Save the Last Dance

For the song, see Save the Last Dance for Me.
Save the Last Dance

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Thomas Carter
Produced by
  • Robert W. Cort
  • David Madden
Screenplay by
Story by Duane Adler
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Robbie Greenberg
Edited by
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
January 12, 2001 (2001-01-12)
Running time
112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $131.7 million

Save the Last Dance is a 2001 American dance film produced by MTV Films, 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, a promising dancer in high school, 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 father and transfers to an urban Chicago school. 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, 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, 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, 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 few decent black men in the school. Because of this, Sara breaks up with Derek. Meanwhile, Derek deals with his friend Malakai, who is heavily into the gang lifestyle that Derek is trying to leave. Derek accepts Malakai's plea for support in a drive-by for 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 told Sara, Derek confronts her and admitted his true reasons for dumping Nikki. She admits what she did was wrong and encourages him to be with Sara. Chenille also warns Derek not to support Malakai knowing the consequences and he will lose his chance to attend Georgetown. Derek turns his back on Malakai to attend Sara's audition. He arrives at a crucial point 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.


Box office and reception

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.[1]

Save the Last Dance won several awards, most notably:

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."[2] 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."[3] Roger Ebert rated it three stars out of four, stating that "the setup promises cliches, but the development is intelligent, the characters are more complicated than we expect, and the ending doesn't tie everything up in a predictable way."[4]


Year Title Chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
U.S. U.S. R&B
2000 Save the Last Dance 3 2
  • US: 2x Platinum

See also


  1. Save the Last Dance (2001), Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-07-12.
  3. Charles Taylor. "Save the Last Dance" (review), Salon, January 12, 2001. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
  4. Roger Ebert, Save The Last Dance, Chicago Sun Times, 2001-01-12
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