A couple of films came out this summer where dance music, club culture and DJs were in the foreground of the story, which is a relatively rare occurrence. A lot of ink was spilled reacting to them, too. Whilst DJs and electronic producers have seldom been given such exposure in bigger budget movies, filmmakers have historically been very interested in using club spaces as pivotal settings for seductions, drug trips, benders, rom-com hijinks and criminal activity. Pick any genre, and there’s probably a movie in it with a good club scene. One could argue, for example, that even Pleasure Island from Pinocchio is just a stand-in for Vegas or Ibiza.
Here, we’ve rounded up some of the clubs in cinematic history that seem like they would be as fun to experience as they are to watch. Mind you, this is not an exhaustive list. Rather a subjective ‘greatest hits’. There are plenty of fictional clubs that would be on the bottom of our list of unreal places to visit: the disco in Last Days of Disco, the SF club playing Swedish House Mafia in The Social Network, the Outlander Club from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, or the tribal rave from Matrix Reloaded.
And, to be clear, this is not a list of clubs playing themselves – like Studio 54 in Studio 54 (which, by the by, if you’re going to watch, watch the darker, gayer recently released director’s cut), the Hacienda in 24 Hour Party People, NASA in Kids, First Avenue in Purple Rain, or Disco Fever in Krush Groove.
So, bust out your red party gels and grab your [insert era-appropriate drug]. This is Hollywood’s version of clubland cool.
The Blood Rave from Blade
While it doesn’t appear that this party is a proper club (it’s in a meat locker) and is more of an illegal one-off warehouse vibe sort of thing, we’re counting it. The promoters appear to service a pretty dedicated, niche vampire/heroine chic audience, and you’d have to assume the promoters are all vampires too. But they couldn’t keep it underground enough for the Daywalker to find out the address. It’s totally unsurprising that real life has imitated art when several actual promoters in Amsterdam and Los Angeles have staged their own blood raves in the past few years.
See also: The Titty Twister from From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
The Club from xXx
Keeping it in ravey territory, this first starring role for Vin Diesel is perhaps one of the most misleading film titles of all time. There is no hardcore sex. Instead, we have a hardcore convoluted plot which centers around an evil consortium called Anarchy 99 who uses a franchise of night clubs as their front. This scene was staged in a Czech electronic testing station, and features Orbital playing their track “Technologicque Park” while wearing those silly flashlight helmets.
Club Berlin from After Hours
There are certainly more well known Scorsese club scenes, but this might be the best one of his portraits of (the long gone) late night Manhattan of the eighties. The fascist punk hardcore club is perhaps the most insane stop in a night full of nightmares for After Hours‘ Paul Hackett. “Tonight is mohawk night. If you had a mohawk, you could come in.”
See also: The club scene featuring Powermad in Wild at Heart
The Club from Vibrations
Do you think it’s a coincidence that Daft Punk started donning robot helmets several years after the release of this beloved nineties cult piece of shit? If so, does that mean Vibrations is the most prescient film on techno futurism of all time? All hail Cyberstorm, our great white bionic hope.
The Club from Earth Girls Are Easy
Aliens-posing-as-humans Jim Carey and Damon Wayans are physical comedy geniuses and perhaps the best actual dancers on this list. This scene alone is better than all Step Up movies combined when it comes to battle dancing and future boogie.
See also: Kevin & Perry Go Large
The Club from Coming to America
Before Tinder and OKCupid, there was this thing called dating. And the club was a place to actually meet members of the desired sex. And sometimes it was really painful. This Eddie Murphy classic does pretty much everything right, and the movie is another love letter to a New York that has long since vanished.
Leisure Room from Outland
The vibes in this 1981 sci-fi space western are a bit ahead of their time. The film depicts a future where space miners on a moon of Jupiter start drug running space meth (because space meth helps you work longer and harder on an oxygen-depleted moon, of course). This scene in particular features some pretty serious proto-techno, courtesy of Jerry Goldsmith.
The Club from Belly
For your first feature film, you could do a lot worse than choosing (the original) acapella of Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)” over the top of Hype Williams’ dramatic, overcranked images and strobe lights depicting a violent murder-robbery. It’s even more effective that there’s almost no sound design, just that unmistakable vocal.
See also: Belly‘s Jamaican dancehall scenes, the strip club shootout in Omaha. Basically, just watch Belly.
The Club from Basic Instinct
Sometimes a nightclub is a space to visualize suspenseful/deadly love triangles, like in this Paul Verhoeven tour de force. The scene gets a lot of help from LaTour’s “Blue“, which sounds like a lot of house music coming out in 2015.
See also: The Crave Club from Showgirls
Hot Traxx from Boogie Nights
Though Hot Traxx was the name of an actual club in the Valley during the seventies, the real Hot Traxx was an under 21 club, so we’re thinking this is a nod-and-wink homage and not an actual depiction of a club for minors. The fictional Hot Traxx in P.T. Anderson’s breakout second feature is introduced with one of the flashiest opening shots of all time. It’s like Touch of Evil for the disco/sex worker set.
Babylon Club from Scarface
This whole movie helped define and influence cocaine as a full-blown aesthetic. Along with Blade Runner, it’s one of the most sampled films in human history, and has generated billions in college dorm poster sales. Michelle Pfeifer brings her sweet, frigid dance moves to rebuff Tony’s advances to the synth jams of Amy Holland’s “She’s on Fire“.
See also: El Paraíso from Carlito’s Way, Tech Noir from The Terminator
The Club from Robocop
A club is often the venue for tracking down a criminal (or person of interest), like in this goofy, borderline slapstick scene from dystopian classic Robocop, which features the funky goth EBM stylings of PTP, a side project of Ministry’s Alain Jourgensen. The scene was shot in the real life Starck Club, Dallas’ iconic eighties polysexual playground.
See also: Technoir from The Terminator, Club Fever from Collateral
The Club from Buckaroo Banzai
The eighties/fifties are in full swing in this Buckaroo Banzai jam in a New Jersey nightclub. There are at least three saxophones in this scene, and several machine guns. Buckaroo Banzai is a particle physicist, comic book character, neuroscientist, and his own Bruce Springsteen. There’s nothing Buckaroo Banzai can’t do. Nothing.
The Ink and Paint Club from Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The subtext is thick in this late eighties neo-noir classic. It’s a proper underground speak-easy which features vaudevillian performance/adult revue by cartoons for human patrons. Make of that what you will; this is still one of the best films about Los Angeles.
See also: The Slash Club from Cool World
The Loft Party from Party Girl
Featuring Cajmere’s mix of “U Got Me Up” by Dajaé, and a cameo by drag queen Natasha Twist, this scene epitomises nineties New York. Q: “What’s up, buttercup?” A: “The rent, and I’m not payin’.”
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