The film stars Jennifer Beals as Alexandra "Alex" Owens who, in quite possibly the greatest film premise ever, works as a factory welder by day and an exotic dancer by night. Her aspiration, however, is to enroll in a prestigious dance conservatory. Dreams are chased, pull chains are yanked, and tears (and sweat) are shed.
The film was a monster success (only Roger Ebert dared to slam it) and a Star-Making Role for Beals. This is partly attributed to the then-newfangled MTV, which played excerpts from the film's dance numbers on a continuous loop. In effect, Flashdance became the standard for music videos produced in conjunction with big-budget movies.
The soundtrack sold over 20 million copies and produced two hit singles, Irene Cara's "Flashdance...What a Feeling" and Michael Sembello's "Maniac", both of which have remained in the pop culture consciousness.
A series is currently being developed for Paramount+ as of October 2020.
Tropes associated with Flashdance include:
- Age-Gap Romance: Nick is quite older than Alex. She's only recently become a legal adult, he's old enough to be an established industrialist and already gone through a divorce. Pointed out by critics who say that the age difference is WAY too big among both the characters and the actors to be believable.
- Ambiguous Situation: Whether Alex did or didn't get into the prestigious school she auditioned for is not actually shown.
- Based on a True Story: The film is based on the biography of Maureen Marder. She was paid $2300 for the right to make a movie about her life story, and then filed a lawsuit when Jennifer Lopez mimicked the film frame for frame and it was discovered that she did not secure licensing rights from Paramount Studios to use the story in her music video. As Marder signed only non-exclusive rights with Paramount, it seemed that Lopez had infringed on Marder's rights to her own life-story as well as infringing on Paramount's rights to the story in the film. The lawsuit was with Lopez, Sony, and Paramount to establish copyrights in the film. The wealthy studios and star won the case against a small, poor plaintiff of course, despite stellar representation by Marder's LA law firm.
- Big Friendly Dog: Alex's pet is a pit bull named Grunt, but he's well-tempered throughout the film.
- Break the Cutie: Jeanie. Alex barely manages to bring her back to sanity.
- But Not Too Black: Beals to the point where many white viewers didn't know.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Alex hurls a rock through the window of Nick's house after she glimpses him entering a car with another woman.
- Cool Car: Nick's black Porsche.
- The Corrupter: Johnny C. tries luring both Alex and Jeannie into being dancers in his armpit of a bar. Jeannie takes the carrot when Johnny flashes some cash.
- Cross-Cast Role: In a weird variation, a portion of Alex's climactic audition dance was actually performed by a teenage boy! The reason? Said teenager (name of Richard Colón, alias Crazy Legs) had invented a move the producers decided to include in the performance, and they believed he was the only one who could possibly pull that one off.
- Dancing Is Serious Business: Then again, Alex's goal IS to go pro.
- '80s Hair: Most prominently seen on the women, of course, but check out Lee Ving's pineapple forelock as the villainous Johnny C.
- Empathic Environment: The interior of the Zanizbar has an infernal red glow.
- Erotic Eating: Alex's...erm, 'interesting' way of eating lobster.
- Failed Audition Plot: Alex applies to the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory. She goes to the audition, but she finally gives up. In the end, she applies again and she is selected.
- Fanservice: LOTS of it, since the main character is a pretty and very fit girl who trains a lot to be a dancer.
- Reportedly, according to screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, Jennifer Beals was cast by then Paramount president and COO Michael Eisner who showed pictures of the three finalists for the part — Beals, Leslie Wing, and Demi Moore — to "two hundred of the most macho men on the [Paramount] lot, Teamsters and gaffers and grips ..." and asking them "'I want to know which of these three young women youd most want to f—-'." However, other sources claim that Eisner benignly instead asked women secretaries at the studio to select their favorite after viewing screen tests.
- Fan Disservice: Jeanie dancing in the buff.
- "Friends" Rent Control: As the MAD Magazine's satire Flashdunce: how can Alex live by herself in an expensive loft (even if it's a converted warehouse)? The answer? Pittsburgh (where the film is set) holds the record for one of the lowest costs of living in the United States, a title the city's held for several decades. Most apartments and lofts that would cost thousands of dollars a month in larger cities are usually leased at a fraction of that cost.
- Hard Work Fallacy: Underprivileged girl is finally given a chance to prove herself at a prestigious conservatory... and (maybe) gets in. To do so, she hones her dancing skills and auditions.
- Heroic BSoD: Jeanie, when she horribly loses the skating auditions. Alex herself, when Hannah dies.
- Improbable Age: Many reviewers found it highly implausible that an 18-year old girl would be allowed to work full-time as a welder. This was another thing pointed out by MAD!
- Leotard of Power: A famous, non-superhero example, especially in the Signature Scene.
- Love Interest: Nick, who also happens to be Alex's boss.
- Male Gaze: When a customer starts extolling the virtues of Alex's ass to his pals ("Soft... round... snug..."), the audience gets to see him groping it as well, in closeup yet. (Until she pours a beer into his lap.)
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Alex is stunned to learn that Hannah died in the rest home while she was away.
- Naughty by Night
- Nice Hat: Richie's porkpie hat.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Richie.
- Reality Ensues: When Jeanie fails her ice skating audition, Nick says she'll do better next time. Alex's response?Alex: There isn't going to be any next time.
- Redemption in the Rain: When Alex forcibly drags Jeanie out of the Zanzibar nudie bar, the two girls tearfully embrace each other in a downpour.
- Rich Bitch: Nick's ex-wife.
- Self-Made Man: Nick previously worked as a hoodlum for Johnny C. before going legit.
- Sleeping with the Boss: Alex starts a romance with Nick, the owner of the steel mill she works at.
- So Unfunny, It's Funny: Richie, an aspiring comic, should probably stick to flipping burgers. Most of his jokes revolve around non sequitur insults toward the Polish.
- Society Marches On: Richie's So Unfunny, It's Funny humor definitely qualifies.
- Steel Mill: Alex works as a welder in the local mill. The mill itself isn't portrayed as horrible, it's more to show her as a messy blue collar worker to contrast with her glamorous dance act.
- Sweater Girl: The famous cover photo.
- Talent Double: Virtually all of Alex's dancing is courtesy of uncredited Marine Jahan, not Jennifer Beals.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Alex and Jeanie.
- Two Girls and a Guy: Alex, Jeanie, and Jeanie's boyfriend Richie.
- Uptown Girl: Wealthy Nick is a gender-inversion to working-class Alex.
- What's an X Like You Doing in a Y Like This?: Nick poses the question to his Exotic Dancer cum Welder.
- Woman Scorned: Jeanie leaves to work for the Zanzibar on account of Richie leaving her to chase his dreams in L.A. (Losing the skating auditions didn't help, either.)
- Wrench Wench: Alex.