Save the Last Dance

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 character played by Stiles, train for a dance audition. A direct-to-video sequel, Save the Last Dance 2, was released in 2006.

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


Seventeen-year-old Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles), a promising ballet dancer in suburban Chicago, hopes to be admitted to Juilliard School and invites 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 (Terry Kinney), a jazz musician who plays the trumpet at nightclubs. She also transfers to a majority-black high school, where she is one of a handful of white students, but quickly befriends Chenille Reynolds (Kerry Washington), a teenage single mother who is having relationship problems with an ex-boyfriend named Kenny (Garland Whitt). 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 attending Georgetown University to become a pediatrician. He decides to help Sara develop her dancing skills by incorporating more hip hop into her style. He 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 (Bianca Lawson) interrupts the two 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 (Fredro Starr), who is heavily into 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 for it, as well as explaining his true reasons for dumping Nikki. Remorseful for 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 him 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 decides to bail on Malakai to attend Sara's audition, arriving at a crucial point in her 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 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.



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.[2]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on DVD and VHS on June 19, 2001.[3]


As of January 2021 (the month and year the movie turns 20 years), the film holds a 53% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 99 reviews with an average rating of 5.47/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "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:

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.[6]

Opera-trained singer and social commentary YouTuber Khadija Mbowe posted a video about the movie in October of 2020, titled "The white gaze of Save the Last Dance." In the video, Mbowe criticized the movie for its stereotyping of African American characters and its use of African American characters to "prop up" Sara's character:

I get that she's the protagonist and that's why everyone else ... (they) are just subplots to prop this white woman up and they use an entirely Black cast to do it. And that's where I have an issue with the film ... Anytime in the film she pushes back and has attitude or can do a two-step or something, people are like "Yes, girl!" ... And I just noticed this thing; whenever white women do certain things that - at least in this film - are attributed to Black culture or Blackness - the same things that they demonize Black women for doing - if a white woman does it, people are like, "Ooh, girl!"[7]


  • 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.


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’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.[8]

Allmusic rated the soundtrack three out of five stars.[9] RapReviews rated it three and a half out of ten.[10]

  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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Save the Last Dance (2001) - Financial Information". Archived from the original on 2017-04-26.
  2. ^ Save the Last Dance (2001) Archived 2012-05-08 at the Wayback Machine, Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-07-12.
  3. ^ Tribbey, Ralph (March 30, 2001). "Paramount Delivers 'Last Dance' on DVD". Archived from the original on April 20, 2001. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  4. ^ "Save the Last Dance". Archived from the original on January 25, 2021.
  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. ^ The white gaze of Save the Last Dance | Khadija Mbowe, retrieved 2021-06-23
  8. ^ "Winners Database | American Music Awards". American Music Awards. Archived from the original on 2018-05-10. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  9. ^ Save the Last Dance at AllMusic
  10. ^ "various artists :: Save the Last Dance :: Hollywood Records". Archived from the original on 2010-01-30.

External linksEdit