Updated on 3/13/2020
With ballet schools, companies and theaters closing to encourage social distancing in the wake of COVID-19, now is the perfect opportunity to hunker down for a ballet movie night. For your convenience, we've put together a list of some of our favorite Hollywood dance films, along with info on where to stream them. (Some are even available for free!) So whether you're in the mood for Center Stage, in need of a Mikhail Baryshnikov fix or have yet to see The Red Shoes, get ready for some serious ballet binging.
Ahh, Center Stage. This quintessential teen classic, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, follows Jody Sawyer (former San Francisco Ballet dancer Amanda Schull) and her friends at New York City's American Ballet Academy as they try to achieve their professional dance dreams. Former American Ballet Theatre dancers Ethan Stiefel and Sascha Radetsky co-star, resulting in tons of spectacular dancing. (Who can forget that last dance to Jamiroquoi's "Canned Heat"?).
Where to stream: Netflix (subscription required), Crackle (free), Amazon Prime Video ($2.99), Vudu ( $2.99), YouTube Movies ($3.99), iTunes ($3.99), Google Play ($3.99)
Starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and tap legend Gregory Hines, White Nights grossed over $42 million at the box office when it was released in 1985. Baryshnikov plays Kolya Radchenko, a Soviet dancer who has defected from the USSR. When he's injured after his flight to Japan makes a rough emergency landing in Siberia, he's recognized by the KGB and forced to stay behind. Hines plays the expatriate American tap dancer tasked with keeping an eye on him. The movie opens with Baryshnikov performing Roland Petits's Le Jeune Homme et La Mort and includes original choreography by Twyla Tharp. Plus, you don't want to miss Misha's 11 pirouettes.
Where to stream: Crackle (free), Amazon Prime Video ($2.99), YouTube Movies ($3.99), Vudu ($2.99), Google Play ($3.99)
The White Crow
If White Nights isn't enough Soviet intrigue for you, check out 2018's Nureyev biopic The White Crow, now widely available for streaming. Directed by Ralph Fiennes, the film follows the events leading up to Rudolf Nureyev's 1961 defection from the Soviet Union at Paris' Bourget Airport. Dancer Oleg Ivenko stars as Nureyev, who becomes enamored with the freedom of the West during the Kirov Ballet's tour to Paris—and is closely watched by the KGB. Fiennes plays Nureyev's famed Vaganova Academy teacher Alexander Pushkin, while Sergei Polunin portrays his roommate on tour, Kirov principal Yuri Soloviev.
Where to stream: Hulu (subscription required), Sling TV (subscription required), Amazon Prime Video ($4.99), YouTube Movies ($5.99), Vudu ($3.99), Google Play ($5.99)
Before it became a hit musical, Billy Elliot was a hit film. The 2000 British movie follows an 11-year-old working-class ballet student as he grapples with the bullying and stereotypes that come with being a boy dancer. While there aren't any showtunes in the movie version, there's a lot of adorable footage of young Billy (played by actor Jamie Bell) getting a handle on his ballet technique, as well as a scene from Matthew Bourne's all-male Swan Lake.
Where to stream: Hulu (subscription required), Amazon Prime Video ($3.99), YouTube ($3.99), Vudu ($3.99), iTunes ($3.99), Google Play ($3.99)
The Turning Point
It kills me that this 1977 Oscar-nominated classic isn't available on more streaming platforms right now. But if you subscribe to Cinemax's Max/Go, you're in luck. The Turning Point not only stars Hollywood legends Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, it's absolutely packed with world-class dancing. MacLaine plays DeeDee, a former dancer who retired early to start a family while her best friend Emma (Bancroft) went on to become the company's star ballerina. Jealousy and resentment ensue when Emma takes DeeDee's talented daughter Emilia (played by former ABT principal Leslie Browne) under her wing. Baryshnikov, who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, plays Emilia's womanizing love interest Yuri.
Where to stream: MaxGo/Cinemax (subscription required)
The psychological thriller Black Swan, which earned its star Natalie Portman an Oscar for Best Actress, delves into ballet's dark side. When Nina Sayers wins the role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, she has trouble portraying Odile's seductive qualities—unlike her alternate, a new company member named Lily (Mila Kunis). In her obsessive quest for perfection, Nina slowly starts to lose her grip on reality. Portman met her husband Benjamin Millepied, who choreographed and acted in the film, on set. ABT principal Sarah Lane serves as Portman's double for the major dance scenes, while artists from Pennsylvania Ballet flesh out the company dancers.
Where to stream: Hulu (subscription), Amazon Prime Video ($3.99), YouTube Movies ($3.99), iTunes ($3.99), Vudu ($3.99), Google Play ($3.99)
The Red Shoes
The most classic ballet movie of them all, The Red Shoes follows budding star Vicky Page, who is torn between her need to dance and her love for a young composer. Flame-haired British ballerina Moira Shearer stars as Vicky, and the 1948 film includes the 15-minute "Red Shoes Ballet" choreographed by Robert Helpmann and featuring Léonid Massine.
Where to stream: Amazon Prime Video ($3.99), You Tube Movies ($2.99), iTunes ($3.99), Google Play ($2.99)
Mao's Last Dancer
This 2009 Australian film is based on the autobiography of former Houston Ballet and Australian Ballet principal Li Cunxin. After the young Chinese ballet dancer is invited to Houston Ballet's academy as a exchange student, Cunxin grows disillusioned with China's communist system, falls in love with an American dancer, and eventually decides to defect from his home country. Birmingham Royal Ballet principal Chi Cao stars as Cunxin alongside Center Stage's Amanda Schull, who plays his girlfriend Elizabeth.
Where to stream: Amazon Prime ($4.99), You Tube Movies (free), iTunes $3.99), Vudu (free),
Former Mariinsky Ballet dancer Keenan Kampa stars in this 2016 teen dance drama. When Ruby, a ballet student at a New York City conservatory, meets a struggling violinist and a hip hop crew, they decide to enter a major scholarship competition. Sparks fly, naturally. Jane Seymour co-stars as Ruby's tough-love contemporary teacher.
Where to stream: Hulu (subscription required), Amazon Prime Video ($3.99), YouTube Movies (free), Vudu ($2.99), Google Play ($2.99), iTunes ($3.99)
Okay, okay, okay, so "Bunheads" isn't exactly a movie—but what better time to binge-watch this beloved ABC Family television series? Follow Boo, Sasha, Ginny and Melanie as they navigate the ups and downs of both ballet school and, well, life as a teenager. Broadway triple-threat Sutton Foster stars as their lovable, quirky teacher Michelle Simms, while Kelly Bishop of "Gilmore Girls" fame plays the tough-love instructor Fanny Flowers. No sinister glass-in-pointe-shoe stories here—"Bunheads" is funny and family friendly.
Where to stream: Freeform (free), Hulu (subscription required), YouTube TV (subscription required), Sling TV (subscription required), Amazon Prime Video (from $1.99), iTunes ($9.99)
Robert Altman's 2003 film The Company stars actress Neve Campbell, James Franco, Malcolm McDowell and the artists of The Joffrey Ballet. The movie looks at life inside a Chicago-based ballet company, with special focus on Campbell's character—a young dancer on the brink of becoming a principal. Campbell, who trained seriously at Canada's National Ballet School during high school, does her own dancing throughout the film.
Where to stream: Crackle (free), Amazon Prime Video ($2.99), YouTube Movies ($3.99), Vudu ($2.99), iTunes ($3.99), Google Play ($3.99)
Girl, a 2018 Belgian drama directed by Lukas Dhont, follows Lara, a 15-year-old transgender student at a prestigious Dutch ballet school. Inspired by the life of Belgian dancer Nora Monsecour, the film shows Lara's emotional struggles as she adjusts her ballet training and anticipates gender reassignment surgery. Girl won the Queer Palm at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, although it has been sharply criticized by some in the trans community for casting a cis-gender male (Victor Polster) in the leading role and for its graphic content.
Where to stream: Netflix (subscription required)