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The creepiest movie dances of all-time

People have been dancing since the dawn of time. It's one of the oldest artforms known to man, one of the purest forms of human expression. So naturally, filmmakers have harnessed our desire to twist, twirl, and tango in order to convey a multitude of ideas and emotions. For example, movie dance numbers are often associated with romance (Top Hat), comedy (Silver Linings Playbook), sexuality (Magic Mike), or the pure joy of movement (West Side Story). But while dancing can often put a smile on your face, sometimes it can be downright horrific.

After all, watching a bad guy waltzing around his secret lair moments before murdering someone can be kind of upsetting. And when a sadist starts shimmying around the room, you know that means somebody is about to get tortured. While a good guy dance routine can make audiences smile, a bad guy breakdown is guaranteed to send chills through the movie theater. From psychopathic thugs with a love for movie musicals to disturbed supervillains with a fondness for hip-hop, these are the creepiest movie dances of all time.

A scary Singin' in the Rain

Even if you haven't seen Singin' in the Rain, you've definitely heard the titular song, and you can probably picture Gene Kelly stomping down a flooded street, umbrella in hand. It's a truly iconic Hollywood image, a legendary scene about the joy of falling in love.

And then Malcolm McDowell came along and made it about rape.

Right after the Ludovico Technique scene, the most infamous moment in A Clockwork Orange comes when Alex DeLarge (McDowell) and his droogs torture an elderly writer and his young wife. Sure, their phallic masks are freaky, and their cackling is creepy, but what makes the scene truly upsetting is how Alex is crooning "Singin' in the Rain." And he isn't just singing. He's incorporating a bit of the old ultraviolence into his dance moves.

When he shuffles his feet, he kicks the writer in the stomach. As he glides across the room, he beats the terrified woman with a cane and tapes her mouth shut. And the whole time, he looks just as gleeful as Gene Kelly. The musical number was actually improvised by McDowell, and as he explained to The Telegraph, he picked that classic song, "Because [it's] Hollywood's gift to the world of euphoria. And that's what the character is feeling at that time." Thanks for ruining one of the most cheerful musicals ever made, McDowell.

A candy-colored clown

Almost everything David Lynch has done feels like a dream. Blue Velvet is certainly no exception. While it's a little more grounded in reality than, say, Inland Empire, the movie has plenty of eerie moments that seem straight from Lynch's subconscious. There's a severed ear in a field, a legion of bugs lurking in the grass, and a monstrous Dennis Hopper huffing a mysterious gas. But when it comes to pure, surreal spookiness, it doesn't get any creepier than the "In Dreams" dance sequence.

The otherworldly floor show gets started when overly curious college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) is abducted by a savage gangster named Frank Booth (Hopper). Soon, Jeffrey, Frank, and their criminal companions wind up in the world's weirdest bordello, run by a suave dude named Ben (Dean Stockwell). At Frank's request, Ben performs Roy Orbison's "In Dreams," an eerie song about a candy-colored clown. Holding a utility light up to his powdered face, Ben oozes and sways back and forth while lip-syncing along with the song. It's a nightmare moment, hypnotic and horrific, and one that will definitely haunt your dreams.

The goblin ball

Directed by Jim Henson, Labyrinth is a beloved coming-of-age fantasy, but really, it's about a full-grown dude stalking an underage girl. Okay, we're being a little facetious, but Jennifer Connelly being 15 does make the film feel super freaky, as David Bowie was 23 years her senior. And things get extra weird during the masked ball sequence.

After eating an enchanted peach that puts her to sleep (aka a goblin roofie), teenaged Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) winds up in a pervy party that has some serious Eyes Wide Shut vibes. Everyone is wearing creepy monster masks, and the whole thing feels very grown-up. So it's a little uncomfortable to see a 15-year-old lost in a room full of cackling adults, surrounding her and swaying everywhere, especially with that phallic imagery all over the place. It gets even weirder when Jareth the Goblin King (Bowie) makes his move, seducing the girl with his '80s hair, waltzing prowess, and his rather noticeable package. Fortunately, when Sarah realizes it's all a distraction to stop her from saving her brother, she snaps out of her spell and makes a grand exit, literally crashing the party.

Buffalo Bill boogaloo

The morbid world of Thomas Harris is populated with all sorts of serial killers, from the Minnesota Shrike and the Tooth Fairy to the charismatic cannibal himself, Hannibal Lecter. But none of these psychos have moves like Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill. Played by Ted Levine, Buffalo Bill is the terrible tailor from The Silence of the Lambs, and he's a crazy combo of Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, and Prince. Not only does he kidnap and skin college girls so he can make his very own woman suit, but he also enjoys shimmying and shaking in front of his camcorder.

During his infamous dance scene, Buffalo Bill is down in his basement, putting on lipstick, playing with his piercing, and talking about how he could totally, um, seduce himself. He's totally oblivious to the screaming woman he's stashed away in his dungeon. Instead, he's more interested in voguing for the camera. Listening to "Goodbye Horses," Bill sashays around the room, wearing nothing more than a robe, stockings, and a woman's scalp. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Levine said he'd originally prepared a stripper routine—set to Bob Seger's "Her Strut"—but ended up going with more of a David Bowie glam vibe. Only instead of Ziggy Stardust sexy, Bill is just repulsive, and the dance number ends with an uncomfortable moment that will forever be tucked away in our minds.

Mr. Blonde's sadistic strut

Mr. Blonde is many things. He's a thief, an ex-con, a murderer, a sadist, and to top it all off, the man fancies himself something of a performer. The nastiest thug in Reservoir Dogs, Blonde (Michael Madsen) takes great delight in slicing up a poor police officer, cutting off the cop's ear with a straight razor before trying to light him on fire. It's a horrific scene—even if the worst part does happen off-screen—but what makes it worse is how Blonde is strutting around the warehouse, grooving to Stealers Wheel and taking his sweet time before getting busy. He dances a few step forward, then a couple of steps back, and then spins in a circle, putting on a show before lashing out like a snake. His twisted little dance draws out the tension as long as possible before the bloodshed begins. As far as movie dances go, this one has got to be the most painful to watch.

The Black Swan takes over

Sometimes becoming a great artist means working for untold hours until you one day achieve perfection. And sometimes it means you're haunted by doppelgangers, and you start morphing into a bird. Well, that's what happens to Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) in Black Swan. A naive ballerina struggling to keep the lead role in Swan Lake—a part that requires tapping into her sensual side to play the titular "Black Swan"—Nina falls deeper and deeper into madness over the course of the film. But when she finally gives in to the darkness, she delivers a performance for the ages. From her newfound intensity to her possessed red eyes, Nina spins onto the stage completely transformed. She pirouettes again and again, and with each rotation, feathers sprout across her body. Soon, her graceful arms are huge, black wings, and the crowd is loving it up. The sweet girl is gone; now, she's all swan. And while this creepy dance eventually climaxes with disastrous results, Natalie Portman danced away from it all with an Oscar for best actress.

Ben Mendelsohn's scary shell game

Directed by Ryan Gosling, Lost River was absolutely eviscerated by critics, but despite the drubbing it took at Cannes, it's still pretty awesome. The visuals are haunting, the tone is hypnotic, and Ben Mendelsohn cuts a rug like nobody's business.

However, Christina Hendricks' character is less than mesmerized by Mendelsohn's moves. In fact, she's quite horrified. Hendricks plays a single mom named Billy whose economic situation forces her to get a job at a kinky club where entertainers are "murdered" during incredibly gory Grand Guignol shows. But the truly freaky stuff happens in the basement, where female employees are locked into glass-like shells. Once inside, the women watch as male patrons do whatever they please.

Near the end of the film, Billy finds herself locked inside one of these shells as her boss, David (Mendelsohn), begins creeping and cavorting around the room to Johnny Jewel's pulsing score. David gyrates his hips like he's Tony Manero at the world's ickiest disco, and things get even worse when he reveals that he's got the key to Billy's shell. And yeah, he totally plans on opening it up and doing something horrible. We won't reveal what happens next, but you should know that in real life, Mendelsohn's dance was completely improvised. Better still, he was actually grooving to a Kendrick Lamar song during filming.

Oscar Isaac tears up the dance floor

Everything about Ex Machina is unsettling, from the isolated landscape to Alicia Vikander's chilling performance to the mysterious soundtrack by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury. It's an unbearably tense movie, and it never lets up, even when the sense of dread gives way to one of the greatest dance scenes in cinema history.

The sci-fi disco gets started after a computer programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is chosen by billionaire inventor Nathan (Oscar Isaac) to help with the ultimate Turing test. Nathan has created an incredibly lifelike A.I. named Ava (Vikander), and he wants Caleb to find out just how human she is. However, things start getting creepy very quickly, and soon, Caleb suspects Nathan's relationship with Ava might be a tad unhealthy. But when Caleb goes to confront Nathan about his obsessive behavior, the tech genius ignores Caleb's questions and starts to boogie beside his mistress, Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno).

With the flip of the switch, Caleb turns his living room into a dance club, complete with flashing lights and a hit song from 1983, and Nathan and Kyoko get down, dancing in sync. In fact, their choreography is a little too perfect, and this out-of-nowhere number will give you the creeps even before you find out the secret to their musical success.

Pennywise's dance of death

Stephen King has created plenty of memorable bad guys over the years. There's Jack Torrance, Annie Wilkes, Kurt Barlow, and Randall Flagg. But when it comes to straight-up scares, they don't get any more monstrous than Pennywise. This child-eating clown is even more horrific when he sounds and smiles like Bill Skarsgard, the actor who played Pennywise in the 2017 adaptation of It. Sure, Tim Curry was terrifying in the 1990 miniseries, but Skarsgard wasn't just spooky. The man had some serious high-stepping moves.

After spending most of the movie tormenting the Losers Club, Pennywise kidnaps Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) and drags her down to his underground lair. When she wakes up, she's desperate to escape the sewers, but that's when Pennywise shows Bev why folks call him "The Dancing Clown." The room fills with eerie circus music, and Pennywise—standing in front of a hellish background—launches into his demonic jig. He pumps his arms and kicks his legs, but as his body rocks back and forth, his head remains perfectly still. The clown's eyes are nothing but pure evil, and understandably, Bev totally panics. After all, if there's anything scarier than an interdimensional demon, it's an interdimensional demon that can dance.

Hedwig busts a move

Anya Taylor-Joy is absolutely fantastic in Split, but while her powerful portrayal of Casey Cooke anchors the movie, it's James McAvoy who's constantly stealing the show. McAvoy plays Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with 23 different personalities, not to mention three teenage girls locked in his maze-like hideout. Kevin's body has been hijacked by three of his more malevolent personalities, including a 9-year-old boy named Hedwig. But Hedwig isn't pure evil; he's just a scared, confused kid who wants to show Casey his CD player … the one next to his window. Sensing an opportunity to escape Kevin's dungeon, Casey takes Hedwig up on his offer but winds up witnessing one of the scariest moments in any M. Night Shyamalan movie.

While listening to "Frogbass" by Snails, Hedwig begins gyrating, twisting, and convulsing. He struts across the room, leaps into the air, and lurches toward the camera like a hungry zombie. On the one hand, watching McAvoy get down is pretty hilarious. He's dancing with such enthusiasm that it's hard not to smile. At the same time, Hedwig's dance is downright disturbing. We're watching a truly sick man here, a guy grooving to hip-hop music, throwing his heart and soul into the routine, all while he's got several girls locked away in his own private prison. The look on Anya Taylor-Joy's face really sums it up: absolute horror, bewilderment, et cetera.