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by Barry Walters

February 28, 2014

'80s Movie Musicals

by Barry Walters  |  February 28, 2014

By 1980, Hollywood was running hot and cold on musicals. Many had alienated audiences and critics alike in the '60s and '70s. Yet the late '70s' double whammy of Saturday Night Fever and Grease proved moviegoers could welcome gritty dramas in which realistic characters escaped their troubles through dance (as well as through old-fashioned musical frivolities that rocked).

Those two formulas — particularly when mixed together — drove some beloved movie musicals of the '80s. Fame, Footloose, Purple Rain and Dirty Dancing all share a nostalgic love of traditional musical form, updated by then-contemporary sensibilities. Not all of these hybrids clicked at the box office: Francis Ford Coppola's One from the Heart and the Village People's Can't Stop the Music ranked among the early '80s' most spectacular flops. But as the decade progressed, the rise of MTV helped popularize and shape the decade's music and dance films. Here's our chronological tribute to them, both the blockbusters and the bombs.

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