Footloose is a 1984 American musical drama film directed by Herbert Ross. It tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), an upbeat Chicago teen who moves to a small town in which, as a result of the efforts of a local minister (John Lithgow), dancing and rock music have been banned.
The film is loosely based on actual events that took place in the small, rural, and religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma.
Ren McCormack, a teenager raised in Chicago, moves with his 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. Reverend 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 decides to challenge the anti-dancing ordinance so that the senior class can hold a senior prom. He 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 Ren’s proposal. 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, telling him, “Shaw, it’s 20 years now I’ve been a minister’s wife. And I’ve been quiet, supportive, unobtrusive; and after 20 years I still think you’re a wonderful, wonderful preacher. You can lift a congregation up so high they have to look down to see Heaven. But it’s the one-to-one where you need a little work.”
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 has had sexual relations, Moore cannot bring himself to change his stance. His son Bobby was killed in a car crash while returning from a night of dancing, resulting in Moore’s arranging to ban music and dancing in the community. 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 book-burning, rebukes the people, and sends them home.
The following Sunday, Moore asks his congregation to pray for the high school students putting on the prom, which is set up at a grain mill just outside the Bomont town limits. 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, Ariel, Willard, and Rusty rejoin the party and happily dance the night away.