Salsa dancing has caught the attention of Hollywood over the years, with a number of salsa dancing movies coming out in just the last few years. Here’s our list of the top films that feature salsa dancing:
1) In The Heights
Released in June 2021, In The Heights is based on a Broadway musical and stars Anthony Ramos as a bodega owner living in Washington Heights amidst a tightly knit Latino community. Everyone in the community sings and imagines about a better life while trying to make a difference in their lives.
This movie is at the top of our list because of the quality and quantity of salsa dancing contained within each dance scene. With Eddie Torres Jr. and Princess Serrano as choreographers and many of New York’s top salsa dancers playing parts in the film, you can expect to see some exciting on 2 salsa dancing throughout the movie.
2) The Latin Dream
The Latin Dream is a movie starring Fernando Sosa of Tropical Gem fame, basically playing himself as a dance competitor who falls in love with a girl from the ‘street’ and learns how to incorporate hip hop and other urban dance styles into his choreography.
The dance scenes in the movie are incredible and feature many of the dancers from Tropical Gem and other top Italian dancers, and even includes cameos from World Salsa Champions Rafael & Carine and Ricardo & Karen.
3) Shine (2018)
Not to be confused with the 1996 drama of the same name, Shine is a recent salsa film with some fantastic salsa dancing, featuring many top salsa dancers from New York such as Jorge Burgos, Magna Gopal, Delia Madera, and many more.
The storyline revolves around gentrification in New York and two estranged brothers who must come together to save their neighborhood dance studio, and the dancing is stellar throughout.
4) Cuban Fury
Released in 2014, Cuban Fury is one of the best portrayals of salsa dancing in film, with big name actors such as Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, and Chris O’Dowd.
The movie is a part-comedy, part-drama that follows Nick Frost’s character who was a competitive salsa dancer in his younger years, who dusts off his dancing skills so he can impress his new co-worker, played by Jones.
Nick Frost actually spent months learning how to salsa dance for the role, which is pretty impressive, and the film features many cameos from top dancers in the UK.
5) El Cantante
El Cantante is the movie that single-handedly made Aguanile the most overused salsa song in dance performances for years. The movie is not strictly about salsa dance, but features plenty of great dancing throughout.
Starring Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, the movie tells the story of Hector Lavoe, one of the legendary salsa singers of the Fania era, and his rise to stardom and his struggles with drug addiction.
6) The Mambo Kings
This lesser known salsa movie from 1992 features Antonio Banderas who in a fictional story about two brothers from Cuba who move to America to fulfill their dreams of becoming famous musicians.
Like El Cantante, this is a movie about salsa music more than the dancing but features many scenes depicting the mambo nightclubs of the 1950s, and also features cameos by the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz.
7) Dirty Dancing 2 – Havana Nights
This sequel to Dirty Dancing from 2004 takes place in Havana, Cuba where the main character meets a local waiter name Javier who teaches her the nuances of Cuban dance. Yes, the movie is as cheesy as it sounds and the salsa dancing is not that great.
8) StreetDance 2
This movie is basically like The Latin Dream in reverse, and probably helped to inspire that movie. In this film from 2002, the main character is preparing for a hip hop dance competition, and falls in love with a salsa dancer, who teaches him to incorporate salsa moves into his choreography.
The movie features a scene where the dancers are in a boxing ring, and facing battling each other with salsa, similar to the Salsa Na Ma competitions hosted by… Tropical Gem. Could this be Fernando Sosa’s favorite dance movie?
9) Dance With Me
This movie is mostly about ballroom dance, but the main character Rafael is from Cuba, so there are many scenes featuring Cuban parties and salsa dancing, including Salsa Rueda.
10) Salsa (2000)
There are two movies with the exact same name Salsa. The one released in 2000 is in French and is about a pianist who realizes that he loves salsa music more than Classical piano, and moves to Paris to start a Latin Band. In the process he learns how to dance salsa and falls in love with a salsera.
The movie actually features some great salsa music and dance scenes in the salsa clubs of Paris.
11) Salsa (1988)
This movie is so bad that it’s almost good. The movie is very much a child of the ’80s featuring afros and leather jackets and bad dancing. If you can find a copy, this can be a good movie to laugh over with friends.
Bollywood is known for their fantastic music & dance numbers, and while there haven’t been any Bollywood films about salsa dancing yet, there are a number that have incorporated salsa dance moves into their choreography.
Probably the best of these is Dhoom, which is an over-the-top fantastic movie, and features a salsa-inspired song & dance sequence which is pretty amazing. If you’re into Indian movies like I am, this is one you’ll want to watch.
13) Along Came Polly
Along Came Polly, a romcom from 2004 featuring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston, gets a dishonorable mention for featuring one of the worst salsa dance scenes in a movie.
The scene is one of the pivotal plot points in the movie, but features very little if any actual salsa dancing. Despite this fact, the movie still comes up often with non-dance friends when I mention salsa, which points to the need for more salsa in mainstream films.
Here’s hoping there will be more great salsa dancing movies in the near future!
Let me recommend not a movie but an exellent documentary called “La Salsa Cubana” from Eric Joseph Johnson about #RuedaDeCasino roots…
It’s really good!!!
Thanks for the recommendation, Tony! I will check it out!