The 10 Best Talent Shows on Film


We’ve all been there — standing onstage, praying we don’t botch the random act of creativity we’re about to display. Sometimes a talent show’s audience will outrageously applaud our meticulously choreographed routine to the sweet grooves of Jamiroquai, and other times our Pirates of Penzance musical number will be sabotaged by our brother’s chants of “Brennan has a mangina!” Oh, that’s just in movies? Well, it could happen to anyone, right? Either way, talent shows are notoriously nerve-racking phenomena, and some of their most memorable and ridiculous representations have been immortalized in film. Kick back and read on for a roundup of jazz hands, noteworthy nerds, and uncomfortable silences; it’s talent show time.

Donnie Darko (2001)

In this Donnie Darko talent show scene, we’re graced with the interpretive dance stylings of Cherita Chen and, of course, a “Notorious” number by the one and only Sparkle Motion. Please excuse Donnie’s act of arson during the performance — sometimes we doubt his commitment to Sparkle Motion.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Here we find the world’s favorite llama-loving underdog dazzling his classmates with some token Napoleon Dynamite dance moves. We definitely would’ve voted for Pedro after witnessing this flawless “Canned Heat” choreography.

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

This climactic Revenge of the Nerds scene is exactly what all real and fictional talent shows should aspire to be. Lamar’s lyrics don’t lie — the Tri-Lambs certainly have a “rockin’ rhythm and a high-tech sound that’ll make you move your body down to the ground.”

That Thing You Do!(1996)

Without this pivotal talent show, the Oneders never would have stumbled into their livelier rendition of “That Thing You Do,” thus missing their opportunity for one-hit-wonder glory. Luckily, good ol’ “Shades” just can’t control himself. Bring on the Tom Hanks!

Mean Girls (2004)

Here’s a special scene for your holiday enjoyment, courtesy of the Plastics. They’re no Sparkle Motion, but Santa’s Helpers certainly know how to — uh, put on a show? Poor Gretchen Wieners; what she lacks in candy canes, she makes up for in clumsiness. They probably should have recruited Glenn Coco. You go, Glenn Coco.

Superstar (1999)

Sometimes, certain talents are unfortunately underrated. Take this scene from Superstar, for example. Maria’s just trying to do an innovative rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” when she’s cut short. It’s a shame — we really wanted to see where she was going with that.

The Little Rascals (1994)

Dear Waldo, you’re still the scum between our toes, but we’ll give you one thing — you’re quite the little showman. Get a load of those dance moves! Still, we probably would have chosen Alfalfa’s bubble ballad over this dweeb as our talent show winner. Or, better yet, that song about the pickles.

Step Brothers (2008)

Wouldn’t you like to watch Adam Scott lip syncing “Ice Ice Baby” in its entirety, or Will Ferrell doing a musical number about pirates? We would too, which is why we’re bummed that Adam McKay only teased us with super-short clips of their high-school talent show in Step Brothers.

About a Boy (2002)

In this About a Boy talent show scene, we find a baby Nicholas Hoult singing an über-awkward “Killing Me Softly” alongside Hugh Grant. What more could you want? Well, aside from a less harsh audience. Those kids are the worst.

Dirty Dancing (1987)

The best talent shows are the ones crashed by iconic dance numbers, right? In that case, we’ll end this list with the final scene of Dirty Dancing, where Patrick Swayze brings a divided community together through the power of his fancy-footed hip thrusts.