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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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15 Comments

  1. Jan

    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.

    • Isabella

      Nothing is wrong with having a “depressing” person or whatever shallow insult that is supposed to mean, I mean kind of ironic calling them shallow while you are making shallow biased critiques, no?

      • Adam Brannon

        Hi Isabella. Thanks for commenting. The point of the Unpopular Opinions series is to share views on films that may be contrary to popular beliefs, and that’s what Jesse has done in this article. There’s no bias at Movie Metropolis, we love movies – but everyone’s taste is completely different.
        Thanks again for having a read!
        Adam.

  2. Sarah

    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.

    • Adam Brannon

      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. derrick eveleigh

    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.

  4. ghost swayze

    i’ve had more fun at my local bar sitting around doing nothing with a bunch of miserable fucks, also, roadhouse was better and more inspirational

  5. Stephen D

    This movie was one of the worst I’ve seen. Look at the kissing scenes, it’s almost like Swayze was kissing a lemon… There was no chemistry in those cases whatsoever. You can tell these two couldn’t stand each other… Horrible movie, no chemistry, reacting was straight out of a third grade play.Yes, please hide this movie in a corner somewhere

  6. Tina

    The two actors in this film have a 8 year age difference. How is that a MASSIVE difference? If it was 20 years or more I could understand but it isn’t.

  7. Sabine

    I SO wholeheartedly agree. Worst acting. Worst chemistry between characters I have ever seen. Most shallow plot, if there is one at all. Clichés, boooring! Swayze dances well but Grey? She‘s the worst actress AND dancer. Clueless. And i couldn’t help thinking about how she would go on ruining her pretty face (and she was pretty, then). The clichés thus go from the film to real life Hollywood. Nothing to be proud of or to fanboy/-girl about. Go for the quality stuff instead.

  8. Hannah

    I googled explicitely to find out why people like that movie so much and if there are any that do not. And I still don’t like it. I watched it first with a friend who loved it. But as many times as I watched it, I still don’t get why I should like it. The main characteres have no depth at all and no chemistry either. I don’t like the music nor the way people interacted with each other as if there was no real script (no chemistry between any of the actors as it feels to me). And very basic lovestory. Yes, maybe for a summer romance and for someone who wanted to be the centre of attention in their own teenage years, this might be the fullfilment. But not really a rich movie. But luckily I am not the only one

    • Adam Brannon

      Definitely not! You’ll see from so many of the comments on this article that you are not alone Hannah! Thanks for commenting.

  9. Jane Smith

    Terrible plot, creepy relationship, horrible acting, but a great soundtrack. Skip the movie but get the soundtrack.

    • Adam Brannon

      Agree with that sentiment Jane – the soundtrack is great!

  10. Oof

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thought the movie wasn’t good. I like the dancing and soundtrack but as of the plot, no. The plot is all over the place and there are so many plot holes. The chemistry between Johnny and Baby is zero! They only talked for a little and now they in love with each other? Uh huh, sure (sarcastic). Also Johnny was an asshole, so why did Baby still fall in love with him? Anyways, it sucked how they cut Penny’s story-line so quick because I wanted to see how Penny was feeling, after what she went through. Honestly, Penny’s plot was way more interesting than the main plot. The movie is overrated. Also Dirty Dancing 2 was fun, the plot was interesting, and the chemistry between Javier and Katey was on fire…unlike the original. I don’t need no one to hate me because of my opinion, if y’all don’t like it, close y’all eyes and look away.

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