It isn’t uncommon for film characters to burst out into song. Usually this sort of frivolity is restricted to the ‘musical’ genre, but occasionally someone will start singing as an alternative way of depicting their feelings, or just because the screenwriter has run out of ideas. But what about dancing? Similarly to spontaneous song, jumping around in a rhythmical motion is something that rarely makes appearances outside of musicals, but when it does it can be hugely rewarding. Albeit it slightly ridiculous.
Again due to the diverse nature of the spontaneous dance number, it makes eliciting a comprehensive history somewhat difficult. The amount of time spent dancing can also be an issue, as it cannot truly labelled a dance number if it only lasts a few seconds. Apologies in advance to Christopher Walken, who did not make the list for this reason. 10 points to the first person who can name the film I’m referencing! This list is dedicated to best surprise dance numbers out there, which contribute little plot and narrative, but make for fantastically flamboyant entertainment! And a one and a two…
10. Tropic Thunder (2008) – Get Back
Ever heard the expression ‘the best bit of the film was when the credits rolled?’. Well in Tropic Thunder, it is very much applicable. Having flown aeroplanes upside down, taken on Western hordes as a Samurai, and gone a bit crazy on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the next logical move for Mr. Cruise was quite obviously to get involved in a spontaneous dance number. His character of Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder may not have been a patch on Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, but after spending most of his screen time shouting at people, Cruise decides to bust a move to Ludacris during the credits. There is absolutely no reason for it to happen, but it somehow just makes so much sense.
9. Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Goodbye Horses
By now most people will have seen the equally thrilling and disturbing The Silence of the Lambs and will not need to be told how effective this particular entry is, but for those who haven’t, picture this – Ted Levine dancing naked to glam hit ‘Goodbye Horses’ with his lower extremities tucked between his legs, and piercings in his nipples. Enduring image? You bet it is, and that is what is so effective about it. The fleeting dance number gives us an insight into Levine’s psychotic character of Buffalo Bill, and provides us with a potent dose of sensory deprivation. Uncomfortable, awkward, and extremely well acted out.
8. Kung Fu Hustle (2004) – The Axe Gang
It starts with one. Then three. Then five. Then a couple more. And then a lot more. With Stephen Chow behind the helm of a film, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for anything to happen , so one could perhaps question the spontaneity of the dance sequence in martial arts comedy Kung Fu Hustle. However the choreography that we are accustomed to in a martial arts film is high flying kicks and hard hitting punches; not synchronized gangster dancing. Used to inter-cut between various snapshots of The Axe Gangs wrong-doings and the Chinese streets, the motivation behind the dance is puzzling to say the least, but solidifies The Axe Gang as the coolest criminals around.
7. The Breakfast Club (1985) – We are Not Alone
80s teen comedies are one of those sub-genres of film which everyone seems to love, and The Breakfast Club is certainly no exception. Boasting one of the best and most recognizable soundtracks of all time, it is Karla DeVito who provides the backing to this short but ingenious spontaneous dance number, with We Are Not Alone. The dancing itself isn’t particularly technical, but like many things from the 1980s, such big hair, ‘Hammer Pants’, and Bon Jovi, the dancing just exists to be fun. My detentions used to consist of either napping for an hour, or staring at the cafeteria wall. They were definitely never this fun.
6. Bande à Part (1964) – The Cafe
The most off the wall thing that happens when I go out for coffee, is usually me knocking something over or going crazy by ordering a triple chocolate muffin. When Jean Luc Godard and pals go for drinks though, an impromptu dance sequence is never too far away, and that is exactly what happens in Bande a Part. Godard is famed for his experimental style and tendency to break taboos, and whilst there was nothing shocking about the step and clap dance sequence, the spontaneity of it provides us with an amusing and light-hearted moment in a captivating crime drama.
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