The film is loosely based on events that took place in the small, rural, and religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma.
It's 1984. Ren McCormack, a teenager raised in Chicago, moves with his newly divorced mother to the small town of Bomont to live with his aunt and uncle. Soon after arriving, Ren befriends Willard Hewitt, and from him learns the city council has banned dancing and rock music. He soon begins to fall for a rebellious teenage girl named Ariel, who has an abusive boyfriend, Chuck Cranston, and a strict father, Shaw Moore, who is a reverend of the local church.
After trading insults with Chuck, Ren is challenged to a game of chicken involving tractors. Ren wins when his shoelace becomes stuck and prevents him from jumping from the tractor. Rev. Moore distrusts Ren, and he grounds Ariel, forbidding her to see him. Ren and his classmates want to do away with the no-dancing law and have a senior prom. He drives Ariel, Willard, and Ariel's best friend, Rusty, to a country bar about 100 miles away from Bomont to experience the joy and freedom of dancing, but once there, Willard is unable to dance and gets into a jealous fight with a man who dances with Rusty. Later, Ren teaches Willard to dance.
Ren goes before the city council and reads several Bible verses to cite scriptural support for the worth of dancing to rejoice, exercise, or celebrate. Although Reverend Moore is moved, the council votes against him. Vi, Moore's wife, is supportive of the movement and explains to Moore that he cannot be everyone's father and that he is hardly being a father to Ariel. She also says that dancing and music are not the problem. Moore feels betrayed that even his wife does not believe in him even though she assures him that she always did.
Despite further discussion with Ren about his own family losses in comparison to Moore's losses and Ariel's opening up about her own sinful past, even going so far as to admit that she is not a virgin, Moore cannot bring himself to change his stance because his son Bobby was killed in a car crash, resulting in banning music and dancing in the community. Soon, however, he has a change of heart after seeing some of the townsfolk burning books that they think are dangerous to the youth. Realizing the situation has gotten out of hand, Moore stops the burning.
The following Sunday, Moore asks his congregation to pray for the high school students putting on the prom, which is set up in the warehouse of a grain mill just outside the town's boundaries. Shaw and Vi listen outside, dancing for the first time in years. Chuck and his friends arrive and start a fight with Willard, who with Ren knocks them out. Ren, Willard, Rusty, and Ariel go back into the transformed warehouse and joyously dance the night away.Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormack
Lori Singer as Ariel Moore
Dianne Wiest as Vi Moore
John Lithgow as Reverend Shaw Moore
Sarah Jessica Parker as Rusty
Chris Penn as Willard Hewitt
Frances Lee McCain as Ethel McCormack
Jim Youngs as Chuck Cranston
John Laughlin as Woody
Lynne Marta as Lulu Warnicker
Douglas Dirkson as Burlington Cranston
Dean Pitchford wrote the screenplay (and most of the lyrics) for Footloose, Herbert Ross directed the movie, and Paramount Pictures co-produced and distributed it.
Michael Cimino was hired by Paramount to direct the film when negotiations with Ross initially stalled. After four months working on the film, the studio fired Cimino, who was making extravagant demands for the production, including demanding an additional $250,000 for his work, and ended up rehiring Ross.
Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were both slated to play the lead. The casting directors were impressed with Cruise because of the famous underwear dance sequence in Risky Business, but he was unavailable for the part because he was filming All the Right Moves. Lowe auditioned three times and had dancing ability and the "neutral teen" look that the director wanted, but injury prevented him from taking the part. Bacon had been offered the main role for the Stephen King movie Christine at the same time that he was asked to do the screen test for Footloose. He chose to take the gamble on the screen test. After watching his earlier movie Diner, the director convinced the producers to go with Bacon.
The film also starred Lori Singer as Reverend Moore's independent daughter Ariel, a role for which Madonna also auditioned. Daryl Hannah turned down the offer to play Ariel in order to play Madison in Splash. Elizabeth McGovern turned down the role to play Deborah Gelly in Once Upon a Time in America. Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rosanna Arquette, Meg Tilly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Heather Locklear, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jodie Foster, Phoebe Cates, Tatum O'Neal, Bridget Fonda, Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane and Brooke Shields were all considered for the role of Ariel. Dianne Wiest appeared as Vi, the Reverend's devoted yet conflicted wife.
The film featured an early film appearance by Sarah Jessica Parker as Ariel's friend Rusty, for which she received a Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama nomination at the Sixth Annual Youth in Film Awards. It was also an early role for Chris Penn as Willard Hewitt, who is taught how to dance by his friend Ren.
The film was shot at various locations in Utah County, Utah. The high school and tractor scenes were filmed in and around Payson and Payson High School. The church scenes were filmed in American Fork and the steel mill was the Geneva Steel mill. The drive-in scenes were filmed in Provo at what was then the "High Spot" restaurant. The restaurant closed in the late 1980s and there is now an auto parts store located at 200 N 500 W. The final sequence was filmed in Lehi with the Lehi Roller Mills featured in the final sequence.
For his dance scene in the warehouse, Bacon said he had four stunt doubles: "I had a stunt double, a dance double [Peter Tramm] and two gymnastics doubles."
The soundtrack was released in cassette, 8-track tape, vinyl, and CD format. The soundtrack was also re-released on CD for the 15th anniversary of the film in 1999. The re-release included four new songs: "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)" by Quiet Riot, "Hurts So Good" by John Mellencamp, "Waiting for a Girl Like You" by Foreigner, and the extended 12" remix of "Dancing in the Sheets".
The soundtrack includes five rock singles—the title song, "Footloose" and "I'm Free", both by Kenny Loggins, "Holding Out for a Hero" by Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler, "Girl Gets Around" by Sammy Hagar, and "Never" by Australian rock band Moving Pictures (the song played during Bacon's solo dance scene); three singles—"Let's Hear It for the Boy" by Deniece Williams, "Somebody's Eyes" by Karla Bonoff, and "Dancing in the Sheets" by Shalamar; and the love theme "Almost Paradise" by Mike Reno from Loverboy and Ann Wilson of Heart. Some of the songs were composed by Eric Carmen and Jim Steinman and the soundtrack went on to sell over 9 million copies in the USA.
The first two tracks both hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received 1985 Academy Award nominations for Best Music (Original Song). "Footloose" also received a 1985 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Song – Motion Picture.
The late film composer Miles Goodman has been credited for adapting and orchestrating the film's score.
In the 2007 film Hot Rod, the protagonist, Rod Kimbledo (Andy Samberg), performs a parody dance solo of Bacon's frustration-venting punchdance.
The film received mixed reviews, holding a 54% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 37 reviews, with the critics consensus: "There's not much dancing, but what's there is great. The rest of the time, Footloose is a nice hunk of trashy teenage cheese."
Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert called it "a seriously confused movie that tries to do three things, and does all of them badly. It wants to tell the story of a conflict in a town, it wants to introduce some flashy teenage characters, and part of the time it wants to be a music video." Dave Denby in New York rechristened the film "Schlockdance", writing: "Footloose may be a hit, but it's trash - high powered fodder for the teen market... The only person to come out of the film better off is the smooth-cheeked, pug-nosed Bacon, who gives a cocky but likeable Mr. Cool performance."
Jane Lamacraft reassessed the film for Sight and Sound's "Forgotten pleasures of the multiplex" feature in 2010, writing "Nearly three decades on, Bacon's vest-clad set-piece dance in a flour mill looks cheesily 1980s, but the rest of Ross's drama wears its age well, real song-and-dance joy for the pre-Glee generation."
Despite mixed critical reviews, the film grossed $80,035,403 domestically.2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
"Footloose" – #96
2006: AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – Nominated
In 1998, a musical version of Footloose premiered. Featuring many of the songs from the film, the show has been presented on London's West End, on Broadway, and elsewhere. The musical is generally faithful to the film version, with some slight differences in the story and characters.
Paramount announced plans to fast-track a musical remake of Footloose. The remake was written and directed by Craig Brewer.
Paramount revealed the full cast on June 22, 2010, with Kenny Wormald as Ren McCormick, Julianne Hough as Ariel, Miles Teller as Willard, and Dennis Quaid as Rev. Shaw Moore. It is set in the fictional town of Bomont, Georgia, and was filmed in Georgia.
Filming started in September 2010. It was budgeted at $25 million. The release date was October 14, 2011. Its domestic gross was $51 million.