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Breakdance Movies from the 80s  – Iconic, Impactful, Inspiring

breakdance movies from the 80s
breakdance movies from the 80s

Table of Contents

Breakdance movies from the 1980s are sacred in hip-hop because they represent the initial entry of breaking into the mainstream world. Even today, they don’t just hold a special place in the history of breakdance. They also inspire many young b-boys and b-girls.

Although it’s easy to dismiss the top breakdance movies as pure entertainment, many moves, battles, and portrayals inspired brand-new routines. They set the stage for what breaking is today.

Let’s take a trip back into movie history and discuss the incredible impact of the breakdance movies from that time. 

Origin Stories – Where Breaking in Popular Media Really Began

The average ‘80s breakdance movie is often seen as the starting point for breaking and even hip-hop as a mainstream dance style. However, it goes back further than that.

Although movies with breaking at their center emerged at this time, earlier movies also featured breaking. For example, the 1975 movie Tommy included a breakdancing-like sequence during the “Sensation” number.

At the time, the average moviegoer had no idea how to breakdance, let alone that what they were watching was, in fact, breakdancing. Since Tommy was a fantasy movie, many put the flip and spins down to just that – fantasy. 

Breakdance in movies would continue in this vein for the next few years. Another popular breakdance movie that would launch the breaking craze of the 1980s was Fame, released in 1980.

This American teen musical drama film wasn’t strictly about breaking, but it included several routines by Gene Anthony Ray. In fact, Ray was only asked to audition because casting director Margery Simkin found him breaking on a street corner in Harlem.

Later on, this would evolve further as people became interested in the dance style, with breakdancing documentaries coming into fashion.

Hip-Hop Takes Center Stage in Breakdance Movies

In many ways, the 1980s was the golden age of dance movies in general. Countless hits are still fondly remembered today, including When Harry Met Sally. But it was the early 1980s that saw the peak of breakdancing, both in the media with the likes of the Rock Steady Crew and on the streets. 

Perhaps the most famous movie series that led to a generation of young people wanting to learn skills like how to do a flare and footwork essentials was Breakin’. 

Although the first entry into the series didn’t receive rave reviews, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo in 1984 was, and still is, considered a legend in the hip-hop movie scene. It was praised for portraying the reality of breaking in the ‘80s and even saw a young Ice-T making his mark.

That same year, breaking was graced with yet another classic that inspired many of the top 10 b-boys we know today: Beat Street. The characters of Kenny “Double K” and Ramon “Ramo” dominated the mainstream media to such an extent that rappers like Jay Electronica and The Notorious BIG immortalized and glorified them in some of their biggest rap hits.

Today, Beat Street is often viewed as one of the leading ‘80s breakdance movies and one of the top movies in the dance genre generally, alongside Style Wars and Beat Street: Wild Style. 

In many ways, breaking’s rise also helped propel the dance genre as a whole. Scholars will debate over whether dance movies gave breaking its big break or the other way around. However, this is very much a chicken and the egg situation.

Rise to Fame – How Breakdance Movies Have Led Breakers to Superstardom

The movies themselves saw significant uptakes in breaking. Countless schools have popped up, and movies have also played a role in spreading the scene to other parts of the world, especially France and Japan. 

But it’s important to remember that beyond the creation of memorable breaking tapes, it also resulted in several notable figures rising to prominence. Perhaps the two most prominent examples are Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers and Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quinones. Their standout performances left a permanent imprint on the breaking community.

Away from the screen, each iconic breakdance movie has contributed to movie choreography in general. Breaking introduced acrobatic, creative, and dynamic rules to the mainstream big screen.

Choreographers have built upon these foundations with even more innovative and diverse dance sequences across subsequent decades. Overall, it’s fair to say that the breaking boom of the ‘80s has helped take movie dance sequences to the next level.

All this combined has resulted in the rise of some of the most famous breakers the world has ever seen. Not all of this is due to direct participation in movies. Countless b-boys and b-girls today cite many movies above for inspiring them to take their first breaking courses and learn the perfect practice formula. 

What Cultural Impact Has Breakdance Movies Had?

 Breaking’s cultural impact can be seen today due to the contemporary popularity of hip-hop. Hip-hop itself isn’t just a music genre. It’s a lifestyle comprising four pillars, one of which is breaking.

Everything from the traditions behind the names to the music helping people to master the foundation comes from the streets, but it was the movies that led to hip-hop’s worldwide influence.

Simultaneously, breaking has helped contribute to various things, including fashion styles and music. Most of all, hip-hop is still a staple of youth culture, regardless of class, creed, or background. Although it cannot all be traced back to breaking alone, its prominent position within the scene means that without the rise of breaking, the scene would look very different today.

 In many ways, the reason why so many young people not only want to know how to airflare but how to street dance in general is because of these initial ‘80s breakdance movies. 

Learn and Be Inspired With Electrifying ‘80s Breakdancing Film

Growing your repertoire and getting inspired to try new things can originate anywhere. Find a new source of creativity by going back in time and getting under the skin of breaking’s mainstream history if you’re tired of breaks and want to discover something new.

At the B-Boy & B-Girl Dojo, we help new and experienced breakers find their flow and experience the magic of self-expression through breaking tutorials delivered by incredible instructors.

To learn more about breaking, sign up for our breaking courses today.


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