Save the Last Dance

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Save the Last Dance Movie Poster Image
Formulaic teen romance with an MTV spin.
  • PG-13
  • 2001
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.


Characters involved in violence, car crash, parental death.


Teen character has out of wedlock child, some sexual references.


Typical high school-style strong language, very strong language in soundtrack rap songs.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen characters drink and smoke, fake ID.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has strong language, and the soundtrack lyrics have even stronger language, including the "N" word. Chenille has an out of wedlock child (and a difficult relationship with the child's father). Derek has to decide whether his loyalty to an old friend (and his sense of guilt at the friend's having taken the rap for them both) means that he must go along with him when he plans to shoot someone. Characters object to the interracial romance, mostly because they are jealous. The characters buy fake IDs so they can go to a club that serves liquor, and they drink and smoke.

User Reviews

Parent of a 4 and 5 year old Written byjkirklewski April 6, 2009
This has been my favorite movie for the past 10 years!
Adult Written byjoshua martinez September 5, 2010

13 and up.

Save the Last Dance is a good teen-romance movie that deals with some themes such as race issues, relationships, and peer pressure only for your older teens and... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykiemii July 25, 2013

tenn years

i think this is an amazing movie and that everyone 13 and up should watch this movie at least once in their teen years.
Teen, 13 years old Written byemma29 December 12, 2009

Predictable teen movie is a simple flick

This movie is a pretty predictable teen-romance. There is a lot of bad language, a drive-by, and general gang-activity. Also, there is some teen drinking, smoki... Continue reading

What's the story?

SAVE THE LAST DANCE centers on Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles), a ballet dancer who is nervous about her big audition for Julliard. Her mother promises to be there, but she is killed in a car crash on the way to the theater. Sara moves from the suburbs to live with her dad (Terry Kinney) in a tiny apartment in Chicago's inner city. Her new high school has metal detectors, and almost all of the students are black. She's befriended by Chenille (Kerry Washington), whose brother Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) is a smart kid torn between his old friends who are increasingly involved in dangerous activities, and his ambitions to go to medical school. Chenille brings Sara to a dance club and Derek teaches Sara a little about hip hop. They become friends, then romantically involved. He finds out about her passion for ballet, and urges her to apply to Julliard again. Various complications ensue, and Sara, Chenille, and Derek have to confront their fears and think carefully about loyalty and trust. Ultimately, what Sara learns from Derek in dance and in life, helps her to follow her dream.

Is it any good?

Save the Last Dance is a formulaic coming of age/teen romance with an MTV spin (MTV co-produced the movie). While the script is below average, even by the low standards of this genre, its performers are attractive and sincere (Kerry Washington is particularly appealing) and most teens are still so new to this category of film that it may not seem clichéd to them.

This movie requires suspension of disbelief that is close to complete abandonment of any sense of reality -- characters who live in the poorest circumstances seem to have all the money they need to buy fake IDs or expensive tickets. Students who get good grades never seem to do any homework or have any books in their backpacks. A teenager with a baby never has a problem with child care. Still, no one goes to this movie to gain great insights about the human condition. It is nowhere near Grease or Flashdance in style, soundtrack, or dance, but it may appeal to teens who see it as one big music video.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the choices Sara and Derek must face. Sara blames herself for her mother's death. How does she overcome that feeling and allow herself to take the risk of auditioning again? How do Derek and Sara get into trouble by not being honest with each other about what is bothering them? How do they sort through their loyalties, Derek to his friend Malakai (Fredro Starr) and Sara to Chenille? Malakai tells Derek, "You act like you don't know who you are anymore." How do Sara and Derek decide who they are? Where do they find their support?

Movie details

For kids who love to dance

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate