With the new Dirty Dancing sequel due in 2024, Baby is back and ready to get on the dance floor, so it’s only right that we make sure Baby doesn’t get put in a corner, and take a look at lead actress Jennifer Grey and her best work. Beginning with early 80’s movies, she has developed a successful career in film and TV, with noticeable recent roles in series like The Equalizer. Although she began her career with smaller roles, she slowly danced her way up the ladder and built herself a great reputation.
It wasn’t long before she began landing herself in breakthrough roles in films like 1986’s Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, which became a huge success. Only a year later, she starred in the iconic Dirty Dancing, a film which was made for $4.5 million and yet grossed $215 million at the box office (which amount to $542 million today when adjusted for inflation). It was also the very first movie to sell over a million copies on home media, and the film produced two multi-platinum soundtrack albums. It’s clear that the actress contributed to one of cinema’s biggest phenomenons, so let’s take a look at some of the best movies with Jennifer Grey.
Despite her lead roles, Gray still shines through even in a supporting role, like in 2008’s Keith. In the coming-of-age drama, Gray plays Caroline, mother of high-school student Natalie, who becomes smitten with her chemistry lab partner, Keith. She can’t stay away from him, but what she doesn’t know is that Keith is hiding a dark secret. Although Gray plays a supporting role, she still never fails to bring a spark to the screen and does a fantastic job. The film, co-written and directed by Blues Clues creator Todd Kessler, is certainly an odd one, but Gray is part of the reason why it’s developed a cult following.
In the romantic drama Wind, a sailor leads a crew to win the America’s Cup in a yacht race against an Australian crew. The film is a dramatization and slight fictionalization of the actual events surrounding the 1987 American Cup which took place off the port city of Fremantle in Australia. In the film, which has a wonderful cast despite being largely unheard-of today, Will (Matthew Modine) is determined to win the America’s Cup race after a harsh defeat years prior.
He convinces a millionaire (Cliff Robertson) to finance a boat constructed by Joe (Stellan Skarsgård), the new boyfriend of Will’s ex-girlfriend Kate (Jennifer Grey). Though she is beautiful in it, the movie didn’t shine Gray in the spotlight much for viewers, but critics appreciate the film, calling it exhilarating, and Grey’s performance should no doubt receive the same views.
5 A Case for Murder
In A Case for Murder, the murder of a lawyer spurs a defense attorney to take on the case and defending the prime suspect, the deceased’s wife. But when a new attorney joins the firm (Grey), and some dodgy behavior begins to appear, some suspicions come to the surface on who is the real killer. Smart, sophisticated, compelling and totally badass, we get to see a different side to Gray here in this entertaining TV movie; she’s a strong lead woman here, which is quite refreshing in this modern murder mystery.
4 Bloodhounds of Broadway
Released in the late 80s, Gray starred in the unique comedy drama musical Bloodhounds of Broadway, alongside Matt Dillon, Rutger Hauer, Randy Quaid, and Madonna. The film is based on four short stories, all of which include various different eccentric characters who are gamblers, showgirls, journalists, and musicians. Gray appeared as a showgirl who is in love with a gambler, even though he has only ever won one bet; not worth it really, isn’t it?
Despite the wonderful cast, the film received such negative reviews that it never expanded beyond the five theaters it was released in, earning only $44,000 off a $4 million budget. It’s a shame, because Gray’s beauty and talent definitely shines through, and the movie is available for free online.
3 Red Dawn
Jennifer Gray stars as Toni alongside Patrick Swayze in the classic action movie, Red Dawn. When Soviet soldiers begin to invade their town, a group of teenagers bands together and escape into the forest. They eventually decide that they should defend their town and country. Gray allowed herself to be raw and throws herself into a fierce and passionate character who is not afraid to put up a fight. One of the most compelling things about this movie is that we forget in the movie that these characters are really only kids. Gray plays alongside her other co-stars (including a 19-year-old Charlie Sheen) as youth who are scared, panicking, with no idea what they’re really doing, yet they are brave and ready to stand up and fight. They bring very emotional and fun performances to this exciting movie.
2 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Starring alongside Matthew Broderick, Gray stars in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (which is considered one of the best 80s coming of age films) as his ‘goody-two-shoes’ sister Jeannie, who stands back and watches in disappointment as he goes on a journey before graduation around Chicago. Grey’s character, despite being a supporting role, still takes part of the spotlight. She manages to understand the character’s emotions, feelings, and purpose in the story and tune into what makes them tick.
Jeannie is an interesting and fascinating character, and Gray does a brilliant job of bringing her to life, and even manages to get her own scenes right in the spotlight. Jeannie’s anger towards her brother is comedic and brings character to the entire movie, especially when she finds out he skipped school, and Gray brings various different angles out of Jeanie’s personality and puts on a fabulous performance. Her interactions at the police station and with Charlie Sheen are highlights of the entire film.
1 Dirty Dancing
In Dirty Dancing, Gray plays Baby, who is hoping to have the best summer of her life, which gets ruined by a family trip to a resort in the Catskills. However, when she meets dance instructor Johnny (Patrick Swayze), she might get the summer she hoped for laterally. Grey’s background in dancing helped her secure this role and everyone could rely on her for putting on the best performance she could.
It was worth it, as it was with her role as Baby that she received a nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. Not to mention that the movie went down in history as a lovable, romantic, saucy, and just brilliant movie. A quasi-sequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights was released later, but everyone is most excited about seeing Gray return in the Dirty Dancing sequel.