Step Up is a film franchise. Based around dancing, mostly hip hop / breakdancing, each film follows the story of a dancer who uses their talent as a form of expression and their subsequent romance with a fellow dancer, generally from a different class background. The films are a bit of a Cliché Storm, following a pretty consistent formula particularly when it comes to the love story aspects, but the series' clear focus is on the spectacular dance numbers that grow more and more elaborate with each new installment.
There are currently five Step Up films:
Step Up (2006) follows teen delinquent Tyler (Channing Tatum in his breakout role), a talented hip-hop dancer who ends up forced to do community service at the fictional Maryland School of the Arts after he is caught vandalizing school property. However, his life changes when one of the students, Uptown Girl Nora (Jenna Dewan), enlists him to be her partner for her senior performance after her regular partner is injured. This first installment established the series' long-running theme of inter-class conflict, particularly in relation to the divide between hip-hop (considered "lower class") and more "traditional" dance forms like ballet or contemporary (taught at the "upper class" private arts school). It's also the darkest installment of the films, being the only one where a character dies during the course of the story.
Step Up 2: The Streets (2008) follows Andie, a tomboy from Tyler's neighborhood with her own delinquent streak who is forced to choose between attending MSA and being shipped off to Texas to live with her aunt. However, her new life at the school affects her relationship with her friends from her neighborhood, who as a dance crew are the champions of a local hip-hop dance competition known as "The Streets." After most of her old friends reject her, Andie teams up with her new friend Moose and MSA's local Big Man on Campus, Chase, to put together a new crew to compete in The Streets. This film marked the series' turn towards hip-hop dancing as a primary focus rather than the balance of hip-hop and contemporary in the previous installment and introduced Breakout Character Moose, who has featured in every film since. It is also the only film in the series to have the female lead as the primary protagonist.
Step Up 3D (2010) follows Moose from the previous film as he starts his freshman year of college at NYU, leading him to meet up with his old friend Camille (Tyler's foster sister, possibly biological sister, from the first film) as well as the film's real protagonist, Luke, leader of the House of Pirates dance crew. Luke enlists Moose as a member of his crew in preparation for the upcoming World Jam competition, where they face off against their rivals, the House of Samurai, whose leader Julien used to be friends with Luke before they had a falling out. However, problems arise when Luke discovers his teammate and love interest Natalie is not all she appears to be. As the name indicates, this was the first film in the series to be shot in 3D, with a number of sequences designed to take advantage of technology.
Step Up: Revolution (also known as Miami Heat) (2012) follows Sean, the leader of the Mob, a Miami-based dance crew that stages elaborate flash-mobs. Through his day job as a hotel waiter, Sean meets Emily, the hotel owner's daughter and a contemporary dancer auditioning for a spot at a prestigious dance academy, and invites her to join the Mob. However, the group then finds out that Emily's father is planning to destroy their neighborhood, causing the group to use their flash-mobs as a form of protest art to save their homes even as their actions threaten Sean and Emily's budding romance. This film marked a return to the series' roots of blending hip-hop and contemporary dance styles, although the emphasis is still largely on hip-hop, and also has perhaps the highest amount of fanservice in any of the films.
Step Up: All In (2014) continues Sean's story as he and the Mob struggle to get by as working dancers in L.A., ultimately resulting in everyone but Sean returning to Miami. However, when Sean hears about a dance contest on VH1 for a three-year contract to perform at a hotel in Las Vegas, he enlists Moose to help him put together a new crew consisting entirely of characters from the previous films. This includes Andie, protagonist of The Streets, who had been forced to quit dancing after a knee injury and is now ready to get back in the game, although her fears of getting injured again form her subplot for the film. Naturally, tensions arise when Sean learns that the Mob has joined the competition, although the real problem is the Grim Warriors, a crew that neither group likes. This film returns to the dance battle structure of The Streets and 3D after the flash-mobs of Revolution, and is the first film in the series to feature both recurring male and female leads.
A drama web television series based on the films called Step Up: High Water premiered on January 31, 2018 on YouTube Red (now YouTube Premium), and was renewed for a second season that premiered on March 20, 2019. Tatum and Dewan are executive producers on the series.
The films provide examples of:
- Adorkable: Moose from the second film has shades of this.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Nora Clark falls in love with Tyler. Well, Tyler isn't bad persay, but he is very Troubled, but Cute.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: Koda Kumi's "But" is used as the theme song in the Japanese version.
- Bare Your Midriff: Many of the female characters throughout the series.
- Beta Couple: Miles and Lucy in Step Up, Moose and Sophie in The Streets, Moose and Camille in 3D and All In.
- Call-Back: Tyler in Step Up 2 is only there for a couple of scenes to remind us that he was in the first movie. Tyler's sister Camille is brought back as a main character for the third movie.
- Choreography Porn: This trope is pretty much the reason the franchise exists, to the point where if you took out all the dancing it would be only half its actual length.
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Oh so much. Specially stagnant in Step Up 2 and Revolution.
- Step Up 2: If you are an arts school alumni who insists in making your own steps whenever you are being taught some, or to break-dance in the middle of a dramatic swashbuckler scene, the big bad establishment is guilty of not allowing you to express yourself.
- Step Up Revolution: If your father the businessman only allows you to pursue a dancing career, instead of having a more secure job that you have studied to be able to have... if you pass the very same intense test that you were already trying to pass, he is being blind to who you are and his judgement is clouded by his corporativism. Oh, and this same international businessman called on the staff of one of his hotels for a meeting. One of them arrived to the meeting twenty minutes late and untidy, didn't provide of a convincing explanation. The boss dared to fire him. What a douche.
- Covers Always Lie: The UK version of the cover for All In features the cast soaking wet while dancing in the Bellagio fountains. This never actually happens in the film. Unlike parts 2 and 3, there is no dance sequence in water.
- Creepy Twins: the Grim Warriors crew in All In features a pair they turn out much nicer in person
- Dance of Romance: Of course.
- Dance Party Ending: in 2,4 and 5.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Emily, from the 4th film, is barefoot in all, but two of her dance sequences, and she has a lot of dance scenes. In fact she probably is seen barefoot more often than with shoes on.
- Understandable, as Kathryn McCormick (who plays Emily) is primarily a Contemporary Ballet dancer. Many dancers in that style prefer dancing without shoes.
- Double Standard: The movie treats it as an act of betrayal by Andrew when he says he's going to devote himself to his songwriting for a while, you know, when he's recovering from a sprained ankle and can't dance anyway. As CinemaSins puts it, "Movie wants us to hate this guy for focusing on his art, but sympathize with the girlfriend for wanting to focus on HER art."
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: The Mob fades from the headlines after Revolution and has to start from the ground up in All In.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first film has much less elaborated dance numbers than the other films. It's also more dramatic with the death of a character and recuring character Moose is absent.
- 11th-Hour Ranger: The MSA Crew (minus Camille) in 3D.
- Excuse Plot: The films can be reasonably viewed as just an excuse to see multiple street dancing numbers.
- Fanservice: some of the one-on-one dances are really sensual. Step Up Revolution ranked that Up to Eleven.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: the ending of Revolution.
- Happily Married: Maybe for Moose and Camille. There are several signs that they are, even though it's never explicitly stated.
- HeelFace Turn: Mack after Skinny's death. He wasn't exactly bad but he decides to completely give up a life of crime.
- Hopeless Auditionees: the Mob somehow manage to end up as such in All In.
- Informed Poverty: Blatant in Revolution. All the main characters but Emily are blue-collar workers, but they throw huge and complex flash-mob performances that would need at least 5-figures budgets. Several times on a few weeks.
- Step Up 3 is about saving the lead character home, where several runaway dancers live for free. The place is fully equipped with training rooms, a functional boombox wall, and a whole display of high-brand sneakers, complete with lighting to show them off. That on the first floor. The ground floor is a free-entrance club that is shown as succesful, but it doesn't help to pay the bills. The only one who seems to be working to afford it all is the lead character... as a waiter. After their place seems to be definitely lost. And he promptly quits when Moose calls him back.
- Lighter and Softer: The first movie the main character is a car thief and one of his friends is killed in a drive-by. The rest of the series is not as edgy.
- Like Goes with Like: Andie and Sean both split up with their upper-class lovers by the fifth movie, and end up with one another. They're from similar social classes and both have passionate, competitive personalities.
- Logo Joke: For Revolution, the Summit Entertainment logo gets spray-painted, seen here.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Shades of this in the fifth movie with Violet, with her mohawk, no-nonsense attitude, and somewhat stocky figure, contrasted with the more fey Chad.
- Moment of Awesome: Invoked in All In. Even the producers, who were about to crown Grim Knight the victors, couldn't deny that Lmntrix put in the better performance during the finals.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The fourth film has an instance of this when Eddy, frustrated with how things were going between him and Sean, stages a MOB outing that decidedly looks more like an act of terrorism than a traditional MOB performance, which ends in the MOB being DQ'd from the YouTube competition that they were trying to win for the community. Dick move, Eddy.
- Noodle Incident: How Camille and Moose actually met is never explained. Perhaps if Camille had been the star of the second movie...
- Offscreen Breakup: In All In, Andie's relationship with Chase and Sean's relationship with Emily both ended off screen.
- Pottery Barn Poor:
- In Step Up Revolution, the whole crew and their families and friends live in a humble Latin neighborhood, mostly as blue-collar workers. The budget needed for every one of their flash mobs goes easily into several hundred or even thousand dollars.
- In Step Up 3, they need to win the contest that they've been after for the whole movie or they won't be able to keep their only shelter, where many of them are lucky to be able to live... a whole building that contains an amazing discotheque, a first floor only for training, a wall made of boomboxes, a collection of really expensive mint-state limited edition sneakers... the guy in charge of this all? Oh, he is a waiter with a dream. The dream made everything else possible. Somehow.
- Putting the Band Back Together: the Lmntrix crew in All In is made of Moose's old friends. To lesser degree in other movies: if there is a character from the previous movie in the crew, you can expect him to call his friends for the finale.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: several, especially the students in The Streets.
- Remember the New Guy?:
- Camille in 3D in treated as having been with MSA crew all along despite not being in the second movie.
- Andie, Tyler remembers the little girl that the audience doesn't.
- Second Love: Sean and Andie for one another in the fifth movie.
- Serious Business: Hip-hop street dancing in the second and third movies is regarded as such.
- During the second movie, Chase and the MSA crew make a tasteless but harmless prank to their rival crew's leader, something that is mentioned as a traditional way of challenging someone. The leader and a couple of guys find Chase and beat him hard.
- Somehow deconstructed in the third movie. Moose outclassed a guy from the Samurai crew. Then a group of the Samurai ambush him, and he's pressured and intimidated ... but not him nor them attack each other: all their fight is break-dancing all over the place, while still being filmed like a fight scene.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Andie in a beautiful dress in The Streets at her friend's party, attracting attention from her classmates and other guests.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Violet and Chad, and to a lesser extent, Andie and Sean, in the fifth movie.
- Starving Artist: In the fifth movie, Sean is reduced to living in a supply closet while trying to make it in L.A. as a professional dancer. A big theme in the movie is landing a paying and stable gig for the dance crew.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tyler gives one to Nora after she replaces him with her old partner Andrew
- Third Is 3D: The third installment is in 3D.
- Third-Act Misunderstanding: A common staple. Notably, Natalie being Julian's sister in 3D and Emily being Bill Anderson's daughter in Revolution.
- Not so much in 3D; Natalie was Julian's sister AND she came to the Pirates to spy them. The misunderstanding is not being believed when she declared that she had defected for love.
- Those Two Guys: The Santiago Twins.
- Tom Boy: Andie West.
- Troubled, but Cute: Tyler Gage.
- Uptown Girl: This trope is the staple for all the main romances in the series: Nora from the first movie, Natalie from the third movie and Emily from the fourth film are all wealthy girls who fall in love with guys of a lower socio-economic class, while Chase in the second film is a Gender Flipped version who falls for Andie, a girl from Tyler's neighborhood.
- Averted in All In: both the male and female leads — Sean from Revolution and Andie from The Streets — come from the same class background.
- White Male Lead: All five movies have a white couple as leads and with the exception of the second, the male is the protagonist.