Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Saturday Night Fever (1977)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

In director John Badham's melodramatic, out-dated, coming-of-age disco dance classic, a defining 70s dance film that was the biggest musical sensation and blockbuster of the late 1970's (from co-producer Robert Stigwood); it was adapted by screenwriter Norman Wexler from Nik Cohn's New York Magazine story "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night"; the musical drama-dance film featured one of the most famous and successful song soundtracks in film history, and was responsible for the Disco Craze phenomenon, launching hot disco clubs (like Studio 54) and the film super-stardom of then 23-year old John Travolta, previously best known as one of the Sweathogs of the television sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter:

  • in the memorable opening scene, under the credits, a conflicted, 19 year-old, teenaged, self-centered, working-class Italian-American anti-hero from Brooklyn, swaggering Anthony "Tony" Manero (a star-making role for John Travolta with the film's sole Oscar nomination) strutted down the sidewalk (with a close-up of his footsteps) to the lyrics of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive": "Oh, you can tell by the way I walk / I'm a woman's man, no time to talk"; he worked in a lowly, dead-end job as a clerk in the paint department of a local hardware store, and thus was swinging a paint can
  • the not-very-bright Tony lived at home with his oppressive, suffocating, and verbally-abusive blue-collar family, including his alcoholic father Frank, Sr. (Val Bisoglio) and overbearing mother Flo (Julie Bovasso), his foreign-language speaking Grandmother (Nina Hansen), and his younger sister Linda (Lisa Peluso); he was often downgraded as the 'black sheep' of the family in comparison to his older brother - Roman Catholic priest Frank, Jr (Martin Shakar)
  • after dark (and especially on Friday and Saturday nights), however, Tony became the dynamic, undisputed disco-dancing king and legend of a local nightclub (the 2001 Odyssey); since it was a Friday night after work, in front of a mirror, Tony primped and preened before leaving for the disco
  • with his gang of loutish, uneducated and unambitious friends, including Joey (Joseph Call), Double J. (Paul Pape), and young Bobby C. (Barry Miller), Tony entered the disco dance hall personifying royalty, and oozing macho sexual virility and arrogance; Manero sought escape from his desperate plight of a boring and staid home life and low-life friends by finding recognition on the dance floor
  • Tony noted that he regarded dancing as a sacramental discipline that he had perfected into an art form, rather than as a mating ritual: "You make it with some of these chicks, they think you gotta dance with 'em" - a reversal of the normal sexual dynamic between males and females
  • one of the regulars at the 2001 club was slightly chubby Annette (Donna Pescow), Tony's most adoring, on again/off-again, admiring girlfriend who wanted the two of them to partner up for the Odyssey's dance competition; Tony's troubled character, with flashes of racism, immaturity, obnoxiousness, and misogyny, was evident in his frequent sexual abuse and disregard for Annette; he rejected her many offers when she wanted to have sex with him
Tony's Ardent But Rejected Admirer Annette (Donna Pescow)
Tony's First Views of White-Dressed Dancer Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney): At the Night Club and at the Dance Studio
  • Tony's upward-striving class aspirations were reflected in his choice of dance partners; Tony caught a glimpse of another very skilled and talented dancer in a white dress, Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney), and quickly became impressed by her
  • one of the film's dance highlights was Tony's line dancing to the tune of the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" while a fog machine filled the dance floor with smoke - and then on another weekend, Tony brilliantly solo-danced to the Bee Gees' tune: "You Should Be Dancing" when the appreciative crowd cleared the floor to watch him perform by himself; it was a spectacular number, with the studly Tony (decked out in a wide-collared shirt with platform shoes and flared pants) gyrating and hip-swiveling on a pulsating color-tiled dance floor of the 2001 Odyssey club under a twinkling disco ball
  • when Tony was able to have a substantial conversation with Stephanie in the Phillips' Dance Studio and at a restaurant, he learned that she was working her way up in a show business agency in Manhattan, and was more independent-minded, cool-headed and intelligent than all of his previous female friends; she wanted to keep him at arm's length and only remain professional ("nothing personal...I don't wantcha comin' on to me"). She didn't want to socially fraternize with Tony (because of their cultural and emotional differences, his young age, his class-lessness, his lack of direction in life, and his social immaturity). She bluntly told him: "You're a cliche. You're nowhere on your way to no place" - but then she accepted his offer to partner with him for the club's city-wide dance contest, although he had already promised Annette to pair up with him and had practiced with her; he admitted that beyond the club and dancing, now that he was getting older, he also had aspirations to get a "high" elsewhere: "Dancin' - it can't last forever, it's a short-lived kinda thing"
  • late one evening, Tony's gang and Annette drove to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge (a symbol of the link to a better life between the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn and the more suburban, upscale area of Staten Island), where some of them climbed up the support cables and pretended to fall in daredevil stunts to frighten Annette - a foreshadowing of a future tragic disaster
  • after Tony was fired (only temporarily) from his job for requesting an afternoon off, he assisted Stephanie when she was moving into a new NYC townhouse; there, she happened to encounter her older benefactor - record producer Jay Langhart (Donald Gantry), with whom she had been having an affair; he had supportively helped to boost her career, but had moved on and dropped her; Tony expressed his jealousy toward Stephanie's choice of the older man in order to get ahead
  • the climactic musical highlight was the club's dance competition, with teams from around the city competing for the $500 prize; during Tony (wearing a white-suit and black shirt) and Stephanie's performance (to the tune of "More Than a Woman"), they paused mid-dance for a spontaneous lengthy kiss, thereby throwing off their routine's timing; Tony appeared dejected and feared they had lost the competition, but because they were on their home turf, the fans cheered them on and they were awarded first prize
  • following the awards, Tony astounded everyone by complaining about the "rigged" outcome, expressing how he believed the judges' decision was racially-motivated, and that he didn't deserve to win; he felt that a Puerto Rican couple who performed the Mambo (and placed second) were better dancers, and handed over his trophy and award money to them
  • then as he departed with Stephanie, the incensed Tony ordered her into the back seat of a car, called her a "cock-tease," and attempted - unsuccessfully - to rape her, but she prevented him by kicking him in the groin before running off
  • later that evening, Tony joined his intoxicated buddies with Annette, who was double-raped by Joey and then Double J. in the back seat of their car as they drove to visit the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge; Bobby C. had become very depressed and desperate after impregnating his devout Catholic girlfriend Pauline, and was faced with eveyone pressuring him to get married; to prove himself, he carelessly and recklessly performed dare-devil stunts on the bridge cables and beams, slipped, and fell to his death (it was either an accident or suicide?); he plummeted into the water many hundreds of feet below, presumably breaking his neck or skull with the impact
Bobby's Accidental and Fatal Fall
  • Bobby C.'s death proved to be a significant crossroads in Tony's coming-of-age - he spent the entire remainder of the night (riding on the subway and ending up in Manhattan) while he contemplated leaving his old life (of fleeting dancing prowess on Saturday nights with his moronic "asshole" friends) and choosing a new life and future of work in the city with Stephanie
  • early the following morning, Tony visited Stephanie in her new apartment to apologize for his behavior, and she also apologized for her treatment of him; he attempted to reestablish a new relationship with her as "friends," and although he wanted a romantic-sexual relationship with her, she reinterated to him that she still wanted to be friends only; she admitted that she admired him and accepted his plan to leave Brooklyn and relocate in Manhattan to begin a new life

Opening Credits Sequence

Tony Manero (John Travolta) Preening and Priming Before Mirror Before Night at the Disco

Tony's Italian-American Family at Dinner

Tony Entering Disco Club, 2001 Odyssey

Tony's Gang of Buddies: (l to r): Bobby C., Double J., and Joey

With Stephanie at the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge

Tony's Line Dancing: "Night Fever"

Dance Practice with Stephanie at Studio

Tony's Solo Dancing at the Club: "You Should Be Dancing"

Club's Dance Contest: with Stephanie (with Kiss)

After Bobby's Death, Tony's All-Night Subway Ride

Ending Conversation with Stephanie


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z