Film / Saturday Night Fever

And that sweet city woman,
She moves through the light,
Controlling my mind and my soul.
When you reach out for me
Yeah, and the feelin' is bright,
Then I get night fever, night fever.
We know how to do it.
The Bee Gees, "Night Fever".

Saturday Night Fever is a 1977 film starring John Travolta in the role that made him a superstar.

The film centers around Tony Manero, a kid from Brooklyn who likes to spend nights dancing at a local nightclub; his would-be girlfriend and dance partner Stephanie; his unrequited love interest Annette; and their various friends and cohorts.

But the film is mostly remembered for being a reflection of the Disco era at its height in New York in The '70s, and the Unconstructed Trope of the modern dance flick. Subsequently, the film sparked a national Disco craze that didn't die out until the onset of The '80s. Thus, Saturday Night Fever remains a late-Seventies period piece, such as it is.

And it's got Travolta dancing.

Not surprisingly, the soundtrack album to the film is one of the best selling of all time, featuring tracks from The Bee Gees, Walter Murphy, K.C. & the Sunshine Band, and others.

Was adapted as a musical for the stage in 1998, which still runs in various productions.

A sequel titled Staying Alive was released in 1983. It didn't do as well with the critics, especially since director/co-writer Sylvester Stallone also decided to heavily feature his brother Frank on the soundtrack.

Saturday Night Fever provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The '70s: And how. You can't help but think of the 1970s when you see the film, and you can't help but think of the film when you remember the 1970s.
  • Anti-Hero: Some interpretations feel there's no redeemable qualities to Tony.
  • Auto Erotica
    • Gets averted when a drunk Tony makes a pass at Stephanie in the car.
    • Played straight earlier when he has sex with Annette in the backseat, but doesn't finish.
    • Also, played straight with one of Tony's friends and some girl he met at the disco. They have to finish while Tony and crew watch.
    • Don't forget when Tony's Jerkass friends raped Annette.
  • Benevolent Boss: Tony's job may stink but his boss seems like a nice enough guy, giving him a raise and even rehiring him after Tony violently quits.
  • Big Applesauce: It's a very N.Y. movie, and the setting is justified because The Big Apple was one of the places where the disco culture originated.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Brooklyn gang violence is mentioned and even given screen time.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Averted. When Tony and Annette have sex in the backseat before the first trip to the Bridge, he stops because she's not "fixed" and he's not wearing a condom.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: In-universe. A drunken girl at the disco mistakes Tony for Al Pacino and urges him to kiss her. Lampshaded when Tony wakes up in the morning and asks himself "Do I really look like Al Pacino?"
  • Commitment Issues: Tony and his friends.
  • Country Matters: It's treated as general rule of Tony's crew that if you don't sleep with them you're a cunt, and they'll tell you so to your face.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: Quite possibly the Trope Codifier.
  • Date Rape Averted: Tony tries to have his way with Stephanie, but she gets away.
  • Deconstruction: The film is a deconstruction of the hedonistic culture of the 1970's. Sure, there were beautiful clothes, music, and lots of dancing, but there was a dark side to the life led by such people like Tony and his friends. For example, Tony has no thought for the future (and the culture as a whole didn't either), and his friends are involved with drugs, drinking, and casual sex which causes them many problems. See also Unbuilt Trope.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The racist and sexist attitudes of the times. Note during the dance contest, the black couple is booed as much as the Hispanic one, and even as Tony angrily decries how they were passed over for the top prize, he uses a racial slur when describing them.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: Tony's father often slaps him, even for minor things.
  • Driven to Suicide: Bobby C.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Just watch the dinner scene.
  • Fangirl
    • Tony has his fair share of these, most notably Annette, and the Hollywood Homely blonde woman that wiped his forehead after he danced.
    • Also subverted because one girl begs him to kiss her, and she believes she kissed Al Pacino (even though Tony looks nothing like him).
  • Feet-First Introduction: This is how we meet Tony.
  • Flanderization: The film is often boiled down to "that disco flick where Travolta dances to corny music and little else happens", ignoring its very mature themes and serious characterizations. The fact that the sequel Staying Alive is Lighter and Softer (to the point that it went out with a PG rather than an R) may or may not be a factor.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: That's a hell of a nice apartment Stephanie has on a dance teacher/secretary's salary. Even in the 70's, it's a little implausible.
  • The Generation Gap: Tony wants to enjoy being young and wild and free, while his parents (and, to a lesser extent, his girlfriend) encourage him to get a real job, move out, and marry a nice Italian girl.
  • Iconic Outfit: Travolta's white outfit became synonymous with Disco culture and a sort of a uniform for Disco Dans worldwide.
  • I Feel Guilty; You Take It: Tony and his partner win a dance competition, but he thinks another couple was better and only lost due to being Puerto Rican, so he gives them the top prize.
  • I Have No Son: After Frankie leaves the priesthood, his parents are heartbroken (especially his mother), and eventually disown him.
  • Italian Mother: Tony's mother, always nagging and criticizing him, and doting on Her Son, The Priest (Tony's older brother Frank) who ends up leaving the priesthood for unknown reasons and becoming estranged from his family.
  • Jerkass: Tony himself is quite a douchebag, but his friends are outright self-absorbed machos. Tony's parents are this as well.
  • Karma Houdini: Arguably, Tony's friends apart from Bobby C. Yes, they lose Bobby after he jumps off the bridge and Tony after he decides to move out of Bay Ridge and start over, but nothing directly happens to them.
  • The King Of Dance: Tony. By day, he's a normal youth that goes to work but by night, he is the biggest celebrity in the nightclub.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: Tony believes that a girl can be either a "nice girl" you enter into a serious relationship with and maybe even marry eventually or a "cunt" that you sleep with, not both.
  • Mood Whiplash: The film alternates between dreamy, mesmerizing disco sequences and shallow and violent everyday life of Brooklyn youth. This is kind of the point as Tony's nights spent clubbing are escapism from his everyday life.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Tony strutting down the street... oh, yeah.
  • Nobody Touches the Hair: Tony!
  • One of the Kids: Again, Tony.
  • Only Sane Man: Stephanie and Frank. Tony as well, at least compared to his friends.
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: Tony leaves behind his phony life in Brooklyn, and heads to Manhattan to start over. He even gets back together with Stephanie! Unrequited love interest Annette, meanwhile, ends up having been treated like dirt, raped, and forgotten about. And Bobby C. has accidentally jumped to his death, leaving behind his Catholic girlfriend whom he wasn't going to marry that is carrying his child. Whew.
  • Rape as Drama: Annette is raped by two of Tony's friends. Subverted, though, since her rape is more or less treated as a Big Lipped Alligator Moment. The lead character, who is sitting in the same car as it happens, decides on the spot to outright ignore the rape. The ultimate dark side of "bros before hos".
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: "A Fifth of Beethoven" and "Night on Disco Mountain" are based on classical pieces by Beethoven and Mussorgsky, respectively.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Tony and Stephanie. They get back together at the end of the movie, though.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Disco
  • Shirtless Scene: Travolta shows his pectorals a lot. This continues in the sequel, in which he becomes a Walking Shirtless Scene in a Show Within a Show.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Bobby C is unhappy because he is about to be forced into one of these by his pregnant girlfriend's Catholic family and his own family.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: Young John Travolta as Tony Manero.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Bobby C's unseen girlfriend. The focus is more on Bobby's side of the story; he doesn't want to marry her, but she refuses to get an abortion.
  • There Are Two Kinds of Girls in the World: Tony's philosophy is that a girl can either be a "nice girl" or a "cunt", but not both. He seems to have a case of the Madonna–Whore Complex.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The movie's portrayal of disco lifestyle is decidedly unsentimental and depressing enough to be labeled as a grim Deconstruction of dance flicks and nightclub culture in general. The twist is that this film was the Trope Maker of The '70s' Disco craze.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Annette.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night" by the New Yorker. Played with, since it's now known that the article itself was made up by Nik Cohn (who wisely added a disclaimer "Everything described in this article is factual and was either witnessed by me or told to me directly by the people involved. Only the names of the main characters have been changed", which basically said "If the people who told it to me are lying, then I'm blameless."note )
    Nik Cohn: My story was a fraud. I'd only recently arrived in New York. Far from being steeped in Brooklyn street life, I hardly knew the place. As for Vincent, my story's hero, he was largely inspired by a Shepherd's Bush mod whom I'd known in The '60s, a one-time king of Goldhawk Road.
  • Walking In Rhythm: Tony, to "Stayin' Alive" at the beginning of the film. One of John Travolta's most famous movie scenes, subject to much Stock Parody. This is revisited in the final scene of the sequel, creating Bookends.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Stephanie and Tony's friends didn't take too kindly to Tony handing over the first-place dance contest trophy to the Puerto Rican couple who took second.

Alternative Title(s): Staying Alive