Chill and Watch Dance Movies

Chill and Watch Dance Movies

It's winter in Aotearoa New Zealand and the perfect season for a cosy night in with a good movie. As ballet fans we're always excited to watch movies that feature dance, any dance, so we thought we would share some of our favourites to see you through the long winter nights.

Black Swan"  - Directed by Darren Aronofsky

If you're a ballet fan you have probably already seen this 2010 psychological thriller that has fascinated viewers with its haunting / terrifying portrayal of the ballet world. The film explores the intense pressures and psychological challenges faced by dancers through the character of Nina, brilliantly portrayed by Natalie Portman. Aronofsky's direction, coupled with Portman's captivating performance, creates a visceral experience that leaves you breathless. The film's dance sequences and gripping storytelling make it a must-watch for those seeking a dark and introspective exploration of the ballet world.

In a 'truth is stranger than fiction' aside, there is a controversy that reads like a real-life version of a movie plot, "Black Swan" dancer Sarah Lane caused a stir with claims that lead actress Natalie Portman wasn't the ballet expert that the film's publicity team claimed she was. According to the ballerina -who performed the film's more complicated dance sequences and on whose body Natalie's face was grafted for those scenes – Portman's talent was vastly overstated. Notwithstanding that, it's undeniable that Natalie Portman, who went 'full method" to prepare for the role, did an amazing job. Read more about how she transformed herself here. It was all worth it of course since she won the Best Actress Oscar. 

The Red Shoes (1948) - Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

The Red Shoes is a timeless classic that celebrates the beauty and passion of ballet. This British film tells the story of a ballerina torn between love and her dedication to dance. With its vibrant technicolor cinematography, mesmerizing choreography, and memorable performances, the film immerses viewers in a world of grace and artistic expression. Powell and Pressburger's direction captures the emotional depth of ballet, making The Red Shoes an enchanting and visually stunning cinematic masterpiece.

Of course this being ballet, there has been a lot of controversy about the film, in particular the 17 minute ballet sequence. Is it good or bad? Too long? However, the film is now widely regarded as one of the best films of Powell and Pressburgers partnership, and in 1999, it was voted the 9th greatest British film of all time by the British Film Institute. Since then, it has become a cult film and an archetypal dance film. In 2017, a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out Magazine saw it ranked the 5th best British film ever.

Thanks to the magic of technology we can all enjoy this iconic film courtesy of YouTube

Billy Elliot (2000) - Directed by Stephen Daldry

Billy Elliot is another film all ballet lovers have probably already seen. It is such a  heartwarming and inspiring film that showcases the transformative power of ballet. Set against the backdrop of a mining town in the 1980s, the movie tells the story of a young boy, Billy, who discovers his passion for dance. With its poignant storytelling, superb performances, and uplifting message, Billy Elliot resonates with audiences of all ages. The film highlights the pursuit of dreams, the power of self-expression, and the courage to defy societal expectations. It beautifully captures the essence of ballet as a form of personal and artistic liberation. There is s much to love about this film but probably the best thing is the reminder that boys dance too. A perfect re-watch for a night in with the whole family. Keep the tissues handy!


These ballet films, each unique in their approach, offer captivating narratives, memorable performances, and breathtaking dance sequences. Whether exploring the psychological depths of dancers, celebrating the timeless beauty of ballet, or inspiring audiences with tales of perseverance, these films have cemented their place as cherished contributions to the genre.

Strange as it may seem, ballet is not the only dance! Dance other than ballet is featured many films. Here are some that we love to watch over and over again;

Top Hat (1935) Directed by Mark Sandrich Music by Irving Berlin

Classic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at their absolute peak. Whist we may accept that there is no such thing as perfection in dance, there are two numbers in "Top Hat" where the dancing on the screen reaches such perfection as is humanly attainable. These are "Isn't This a Lovely Day?" and "Cheek to Cheek." Because Astaire believed that movie dance numbers should be shot in unbroken takes that ran as long as possible, what they perform is an achievement in endurance as well as artistry. At a point when many dancers would be gasping for breath, Astaire and Rogers are smiling easily, heedlessly. To watch them is to see hard work elevated to effortless joy: The work of two dancers who know they can do no better than this, and that no one else can do as well. 

The whole film of Top Hat isn't on YouTube although there are many dance clips. If you are lucky enough to find the whole film to watch you will surely fall in love with it as we have. Because we are human, because we are bound by gravity and the limitations of our bodies, because we live in a world where the news is often bad and the prospects disturbing, it is sheer bliss to escape to another world where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers live. Where everyone is a millionaire and hotel suites are the size of ballrooms and everything is creased, combed, brushed, shined, polished, powdered and expensive. 

Strictly Ballroom (1992), directed by Baz Luhrmann.

This Australian romantic comedy explores the world of competitive ballroom dancing, highlighting the intricate footwork, dazzling costumes, and fiery personalities that define the dance form. Through its vibrant storytelling and electrifying dance sequences, the film captures the essence of ballroom dance and its ability to connect people from different backgrounds through a shared passion.  

What's best about the movie is the sense of madness and mania running just beneath its surface. In one sense, the characters care about nothing but ballroom dancing. They eat, drink and sleep it, and talk of nothing else. Their costumes alone are a tip-off that they've had no contact with the real world for years. Yet in another sense, ballroom dancing is simply the strategy they use to hold the world at bay. They are profoundly frightened of change, and have created an insular little world, with rigid rules and traditions; here they can be in control, as the larger world goes haywire.

Dirty Dancing (1987) Directed by Emile Ardolino

No list of dance movies would be complete without the classic that is Dirty Dancing. Set in the 1960's the film follows Baby (Jennifer Grey) as she embarks on a summer romance with a dance instructor. Through passionate dance sequences and a spirited soundtrack, Dirty Dancing celebrates the liberation, self-confidence, and personal growth that dance can inspire. And of course it stars the late, great Patrick Swayze. Simultaneously cheesy and uplifting with an absolutely iconic final scene, Dirty Dancing is perfect escapism.

La La Land (2016) Directed by Damien Chazelle

Films that feature dance often transcend traditional genre boundaries, incorporating dance sequences into unexpected narratives. La La Land is a prime example of this fusion. Combining elements of musical, romance, and drama, the film pays homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood while exploring the dreams, aspirations, and sacrifices of aspiring artists. 

When the world gets you down, it's easy to think that dreams don't come true and that love only exists in the movies. La La Land reminds us that films can still be magical, and they can still provide the channel for us to see magic in the world around us. It’s not so much another day in the sun, as the characters sing in the opening number, but the dreams of the night before, the ones we wake up and try to fulfill, the ones that keep us all dancing.

Singin' in the Rain (1952) Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

If you haven't seen this wonderful film, buy, borrow or rent it immediately! A true cinematic gem that continues to captivate audiences with its charm, wit, and exuberant musical numbers. Released in 1952, this delightful film takes us back to the transition from silent films to talkies in the 1920s, offering a joyous and entertaining exploration of the challenges faced by Hollywood's stars during that transformative era.

At the heart of the film is Gene Kelly's magnetic performance as Don Lockwood, a charismatic silent film star. Kelly effortlessly exudes charisma, delivering his lines and dance moves with a grace and charm that is unmatched. His athletic dance sequences, particularly the iconic title number "Singin' in the Rain," are nothing short of exhilarating. From splashing through puddles to twirling an umbrella, Kelly's sheer joy and energy are infectious, leaving an indelible mark on cinematic history.

The musical numbers in "Singin' in the Rain" are masterpieces in their own right. With an unforgettable score composed by Nacio Herb Brown and lyrics by Arthur Freed, the film boasts a collection of memorable songs that have become cultural touchstones. From the infectious optimism of "Good Morning" to the dreamlike beauty of "You Are My Lucky Star," each song is expertly choreographed and performed, showcasing the talents of the cast and leaving a lasting impact.

Visually, the film is a feast for the eyes. The vibrant colors, lavish sets, and dazzling costumes transport us to the glamorous era of 1920's Hollywood's Golden Age, immersing us in a world of elegance and sophistication. And who doesn't want that?!

 This is just a small selection of dance films we love to watch, especially tucked up warm when it's cold outside.

Finding older films can be tricky. Some of them pop up from time to time streaming on Netflix, Neon, Apple etc. If you are old skool, in Aotearoa New Zealand, and still have a DVD player, Alice in Videoland will gladly rent you DVDs to watch at home. They have a huge selection of fantastic films of every genre you can imagine. FLICKS is a handy service that will show you where you can stream specific films in Aotearoa New Zealand New Zealand. Don't forget TVNZ+ which has a fantastic and sometimes surprising selection, and currently featuring La La Land!

We hope you have found these films interesting and perhaps found something new and inspiring.

 Happy dancing xoxo




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