Strictly Come Dancing 2021: The 10 best Movie Week dances, ranked

Including Jay McGuinness, Alexandra Burke, and, of course, Ed Balls

Isobel Lewis
Saturday 09 October 2021 17:58
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Jay McGuinness and Aliona Vilani's 'Pulp Fiction' jive from Strictly

Strictly Come Dancing returns this weekend with one of the biggest shows of the series: its movie special.

First introduced in 2014, Strictly’s Movie Week sees the contestants perform a selection of dances inspired by the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, with comedy, action and kids films all being given the Strictly treatment over the years.

But what makes for a really good Movie Week performance? Looking the part is obviously key, and you can always expect this theme to bring out some of the best hair, make-up and costumes that Strictly has to offer.

Ultimately, however, it’s the dancing being marked, with the best performances managing to show off the celebrity’s skill – something they often haven’t quite found yet, with Movie Week usually coming around the third week in the competition – while also featuring choreography that captures the essence of the films they’re paying tribute to.

Here are 10 of the greatest Strictly Movie Week dances, ranked...

10. Kellie Bright and Kevin Clifton – Star Wars Charleston

With EastEnders actor Bright and Clifton dressed up as Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, this Star Wars-themed Charleston is one of the sillier dances on this list. But somewhat surprisingly, it works really, really well. The instrumental “Cantina Band” theme is the perfect fit for a Charleston and allows the pair to pull off some fun, synchronised moves and impressive tricks. It also marks one of the rare occasions where a prop doesn’t just feel like a waste of time and the inspired use of lightsabers as canes manages to mix up an ultimately very traditional routine.

9. Seann Walsh and Katya Jones – The Matrix Paso Doble

Comedian Walsh may not have been the strongest dancer on the show – and his behaviour behind the scenes ended up overshadowing his performances – but when it comes to Movie Week dances that encapsulate the spirit of the film they’re taking inspiration from, this Matrix number is one of the greats.A whirlwind of patent and leather, Walsh and Jones both look insanely powerful as they dance, with clever choreography seeing Walsh pull his partner up by one leg, as well as recreating the iconic slow-motion roll back seen as a bullet travels overhead. Genius.

8. Ore Oduba and Joanne Clifton – Singin’ in the Rain American Smooth

Taking inspiration from a film that is already a musical has its pros and cons. Yes, the references are there for you to use, but that naturally leads to a direct comparison with the original. This beautiful dance, to the titular song from Singin’ in the Rain, manages to be the best of both worlds, paying homage to Gene Kelly without drifting into parody. Oduba is light on his feet and Clifton’s choreography, particularly when the pair dance in hold with an umbrella in hand, is effortlessly charming.

7. Ed Balls and Katya Jones – The Mask Samba

“Joke contestants” may head into Strictly with little expected of them, but there are some professional dancers still determined to squeeze every last drop out of their partners, no matter the natural ability (or lack thereof). We saw it earlier this season with Bill Bailey’s spectacular quickstep courtesy of Oti Mabuse, but the queen of this method has to be Jones. Labour politician Balls had all the signs of being destined to poorly shimmy to novelty tracks, but under Jones’s training ended up as a fairly impressive dancer. This samba to “Cuban Pete” is one of her best; Balls is clearly being pushed to the very limits of his ability, but manages to bring both some deft moves and great comic timing to this funny routine. It would be easy for Jones to just dance around him, but she doesn’t (as she didn’t in his legendary “Gangnam Style” routine either), which is a true testament to her skill as a choreographer and teacher.

6. Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez – My Fair Lady American Smooth

Everything about this routine to “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from My Fair Lady is utterly charming. With her red skirt and black hat, Burke looks every inch the lady as Eliza Doolittle and even in the earlier weeks of the competition is clearly marking herself out as a fantastic dancer, with a natural flair and a couple of very balletic little hops and leaps. Gor-juss, as Craig Revel Horwood would say.

5. Dev Griffin and Dianne Buswell – Aladdin Street/Commercial

Still a relatively new concept to Strictly, the Couple’s Choice routine allows contestants to choose their own dance genre from the categories of Street/Commercial, Theatre/Jazz or Contemporary. Unlike the more classic dances, these have less rules and therefore are a little harder to judge, but Griffin and Buswell’s dance to “Friend Like Me” is one of the best. With Radio 1 presenter Griffin dressed as the Genie while Buswell is Abu the monkey, the dance starts off slickly, if fairly simply, but quickly turns into an impressive showcase of street dance moves and some major lifts.

4. Danny Mac and Oti Mabuse – The Mask of Zorro Paso Doble

Mac was one of those contestants who struggled to shake off the narrative that he had “previous dance experience”, meaning that, despite being arguably the best male celebrity to appear on Strictly (an opinion I will take to my grave), he was never going to win his season. But that doesn’t stop his dances from being some of the most impressive performances you’ve ever seen. In the grand ranking, this Zorro-themed number probably wouldn’t even make his top five performances, but it’s still a fast-paced and dramatic traditional Paso of the highest level.

3. Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice – Grease Quickstep

If I told you that “You’re The One That I Want” was going to be danced to on Strictly, you’d be fair in assuming that it was soundtracking a fast-paced Jive or similar routine. Instead, this performances makes for one of the speediest Quicksteps you’ve ever seen, with Steps star Tozer and Pernice flying around the dancefloor at the speed of (greased) lightning. In costume as Sandy and Danny, both look the absolute part, plus there’s bonus points for Pernice’s dramatic cry of “Faye!” at the top, which is never not funny.

2. Aston Merrygold and Janette Manrara – Trolls Cha-Cha-Cha

On a weaker dancer, dressing up as a blue-haired troll doll from a children’s movie could overshadow a performance, but that was thankfully not the case when it came to JLS star Merrygold. Cha-cha-cha-ing to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, Merrygold and Manrara are a blur of brightly coloured fun. The routine smartly mixes excellent Cha-cha basics with Merrygold’s natural skill for street dance and serves as a reminder that Merrygold deserved much better than the 10th place he ended up placing. Seriously, how did Ruth Langsford and Anton du Beke beat this?

1. Jay McGuinness and Aliona Vilani – Pulp Fiction Jive

It’s hard to imagine that when Strictly first started in 2004, it would ever go on to be a TV show deemed “cool”. But that status was firmly cemented by The Wanted star McGuinness’s Movie Week jive to a mash-up of “You Never Can Tell” and “Misirlou” from Pulp Fiction. Costume and makeup-wise, the pair just look the part, but the way the routine quickly switches from John Travolta’s nonchalant grooving to some of the sharpest flicks and kicks ever seen on Strictly is truly singular. From the slicking back of the hair to the peace signs, every second carries an impossibly cool swagger that manages to make even the hardest of moves look effortless. It’s a performance that went down in Strictly history, earning the couple 37 points (still the highest week three score in the show’s history) and arguably winning the whole series for them. Every jive since then has been compared to Jay’s, but no one, in my opinion, has ever managed to make it look quite this good.

Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturday 9 October at 6.45pm on BBC One

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