Footloose (1984 film)

Footloose is a 1984 American musical drama film directed by Herbert Ross. It tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a teenager from Chicago who moves to a small western town where he lives with his mother, aunt, and uncle. Throughout the movie, McCormack is seen attempting to overturn the ban on dancing, which resulted from the efforts of a local minister (John Lithgow).

Theatrical movie poster
Directed byHerbert Ross
Produced by
Written byDean Pitchford
Music by
CinematographyRic Waite
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Phoenix Pictures
IndieProd Company Productions
Silver Screen Partners
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • February 17, 1984 (1984-02-17)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$8.2 million[2]
Box office$80 million (domestic)[2]

The film is loosely based on actual events that took place in the small, rural, and religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma.[3]


Ren McCormack, a teenager raised in Chicago, moves to the small town of Bomont, Utah, to live with his aunt and uncle. Soon after arriving, Ren befriends Willard Hewitt, and from him learns the city council has banned dancing and rock music. He soon begins to fall for a rebellious teenage girl named Ariel, who has an abusive boyfriend, Chuck Cranston, and a strict father, Shaw Moore, who is a reverend of the local church.

After trading insults with Chuck, Ren is challenged to a game of chicken involving tractors. Ren wins when his shoelace becomes stuck and prevents him from jumping from the tractor. Reverend Moore distrusts Ren, and he grounds Ariel, forbidding her to see him. Ren and his classmates want to do away with the no-dancing law and have a senior prom. He drives Ariel, Willard, and Ariel's best friend, Rusty, to a country bar about 100 miles away from Bomont to experience the joy and freedom of dancing, but once there, Willard is unable to dance and gets into a jealous fight with a man who dances with Rusty. Later, Ren teaches Willard to dance.

Ren decides to challenge the anti-dancing ordinance so that the senior class can hold a senior prom. He goes before the city council and reads several Bible verses to cite scriptural support for the worth of dancing to rejoice, exercise, or celebrate. Although Reverend Moore is moved, the council votes against Ren's proposal. Vi, Moore's wife, is supportive of the movement and explains to Moore that he cannot be everyone's father and that he is hardly being a father to Ariel. She also says that dancing and music are not the problem. Moore feels betrayed that even his wife does not believe in him even though she assures him that she always did, telling him, "Shaw, it's 20 years now I've been a minister's wife. And I've been quiet, supportive, unobtrusive; and after 20 years I still think you're a wonderful, wonderful preacher. You can lift a congregation up so high they have to look down to see Heaven. But it's the one-to-one where you need a little work."

Despite further discussion with Ren about his own family losses in comparison to Moore's losses and Ariel's opening up about her own past, disclosing that she has had sexual relations, Moore cannot bring himself to change his stance. His son Bobby was killed in a car crash while returning from a night of dancing, resulting in Moore's arranging to ban music and dancing in the community. However, he has a change of heart after seeing some of the townsfolk burning books that they think are dangerous to the youth. Realizing the situation has gotten out of hand, Moore stops the book-burning, rebukes the people, and sends them home.

The following Sunday, Moore asks his congregation to pray for the high school students putting on the prom, which is set up at a grain mill just outside the Bomont town limits. Shaw and Vi listen outside, dancing for the first time in years. Chuck and his friends arrive and start a fight with Willard, who with Ren knocks them out. Ren, Ariel, Willard, and Rusty rejoin the party and happily dance the night away.



Dean Pitchford wrote the screenplay (and most of the lyrics) for Footloose, with Herbert Ross directing the movie, and Paramount Pictures co-producing and distributing the film.

Michael Cimino was hired by Paramount to direct the film when negotiations with Ross initially stalled. After four months working on the film, the studio fired Cimino, who was making extravagant demands for the production, including demanding an additional $250,000 for his work, and ended up rehiring Ross.[4]

Origin of name

An unknown origin of the name for the title comes from a conversation between Kevin Bacon and the director, Herbert Ross. In which during the Steel Mill dance scene it was originally a fight scene between Ren and Shaw Moore which took the film to a darker place. Kevin Bacon did not like the way of this scene and decided that it should be a dance sequence. Kevin was insistent on this and quoted "I gotta dance, I want to get footloose". Once hearing this, Herbert Ross changed the title immediately and made all fight scenes in the movie dance scenes.


Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were both slated to play the lead. The casting directors were impressed with Cruise because of the famous underwear dance sequence in Risky Business, but he was unavailable for the part because he was filming All the Right Moves. Lowe auditioned three times and had dancing ability and the "neutral teen" look that the director wanted, but injury prevented him from taking the part.[5] Bacon had been offered the main role for the Stephen King movie Christine at the same time that he was asked to do the screen test for Footloose. He chose to take the gamble on the screen test. After watching his earlier movie Diner, the director persuaded the producers to go with Bacon.

The film also stars Lori Singer as Reverend Moore's independent daughter Ariel, a role for which Madonna also auditioned. Daryl Hannah turned down the offer to play Ariel in order to play Madison in Splash. Elizabeth McGovern turned down the role to play Deborah Gelly in Once Upon a Time in America. Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rosanna Arquette, Meg Tilly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Heather Locklear, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jodie Foster, Phoebe Cates, Tatum O'Neal, Bridget Fonda, Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane and Brooke Shields were all considered for the role of Ariel. Dianne Wiest appears as Vi, the Reverend's devoted yet conflicted wife.

The film features an early film appearance by Sarah Jessica Parker as Ariel's friend Rusty, for which she received a Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama nomination at the Sixth Annual Youth in Film Awards. It was also an early role for Chris Penn as Willard Hewitt, who is taught how to dance by his friend Ren.


The film was shot at various locations in Utah County, Utah. The high school and tractor scenes were filmed in and around Payson and Payson High School. The church scenes were filmed in American Fork and the steel mill was the Geneva Steel mill in Vineyard. The drive-in scenes were filmed in Provo at what was then the "High Spot" restaurant. The restaurant closed in the late 1980s and there is now an auto parts store located at 200 N 500 W. The final sequence was filmed in Lehi with the Lehi Roller Mills featured in the final sequence.

For his dance scene in the warehouse, Bacon said he had four stunt doubles: "I had a stunt double, a dance double [Peter Tramm][6] and two gymnastics doubles."[7]

Movie inspiration

Footloose is loosely based on the town of Elmore City, Oklahoma. This town had banned dancing since its founding in 1898 in an attempt to decrease the amount of heavy drinking. One advocate of the dancing ban was the Reverend from a close town called Hennepin, Oklahoma named F.R. Johnson. He said, "No good has ever come from a dance. If you have a dance somebody will crash it and they'll be looking for only two things - women and booze. When boys and girls hold each other, they get sexually aroused. You can believe what you want, but one things leads to another." Because of the ban on dancing, the town never held a prom. In February 1980, the junior class of Elmore City's high school made national news when they requested permission to hold a junior prom and it was granted. The request to overturn the ban in order to hold the prom was met with a 2-2 decision from the school board when school board president Raymond Lee broke the tie with the words, "Let 'em dance." [8]


The soundtrack was released in cassette, 8-track tape, vinyl, and CD format. The soundtrack was also re-released on CD for the 15th anniversary of the film in 1999. The re-release included four new songs: "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)" by Quiet Riot, "Hurts So Good" by John Mellencamp, "Waiting for a Girl Like You" by Foreigner, and the extended 12" remix of "Dancing in the Sheets".

The album includes "Footloose" and "I'm Free", both by Kenny Loggins, "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler, "Girl Gets Around" by Sammy Hagar, "Never" by Australian rock band Moving Pictures, "Let's Hear It for the Boy" by Deniece Williams, "Somebody's Eyes" by Karla Bonoff, and "Dancing In The Sheets" by Shalamar, and the love theme, "Almost Paradise" by Mike Reno from Loverboy and Ann Wilson of Heart. Some of the songs were composed by Eric Carmen and Jim Steinman and the soundtrack went on to sell over 9 million copies in the USA.

The first two tracks both hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received 1985 Academy Award nominations for Best Music (Original Song). "Footloose" also received a 1985 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Song – Motion Picture.

The late film composer Miles Goodman has been credited for adapting and orchestrating the film's score.[9][10][11][12][13][14]


Critical response

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert called it "a seriously confused movie that tries to do three things, and does all of them badly. It wants to tell the story of a conflict in a town, it wants to introduce some flashy teenage characters, and part of the time it wants to be a music video."[15] Dave Denby in New York rechristened the film "Schlockdance", writing: "Footloose may be a hit, but it's trash - high powered fodder for the teen market... The only person to come out of the film better off is the smooth-cheeked, pug-nosed Bacon, who gives a cocky but likeable Mr. Cool performance."[16]

Jane Lamacraft reassessed the film for Sight and Sound's "Forgotten pleasures of the multiplex" feature in 2010, writing "Nearly three decades on, Bacon's vest-clad set-piece dance in a flour mill looks cheesily 1980s, but the rest of Ross's drama wears its age well, real song-and-dance joy for the pre-Glee generation."[17]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 51% based on 39 reviews, with an average rating of 5.63/10. The consensus reads, "There's not much dancing, but what's there is great. The rest of the time, Footloose is a nice hunk of trashy teenage cheese."[18] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 42 out of 100 based on 12 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[19]

Box office

The film grossed $80,035,403 domestically.[2]


Musical adaptation

In 1998, a musical version of Footloose premiered.[21] Featuring many of the songs from the film, the show has been presented on London's West End, on Broadway, and elsewhere. The musical is generally faithful to the film version, with some slight differences in the story and characters.


Paramount announced plans to fast-track a musical remake of Footloose. The remake was written and directed by Craig Brewer. Filming started in September 2010. It was budgeted at $25 million.[22] It was released October 14, 2011.


  1. "FOOTLOOSE (PG) (!)". British Board of Film Classification. February 20, 1984. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  2. "Footloose (1984) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  3. Citation error. See inline comment how to fix.
  4. Holleran, Scott (12 October 2004). "Shall We Footloose?". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  5. Wenn (16 January 2013). "Rob Lowe: 'I refused to sing Footloose karaoke duet with Loggins". Retrieved 11 March 2014. Years ago I auditioned for Footloose and I blew out my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), so I have post-traumatic stress with anything having to do with Footloose.
  6. "Hoofers Hidden in the Shadows Dream of the Limelight". People. Time Inc. 2 April 1984. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  7. Jones, Oliver (14 October 2011). "Kevin Bacon 'Furious' over Having a Dance Double in Footloose". People. Time Inc. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  8. "Dance Fever: The Town That Inspired (and Got) Footloose - 405 Magazine - June 2015 - Oklahoma City". Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  9. "Miles Goodman, 47, Composer for Films". The New York Times. 20 August 1996. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  10. Jablon, Robert (18 August 1996). "MILES GOODMAN, FILM COMPOSER AND JAZZ RECORD PRODUCER, DIES". Associated Press. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  11. Oliver, Myrna (20 August 1996). "Miles Goodman; Record Producer, Film Composer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  12. "Miles Goodman: Composer". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 22 August 1996. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  13. "Record producer, composer Miles Goodman dies at 47". The Daily Gazette. 21 August 1996. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  14. "Miles Goodman, Composer For Films". Sun-Sentinel. 21 August 1996. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  15. Roger Ebert (January 1, 1984). "Footloose". Chicago Sun-Times.
  16. Denby, David (February 27, 1984). "Schlockdance". New York. 17 (9). p. 60. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  17. Lamacraft, Jane. "forgotten-pleasures-of-the-multiplex". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 8 November 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  18. "Footloose (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved April 29, 2018.
  19. "Footloose (1984) Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 29, 2018.
  20. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  21. Willis, John (1 June 2002). Theatre World 1998-1999. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-55783-432-4.
  22. John Beifuss. "'Footloose' runs off with well-heeled suitor: Georgia". MCA.

Category:American high school films

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