The 1980s was a great period for teen movies that portrayed that tumultuous time in our lives with honesty and earnestness. Footloose was one of those great movies, depicting the quest for freedom and independence seen through rebellion – and the desire to dance.

Footloose premiered in theaters 40 years ago on February 17, 1984, catapulting Kevin Bacon to stardom. Directed by Herbert Ross (who would go on to direct Steel Magnolias), the movie stars Bacon as teenager Ren McCormack who moves with his mother (Frances Lee McCain) from Chicago to the small town of Bomont. Ren soon learns that dancing and rock music are forbidden in the conservative little town, partly due to the strict religious influence of local pastor Shaw Moore (John Lithgow). Wanting to prove that dancing isn’t the terrible activity the community believes it to be, Ren and Ariel (Lori Singer) – Reverend Moore’s rebellious daughter – petition the town council to let the teens have a prom.

Footloose was loosely inspired by Elmore City, Oklahoma, a town that had banned dancing in 1898 for the same reasons seen in the movie. That ban lasted until 1980 when students from Elmore City’s high school persuaded the school board to lift the ban on dancing so that they could have a school dance.

Dean Pitchford, the Fame Oscar-winning lyricist, wrote the script and much of the lyrics for the titular song. Ron Howard was approached to direct, but he was already attached to Splash, then Michael Cimino was hired, but his demands for more money led to his firing a month into filming. Paramount, who had already considered Ross, went back to The Goodbye Girl director to helm the film.

Before Bacon got the lead role, Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were both in serious contention for the part of Ren. Filmmakers were impressed with Cruise’s famous dance scene in Risky Business, but he was already attached to film All the Right Moves. Lowe was cast for his own dance abilities, but he was injured and sidelined from the project. Bacon had been offered the lead in the adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine when he was asked to screen test for Footloose, and in the end, he chose the dance film over a killer car.

The soundtrack rounded out the perfect storm of Footloose. Kenny Loggins performed the catchy title track and “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man),” and it featured great tracks like “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler, “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Deniece Williams, “Almost Paradise” by Ann Wilson and Mike Reno, and “Dancing in the Sheets” by Shalamar. The movie’s two Academy Award nominations went to Loggins and Pitchford for “Footloose” and Tom Snow and Pitchford for “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.”

Footloose, which also starred Sarah Jessica Parker, Chris Penn, and Dianne Wiest, earned $80 million at the domestic box office, becoming the seventh highest grossing film of 1984.