While you wouldn’t catch us round the set for Dancing On Anything – celebrity or wanna be versions – Mad Hatter’s exuberant little celebratory dance, the Futterwacken, signifying all was right in Wonderland once more, has reminded us that dance has its place in movies, sometimes in even the geekiest of films.
So, who’s been feeling the music down through their toes since John Travolta strut his stuff in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Kevin Bacon covered a lot of territory to a beat in 1984’s Footloose? What dance scenes have had us, if not willing to get up and boogie, at least remembering those who have?
Here’s our twelve most memorable dance scenes from the 90s onward, in films not primarily known for their choreography…
12. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Twelfth place is reserved for a very memorable dance scene, one we’ve been trying hard to forget ever since, but can’t.
An uncharacteristically greasy Peter Parker, succumbing to the black suit, shimmies and sashays down the street in a cringe-worthy and painful few minutes in Spider-Man 3, culminating in an awkward impromptu bump and grind in front of a clothes shop. It’s only topped in cold shivers for the uncomfortable jazz club dance that follows.
It was all kinds of unforgettable wrong.
11. The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
We suspect this may be one to grow on through the years, but we did immediately appreciate the dance with the Devil, Tom Waits’ Mr Nick and Valentina (Lily Cole), reflected amid a whirlwind of cascading glass shards.
10. True Lies (1994)
The sight of big Arnie light on his feet was a bit of a revelation and his tango with Tia Carrere showed a suave side to the secret agent in an easily relatable way.
It’s hard to forget his time on the dance floor as files were being downloaded by colleagues and armed guards surrounded the light fantastic-tripping pair, especially when the dance is repeated with his newly agency-enlisted wife at the end.
There’s also that solo dance number, but that’s between Mr and Mrs Tasker.
9. Clerks II (2006)
Kevin Smith’s follow-up to his 1994 original had what was not only an unexpected wall-less dance number, but a sequence that, although joyful, was a completely incongruous few minutes to the film that surrounds it.
Though fans of the original were divided on the film and the crude factor was ramped higher than an A-Team stunt car launch, there’s no getting away from the fact that, once witnessed, that dance number, kicked off by Rosario Dawson’s bouncy steps to The Jackson Five’s ABC, is not soon forgotten.
8. Get Smart (2008)
The Get Smart TV series was an afterschool and Nick At Night staple in the States for many and the film kept much of the tongue-in-cheek charm of the spy spoof show, while still managing to update a forty-something-year-old sitcom.
It won’t make many top film lists, but Steve Carell is always watchable and his dance with a woman of size was handled with humour, while never seeming mean, the way certain fatsuit addict actors would most likely treat the scene.
Carrell and his dance partner, Lindsay Hollister, should be proud.
7. Shrek (2001)
We may have trouble remembering back to that first Shrek film that spun widely-spread fairy tales wildly on their heads.
Memories may have become foggy through the films that followed, but the closing scene song and dance number (attempted on the second film, but not a patch on the first), was, at the time, an unexpected treat and a perfect way to finish off that trip to Far Far Away, though it doesn’t half seem long, long ago now.
6. The Addams Family (1991)
Duo Raul Julia and Christopher Lloyd (and their stunt doubles, who had only the most tenuous resemblances to the stars) performed a death-defying, knife-throwing song and dance in front of their party guests.
The Mamooshka was an energetic, acrobatic, dizzying twist on adding a dance routine into a film, but with a humorous threat and menace that made it a perfect fit scene in the big screen story of this peculiar TV family.
5. Beauty And The Beast (1991)
The ballroom sequence with Belle and Beast waltzing to the theme song sung by Angela Lansbury was a landmark scene for Disney.
The sweeping camera and changing perspectives, accomplished through CGI, were visually impressive in a way we hadn’t experienced in a Disney movie before then and make it a very memorable sequence for animation and dance fans alike.
4. Whatever Happened To Harold Smith? (1999)
Opening with a tribute to Travolta’s Tony Manero, this quirky little film deserves a much larger audience for its inventive concept, no matter how daft that idea may sound on paper.
Combining punk rock, disco, telekinetic powers and tortoises, this small British film must have been a huge joy for its cast, including Tom Courtenay, Stephen Fry, David Thewlis, and Lulu (yes, we said Lulu), in what is surely favourite, unique roles for each.
The final scene is one of those movie magic moments set to music for this fan and would be spoiled by saying more.
3. Tropic Thunder (2008)
One of the biggest talking points on the release of the film, Tom Cruise stole a bit of the cast’s thunder with his hysterical performance as mogul Les Grossman, pleasantly surprising fans and detractors in equal measure.
His unique funky moves also made the credits worth sticking around for.
The character may have legs as well as hips with a performance at the MTV Movie Awards and now murmurs of a Les Grossman feature film.
2. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
In spite of everything – Uncle Rico, brother Kip, and high school cliques – Napoleon rose to near heroic status, all in the name of friendship, when he took to the assembly hall stage to shake his groove thing and boogie in his moon boots.
It’s a strangely hypnotic, brave demonstration of skills from a character you could easily pity. Not after that performance, though. Napoleon will do just fine.
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Reviving more than just a career, but also the estimation that the man can dance, John Travola and Uma Thurman’s scene in the twist contest wasn’t just a music-fuelled diversion, as Mia’s determination to win and her flirt-in-motion nature established her character quicker than loads of less entertaining yacky exposition could have accomplished.
This dance scene was nearly instantly recognisable. Certain moves became iconic and have often been mimicked in films and TV shows that followed, including an animated children’s film, but that’s a list for another day…
Honorable Mention:Fantastic Mr Fox, a joyful film from start to end, finished perfectly with a fondly remembered, fun little supermarket shuffle to Let Her Dance by Bobby Fuller.
Which films and scenes have we forgotten and do they deserve to be remembered or blasted from our grey cells for all time?
Alice In Wonderland is on Disney DVD and Blu-ray from Friday 4th June.