Top 10 Iconic Dance Scenes in Teen Movies

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Top 10 Iconic Dance Scenes in Teen Movies

VOICE OVER: Emily - WatchMojo WRITTEN BY: Maggie Andresen
Lace up your shoes for these dance scenes in teen movies. For this list, we're taking a look at the most memorable dance scenes in teen flicks, basing our choices on how iconic they are and how many of us totally learned the moves and tried to recreate them. Our countdown includes "Step Up," "Mean Girls," "Dirty Dancing," and more!
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Top 10 Dance Scenes in Teen Movies


Lace up your dancing shoes. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Dance Scenes in Teen Movies.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the most memorable dance scenes in teen flicks, basing our choices on how iconic they are and how many of us totally learned the moves and tried to recreate them. Remember we’re ranking teen films, so even if we love the dance moves between Jack and Rose in third-class from “Titanic,” they unfortunately don’t make the cut!

#10: “Higher Ground”
“Center Stage” (2000)


There’s no better way to start an epic dance number than to “forget about the steps [and] just dance the *bleep* out of it”. This energetic rock-ballet fusion number unites a group of aspiring dancers striving for one of a few rare spots in a prestigious New York dance company. It’s one of the film’s only moments where the vying competitors let down their guard in favor of dancing together, purely for their love of the craft. Their contagious energy keeps this scene lovable even 20 years after “Center Stage” first came to theaters in the year 2000, and shows how modern ballet pushes the boundaries of tradition.

#9: “Ain’t My Type of Hype”
“House Party” (1990)


A cult classic that embodies the ‘let’s throw a party while the parents are out of town’ storyline, 1990 hit “House Party” follows friends - and real life hip-hop duo - Kid and Play through the entertaining shenanigans that plague them through the evening of an epic party. The film’s highlight comes during a dance contest waged by friends Sydney and Sharane against Kid and Play, where hip hop and R&B moves go head-to-head. The scene is set to the song “Ain’t My Type of Hype” by Full Force, a hip hop group from which several members were actually cast as the on-screen school bullies harassing Kid earlier in the film. Even after 30 years, these moves never go out of style.

#8: “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’”
“Teen Beach Movie” (2013)


Hop back in time with a greasers-style number that combines the best elements of the era: leather jackets, big hair, spontaneous guitar solos, and of course - choreographed dances that you can’t help testing the moves to. Leading “Teen Beach Movie” characters Brady and Mack accidentally step from their reality set in the present day and into their favorite 1960s movie, spending the rest of the film trying to return to the real world. This major musical number shares some major vibes from the 1978 musical “Grease” and showcases even more advanced choreography than the “TBM” finale,“Surf’s Up,” where Brady and Mack celebrate their well-earned return to reality with a final beach-side dance.

#7: The Senior Showcase
“Step Up” (2006)


The iconic ending to “Step Up” blends hip hop and classical ballet in the senior showcase for a performing arts school where lead characters Tyler and Nora overcome their differences to put on a show that leaves their audience astonished. Initially planned as a duet, the ensemble performance makes the number even more engaging and dynamic, much like the final group dance of “Step Up 2,” although the choreography shared exclusively between Tyler and Nora in the original finale makes this ending even more memorable. Leading actors Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan met on the “Step Up” set and fell in love, leading to a nine-year marriage that ended in 2019. Watching this scene, it’s not hard to see how they fell for each other.

#6: “We’re All in This Together”
“High School Musical” (2006)


This high school love story brings together Troy, a rising basketball star, and Gabriella, a scholastic decathlon champion, for a shared dream as they audition for lead roles in their school musical - much to the chagrin of their respective cliques. Overcoming challenges set up by rivals, they ultimately succeed in their goal and celebrate with a massive musical number at the movie’s end. The film made leading actors Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens household names, and the Disney Channel movie was syndicated for 3 more films. “HSM 2” continues the strong musical and dance caliber of the original, with high-production hits like “What Time Is It?” The finale of the original film, however, shines brighter as a dance number.

#5: “Jingle Bell Rock”
“Mean Girls” (2004)


It doesn’t get more iconic than the “Mean Girls” Winter Talent Show dance. New girl Cady befriends queen bee Regina in a bid to infiltrate “The Plastics,” a group of high school female royalty. This entry see the scantily Santa-clad Regina, Gretchen, Karen, and Cady perform “Jingle Bell Rock” together - braving a malfunctioning boom box for an a-capella finale while aided by a last-minute piano accompaniment by Tina Fey’s math teacher, Ms. Norbury. Regina’s “cool mom,” played by Amy Pohelr, gets points for trying to dance along while videotaping it all. The 2004 performance and film continue to resonate today, with superstar Ariana Grande even using the teen comedy’s premise for her 2018 music video for “Thank U, Next.”

#4: “(I've Had) The Time of My Life”
“Dirty Dancing” (1987)


Come for the endlessly charming Patrick Swayze, stay for the coming of age story told through dance. Throughout “Dirty Dancing,” Frances is treated like she’s much younger than she is - she’s nicknamed “Baby,” after all. But after meeting Swayze’s Johnny Castle at Kellerman’s Resort and volunteering to be his performance partner, she realizes that she’s seen only a corner of the world. Though Johnny gives Baby a crash course in dance, there’s just that little hurdle of the big lift that they can’t quite get. Finally, after Baby stands up for what she believes in, she inspires Johnny to return to Kellerman’s, and in front of everyone who doubted or put them down, they nail the lift and, well, have the time of their lives.

#3: “Prologue”
“West Side Story” (1961)


A Romeo and Juliet plot line set in New York City, “West Side Story” remains one of the most iconic musicals in history. Against a backdrop of warring gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, fighting for neighborhood control, lovers Maria and Tony search for a way to be together. The opening prologue is a masterful group dance between the rival gangs that takes the viewer around Manhattan and sets the mood of the entire film. Additional memorable dance scenes include “America,” where Maria’s Puerto Rican family and members of the Sharks sing about the differences between the mainland USA and the island of Puerto Rico, and “Dance at the Gym,” where the Sharks and Jets vie for control of the dance floor.

#2: “You Can’t Stop the Beat”
“Hairspray” (2007)


This musical comedy set in 1962 Baltimore has no shortage of animated dance numbers, but its grand finale demands attention. Set against the background of racial segregation and inequality, high school student Tracy Turnblad overcomes social expectations as a heavyset teenager to become a dancer on her favorite local television show, inadvertently helping to integrate the program in the process. With a final dance number that boasts performances from John Travolta as Tracy’s mother Edna, and Queen Latifah as radio disk jockey Motormouth Maybelle, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” is the ultimate happy ending to a film that explores challenging themes while keeping song and dance at its center.

Before unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Chillin' Like a Villain”
“Descendants 2” (2017)

“The Party’s Just Begun”
“The Cheetah Girls 2” (2012)

Sara’s Juilliard Audition
“Save the Last Dance” (2001)

“Drive It Like You Stole It”
“Sing Street” (2016)

“We Rock”
“Camp Rock” (2008)

#1: “Footloose”
“Footloose” (1984)


Teenage rebel Ren McCormack, played by heartthrob Kevin Bacon, shakes things up in Bomont, Oklahoma when he learns that dancing and rock music are forbidden. The recent Chicago transplant brings dancing back to Bomont after petitioning the city council and the local Reverend, whose daughter, Ariel, he falls in love with. The film’s finale is set at the high school’s senior prom, where students are encouraged to dance publically for the first time in years. The energetic end to “Footloose” is a celebration of freedom and fun, all through the love of dance. A 2011 remake of the 1984 classic received positive reviews and features a similarly energetic ending, with arguably more advanced choreography, but the classic finale can’t be matched on enthusiasm.
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