One of the most iconic romantic movies in cinematic history is Dirty Dancing, and the Dirty Dancing ending is what makes the film such a classic. A coming-of-age story, Dirty Dancing follows Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) while she spends summer vacation at a resort in the Catskills with her father, mother, and sister. That summer, she meets a dance instructor named Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), and the two fall for one another despite their different economic backgrounds. Through Johnny and Baby’s relationship and how it affects the supporting characters, the movie explores themes of classism, first loves, sexuality, and courage.
While Dirty Dancing has multiple memorable scenes and dance sequences, the most popular scene is without a doubt the movie’s finale. In the climactic scene, Johnny returns to the resort after being fired for having a relationship with Baby. In front of all the resort staff and guests, Baby and Johnny perform a dance to the song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. During the performance, Baby is brave enough to complete the lift dance move, showcasing her transformation and completing her coming-of-age journey. Even though the ending scene in Dirty Dancing is a classic, it does leave the future of the characters up to the interpretation of viewers.
The Future Of Johnny & Baby’s Relationship Is Ambiguous At The End Of Dirty Dancing
In the final scenes of Dirty Dancing, multiple storylines come to a conclusion. Baby embraces her relationship with Johnny and her newfound confidence while Johnny stands up for himself against the resort’s owner, Max (Jack Weston). The final image of Dirty Dancing presents one of unity as the resort’s entertainment staff and upper-class guests are all dancing together. While romantic films will sometimes give a concrete ending of what happens to a couple, Dirty Dancing does not. The ambiguity of the Dirty Dancing ending matches that of a coming-of-age story, and the characters are left at a jumping-off point that could go anywhere.
At the start of Dirty Dancing, Baby plans to join the Peace Corps after attending Mount Holyoke College. Baby’s age in Dirty Dancing is never stated, though it can be assumed that she is either 17 or 18 years old since she is about to start college. Johnny does not have long-term career plans, and he works as a dance instructor and other jobs to make ends meet. At first, it appears like Baby and Johnny have nothing in common. Once they fall in love, they encourage each other to be the best versions of themselves. Having changed over the course of the summer, it is unclear if Baby and Johnny will stick to their original plans or if they will set out on new paths.
How Johnny Finally Earns The Respect Of Baby’s Father
Even though the characters’ futures are left up to interpretation at the end of Dirty Dancing, the writers hint that Baby and Johnny were serious about wanting a future together. When they first start a romance, Baby and Johnny keep it a secret because Baby’s father Jake (Jerry Orbach) thinks Johnny got Penny (Cynthia Rhodes) pregnant. Johnny confronts Baby over hiding him from her father. During the argument, he refers to himself as Baby’s “guy” and he shares his concern that Baby will never let their relationship be public. This declaration from Johnny demonstrates his intention to have a serious relationship with Baby.
Once Johnny returns to the resort for the final dance, he finally earns the approval of Baby’s father. Before the iconic final dance scene in Dirty Dancing, Jake found out that Robbie (Max Cantor) was the one who got Penny pregnant and that he abandoned her afterward. Realizing that Johnny took responsibility for Penny and took the blame away from Robbie, Jake earns respect for him and admits to Johnny that he was wrong. With Johnny having the approval of Baby’s father, the insecurities he had about his relationship with Baby are resolved by the end of Dirty Dancing.
There Are Hints That Johnny & Baby Will Stay Together
After Johnny is fired from the resort, he and Baby say their goodbyes to one another. Their farewell is bittersweet as they embrace. Johnny tells Baby he “will never be sorry,” admitting that he does not regret getting fired if it meant he could be with her. Baby agrees and tells him, “Neither will I.” Johnny kisses her and tells her, “I’ll see you.” While there is obviously heartbreak over the fact they have to part earlier than planned, Johnny’s casual remark hints that he and Baby had plans to reunite once Johnny landed somewhere and Baby was out from under her parents’ roof.
When Dirty Dancing premiered in 1987, there were a number of scenes that did not make the final cut. Over the years, a handful of deleted scenes have been shared online. One deleted Dirty Dancing scene shows Baby and Johnny talking about their future during the ending dance scene. Baby worries that people in their lives will criticize their relationship so much that they will no longer want to be together. Johnny insists that they will just fight harder for their relationship. Even though the deleted scene does not jump far into the future, it does confirm that Baby and Johnny intended to stay together once the summer ended.
There Will Be A Sequel To Dirty Dancing
Since Dirty Dancing is so well-known in pop culture, there have been multiple variations of it since the original 1987 film. A stage version of the film titled Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage was made in 2004. That same year, Swayze appeared in a prequel to the movie called Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights as an unnamed dance instructor. A 2017 remake of Dirty Dancing was released on ABC, and it was directed by the 1987 film’s choreographer, Kenny Ortega. Multiple plot points from the original were changed, and the remake’s ending shows Johnny and Baby split up years in the future.
Even though Swayze died in 2009, a planned sequel to Dirty Dancing is in the works. Grey is set to reprise her role as Baby. The film will not be a remake of the original, and there are also no plans to recast the role of Johnny with a different actor. Dirty Dancing 2 is set to be released on February 9, 2024, and it will be directed by Jonathan Levine. Not much is known about the sequel to Dirty Dancing other than the fact it will take place in the 1990s. Even if Grey and Levine manage to make a solid sequel, there is no doubt that the sequel will change the meaning of the original film’s ending.
The Ambiguity Of The Dirty Dancing Ending Works
At its heart, Dirty Dancing is a coming-of-age story with a romance tied into it. Baby learns to stand up to her father and she lets go of her naivety about the world. By the end of the movie, she is ready to accomplish her goals with the newfound confidence instilled in her by Johnny. Meanwhile, Johnny gains more self-worth and no longer looks at himself as less than the upper-class resort guests. Other characters like Baby’s father learn to challenge their preconceived notions. The Dirty Dancing ending was a success because viewers see the characters change but do not see what happens after lessons are learned.
For a coming-of-age story to work best, characters must be challenged and go through a metamorphosis that signifies their entering adulthood. Even if they do not become a legal adult over the course of the film, they mature psychologically and morally in a way that changes their worldview. The Dirty Dancing ending works because viewers do not need to know if Baby and Johnny stay together. It is not the length of their relationship that is important, but the impact they had on one another. The openness of the ending lets the viewers trust that the characters are permanently changed going forward and will implement what they learned without needing to spell it out.