Art & Photography / In Pictures

Top 10 Dance Moments on Film

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pulp Fiction, we present our top ten dance moments on film


Tarantino's cult classic Pulp Fiction celebrates its 20th anniversary this week. There are of course many oft-quoted, much loved moments from the film – from the "royale with cheese" to Uma's foot drag, to the mysterious orange glow emitting from the briefcase. But our favourite scene is the inimitable Thurman/Travolta dance sequence, and so to mark the film's anniversary and reissue, we have compiled a list of our top ten dance moments from film history.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994) – The dance scene in Pulp Fiction needs no introduction, but just in case you haven't seen it, the moment occurs in a '50s themed restaurant where John Travolta's Vincent Vega and Uma Thurman's Mia Wallace take to the floor, high as kites, to compete in a dance competition to Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell. What ensues is pure, utterly deadpan cinematic brilliance.

2. Pretty in Pink (1986) – John Hughes was a stickler for uplifting dance scenes and Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club were extremely high contenders for this list. However, it was Pretty in Pink's Duckie (played by Jon Cryer) and his electrifying Otis Redding impression that won our hearts, even if he failed to impress Andie (Molly Ringwald).

3. Fish Tank (2009) – This highly acclaimed British drama follows the story of fifteen-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) who strikes up an unlikely, and uneasy, friendship with her mother's boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender). Often ignored by her family, Mia is thrilled by Connor's encouragement of her pursuit of her one true passion, dance. Here, in one of the film's most memorable scenes, Mia breaks into an abandoned flat and practices for a dance competition – a touching moment of determination and self-expression from an otherwise lost soul.

4. Summer of Sam (1999) – In the summer of 1977, New York was terrorised by a serial killer known as the Son of Sam who would stalk the city seeking out his victims, typically young women and their dates. The Summer of Sam is Spike Lee's recreation of this period, and it is drenched in the social and historical atmosphere of late '70s New York. Much of the film is concerned with the era's music and in these two dance scenes Lee re-creates the heady, seductive world of late '70s disco.

5. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1970) – Riddled with suspicion, doubt and insecurity, Sydney Pollack's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? is a dance film with a twist. Set at a dance marathon during the Great Depression, it tells the story of Robert (Michael Sarrazin) and Gloria (Jane Fonda), a couple who are brought together as partners, and seen here at the point of collapse after a day's dancing. Suffice it to say there's not a Dirty Dancing lift in sight. Alexander McQueen's S/S04 collection was inspired by the film and presented as a marathon, choreographed by dance maestro Michael Clark.

6. Band à Part (1964) – Although this is one of the most famous dance scenes in cinematic history, none of its performers are trained dancers. In fact, they all had to practice the sequence everyday for a month before they got it right. But not hiring professionals was an inspired move from the film's director John Luc Goddard and the roughness of their performance adds to the scene's humour and charmingly improvisatory feel. After all, a posture of professional grace and precision would nevertext-22 have suited this raffish bande à part.

7. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) – The iconic dance scene in Little Miss Sunshine, performed by Abigail Breslin as the adorably determined Olive, was celebrated as comic genius and slammed as controversial, overtly adult smut in equal measure. Of course we're of the former opinion (she was taught the routine by her grandpa, folks!)

8. The Gold Rush (1925) – Almost unbelievably one of the most remarkable dance moments in film history occurs in a silent film, Charlie Chaplin's charming The Gold Rush. As part of a daydream, where he's the host of a supper party for the girl he loves, the beloved tramp creates legs and feet from forks and bread rolls and performs a magical dance with them. This clip is from a version of the film released by Chaplin seventeen years later, with a score by Max Terr.

9. White Nights (1985) – A mesmeric meeting of feet occurs in this Twyla Tharp choreographed drama, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov as an expatriate Russian dancer who finds himself at the mercy of an African-American tap dancer (Gregory Hines) when his plane is forced to land on Soviet territory. In this scene the pair forget their differences and dance the same dance in wonderfully different styles.

10. An American in Paris (1951) – You can't mention dance on film without mentioning Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, cinema's most iconic groovers. Top Hat, Swing Time and Singing in the Rain could have very easily made the grade but we love Kelly in An American in Paris, alongside his protégé, the elfin-faced, Paris Opera Ballet trained Leslie Caron. The film's climax is the breathtaking The American in Paris ballet, a 16-minute dance starring Kelly and Caron set to Gershwin's brilliant score. This scene alone cost more than $500,000.