Save the Last Dance

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Save the Last Dance
Theatrical release poster
Directed byThomas Carter
Produced by
  • Robert W. Cort
  • David Madden
Screenplay by
Story byDuane Adler
Music byMark Isham
CinematographyRobbie Greenberg
Edited by
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • January 12, 2001 (2001-01-12)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$13 million[1]
Box office$131.7 million

Save the Last Dance is a 2001 American teen dance film produced by MTV Productions, directed by Thomas Carter and released by Paramount Pictures on January 12, 2001. The film stars Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas as a teenage interracial couple in Chicago who work together to help the main character, played by Stiles, train for a dance audition. A direct-to-video sequel, Save the Last Dance 2, was released in 2006.


Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles), a promising dancer in high school in suburban Chicago, hopes to be admitted to study at Juilliard School and invites her mother to attend the audition. She fails the audition and soon learns that her mother was involved in a fatal car accident in her haste to get to the audition.

Sara is wracked by guilt and gives up on ballet. She moves in with her estranged father (Terry Kinney) and transfers to an inner-city school on the south side of Chicago. Her father is a jazz musician who plays the trumpet and usually plays in nightclubs. At her new school, Sara is one of a handful of white students but quickly befriends Chenille (Kerry Washington), a single teen mother who is having relationship problems. Chenille invites Sara to a dance club called STEPPS, where she has her first experience of dancing to hip hop rhythms. At STEPPS, Sara dances with Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), Chenille's brother and a student with dreams of ultimately attending Georgetown Medical School. He decides to help Sara develop her dancing skills by incorporating more hip hop into her style. Derek takes a reluctant Sara to the Joffrey Ballet and, afterwards, Sara confides in him about her mother and her dreams. Later, they return to the club and amaze others with their dancing. Having achieved his dream of being accepted at Georgetown University, Derek convinces her to follow her dreams of Juilliard. Eventually, Sara and Derek begin a relationship.

At school, Nikki (Bianca Lawson), Derek's jealous ex-girlfriend, picks a fight with Sara. Chenille tells Sara that she didn't approve of the fight but can understand the bitterness since Sara, a white girl, is seen as “stealing” one of the decent black men in the school. Because of this conversation, Sara and Chenille's friendship becomes strained, and Sara decides to break up with Derek. Meanwhile, Derek deals with his friend Malakai (Fredro Starr), who is heavily into the gang lifestyle that Derek is trying to leave. Derek accepts Malakai's ask for help in executing a ”drive-by” at the same time as Sara's audition. Sara's father has a heart-to-heart talk with her and encourages her to audition for Juilliard again.

After hearing what Chenille said to Sara, Derek confronts his sister for what she said, as well as explaining his true reasons for dumping Nikki. He is very disappointed in Chenille for hurting Sara. After hearing his sister’s confession, Derek begins to realize why Sara broke off their relationship. He notices that despite Chenille’s rude and painful (this used to be racist but the only thing that might be that is saying there are only a small group of decent black men) remarks to Sara, that his ex Nikki had been bitterly jealous of their relationship the whole entire time and comes to a realization that Sara did not want to end their relationship. Remorseful for her actions, Chenille admits what she did was wrong and encourages him to be with Sara, realizing that Sara is in fact in love with Derek. She also warns Derek not to follow Malakai knowing he may face losing his chance to attend Georgetown and his future if he is arrested. Derek then makes an important decision, bailing on Malakai to attend Sara's audition. He arrives at a crucial point of her performance to offer her encouragement and moral support. After her audition, Sara is accepted and she rekindles her relationship with Derek. Meanwhile, the drive-by becomes botched and Malakai is arrested. The film closes as Sara, Derek, Chenille, and their friends meet at STEPPS to celebrate Sara's successful audition.


Home Video[edit]

The film was released on DVD and VHS on June 19, 2001.[2]

Box office and reception[edit]

The film debuted at #1 at the North American box office making $27.5 million in its opening weekend. Though the film had a 44% decline in earnings the following weekend, it was still enough to keep the film at the top spot for another week. It grossed $91,057,006 in the US alone and $131.7 million worldwide.[3]

Save the Last Dance won several awards, most notably:

  • The 2001 MTV Movie Awards, winning in the category "Best Kiss" for Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas, who also won "Breakthrough Male Performance"; and being nominated for "Best Female Performance" for Julia Stiles and "Best Dance Sequence" for a scene in the hip hop club
  • The 2001 Teen Choice Awards, winning in the categories "Choice Movie: Actress" for Julia Stiles, "Choice Movie: Breakout Star" for Kerry Washington and "Choice Movie: Fight Scene" for Julia Stiles and Bianca Lawson; and being nominated for "Choice Movie: Drama"
  • The 2001 Young Hollywood Awards, winning in the category "Standout Performance — Male" for Sean Patrick Thomas
  • It was also nominated for the 2002 Black Reel Awards in the category "Theatrical — Best Supporting Actress" for Kerry Washington and the 2002 Golden Reel Awards in the category "Best Sound Editing — Music, Musical Feature Film" for the music editor Michael T. Ryan.

Rotten Tomatoes' gave the film a 53% approval rating and summarizes the critical consensus as: "This teen romance flick feels like a predictable rehashing of other movies."[4] Some of the positive reviews are measured in their enthusiasm, with remarks such as, "Look elsewhere for reality or good drama. Look here, however, if you're in the mood for a good heaping of fantasy and some fun"; "a decent, well-put-together romantic drama to hold hands to on the weekend"; and "A sometimes predictable, but mostly enjoyable tale." Salon's reviewer called the film "a bad, friendly, enjoyable movie," observing that "for all its dumb clichés it offers the basic appeal of teen movies: the pleasure of watching kids be kids, acting as they do among themselves instead of how parents and teachers expect them to act."[5]

Roger Ebert rated it three stars out of four:


Save the Last Dance
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedDecember 19, 2000
GenreHip hop, R&B
ProducerDJ Battlecat, Raphael Saadiq, Eddie F, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Stevie J, Darryl Anthony, The Whole 9,Jave & Sweet, Delite
Singles from Save the Last Dance
  1. "Murder She Wrote"
    Released: 1993
  2. "Only You"
    Released: June 27, 1996
  3. "Get It On Tonite"
    Released: October 12, 1999
  4. "U Know What's Up"
    Released: November 2, 1999
  5. "You Make Me Sick"
    Released: December 18, 2000
  6. "Crazy"
    Released: March 2, 2001
  7. "You"
    Released: July 17, 2001
  8. "All Or Nothing"
    Released: 2001

The film soundtrack was released on December 19, 2000 through Hollywood Records and consisted of hip hop and R&B music. The soundtrack was a huge success, and made it to several Billboard charts. It peaked at 3 on the Billboard 200, 2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, 6 on the Top Soundtracks, 3 on the Top Internet Albums and 2 on the Canadian Albums Chart, and featured two charting singles "Crazy" and "You". Save the Last Dance went both gold and platinum on January 29, 2001 and was certified 2x multi-platinum on May 20, 2002. The Soundtrack won the American Music Award for best Soundtrack in 2002.[7]

Allmusic rated the soundtrack three out of five stars.[8] RapReviews rated it three and a half out of ten.[9]

  1. "Shining Through" (Theme from Save the Last Dance) - Fredro Starr & Jill Scott
  2. "You" - Lucy Pearl feat. Snoop Dogg & Q-Tip
  3. "Bonafide" - X-2-C
  4. "Crazy" - K-Ci & JoJo
  5. "You Make Me Sick" - Pink
  6. "U Know What's Up" - Donell Jones
  7. "Move It Slow" - Kevon Edmonds
  8. "Murder She Wrote" - Chaka Demus & Pliers
  9. "You Can Do It" - Ice Cube feat. Mack 10 & Ms. Toi
  10. "My Window" - Soulbone
  11. "Only You" - 112 feat. The Notorious B.I.G.
  12. "Get It On Tonite" - Montell Jordan
  13. "All or Nothing" - Athena Cage
  14. "Shining Through" (Theme from Save the Last Dance) [Soulshock & Karlin Bonus Track] - Fredro Starr & Jill Scott
  15. "What You Want" - Mase

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Save the Last Dance (2001) - Financial Information". Archived from the original on 2017-04-26.
  2. ^ Tribbey, Ralph (March 30, 2001). "Paramount Delivers 'Last Dance' on DVD". Archived from the original on April 20, 2001. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  3. ^ Save the Last Dance (2001) Archived 2012-05-08 at the Wayback Machine, Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-07-12.
  4. ^ "Save the Last Dance". Archived from the original on 2011-08-25.
  5. ^ Charles Taylor. "Save the Last Dance" (review), Archived 2009-06-29 at the Wayback Machine Salon, January 12, 2001. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
  6. ^ Roger Ebert, Save The Last Dance Archived 2012-10-09 at the Wayback Machine, Chicago Sun Times, 2001-01-12
  7. ^ "Winners Database | American Music Awards". American Music Awards. Archived from the original on 2018-05-10. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  8. ^ Save the Last Dance at AllMusic
  9. ^ "various artists :: Save the Last Dance :: Hollywood Records". Archived from the original on 2010-01-30.

External links[edit]