Tango is a very versatile dance. It is just as effective at conveying comedy as it is at showing passion or tenderness and love. What often stays with us long after seeing a dance scene of this nature are the emotions between the people on screen and, consequently, the emotions they evoke in us, as the viewer. Film-makers have long since abandoned the rule book that outlines which steps belong to what style of dance. After all, they are not looking to win a professional Ballroom dance competition. So mixing some Argentine Tango in with Ballroom Tango and even adding a dash of Paso Doble and Flamenco is OK (even desirable) in my book. As long as the passion and music suits, we will call them tangos for the purpose of this list.
More important than getting the steps right, strictly sticking to only tango moves, and looking fantastic is making us feel that there is a connection between the dancing parties and to convey that bond and feeling through their dance and body language.
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17 Moments of Tango in Film & TV – A List
(In no particular order.)
# 1 The Tango Lesson (1997) – A Dance on a Moonlit Pier
Pablo: “I always wanted to be in films.”
Sally: “I always wanted to be a dancer.”
A film director (Sally) and a professional Argentine Tango dancer (Pablo) come together to teach each other about the intricacies of their respective arts. If you want to learn more about tango, in particular, there is no better film to start with.
Now, I suggest that you get in the tango mood by first watching the below video before exploring the rest of this list. This is because snippets of the many, many tango scenes that are sprinkled throughout this film are expertly edited and set to the tune of Yo-Yo Ma’s rendition of Libertango in it. As with most films with dance at the center, music is extremely important and Libertango plays its role exquisitely in The Tango Lesson.
# 2 Love and Other Disasters (2006) – A Bet With Unforeseen Outcomes
Jacks challenges Paolo to a tango after seeing the talent for photography that he is hiding away. If she can do the tango, he will let her show the photos to a gallery owner. With the music and dance working their magic, the mood turns romantic and the rest, after a few minor misunderstandings are cleared up, is history.
# 3 Easy Virtue (2008) – Finding Acceptance Where One Least Expects It
When Larita first arrived with her dashing young groom to meet his family, little did she know that she would come to escape this land of superficial virtue with his own father instead. Despite these kindred spirits having been brought together in the most unusual fashion, the beauty of this love story is that it is based on a true understanding of each other’s needs.
# 4 Mrs. Winterbourne (1996) – Proof That Tango Can Indeed Make One Lose One’s Senses and All Self-Control
Connie: “I do not understand men!”
The Butler: “You and me both, honey!”
An unexpected tango followed by lots of even more unexpected kissing makes Brendan Fraser’s Bill Winterbourne so flustered as to even forget where he parked his car.
# 5 Some Like It Hot (1959) – When The “Nobody’s Perfect” Couple Danced the Night Away
Jerry: “I’m engaged!
Joe: “Congratulations! Who’s the lucky girl?”
Jerry: “I am!”
In order to escape a mob of gangsters, after witnessing something they shouldn’t have, Jerry and Joe dress up as women and join an all-female band. This leads to all sorts of shenanigans but perhaps the most surprising one happens when Jerry a.k.a. Daphne gets into his role a little too well as he gets wooed by a very sweet millionaire. In the race to get married to a millionaire that all the band members are actively participating in, Jerry suddenly charges ahead of the pack with an engagement.
# 6 Addams Family Values (1993) – Lessons in Romance from the Ultimate Married Couple
Fester: “Gomez, how do you do it? How can I be like you? How can I be suave?”
Gomez: “Woo her! Admire her! Make her feel like she’s the most sublime creature on earth!”
Every single scene between these two sparkles with romance, love, and deep understanding. Consequently, they are the ultimate example of a married couple who knows how to keep the romance alive well into their marriage. Their relationship is so divine that it kind of makes me want a marriage just like theirs (with a few exceptions…). It’s lovely seeing pairings like this who have stood the test of time as most stories focus on when a couple first falls in love. However, a couple’s Happily Ever After can be that much more interesting to explore. Especially Morticia’s and Gomez’s which is simply divine.
# 7 True Lies (1994) – Another Married Couple Who Knows How to Have Fun
Isn’t it wonderful when a husband and wife can still flirt with each other shamelessly? This is yet another married couple that goes all out by acting like love-struck teenagers. Theirs is a pretty amusing tango seeing as their idea of one is to hilariously drag each other across the dance floor all the while fighting to be the one with the rose (that classic and stereotypical staple in tango we all know and love) between their teeth.
# 8 Scent of a Woman (1992) – When One Enjoys the Little Things In Life
“No mistakes in the tango, Donna … not like (in) life. That’s what makes it so great!”
Al Pacino gives a wonderful performance as a blind man in this film. As is often the case, he seems to notice and see more than the people around him despite being blind.
It is a surprise when he invites a girl to a dance. Clearly, she is hesitant at first and not just because she is afraid of making a mistake. Soon, it becomes clear that he is almost as good at leading the tango as he is with his words. This scene and the entire film shows that humans are capable of so much more than we think, even when it looks like they would seemingly fall apart under certain trying circumstances.
# 9 Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) – The Dance of Love
Dracula: “And now we shall do the dance of love.”
If you are familiar with Mel Brooks, you know that he is the master of parodies. This is another one of his masterpieces where he tackles the vampire lore. This is a must see film for all lovers of vampire stories.
If you have not seen this film yet, make sure that you slot it in on your calendar! In this humorous take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a dance scene is essential in the preparation of Mina to become Dracula’s eternal bride.
Related Post: Top 50 Vampires in Film and Television
# 10 The Mask of Zorro (1998) – A Strong Attraction
More of a Flamenco, this scene is the epitome of a passionate dance. Which is only fitting for a pairing so fiery that their bickering could rival that of Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Even their fencing scene feels like another dance rather than a fight and the costumes in this film, especially in this dance scene, are simply breathtaking.
# 11 Take the Lead (2006) – How To Get Teenagers Interested in Ballroom & Latin Dancing
Here we have another dance scene with Antonio Banderas as the lead. This scene stands out from the rest because while the pair looks extremely seductive together, they are not actually trying to seduce each other. In fact, they are actively and very effectively seducing their audience. This is done using one of the oldest tricks in the book: By giving them just enough to get them intrigued and then pulling back at the last second leaving their audience yearning for more.
# 12 Shall We Dance (2004) – A Tango Between Student and Teacher
Sometimes all it takes to inspire a teacher to do what they love again is the right student.
This is another scene without romantic connotations. However that is the beauty of it: It portrays the pleasure of dancing for the sake of dancing, which can be even more enjoyable than dancing with a loved one. The adrenaline rush of a great dance with a great partner is an indescribably wonderful feeling.
# 13 Scent of a Woman (2011 Korean Drama) – Going to the Ends of the Earth for your Crush (which happens to be a tango lesson in this case)
Dance teacher: “Sir, you can’t keep going straight! You must always follow the line of dance.”
Imagine this: You’re at your first tango lesson. You’re not there because you want to learn, nevertheless, you think you have the perfect cover to hang around the person you cannot get out of your head. Naturally, you get paired up with someone else, but all you’re doing is staring holes in that person and the teacher who is dancing with her. In fact, you’ve quite forgotten that you’re meant to be dancing with someone else.
When they shout out to switch partners, you act all nonchalant as you slowly approach the object of your desire. So when the girl asks: “Did you really come here to learn tango?”, you answer, “Well, I certainly didn’t come here to see you!” with your heart beating a mile a minute.
After all this, you promptly lose your ability to think clearly having exhausted it on the act of nonchalance. And as soon as the music is turned on you walk the girl right into the mirrored wall, evidently, with the intention of going through it and completely disregarding the line of dance. Which curves, by the way.
# 14 Lost Girl (2010-2016) – A Tango with Three Participants
There is a lesson to be learned here: When a girl says to “act like you want to tear (her) clothes off” you had better listen, otherwise someone else will step in and show you how it’s done. When that happens, it’s pretty much game over. Especially if the competition is someone like Dyson!
# 15 Chuck (2007-2012) – A Reversal of Roles
Chuck: “Apparently, I learned the girl’s part of this dance. Would you mind leading?”
Girl: “Not at all.”
Chuck’s friend, and self-proclaimed ladies man steps in to help him learn how to dance the tango. However, it’s not until Chuck is on the dance floor that he realizes that he was taught the follower’s steps. Thankfully, his dance partner is happy to take the lead and makes Chuck swoon throughout their short tango adventure complete with a dip at the end.
# 16 Moulin Rouge! (2001) – El Tango De Roxanne – A Tragic Love Story
“His eyes upon your face,
His hand upon your hand,
His lips caress your skin,
It’s more than I can stand!”
Passion often walks hand in hand with tragedy as it was so heartbreakingly depicted in this modern classic.
# 17 Puss in Boots (2011) – The Dance Fight
“How dare you do the litter box on me?!”
“She is a bad kitty!”
Let’s finish this list on a positive note. Whether it be live action or animation, Antonio Banderas certainly knows how to move. Consequently, he appears no fewer than three times on this list.
Both the dance fight and ending dance with cats as backup dancers are simply meow-tastic with their elements of Paso Doble and Flamenco!
What is your favorite tango scene from the movies or TV? Let me know in the comments below!