Save the Last Dance

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Save the Last Dance
Theatrical release poster
Directed byThomas Carter
Screenplay by
Story byDuane Adler
Produced by
  • Robert W. Cort
  • David Madden
CinematographyRobbie Greenberg
Edited by
Music byMark Isham
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[1]

Save the Last Dance is a 2001 American teen dance film produced by MTV Films, directed by Thomas Carter and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film stars Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas as a teenage interracial couple in Chicago who work together to help Stiles' character train for a Juilliard School dance audition.

Released theatrically in the United States on January 12, 2001, the film received mixed reviews from critics but was a box-office success and grossed $131.7 million worldwide against a $13 million budget.

A direct-to-video sequel, Save the Last Dance 2, was released in 2006.


Seventeen-year-old Sara Johnson, a promising ballet dancer in suburban Chicago, hopes to be admitted to Juilliard School and implores her mother to attend the audition. She fails the audition and soon learns that her mother was killed in a car accident in her haste to get to it.

Sara is wracked with guilt and gives up ballet. She moves to the South Side to live with her estranged father Roy, a jazz musician who plays the trumpet at nightclubs. Sara also transfers to a majority-black high school, where she is one of a handful of white students, but quickly befriends Chenille Reynolds, a teenage single mother who is having relationship problems with her ex-boyfriend Kenny.

Chenille invites Sara to a dance club called Stepps, where the latter has her first experience dancing to hip hop rhythms. At Stepps, Sara dances with Derek, Chenille's brother and a student with dreams of attending Georgetown University to become a pediatrician. Derek 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, she confides in him about her mother and her dreams. Later, they return to the club and amaze others with their dancing. While performing, Derek's ex-girlfriend Nikki interrupts them and begins dancing with Derek, making Sara retreat to the bar.

Afterward, Derek returns to Sara and apologizes for pairing up with Nikki; they subsequently make up and return to Roy's apartment. Having achieved his dream of being accepted into Georgetown, Derek convinces Sara to follow her dreams of Juilliard; they eventually begin a romantic relationship.

At school, Nikki picks a fight with Sara. Later, Chenille tells Sara that she did not approve of the fight, but can understand the bitterness since Sara, a white girl, is "stealing" one of the decent black boys at 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, who is heavily involved in the gang lifestyle that Derek is trying to leave. Derek agrees to help Malakai execute a drive-by at the same time as Sara's audition. Roy has a heart-to-heart talk with Sara and encourages her to go through with the audition.

After learning what Chenille said to Sara, Derek confronts her about it, as well as explains his true reasons for dumping Nikki. Remorseful of her actions, Chenille admits that what she did was wrong and apologizes. She also tells Derek that Sara did not want to dump him, but Chenille's words hurt her to the point of feeling forced to.

Chenille also admits that she has been resentful for how Kenny has been treating her, including not helping her raise their son and not being a good boyfriend to her. She unintentionally took it out on Sara since she has been jealous of her and Derek's relationship. Chenille encourages Derek to be with Sara, admitting that she knows that Sara is in love with him. She also warns Derek not to follow Malakai, knowing that he may lose his chance to attend Georgetown and his future if he is arrested. Derek meets up with Malakai and does his best to dissuade him from carrying out the attack, but Malakai refuses.

Derek arrives at a crucial point in Sara's performance to offer her encouragement and moral support. Afterward, Sara is accepted into Juilliard and she rekindles her relationship with Derek. Meanwhile, the drive-by is botched and Malakai is arrested. The film closes as Sara, Derek, Chenille, and their friends meet at Stepps to celebrate Sara's successful audition.



Julia Stiles landed the role of Sara when director Thomas Carter saw her dance scene in the 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You.[2] To prepare for her role, Stiles did two months of training for the ballet scenes while also rehearsing the choreography for the hip hop scenes.[2] Fatima Robinson was the film's hip hop choreographer.



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. "Love Like This"
    Released: September 15, 1998
  7. "Crazy"
    Released: March 2, 2001
  8. "You"
    Released: July 17, 2001
  9. "All Or Nothing"
    Released: 2001

The film's 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.[3]

Allmusic rated the soundtrack three out of five stars.[4] RapReviews rated it three and a half out of ten.[5]

  1. "True Colors/Shining Through" (Theme from Save the Last Dance) – Fredro Starr featuring Jill Scott
  2. "You" – Lucy Pearl featuring 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 featuring Mack 10 & Ms. Toi
  10. "My Window" – Soulbone
  11. "Only You" – 112 featuring The Notorious B.I.G.
  12. "Get It On Tonite" – Montell Jordan
  13. "All Or Nothing" – Athena Cage
  14. "What You Want" – Mase
  15. "Love Like This" - Faith Evans featuring The Notorious B.I.G.


The film debuted at number 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.[6]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and VHS on June 19, 2001.[7] It was re-released on DVD on January 24, 2017.[8]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 53% approval rating based on 100 reviews, with an average score of 5.5/10 and a consensus: "This teen romance flick feels like a predictable rehashing of other movies."

Positive reviews praised the performances of Stiles, Thomas, and Washington.[9][10] Desson Howe of The Washington Post called Stiles and Washington appealing performers and concluded, "Thomas is the movie's best element. He puts so much authority in his performance, he makes this controversial romance seem like the best thing that could happen to anyone. That's no easy task."[11]

In a three-star review, Roger Ebert said that despite the film's clichéd story and romance, "the development is intelligent, the characters are more complicated than we expect, and the ending doesn't tie everything up in a predictable way."[12] Charles Taylor of Salon wrote, "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."[13]

Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Mark Caro wrote, "On paper the movie is full of cliches recently explored elsewhere...Yet in this case the outline is not the story; the people who inhabit it are," and in this way, "Save the Last Dance triumphantly passes the audition."[14]

Negative reviews criticized the editing style of dance scenes, the film's "after-school special"-like subplot, and the script for not delving enough into the issues of interracial relationships.[15] Critic Wesley Morris wrote "the movie combines the worst of urbansploitation with the worst of teensploitation, and outfits them both in makings of the ultimate racial-crossover melodrama -- teen motherhood, deadbeat teen dads, drive-bys, a dangerous ex-girlfriend, speeches straight from the pages of Terry McMillan."[15] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "director Thomas Carter is afraid to pump up the volume on its own interracial, hip hop Romeo and Juliet story, lest it challenge even one sedated viewer or disturb the peace."[16]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee Result Ref.
Black Reel Awards Theatrical — Best Supporting Actress Kerry Washington Nominated
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing — Music, Musical Feature Film Michael T. Ryan Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Kiss Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas Won
Best Dance Sequence Nominated
Best Female Performance Julia Stiles Nominated
Breakthrough Male Performance Sean Patrick Thomas Won
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie: Actress Julia Stiles Won
Choice Movie: Breakout Star Kerry Washington Won
Choice Movie: Fight Scene Julia Stiles and Bianca Lawson Won
Choice Movie: Drama Nominated
Young Hollywood Awards Standout Performance — Male Sean Patrick Thomas Won


A sequel to the film, titled Save the Last Dance 2, was released direct-to-video on October 10, 2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Save the Last Dance (2001) - Financial Information". Archived from the original on April 26, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Julia Stiles shares best part of making 'Save the Last Dance' 20 years later". January 27, 2021. Archived from the original on August 15, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  3. ^ "Winners Database | American Music Awards". American Music Awards. Archived from the original on May 10, 2018. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  4. ^ Save the Last Dance at AllMusic
  5. ^ "various artists :: Save the Last Dance :: Hollywood Records". Archived from the original on January 30, 2010.
  6. ^ "Save the Last Dance". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on May 8, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  7. ^ Tribbey, Ralph (March 30, 2001). "Paramount Delivers 'Last Dance' on DVD". Archived from the original on April 20, 2001. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  8. ^ "Save the Last Dance". Amazon. Archived from the original on July 19, 2023. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  9. ^ Travers, Peter (January 12, 2001). "Save the Last Dance". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  10. ^ Koehler, Robert (January 8, 2001). "Save the Last Dance". Variety. Archived from the original on August 15, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  11. ^ Howe, Desson (January 12, 2001). "A Lively 'Last Dance'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 8, 2017. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 12, 2001). "Save The Last Dance movie review (2001)". Archived from the original on August 15, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  13. ^ Taylor, Charles (January 12, 2001). "Save the Last Dance (review)". Salon. Archived from the original on June 29, 2009. Retrieved December 30, 2007.
  14. ^ Caro, Mark (January 24, 2001). "Save the Last Dance". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on January 24, 2001. Retrieved August 30, 2022 – via
  15. ^ a b Morris, Wesley (January 12, 2001). "'Dance' Tries Hard to Be Hip and Fails Miserably". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on August 15, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  16. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (January 29, 2001). "Save the Last Dance". Archived from the original on August 15, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  17. ^ "Outstanding Supporting Actress for 2002 nominees - Black Reel Awards". Black Reel Awards. Archived from the original on May 17, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  18. ^ Hobbs, John (February 11, 2002). "Sound editors tap noms for Golden Reel Awards". Variety. Archived from the original on April 22, 2023. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  19. ^ Reinstein, Mara (June 2, 2022). "The Short-Lived Reign of MTV's Best Kiss Award". The Ringer. Archived from the original on August 15, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  20. ^ "2001 Teen Choice Awards". August 12, 2001. Archived from the original on March 28, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  21. ^ "Jury for NYC Web Series Festival". NYC Web Fest. Archived from the original on August 15, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.

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