We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies and other technologies.


4 Dance Horror Movies to Haunt Your Nightmares

Find your rhythm of terror.

Still shot of Natalie Portman as Nina in the movie Black Swan

Dance and horror: at first blush, they might not seem like a natural combination.

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see an undeniable link between the two. For as beautiful as it is, dance can be a grueling, visceral pursuit in which performers push themselves to the absolute limits, and body horror is a routine way of life. (Google “ballerina feet” if you don’t believe me.)

So in honor of the glory and the terror that lies beneath every pirouette, tap, or shuffle, here are four dance-horror movies to watch this weekend.

Black Swan (2010)

When it comes to modern dance horror movies, you can’t go wrong with Black Swan. One of the most recent entries on the list, this 2010 Darron Aronofsky film follows Natalie Portman’s Nina as she struggles to capture the innate qualities of both the White Swan and the eponymous Black Swan of the Swan Lake ballet.

What follows is a descent into body horror and madness that’s as gorgeous as it is gory. The sumptuous costumes and iconic makeup have left their imprint on pop culture, and Portman’s depiction of a prima ballerina unraveling before our eyes absolutely earned her that Oscar statuette. 

The dance sequences are also divinely beautiful, and the dizzying way Aronofsky incorporates horror into every pirouette will leave you breathless. The horrific sacrifice of an artist never looked so elegant.

The Red Shoes (1948)

While not a traditional horror movie by any means, the existential dread that permeates this 1948 Powell-Pressburger classic is undeniable. Real-life dancer Moira Shearer plays Victoria, a woman who is torn between her passionate love of ballet and her passionate love of a man.

Of course, she shouldn’t have to choose between them, but that’s precisely what the two men in her life—her husband and her virtuoso dance mentor—expect of her. Similar to Black Swan—which clearly followed in this film’s footsteps—The Red Shoes includes dance sequences that are at once stunning and incredibly unsettling with the Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff creating something of a fever dream.

And with a finale that’s both brutal and haunting, this is one film that will appeal to many gothic horror fans out there.

Suspiria (1977 and 2018)

With this entry, you can take your pick between the 1977 version starring Jessica Harper and directed by Dario Argento, or the 2018 version starring Dakota Johnson and directed by Luca Guadagnino. That’s because while the original Suspiria of course remains the gold standard, the remake actually centers much more on the dance element of the story.

In both versions, the young and eager American protagonist finds herself as a student at a prestigious dance academy in Germany, a strange and bewitching place that holds more secrets than meets the eye. The 1977 version does have at least one memorable sequence of Harper’s character Susie doing ballet turns until she collapses, but it’s the 2018 version that truly integrates the alluring world of dance.

With many sequences choreographed by Damien Jalet, the remake of Suspiria is a more glorious sight to behold for dance connoisseurs, even if the color palette is more bland and muted. So again, you can’t go wrong with either choice, but if you’ve got time this weekend, why not do a double feature and get twice the dance-horror fun?

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

All right, so this one isn’t about dance per se, but even so, The Rocky Horror Picture Show introduced the world to the legendary Time Warp, so any film that comes with its own famous dance steps deserves a place on this list.

A musical that’s so wonderfully outlandish and hilariously gory, The Rocky Horror Picture Show holds a singular place in film history as the longest-running movie of all time. With those midnight screenings still held in many cities to this day, it’s also the only film on this list that’s actually interactive.

So if you want some dance-horror in your life, find a theater near you that’s playing it, and be sure to practice your Time Warp steps as soon as possible.

Honorable Mention: Climax (2018)

This is the only movie on this list that I’ve yet to see myself, but I want to give it a shout-out since every time I mention dance-horror, somebody always recommends this one to me.

A group of dancers congregate for a night of raucous fun, only to discover their drinks have been spiked with hallucinogens. Chaos and debauchery and plenty of violence ensue. Needless to say, I need to put this one on my watchlist immediately, and if you like frenetic terror, you might want to put it on your queue too.