80’s Dance Scenes That Live In Our Heads Rent Free!

As the saying goes, when in doubt… dance it out! Scroll down to be transported back to the eighties and see the dance scenes through films that are still ingrained in our minds forty years later.

Although the eighties were known for the emergence of new computer technologies and  MTV reshaping pop culture, one piece of entertainment stands above the rest. Dance moves such as the worm, the cabbage patch, and the running man began to make their way to the dance floor, throwing disco completely out the window. Even though these moves would be known throughout history, blockbuster movies soon released iconic dance scenes making their way to the big screen that continue to be watched daily. See below to get the nostalgia of iconic dance scenes from films in the eighties that live in our minds rent-free! 

The Breakfast Club: 1985

When Simple Minds said, “don’t you forget about me,” they were absolutely right when it comes to this film. The Breakfast Club brings together five high school students that meet in a Saturday detention and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought. The film stars Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, and lastly, the eighties film legend Molly Ringwald. Although the film is highly recognized for the end scene as Hall’s voice-over calls the crew “the nerd, the princess, the jock, the basket case, and the criminal,” with Nelson holding his fist in the air, the detention dance sequence comes in a close competition.

After all, having some of Bender’s (Nelson) stash of marijuana, the five students go into a full-blown dance sequence that takes place in the library where their detention is being held. Although the students come from all different walks of life, this scene brings them all together, with even Hall, Nelson, and Estevez mimicking a line dance on a table.

Originally, only Claire was supposed to dance, but Molly Ringwald felt uncomfortable dancing alone, so John Hughes had the entire cast join in.

This scene truly shows that dance can bring everyone together!

Beat Street: 1984

Nothing says break dancing and going back to the eighties more than Beat Street. The film revolves around an aspiring DJ from the South Bronx and his best friend, a promoter, who try to get into the show business by exposing people to hip-hop music and culture. The film stars Rae Dawn Chong, Guy Davis, Jon Chardiet, Robert Taylor, and Saundra Santiago, along with many others.

Although this film revolves around breakout performances, the one that tops them all is the Battle at the Roxy. During this scene, a breakdance battle between the Breakers and Rock Steady ensues, and Tracy admires Lee’s performance. She then invites him to audition for a television show focusing on dancing. Throughout the battle, iconic moves from the eighties are represented as the two teams go head-to-head on the dance floor.

If you’re looking for a film that will bring you back to the world of dance in that era, then Beat Street is the one for you.

Risky Business: 1983 

If you’re going to dance in the comfort of your own home, dance in your underwear! Risky Business explores when a Chicago teenager is looking for fun at home while his parents are away, but the situation quickly gets out of hand. The main character of the film is played by no one other than Tom Cruise.

One of the most famous dance scenes in the eighties is when Cruise dances to rock when he is home alone in his underwear. The dance scene where Joel (Cruise) dances to “Old Time Rock N’ Roll” was completely improvised. In the script, he was simply instructed to “dance to rock music.” The scene has turned into a Halloween costume, along with even The Jonas Brothers taking a spin on Cruise’s moves in their music video “What A Man Gotta Do.”

If you’re in the mood to put on your shades and rock n roll, be sure to have Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll” playing in the background.

Do The Right Thing: 1989

One of the most well-known films that shaped cinematic history was created by the mind of Spike Lee with Do The Right Thing. The film explores the hottest day of the year on the street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn; everyone’s hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence. The film stars Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Rosie Perez, along with many more.

Although the film is more well known for telling the truth about how impactful society was toward one another during that time period, another iconic moment was the film’s opening credits. The credits show Tina (Perez) dancing to Public Enemy. Although it was supposed to be her dancing to Cool Jerk and having a sixties-style dance, Lee hired Public Enemy at the last minute. When it came time to shoot, she said, “Spike didn’t tell me he needed anger and angst and exhaustion. Instead, he just said, ‘I need you to kill it. I thought, O.K. — I thought I killed it in the first hour. Freakin’ eight hours later, this freakin’ man had me still dancing. To me, it was all Spike, Spike, Spike, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! And, when like rage and hate just poured out of my body, pure exhaustion, He went, “Cut, print it! We got it!”

Do The Right Thing’s dance scene is what you need to watch for inspiration when it comes to letting out those true emotions.

Dirty Dancing:  1987

If you’ve never heard the hit song “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, then were you even a fan of the eighties? Dirty Dancing leaps in on when spending the summer at a Catskills resort with her family, Frances “Baby” Houseman falls in love with the camp’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle. The iconic duo in this romance are played by none other than Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

One of the most iconic moments in the film is when Grey runs into Swayze’s arms as he lifts her at the end of the film. When shooting the lift, Grey admitted that she did not do it until the day it was shot. She was too scared and couldn’t make herself until the day when all the people were watching, and she had to do it.  The lift is still an iconic moment throughout history where teens have taken it upon themselves to mimic the move on social media.

@kaileylynn Expect the unexpected! 💃🏼🕺🏻 @solesurvivoradam #dirtydancing ♬ original sound – Kailey Lynn

When you are feeling nostalgic and want to be brought back to a dancing love story, then go back and watch Dirty Dancing.

Coming To America: 1988

Coming To America is known for so much more than just being a comedic film. The piece explores an extremely pampered African prince who travels to Queens, New York and goes undercover to find a wife that he can respect for her intelligence and strong will. Prince Akeem is played by none other than Eddie Murphy.

The wedding scene is one of the most well-known tribal dance scenes in cinematic history that was choreographed by Paula Abdul. Abdul was only eighteen when she choreographed the piece for the film. She would go to the library and create her style of what she thought should be right for the movie.

When wanting to explore different cultural dance styles, Coming To America is the film that you should be watching for your movie nights.

Footloose: 1984

On Sundays, you better be sure to kick off your shoes! One of the greatest dance flicks that came out in the eighties is Footloose. When a city teenager moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned, his rebellious spirit shakes up the populace. Ren is played by the king of the eighties actors, Kevin Bacon.

One of the most well-known dance scenes throughout the film is the ending, where they dance to the song “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins. The piece has been so iconic that a remake was made in 2011.

If you’re in the mood to start a bit of a rebellion, then go on and take Bacon’s advice in Footloose.

Fame: 1980

If you want your name to be remembered, make sure to tune into Fame, which was one of the first iconic dance films to make it to the big screen in the eighties. The film explores a chronicle of the lives of several teenagers who attend a New York high school for students gifted in the performing arts. One of the most iconic scenes from the film is when the students go out and perform in the middle of the street to the hit song “Fame,” sung by Irene Cara.

During the scene where the kids dance on the street over the cars, the song hadn’t actually been written at the time. On location, the actual song used was ‘Hot Stuff’ by Donna Summer.

When trying to find a film that truly symbolizes what it was like to be in the eighties era, Fame hits the top of the list.

Even though the eighties were decades ago, there’s no harm in playing old dance classics on your TV screen! Let us know @AfterBuzzTV over on Twitter which iconic dance move we can catch you trying to mimic this holiday season!

About the Author

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Kate O'Brien

Kate O’Brien is an aspiring producer and intern for AfterBuzzTV & Podcast Better Together with Maria Menounos along with Beyond Productions. She is currently completing her last semester of graduate school abroad in Los Angeles loving all pop culture and anything reality TV.