Lights, Camera, Dance: Clubs in Movies

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Writer: Stefano Lariccia

Why are clubbing scenes included in movies? We aren’t talking about movies that explicitly refer to the club culture, but to those films that have a poignant moment of excitement revolving around a dancefloor.

Let’s face it, a good scene in an underground club or in a cool disco dungeon helps to define the era and the period in which the movie is set. It is the irresistible energy, fascination, and adrenaline of a packed discotheque where people are dancing at the rhythm of a great electronic track.

Imagine this, you are losing interest in the story, and you are about to stand up or change the channel, when…the disco lights flash you and the music of the sound system hits you. Stirring up clubbing emotions, you are glued to the movie once again.

These types of scenes have been used time and time again to engage cinema audiences, creating some magnificent moments on the silver screen. Which ones are our favourites you may ask? Grab some popcorn and check our our cinema selections below!

The Matrix

The first instalment of the legendary cyberpunk trilogy. This movie changed the rules of cinematography for ever. We are introduced in the clubbing scene by the best invitation ever, borrowed from Alice in the wonderland – “follow the white rabbit”. The club looks like an industrial henge. The soundtrack of this scene is mind blowing and well mixed. Rob Zombie with “Dragula” and “Mindfields” from Prodigy.

As the franchise progresses we are treated to more dancefloor affair, most notably in the revolutions finale where we catch a glimpse of ‘Club Hel’ – owned by the devilishMerovingian. Entranced by the whirring darkness of ‘In My Head’ by german composer Pale 3, the audience become forced voyeurs over a BDSM scene, complete with neon green lasers.

Terminator

When you are in a spot like Tech-noir and everyone is dancing like crazy, you know you have hit the motherlode. The only issue is the massive cyborg that hunts you relentlessly. This movie was intended to be a horror flick, and the juxtaposition from a clubbing scene to a brutal bloodbath is a classic example of the over the top violence ‘80s cinema grew to be known for.

It is Arnold’s iconic face of stone that hits your body more powerfully than bullets. The soundtrack to all this is a vigorous electro-rock song, Burning in the third degree performed by Tahnee Cain & Tryanglz and is a quintessential 80s track.

American Psycho

In this controversial yet amazing movie, there are two club scenes that are worth mentioning. First, the club scene opens up with the incredible New Order song, True Faith The scene really captures the style and the attitude of the Yuppies and the fashionable crowd of New York in the 80s. Additionally, antihero Patrick Batman gives us a taste of what he thinks about the bar policy.

In the second scene, the music again plays a prominent role by including top-quality gems like Pump Up The Volume by Marrs and What Is On Your Mind by Information Society. This time we find the lead character doing cocaine kindly offered by the establishment, afterwards casually discussing with models about murders and executions, *ahem* pardon we meant mergers and acquisitions.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

The last instalment in the famous Mission Impossible franchise. After a typically preposterous action sequence, Cruise and Co go to look for the antagonist in a club. Guess who is behind the decks: DJ Harvey! Unbelievable, a real master of everything is good and genuine in electronic music. He is even playing with a vintage single headphone, we love that sort of attention to detail in cinema.

The song is a great one and doesn’t miss the mark – Consequences of Love, performed by Death in Vegas and featuring vocals by former porn actress Sasha Grey. The track consists of a hypnotic loop of electro dreamy sound accompanied by a steady bass and provocative lyrics that almost whisper to your ears.

Blade I & II

Damn those vampires know how to throw a party. In the first instalment, a club scene throws you into the story. The camera follows a clueless victim as he is ensnared by a vampire vixen. As they pass through an enormous butcher warehouse, he does not take heed of human carcasses hanging from meat hooks. Greeted by a shady looking bouncer guarding a metal fridge door, they pass through into ‘bloodbath’.

The music is a superb mix from Pump Panel of Confusion by New Order. People are dancing, and bam! Blood starts to pour from the roof, It is now too late for our victim to escape. Or is it? Through the crowd “The daywalker” Blade menacingly appears. 

In the sequel, our hero is helping his archenemies against a new breed of the evil beast. Obviously, the adventure starts in a vampire club, where else right? The main track of this darkish but surprisingly pleasant fiesta, is from Voodoo & Serrano’s Blood is Pumping – rather fitting don’t you think? Well after these two movies we can confidently say the vampires love techno.

Vanilla Sky

This is a real treat for music lovers. Abre los Ojos by Director Alejandro Amenabar inspired this wonderful remake. After a car accident, the previously good-looking protagonist suffers disfiguring facial injuries. His social status is negatively impacted by the accident and sends him into psychosis. So, let’s go clubbing!

The DJ does an amazing job, and in 5 minutes full of drama and tequila, he managed to fit 4 amazing tracks: Thievery Corporation – Indra, the Chemical Brothers – Loops of Fury, Leftfield feat Africa Bambaataa – Africa Shox and finally Underworld – Rez. More than enough to lose control, because sometimes a DJ can literally save your life.

John Wick

Okay, before we continue with cinematic club analysis, let’s just talk about how much of a badass John Wick is. In terms of filmmaking, this is the apex of choreographed ultra violence. The manner in which John kills his way through the neon-lit uber-american discotheque is almost majestic. The club itself is very much a commercial perspective on clubbing in the 21st century, right down to the VIP pool and champagne service. Still, you cannot fault the electro-bass stylings of Le Castle Vania, who soundtracks this brutal montage.

Black Swan

This is the most intense of our club scenes. Natalie Portman’s metamorphosis has already begun, and the director Daren Aronosfky, has created this syncopated scene, where frantic music and lighting show a subliminal message unstoppable. Those messages show Nina’s obsessions and how inside her brain something is transforming into the Black Swan. The Chemical Brothers provide the music once again with Do Not Think. Nina’s confused state of mind is clearly captured in this track.

25th hour

What if you were about to spend seven years in prison, what would you do the night before? You’d go clubbing right? It’s no coincidence that Spike Lee thinks the same way and that’s why Ed Norton is spending his last hours of freedom in a club owned by his former employee. In the middle of trying to settle things with his Russian mob and his best friends, our ears are graced by an amazing song by Liquid Liquid called Cavern and our eyes are mesmerized by Rosario Dawson’s dancing. We recommend this movie to anyone who has not seen it.

Trainspotting

One of the greatest cult films of all time. Every line is iconic and two club scenes appear in the film. The first time we are introduced to the Volcan club, our anti-hero Renton is all about the violent comeback of his sex drive. The music is provided by Heaven 17 with Temptation. Finally, he sees Diana, and Atomic by the cover band Sleeper soundtracks their first “romantic” meeting. In some fun movie trivia, Blondie did not give permission for the use of the original version.

Trainspotting

Later, Renton and Begbie go clubbing in the London capital, celebrating a winning bet on the horses. Bedrock’s For What You Dream Of is rocking the dancefloor. This short but sweet scene offers a glimpse into 90s clubbing, whilst Renton narrates; “World is changing; music is changing; drugs are changing; even men and women are changing…yes but say that to Begbie.” One word – Legendary.

XXX

Not to be missed is Vin Diesel’s action pack flick. This scene is set in a dungeon-like club filled with gigantic Tesla coils, shooting electric thunderbolts in every direction. As the characters deliver cheesy lines, who else would appear than Orbital, an electronic outfit that was seminal in the 1990s. Wearing their iconic glasses with lights, they perform Technologicque Park. In a moment of pure electronic bliss, a perfect club setting paired perfectly with the music. When you choose the right artist and the right music, the club scene can be the best part of your film.

Missed your favourite flick? Let us know in the comments below!

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