Billy Elliot is the story of an eleven-year-old boy who escapes the harshness of his existence by discovering his passion for Ballet. Inspired by A. J. Cronin's novel The Stars Look Down and directed by Stephen Daldry, this 2000 film spawned a highly successful West End musical, a collaboration between the film's original screenwriter Lee Hall and Elton John. Billy Elliot is both a gritty historical drama and a heart-warming feelgood movie.
The movie is set during the UK Miners Strike of 1984. Surrounded by the harsh realities of his family's poverty, Billy's only escape is the love of music he inherited from his late mother. His father pushes Billy into manly pursuits, forcing him to take up boxing at the local gym. At the same gym is a Ballet class that attracts Billy. He secretly switches from boxing to ballet.
Described by some as "a Coming-Out Story without the gay", this film has spawned its own trope: The "Billy Elliot" Plot, where young boys in a coming-of-age story learn an important lesson — Be Yourself. Even if it does involve leotards.
Film and musical are the Trope Namer of:
This film provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Jackie Elliot to his children at some points.
- He wants his younger son Billy to do "manly" things, but when he learns Billy wants to be a dancer, he barely accepts it, leading to an heated argument. Billy calls him a bastard, causing Jackie to snap, after a few seconds of silence, and beat Billy.
- He later punches Tony in the face after catching him heading to a shop to steal. The result: Tony has a broken nose.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Billy seems to be feeling an attraction to Debbie in the pillow fight scene, but he does not reciprocate her later interest in him. Billy also can't return Michael's love for him.
- Always Camp: Averted. Despite his love of dance Billy is not gay or even camp. His best friend Michael on the other hand...
- Ambiguously Gay: Then again, there are people who think the movie can be convincingly read both as a subtle tale of a Billy coming to terms with his sexuality. After all, he is clearly uncomfortable when Debbie tries to touch him, but he kisses Michael on the cheek before he leaves. The ending of the movie is perhaps deliberately left open to allow viewers to decide for themselves. (There's possibly a bit of Fridge Brilliance in the fact that the ballet we see grown-up Billy in at the end is Matthew Bourne's gay interpretation of Swan Lake.)
- Angry Dance: To the Jam's 'A Town Called Malice'.
- Be Yourself: Billy realizes his passion for dance quickly and refuses to be anything else to please his skeptical family members. Eventually even his father realizes that it's wrong to hold him back, and Billy "could be a genius." Given the fact that all the younger dancers and even the stagehands gawk at Billy with awe in the Distant Finale, he's probably right.
- The Big Damn Kiss: At one point Michael kisses Billy on the cheek; this is Michael's coming out to Billy and declaring his love for him, a love which Billy cannot return. Right before Billy leaves to go to ballet school, he says goodbye to Michael and kisses him on the cheek. Then "See you, then", and he runs off, leaving Michael looking after him.
- Black Sheep: Billy.
- Boxing Lesson: Kinda.
- Camp Gay: Billy's best friend Michael.
- Camp Straight: Billy, arguably. He's not camp at all but he's into ballet, in which a very disproportionately high number of gay men are involved.
- Distant Finale: In the final sequence, Billy's father and brother make the journey down to London (they are seen riding the then-new extension of the Jubilee Line, putting these scenes at least fifteen years after the rest of the film) to see Billy dance in a production of Swan Lake.
- Dysfunctional Family: But they pull it together.
- Jerkass Ball: Billy, believe it or not. His slap to the other boy was utterly unprovoked; the boy was merely comforting him for not having got into the dance school. Granted, the other boy was Innocently Insensitive by not recognising that a working class boy like Billy wouldn't get another chance. On the other hand, Billy never apologised for being a brat.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Both Billy's father and brother.
- Lamarck Was Right: Not in a mega superhero way, but still. Billy's paternal grandfather was apparently a really good boxer, which is why Billy's dad wants him to take it up. But Billy's maternal grandmother was also a fantastic ballet dancer when she was a young girl.
- Mentor's New Hope: Sandra has a true passion for teaching dance and the art itself, but is clearly frustrated by a ruined home life and ho-hum students until Billy inspires her enough to work to get him into a dance academy.
- A Minor Kidroduction: Inverted. The story takes place in his childhood, but shows a brief moment of Billy's adult life.
- Missing Mom: Billy Elliot suffers from dead mother syndrome.
- Mistaken for Gay: Billy probably isn't gay, but his love of ballet makes his dad fear he is.
- Oop North: It may as well be the name of Billy's hometown. But for some reason his father's Glaswegian. Which actually in a way makes it more believable.
- Protagonist Title
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Billy and Michael, kind of. Billy is sensitive and into ballet, but the film takes pains to show him as quite conventionally masculine in some ways (punching that boy at the auditions, for example). Michael, on the other hand, is Camp Gay and a Wholesome Crossdresser.
- So Proud of You: At the end of the film, Jackie is moved by a 25-year old Billy's performance, impressed with how far he's come.
- Train-Station Goodbye: A Bus Station variant with family rather than lovers.
- Unconfessed Unemployment: Inverted. The Father can't tell his son he's going back to work as a scab to earn the money Billy needs to audition for ballet school.
- Vehicle Vanish: Debbie manages to pull one off.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Billy doesn't want his father to be disappointed in him, which is why he hides the fact he's doing Ballet.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Michael.
The musical adaptation provides examples of:
- All Musicals Are Adaptations: Well this one sure is.
- Angry Dance
- Counterpoint Duet / Distant Duet: In "Solidarity," the ballet class scenes are intercut with scenes from the strike, with girls in tutus dancing in between cops swinging billy cubs and nightsticks. It works well. They use different musical melodies.
- Disney Acid Sequence: In "Expressing Yourself", the song ends with a tapdancing sequence featuring giant moving dresses.
- Dream Ballet: After Michael leaves in the Christmas scene, Billy dances with his future self, to the Pas de Deux from Swan Lake, before his older self fades away to reveal he is still in the miners' welfare.
- Hail to the Thief: "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher".
- Meganekko: Tracy Anderson, if the live cinema version is to be believed.
- The Musical
- Pop-Star Composer: Elton John wrote the music for the musical numbers, with the movie's screenwriter Lee Hall providing lyrics.
- Precision F-Strike: From Debbie to Billy: "You look like a right dickhead to me." Even the PBS broadcast version, which censors the F and S words on a regular basis, left this one in.
- Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: Which is odd because while it is a film about dance Billy Elliot is not a musical.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Did a rousing, march-y Crowd Song by striking Northern miners, called "Solidarity", really need the repeated line "We're proud to be working class!"
- Took a Level in Badass: Grandma! From delusional sweet old lady to delusional sweet HILARIOUS old lady. Plus she runs down a hall with a knife. Sure, it was to open a letter, but still.