Take the Lead

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Take the Lead Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
NYC high schoolers saved by ballroom dancing.
  • PG-13
  • 2006
  • 117 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Kids fight, resist authority, behave sullenly in repsonse to dance teacher's entreaties; teacher's bicycle is stolen (and at film's end, replaced); kids learn mutual respect; widowed teacher learns to open his heart to romance.


Movie includes several violent scenes, including an opening fistfight at a high school dance; an attack on a car with a bar; boy pulls a gun at the end and is beaten by his angry crew (slightly bloody imagery here).


Dancing is often sexualized (especially tango, salsa, and some hip-hop styles); an older man tries to seduce his girlfriend's adolescent daughter; romantic kissing by featured high school couple; the sight of an interracial couple dancing upsets white girl's mother.


Mild language by kids and also by the principal (dance teacher is very proper): one f-word; a couple of uses of s-word, "hell," and "damn," plus gender/sexual slang ("punk ass," "p---y," "ass") and other colorful phrasing ("screwed up," "I suck").

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One boy's parents are alcoholics; another deals drugs; reference to "crack dealer."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film includes some images of violence, as well as references to painful past deaths (two kids' siblings were killed in gang violence). A frustrated boy smashes his principal's car with a bar; a gun is drawn near the film's end, and a crew who deals drugs and stolen materials beats up their reluctant member (some blood visible on his face, as he finally makes it to the ballroom competition). The dancing is sometimes very formal, often very sexualized (especially the tango, salsa, and hip-hop moves). Characters deal drugs, threaten violence, smoke cigarettes, and drink.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008

Great Moves & Great Message

Loved It! What fun...we laughed, clapped, and groved throughout. My 14-year-old daughter, her 15-year-old friend, and I LOVED IT! Language was a problem for me... Continue reading
Adult Written byEverydayJoe April 9, 2008

Loved it.

Great dance moves and a lot of positive perspectives about life. My wife and daughter loved it as much as I did.
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

The best movie ever!

This is the best movie ever! In this movie, a real-life story teacher teaches ballroom dancing. Problem is, the kids are rebellious and it is hard to get them t... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybiovox14 December 14, 2016

Great movie funny, and overall great.

This is a great movie and inspite of some sensual dancing, the content wasn't that bad either:) Its heart warming, it'll make you smile, might even ge... Continue reading

What's the story?

In TAKE THE LEAD, New York ballroom dancing teacher Pierre (Antonio Banderas) begins teaching a group of troubled high school students. He's first stymied, then embraced by the flinty-then-warm principal (Alfre Woodard). Though his students -- assigned to detention hall for various infractions -- resist his initial efforts to "express themselves" through dance (and especially, disdain his romantic oldies music), they do come to appreciate his dedication, and the fact that he brings in one of his upscale, white, and very snobby students, Morgan (Katya Virshilas), to show the proper execution of the tango. The boys' eyes predictably pop ("It's like sex on hardwood!") and the girls appreciate Morgan's deft athleticism. Pierre and his toughest student, Rock (Rob Brown), test one another, learn to trust one another, and come up with a mutually respectful relationship by film's end.

Is it any good?

Liz Friedlander's fiction film is well-meaning and energetic. It skews older than the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom (though both are inspired by the same NYC program), and features more acrobatic camerawork and slicker editing. This means the movie grants the kids an inevitable endpoint: an entertaining dance competition where they combine hip-hop and ballroom strategies.

Yet while Rock is "developed" in relation to several characters, most of the students never get out from under their initial stereotypes. The film alludes to the students' complex lives and "issues" but they're resolved in the fiction more simplistically than are the younger kids' dilemmas in the documentary. And the Michelle Pfeiffer plot is corny. Even the diligent, compassionate widower Pierre gets a girlfriend by the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the options available for the dance students. How might their dance training help them in other aspects of their lives (getting a job, looking after children and parents, continuing their educations)? How does the film set up a connection between their home-life conflicts and their work in the dance class?

Movie details

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