Set in a background of small town adversity, teenagers take it upon themselves to liven up the sleepy community with tractor races, rock and roll music and dancing. Dancing is not allowed in the farm town where Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon)and his mother are staying with family members. The McCormack's have relocated from a large city where dancing and music are commonplace. In the new location, dancing is hidden and rock and roll is only played beyond the ears of adults.
The town is led by the local church leader, Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow). The reverend lost his only son in a car accident in which he blames drinking and rock music as the cause of the wreck. His daughter, Ariel Moore (Lori Singer), is paying the price for the loss of her brother through her father's fear.
Teens are kept under strict rules. Moore's sermons are that of warning; that God will consider it a sin if dancing and music were to be allowed. Despite her father's heavy handed rules, Ariel finds ways to escape and spend time with her friends at local hangouts.
Prom night is around the corner at the local high school and Ren decides there needs to be dancing. The teens are offered a warehouse to hold the prom, now the only obstacle left is to convince the reverend that they are adult enough to hold a dance without getting into trouble.
Ren chooses to fight fire with fire. He faces the reverend in a town meeting, using scriptures from the bible to give a new outlook on dancing.
The music and dance moves sprang to popularity in 1984 and the songs are still heard today. A very young Sarah Jessica Parker is in the film, as Ariel's best friend. The story provides insight into problems teenagers face and the adult actions they take to fight for what they believe in.