Unpopular Opinion: Dirty Dancing is a terrible movie

Dirty Dancing is a terrible movieThe 80s. An era of big hair, big shoulders, and big movies. This decade produced many of the classics we know and love today: The GooniesFootloose and Die Hard, just to name a few. However, one of the most famous movies of the time is also my bête noire.

Yes, I am talking about Dirty Dancing. One of the most famous romantic comedies of all time, Dirty Dancing took audiences by storm in the autumn of 1987. The tale of the innocent holidayer having a summer romance with the mysteriously sexy dance teacher sounds alright on paper, yet it somehow riles me to the point of no return.

First of all, this movie is less about a romance, more about the holiday from hell. Abortions gone wrong, a very young girl falling for a much older, very emotionally detached, older man, accusations of theft and let’s not even mention their hair – all of this just adds up to a pretty awful family vacation. Despite this, audiences around the world continue to romanticise one of the creepiest relationships in teen movie history, just because he can lift her over his head.

I understand that I may be biased – this movie did win an Academy Award. Oh, the wait…the movie didn’t even win the Oscar: the song did. Possibly the only vaguely okay thing to come out of Dirty Dancing is ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’, the soundtrack to weddings and various random days out for years to come. It’s a catchy tune, I must admit. However, the fact that the song is one of the best things about this movie, should ring enough warning bells for you.

Honestly, though, the soundtrack is an absolute gem. Not only does it feature the Oscar-winning song, but it also features one of the best pop songs of all time: ‘Be My Baby’ by The Ronettes. From that to Eric Carmen, this album is an undisputed classic. However, a good soundtrack doth not a good movie make. If that was true, The Twilight Saga: New Moon would be one of the best movies ever made.

As bad as the actual events of the movie are, nothing beats the acting. This movie is insane. How Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze even managed to pass for humans, let alone lovers, is beyond me. She’s insipid, he’s arrogant, and neither of them seems to have any idea what is actually going on. Baby may have carried a watermelon but, damn: she cannot carry a movie.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe I should look past the bad acting, the creepy relationship, the genuinely awful sounding holiday, and focus on all of the fun that they have together. I mean, they must genuinely have a kind of alright plot to this movie for people to love it so much? Right? Wrong! It’s predictable, badly written, and genuinely terrible.

Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing

© Vestron Pictures

This movie is like a safe haven for slimeballs. Baby is spoilt and Johnny is genuinely not a very nice man at all. As old as I sound, I side with the dad on this. Until he changes his mind about Johnny (huge mistake, in my opinion), he knows what’s up. He doesn’t trust Johnny (which he shouldn’t) and he doesn’t trust his teenage daughter to make decisions that involve her sleeping with a man who is nearly twice her age. Granted, I’m all for girl power and making your own decisions – I doubt I would have listened to my dad in her position. However, on the outside looking in, she really needs to listen to him.

As vehement as I feel towards my dislike for this movie, I need to try and understand why people actually like it. As much as I’ve pulled it apart, I cannot find a single reason as to why they would. Bad writing and bad acting don’t really contribute a lot of good to a movie. Yet, people still go out of their way to claim this is the best movie of all time.

In my opinion, their love for this movie is a trick. They watched this movie as teenagers, impressionable and longing for romance, and they related to all of the desires that Baby has. They wanted the holiday romance with the older man, and they wanted to be able to dance like Jennifer Grey, and they wanted their life to have a soundtrack like Dirty Dancing. As much as I can relate to this (I feel the exact same way about Clueless), my question still stands: why do they still like this movie?

I believe that if people rewatch this movie, they’ll have a different opinion. They’ll see the flaws and they’ll see the creepiness. As sad as it may sound, I think that the magic of this movie is in the nostalgia of it.

Dirty Dancing still

© Vestron Pictures

I know that some people may genuinely like Dirty Dancing, and that is completely fine. But I also know that people like to hold ideas of things in their head – I have watched movies back that I used to love when I was younger and have not been able to comprehend one thing that I even liked about them. As sad as it sounds, I think that Dirty Dancing is one of those movies.

Understandably, this opinion is going to ruffle a few feathers. However, I genuinely do not understand how this sleazy and aptly titled movie has stood the test of time, where classics like Mannequin (also a very weird movie, but in a ‘so bad, it’s good’ way) have been kicked to the curb.

I love the 1980s. I really really really don’t like Dirty Dancing. As much as no one puts Baby in a corner, this movie should definitely be confined to one.

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4 thoughts on “Unpopular Opinion: Dirty Dancing is a terrible movie

  1. I’m like you. I hate this movie! Creepy and very unrealistic. Both leading roles are not like able. I don’t want to mention the awful hair and costumes because it was the 80s. I especially do not like Johnny, a very shallow and depressing man. Baby is plain like water. Maybe a pretty face, and that’s it, nothing else.

  2. I love the movie even after watching it over and over many years later.
    Yes the movie is more than just a romance thats what makes it great. It tackles many complex issues in a real way. This was sort of a coming of age summer for Baby. It was a movie that touched on societal changes as well. From the talk of abortion, to changes in dancing, and the difference in social class.
    The acting was bad….was you watching the same movie as me? I thought it was fine. The chemistry between the two leading characters was what made the movie. Johnny was not that much older than baby. She was depicted as 18 and he 24. He was just much more experienced than her because of the social class differences. Her father didn’t judge him because he was much older it was because he prematurely judged him on the abortion. He prematurely judged the Robbie character because of his social class, and assumed he was a stand up guy.
    The real story was a coming of age story of a young woman who was sheltered, and her eyes were opened to a whole other world.
    It’s funny to me you called footloose a good movie bad dislike this movie. What did you think about the weird punch dance scene?
    I like both movies but dirty dancing is far better, and will forever be one of my favorite movies.
    I think you need to rewatch it with less judgmental eyes, and just remember have the time of your life.

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for your comments, it’s great to know how much you like Dirty Dancing. The purpose of this series is to share some Unpopular Opinions, and as film writers, we are meant to be judgemental :), it’s what we do!

  3. unlikable people, mournful looking female lead, creepy male lead. Main song like a dirge….not at all like having the time of my life! Everyone to their own.

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