In honor of “The Black Swan”, here’s a look at six other movies featuring ballet and ballerinas. These movies might not all be about ballet, but, just like “Black Swan”, they do display this world of dance in very unique ways:
“The Red Shoes”
Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis could learn a lot from real-life ballerina Moira Shearer, as the fiery-haired siren’s most popular film was a dark fairytale loosely based on the story by the Brothers Grimm. But despite the movie’s tragic tone, this tale about a woman torn between her lover and her love of ballet was filmed in brilliant Technicolor, a specialty of directors Powell and Pressburger. “The Black Swan” might be getting a lot of attention, but it’s going to be hard for it to ever overshadow one of the most magical and beloved ballet movies of all time (the spotlight sequence is exquisitely beautiful and moving).
“Black Swan” definitely has something in common with one of the most frightening ballet movies of all time, as it also features some elements of horror. Like “The Red Shoes”, “Suspiria” is shot in vivid Technicolor, but don’t let the bright colors fool you; this tale of terror at a ballet school is definitely dark and disturbing. Maggots rain from the ceiling; rooms are filled with deadly razor wire; and girls act strangely at this sinister school where nothing is as it seems. As shown in “Black Swan”, ballet is definitely hard work, but ballerinas should be glad they don’t have go through what the girls here do.
On a lighter note, one of the best ballet moments in the movies has to be one of the many colorful vignettes in this musical masterpiece of animation. Who would have thought hippos, ostriches, elephants, and crocodiles would make such amazing dance partners? With it’s hungry prima ballerina, bubble tutus, and fun game of hide-and-seek, this short sequence from “Fantasia” set to Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” definitely stands out as one of most creative uses of ballet in a movie.
Charlie Chaplin charms in one of his “talkies” about a pair of lost souls trying to find a little happiness in life. In one of the most moving movies featuring a ballerina, Chaplin’s character, a once-famous stage performer, saves a distraught dancer from committing suicide. The two lean on one another as they both attempt career comebacks, but, seeing as the film seems to somewhat mirror Chaplin’s later life, there can only be a bittersweet end. It’s another of the movies here that doesn’t feature a lot of a ballet, but it’s hard to find anything more beautiful than seeing two souls dancing together on the silver screen.
“Talk to Her”
Once again, the ballerina here doesn’t get to dance much, but that’s a very important part of this movie. When a ballet student and a bullfighter end up in comas, their inability to lead the vivacious lives they once had has a profound impact on the lives of others. And although the ballerina here spends much of the movie still as a stone, it’s a chance meeting at a performance that makes this one of the most amazing movies about life’s fateful dance.
“The Turning Point”
This is one of the ballet movies Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis definitely should have watched before taking on “Black Swan” (especially seeing as how it was nominated for 11 Academy Awards). Shirley McLaine, an accomplished dancer in real-life, plays DeeDee, a ballerina who has hung up her toe shoes in order to raise a family, while Anne Bancroft stars as Emma, a ballerina from her former company who has continued to dance as a prima ballerina. The two reunite when DeeDee’s daughter joins Emma’s company, and both women are forced to contemplate if they are happy with their past decisions. With tense scenes between two ballerinas and a theme that involves choosing between a dance career and having a family, you can feel touches of “Black Swan” and “The Red Shoes” here. However, it’s Mikhail Baryshnikov, one of the most renowned male ballet dancers in the world, who steals the show as a ladies’ man involved with DeeDee’s daughter.
So “Black Swan” has a lot to live up to in these movies that feature beautiful ballet performances, dark tales of the dangerous side of dance, and unique stories of chance and romance, but it should definitely share the same honor as these amazing movies by seeing encore after encore.