shall We Dance (the American version) and still turn out to like it, we highly recommend you to check out the Japanese version, too.
3. Take The Lead (2006)
A 2006 production by Liz Friedlander, Take The Lead is a drama dance movie. The quote-unquote main character of the movie is Pierre Dulaine, a dance instructor. When he saw a student vandalizing the car of the Principal of a high school, he offered to teach kids ballroom dancing in order to instill a sense of respect, discipline, trust, and teamwork.
Pierre was offered a bunch of troublemakers, being fully expected to give up right out of the gate. However, he was steadfast at his job despite the prejudice and ignorance shown to him by the students, parents, and other teachers. Gradually, he gained the trust and love of the kids, leading them to great success and futures.
The movie has an interesting mix of attractive choreography, romantic drama, as well as social commentaries. Not many movies these days have the same mixture of elements that Take The Lead has got. That makes it an intriguing watch from beginning to end.
Unfortunately, reviews aren’t quite so kind. Take The Lead received a rather mediocre 55/100 on Metacritic. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 5.4/10.
Despite lauding the choreography and the cast, most reviewers found the plot to be a bit too bland and predictable. They got an interesting mixture of themes and elements going on, but the writers didn’t seem to be able to tie them together into a memorable and original story.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a nice movie to watch, this 2006 dance movie won’t disappoint (so long that you temper your expectations).
4. Dirty Dancing (1987)
Written by Eleanor Bergstein and directed by Emile Ardolino, this 1987 romantic drama dance release took place in the summer of 1963.
Frances Houseman – also known as “Baby” – was vacationing with her parents in an upscale resort. The resort was owned by Max, a friend of the family. Max exhibited atrocious behaviors throughout their stay, like telling the waiters to romance guests’ daughters and demeaning staffers, among which was the dance instructor Johnny Castle.
The first time they met, figurative sparks flew immediately as they danced through a brief tune. That sets the stage for a wonderful romance later on, interspersed by a few musicals and attractive choreographies starring the two lovers. They forged their way through dramas and misunderstandings, to finally end up with one another in a classic Happily Ever After ending.
If you’re looking for something bright, hopeful, and dreamy then Dirty Dancing can do the trick pretty well.
The movie has received rather mixed reviews. Most critics praised the powerful choreographies and the catchy musical numbers in the soundtracks for the movie. However, once again like many before it, Dirty Dancing failed to impress in terms of plot originality.
To quote one of the critics, the movie has a “tired and relentlessly predictable story of love between kids from different backgrounds.”
Although we found this to be true, it doesn’t mean the movie is entirely unenjoyable. For casual movie-watchers or people who are interested in ballroom dancing, this movie has plenty of flair and drama to keep you interested from the title card all the way to the rolling credits.
5. Dance With Me (1987)
Dance With Me is a 1987 dance drama movie that revolves around Rafael Infante, a handyman. When he came to work in the dance studio of John Burnett, he met a professional dancer and instructor there by the name of Ruby Sinclair.
When the two incidentally met in Burnett’s dance studio, there was an immediate attraction between them. However, Sinclair seemed to be a lot more preoccupied with practicing for the prestigious dance competition in Las Vegas.
The movie went through the challenges that the young couple faces, from personal ambitions to familial secrets. It has all of the hallmarks of a classic drama movie mixed in with attractive choreographies above a background of beautiful soundtracks.
Ratings, however, are quite mixed.
Rotten Tomatoes gave Dance With Me a solid 51%. Critics praised the raw chemistry between the two lead characters, their charisma, and the choreographies.
Unfortunately, like many ballroom dance movies that came before it, Dance With Me suffered a fair bit in terms of the plotline being predictable and thin.
The direction by Randa Haines is also criticized as being weak.
6. Assassination Tango (2002)
The title Assassination Tango may not sound anything like a ballroom movie. However, when you actually delve into it, there are a few nice scenes that could pique the interest of ballroom enthusiasts.
Unlike other titles on the list, Assassination Tango is a crime thriller movie. But despite the action theme, the movie weighs its musical and choreographical elements quite high.
The movie centers around Anderson, a renowned hitman traveling to Argentina for a hit job. Wandering the country, he eventually stumbled upon a scene: a man and woman dancing the rousing moves of tango. It was this chance discovery that instilled in him a sense of fascination for the tango and pushed him to learn more about the dance.
Anderson met with Manuela, a local Latin dancer and instructor. It turned out she was the same woman he saw dancing the tango earlier, as well. But although Anderson began to learn and appreciate the tango, he continued on with plotting out his assassination contract.
Despite the odd mixture between action and dance sounds interesting enough, the reviews for the movie deemed it as mediocre. It received 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. Most of the criticisms are directed at the slow pacing of the movie.
Still, if you’ve got nothing else to watch and would like a movie with ballroom dance scenes to fawn over, this isn’t a bad pick!
7. Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (1990-2005)
Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School is actually the name of two different movies.
One is a short children’s musical released in 1990, and the other is a 2005 romance movie. Both works are written, produced, directed, and edited by Randall Miller. The two movies are intimately tied to one another, with the 2005 having multiple segments being taken from the 1990 version.
The arrangement of the movies is a bit confusing. But, if you’re to watch, we recommend picking up the 2005 version. If you still like it, you could choose to watch the 1990 musical, as well.
Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School’s plot first starts with Frank Keene, a grief-stricken baker who has just lost his wife recently. When he chanced across a car accident, he was asked by the victim – Steve Mills – to go in his place to a dance class in Pasadena. Frank acquiesced and at the dance studio, he met with Steve’s mills.
The movie then moved back and forth between fragments of Steve’s life, the accident, and Frank’s progress at the dance.
Despite the light-hearted name, the movie could be quite dark at times. It’s not just a story of a dance, but also a surprising story of loss, anger, pain, violence, confusion, and rediscovery all packed into one. In our opinion, Marilyn Hotchkiss is a pretty solid movie that’s worth spending a weekend night watching.
Reviews for the movie, however, are mediocre. It received a 6.5/10 on IMDb, 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 40% on Metacritic.
The movie is available for viewing on Netflix.
8. Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)
Mad Hot Ballroom is a 2005 release of … not a regular movie, but a documentary. It covers a ballroom dance program spearheaded by the New York Department of Education and the New York public school system for fifth graders.
A movie crew follows the lives of different 11-years-old students as they went through a ballroom dancing program and made surprising discoveries about themselves as they did.
The story is told through the perspectives of students from three neighborhoods in New York: Tribeca, Bensonhurst, and Washington Heights.
If you’re wondering what this program is all about, it was a 10-week intensive program that’s meant to teach young students ballroom dancing. And, by the end, a competition was hosted to select the best dancers out of all the children in the city.
Mad Hot Ballroom documented the effort of the teachers in teaching their charges the techniques, ranging from tango and foxtrot all the way to rumba and merengue. Along the way, the students got the chance to talk to the camera about life, which also revealed a surprising maturity within them.
The documentary was highly successful when it was first released in 2005. By 2012, it became the 16th highest-grossing documentary film ever released in the US.
Review aggregators also treated Mad Hot Ballroom favorably with a score of 84% from Rotten Tomatoes.
Ballroom dancing isn’t just all about the music and the dance, it’s also about life and characters. With these best ballroom dance movies, we think you would be able to glean quite a lot about the latter from the stories that they tell.
Which movies are you planning to watch tonight? Which have you already watched? Tell us in the comment section below!