As Dirty Dancing celebrates its 25th anniversary, the Stylist team visit the 10 (slightly) embarrassing films we'll always love
Show us a woman who doesn’t love Dirty Dancing and we’ll show you a liar. If there’s someone who isn’t charmed by a film in which a studious 17-year-old girl loses her virginity to Patrick Swayze (Johnny) while Cry To Me is playing on his record player before taking part in the best movie dance sequence ever, then Stylist hasn’t met them.
As it’s the 25th anniversary of the film, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about Dirty Dancing. It kickstarted an office debate about the films which should incite embarrassment but which we love too much to care. Oh, the furore! The debate swallowed up an entire afternoon as we fired off emails arguing the merits of Pretty Woman over Mystic Pizza. And this is from a group of women whose interests are usually pretty highbrow. But as our fashion director admitted she can quote all of Mean Girls and our production editor revealed that Ghost makes her cry huge, gulping sobs, it became clear that there are some films which may have gone unnoticed by the critics but have more lifelong impact on us that any Oscar winner. Unsurprisingly, Dirty Dancing topped our list…
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Alix Walker, associate editor
I’d love to say my favourite film is Jean De Florette or something else which sounds a bit French, but I will never be that person. Nope, I am the person whose life was changed by Dirty Dancing. I’ve watched it at least 200 times since my eight-year- old self found the VHS hidden in my mum’s bag, and on every single occasion the following defining moments in cinematic history make me feel just as giddy as the first time: the immortal line, “I carried a watermelon”; the glimpse of Swayze’s bum; the lift; when Doctor Houseman says “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong – you looked wonderful out there”. I’ll still watch it when I’m 80 and think the same thing: it’s the best film of all time.
Grease ( 1978)
Collette Lyons, features editor
Hidden away in the back of my wardrobe is a black, sweetheart neckline body and a pair of black leggings: my favourite outfit, 1990-1991. Inappropriate for a 10-year-old perhaps (I whined constantly until my mum agreed), but I wore this Sandy-goes-bad get-up for a whole summer at the height of my Grease obsession. I’ve since interviewed the film’s costume designer – scream! – who confided that Olivia Newton-John felt the same way about that combo: she nicked the skintight trousers that marked her transformation from goodygoody to goddess. I daydreamed that I was a pupil at Rydell High, not our Lady of Lourdes, Southgate. I wanted Frenchie to do my hair and a Thunderbird to wolf-whistle at me, and to spin a love-letter around emotively in a paddling pool. But most of all, I wanted to wear Sandy’s big hoop earrings and red patent mules while stubbing out a cigarette and drawling “Tell me about it, stud”. But Mum said she had to draw the line somewhere, sadly.
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Debbie McQuoid, entertainment editor
When Helen Fielding’s book came out in 1996, there’d never been a protagonist like Bridget. Ever. Pissed up on chardonnay in her PJs and obsessed with her weight. I couldn’t wait for the film. At a Belfast cinema, my sister and I nodded along with the lakes of wine drank. We were Bridget. I know I shouldn’t still like it – Bridget is needy and the calorie counting and self-indulgence are horrible – but when I see it now (every Christmas), those were halcyon days when support knickers and waxing were still unusual and not the norm. I still don’t know how she afforded that London flat on a publishing assistant’s salary, though…
Mean Girls (2004)
Anita Bhagwandas, beauty assistant
Every time I talk about my school, I follow it with, “And it was just like Mean Girls.” There was a Regina George, the evil dictator who existed solely to make everyone miserable and herself look better. She even looked like Regina, with golden locks and an army of ‘skanks.’ Sadly, she was not hit by a bus, and now lives in a semi-detached in Surrey. Still, Mean Girls signalled the change from generic chick-flick to spit-your-drink-out comedy – with female characters holding central comic roles and spouting eminently quotable lines. But by far the best thing is seeing LiLo in her prime, before the LA lifestyle and injectable fillers ravaged her. I still hope she’ll regain her Mean Girls glory.
Pretty Woman (1990)
Joanna McGarry, beauty director
Pretty Woman isn’t a film. It’s a rite of passage. The ultimate bad-girlgone- good, rags-to-riches story, it’s full of Nineties excess, stoic women and thigh-high PVC stiletto boots – all with the reassuring backstory of social mobility. At 15, I spent an entire weekend watching it on a loop. Oddly, it gave me hope. If a hustling LA prostitute down to her last dime can find true love (with a stinking rich lawyer) and graduate from the street to the upper echelons of opera, cocktail parties and fancy boutiques, then surely I could too. Plus, it contains the most satisfying put-down ever delivered on celluloid: “Big mistake. Big. Huge!” And don’t even get me started on the soundtrack.
Amy Adams, acting sub editor
I was 10 when Ghost came out so mum snuck my friends and me into the cinema two years before we were legally allowed. I should have been grateful but instead we ditched her in the middle row for the ‘cool’ seats at the front. When I die those nasty demons will be coming for me… Ghost has it all – sex (I’ve hungered for your, er, clay-covered touch…), violence (from subway poltergeists to window pane impalement) and mystic Oda Mae Brown to offer laughs between the sobs. Best of all, it’s a love story. Things go a bit weird when Sam kisses Molly via Whoopi Goldberg, but few movie couples can rival Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze.
Mystic Pizza (1988)
Anna Fielding, editor, Emerald Street and stylist.co.uk
Sometimes, when the wine is in my veins, I still try to get taxis by shaking out my hair and raising a thumb. It’s a teen habit, shouting “Mystic Pizza taxi!” and copying Julia Roberts’ hitchhiking trick. Set in a small US fishing town, Mystic Pizza isn’t glamorous. It focuses on three working-class waitresses in a pizza parlour (you’d find versions of all three in remote towns right now) but it’s so rare for film drama to turn on such normal problems: men, class, small business funding. It’s even rarer for that film to be charming, moving and gleefully funny.
Francesca Brown, production editor
The first time I watched Clueless on video (yes, video), my Federico Fellini-loving dad came into the room and shook his head. “No,” I shouted. “You don’t understand! It’s based on Jane Austen.” It’s true! What looks like vacuous eye candy is in fact one of the greatest films ever made. To the Clueless uninitiated I have one thing to say: you’re missing out. It’s the film that gave us “boy time” (the number of days it takes for men to answer any straightforward dating request), the world’s most covetable closet (not the clothes – the actual structure of the moving wardrobe) and the universal ‘wave arm movement’ (done to the line “rollin’ with my homies”). I may have first watched it when fur (sorry, faux) backpacks were a good idea, but Clueless stands the test of time and mostly thanks to one thing: The Greatest Cast Of All Time. Alicia Silverstone is brilliant as the well-meaning if superficial idiot Cher while the mesmerising late Brittany Murphy (sob!) is at her most charming as Tai, who goes from gawky new girl to contender for Cher’s crown. It’s a gem.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Olivia Phillips, senior fashion assistant
Being a… cough… natural blonde myself, Legally Blonde is a celluloid manifesto for me and my people. A saccharine, bedazzled manifesto, but still something to live by. In fact, it’s the movie equivalent of Dolly Parton’s gag: “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb… and I also know I’m not blonde.” It’s also set in that theatre of dreams, The American Sorority, has a brilliant ‘I’ll show him’ montage and contains tons of pink. Three solid reasons to have seen the musical and own the Collector’s DVD box set. That’s films one and two. I’ll stop now.
Top Gun (1986)
Susan Riley, deputy editor
The flight suits, the white suits, the tension-filled locker rooms… My Top Gun VHS took a battering for the music alone. Boys wanted to be Maverick (gum chewing, aviators, need for speed). Girls just wanted to do that tongue thing he and Kelly McGillis get down to in silhouette. When frosty-tipped Val Kilmer isn’t snapping his teeth suggestively, McGillis is nearly throwing her back out as she tells Tom to “Take me to bed or lose me forever”. But nothing, nothing, beats the volleyball. Every high-fiving, sand-diving topless second of it. Kelly won’t even let Tom shower afterwards because she’s cooked a salad and is hungry. Take that, feminism.