Film: Footloose

"If Footloose has taught me anything, it's that there are people everywhere trying to shut you down just for the crime of being young!"

Not to be confused with the webcomic of the same name, Footloose is an 80's Paramount musical about a young man who, after finding himself under the rule of a harsh religious regime, bands together a group of allies to rise up and speak out against the laws that are oppressing their right of expression.

It's also about a school dance.

After his parents' divorce, Ren (Played by Kevin Bacon) moves with his mother from Chicago to a small town in middle America. While he finds many of the town's backwards ways frustrating, there is one inexplicable rule that really catches his attention: Rock music and dancing are illegal. He soon makes it his mission to try and reform the law before senior prom, but Ren faces some stiff adversaries. His main opposition comes in the form of the extremely conservative Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), who is certain that if rock music is allowed in the town, then all the young people will end up pregnant cocaine-addicts.


Regardless, Ren and his new friends—including the beautiful Ariel, who happens to be Reverend Moore's daughter—set out on their quest to give the town's teenagers sex, drugs and rock n' roll.

Well... rock 'n' roll, at least.

Like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club, Footloose isn't one of those fantastic cinematic experiences you need to see for artistic reasons. It's one of those 1980s film classics that you have to see because it has been referenced time and time again until it has become a cultural icon.

A stage musical was made in 1998. It won two Tony Awards and ran for 709 performances. A film remake was released in October 2011.


  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Ren's mother is dead in the remake.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Subverted. The "dealer" just wants Ren to get caught with contraband.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelization reveals that Principal Dunbar lost his daughter in the accident on the bridge, which explains why he supports the ban so much.
  • Angry Dance: To the max in the warehouse.
  • As the Good Book Says: Ren quotes Biblical scripture to support the value of dance to town council. It doesn't work, but Rev. Moore personally appreciates the gesture.
  • Banned in China: In-Universe - Rock and dancing are banned in Bomont.
  • Beta Couple: Rusty (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Willard (Chris Penn).
  • Be Yourself: Don't conform to what your parents want you to be.
  • The Big Guy: Woody. Class 2 with some signs of Class 5: between keeping Chuck's thugs off his smaller friends' backs, he explains to Ren how the town government works in Bomont.
  • Blithe Spirit: Fits Ren like a glove. Or some sort of dance shoe.
  • Book Burning: Townspeople start doing this, making the reverend realize things had gone too far.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Reverend Moore is a moralist. His daughter is not.
  • Corrupt Hick: Subverted with Reverend Moore, who genuinely thinks he's doing the right thing. He is also willing to listen to Ren's argument, and stops a group of people burning "unseemly" books from the library.
  • Culture Police: The Reverend and the older generations that follow his lead.
  • Dance Party Ending: Of course!
    Ren: "Hey, I thought this was a party! LET'S DAAAAANCE!!"
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: You better believe it.
  • Death by Adaptation: Ren's mom, in the remake.
  • Death Seeker: It's heavily implied that Ariel is this as a way of coping with her brother's death.
  • Disobey This Message: In a way.
  • Dystopian Edict: No Dancing!
  • The Eighties
  • '80s Hair: Oh yeah!
  • Fish out of Water: Ren
  • Genre-Busting: comedy? drama? romance? musical? You tell me.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Reverend Moore starts going through this when Ren, attempting to get the ban on dancing repealed, quotes several Bible verses that are supportive of dancing. Reverend Moore is moved by Ren's speech, but the repeal fails anyway because the city council votes against him.
  • I Own This Town: The no-dancing law doesn't get repealed because Reverend Moore already had enough City Council voters in his back pocket.
  • Meaningful Name: Ariel. The spirit from The Tempest who longs for freedom. (This was five years before the more readily available use of the name.)
  • Moral Guardians: The Reverend is acting as one of these but ends up being a Culture Cop
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Perhaps part of the reason Reverend Moore was willing to listen to Ren after the book-burning incident: he finally realized that the repressive trends that he'd started and approved of had gone too far.
  • Pac Man Fever: The music-and-dance montage at the drive-in abruptly ends when Rev. Moore presses the stop button on the blaring boombox. Everyone stops celebrating and bows their heads in shame, including the reverend's daughter, Ariel,and the sound of Pac Man dying can be heard from the arcade.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Rev. Moore is very guilty of this, as he thinks that Ariel only began misbehaving when Ren came to town, somehow managing to overlook the fact that she's been acting like this ever since her brother died.
  • Pet the Dog: The Reverend has several moments to show that he isn't completely close-minded. The most memorable might be when he stopped a group of citizens from burning books, or when he sits down to actually talk to Ren about their respective losses after the town meeting. The most touching is his reunion with Vi at the close.
  • The Power of Rock: Played straight.
  • Playing Gertrude: Dianne Wiest (Ariel's mother Vi) is only 9 years older than Lori Singer (Ariel).
  • Preacher's Kid: Ariel's standing on moving pickup trucks and answering the train is likely far from what her father had in mind for her. To say nothing of Chuck.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: It's based on an actual 80's news story.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: See above.
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: Ren actually does try to follow the rules most of the time (as restrictive as they may be) but is still labeled a rebel simply because he's from out of town. invoked
  • Setting Update: The remake takes place in modern times, naturally.
  • Shaming the Mob: From Reverend Moore: "Satan is not in these books! He's in here! He's in your hearts. Go on home, all of you. Go and sit in judgment on yourselves."
  • Suspiciously Specific Sermon: Two of them. One early on establishing the town elders' opposition to rock 'n' roll, and the change of heart one near the end of the film.
  • There Is No Higher Court: The Movie would be much less entertaining if it had been about Judicial review though.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Early on in the movie, Ariel stands in between two trucks as they speed down the highway, one foot inside each window. It's meant to paint her as wild and rebellious but looks more suicidally reckless. It's implied that it might actually be.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Ren doesn't get told immediately why dancing is outlawed and has to do some asking around to find out. Even then, he doesn't find out until much later that one of the car accident victims was Ariel's older brother. The remake actually tells us from the beginning.
  • The Unfair Sex: Averted in the remake. Chuck might be angry at Ariel for her cheating on him with Ren, but that's no excuse to physically assault someone.
  • Untrusting Community: The entire town is suspicious of Ren because he's from Chicago. Many locals go out of their way to try to prove that Ren is a troublemaker despite that he has the best of intentions. In the end, he helps the town move on from the past by setting up a dance and convincing the Reverend to lighten up.
    Ren: It's like something's choking everybody. Only they don't know they're choking.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Reverend Moore.
  • Who's on First?: When Ren asks Willard about his musical tastes.
    Ren: You like Men At Work?
    Willard: Which man?
    Ren: Men at Work.
    Willard: Well where do they work?
    Ren: No, they don't, they're a music group.
    Willard: Well what do they call themselves?
    Ren: Oh no! What about The Police?
    Willard: What about 'em?
    Ren: You ever heard them?
    Willard: No, but I seen them.
    Ren: Where, in concert?
    Willard: No, behind you.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Chuck.

The Musical contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Understandably, the musical has about twice as many songs as the movie, along with several new characters.
  • And a Diet Coke: Verbatim when Wendy Jo orders food at the Burger Blast.
  • Being Watched: "Somebody's Eyes" provides this in spades.
    "If you've ever had anything to hide
    Think twice before you step outside."
  • Canon Foreigner: Urleen (friend of Ariel, Rusty and Wendy Jo), Jeter, Garvin, and Bickle (Willard's buddies), Lyle (a second sidekick for Chuck), a couple of named characters at the dance palace, Betty Blast...
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Referenced by Ren, when the Reverend comments that he's enforced a curfew for all the teenagers in town, but can't get Ariel to follow it:
    "Well, you know what they say, it's always the shoemaker's kids that go barefoot."
  • Crisis of Faith: Reverend Moore's song "Heaven Help Me!".
  • Decomposite Character: The school principal, Roger Dunbar, is split into two different characters in the musical: Principal Harry Clark and Coach Roger Dunbar.
  • Everytown, America
  • Greek Chorus: Rusty and her cohorts Urleen and Wendy Jo.
  • I Can't Dance: Willard's big secret, remedied in "Let's Hear It For the Boy!"
  • Ironic Echo: "Let the Lord hear your voices!"
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The Act I closer song "I'm Free/Heaven Help Me", a take on "I'm Free (Heaven Helps The Man)" from the original soundtrack. It's such an epic song of rockin' rebellion (intercut with reporting on the said rebellion by Reverend Shaw, pleading with his God to intervene) that you kind of forget that all they want to do is have a dance party.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: Let's face it. It was only a matter of time.
  • Sidekick Song: Both Ariel's and Ren's sidekicks get songs. Rusty has "Let's Hear It For the Boy" while Willard has "Mama Says."
  • Small Town Boredom
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: "Bomont? Where the hell is Bomont?"