The training montage has become an important part of every sport and combat movie released in the last few decades. If there’s a conflict, you can pretty much be assured that someone will gain strength and power set to the tune of a catchy song. Below are ten of the greatest montages every put on film, each of which helped to redefine what would otherwise be a fairly tired film technique.
10 – Rocky IV
While it’s not the ultimate training montage – or even the best in the series – this is still one of the greatest montages put to film. While the original film did it better, there’s something spectacular about the juxtaposition of Rocky and Drago’s scenes. Also, this one has the chicken chase – everyone loves watching Rocky train with a chicken, right?
9 – Wet Hot American Summer
Some of the best training scenes are those that parody the process. Wet Hot American Summer is a fantastic parody of 80s films in general, so it logically had to have some kind of training montage. The weird part about this particular montage is that it doesn’t really show any improvement – there’s dancing, but the main character doesn’t get any tougher. The real selling point here is the music and the inimitable Christopher Meloni. This is definitely one of the funniest montages every.
8 – Pumping Iron
It’s rare to see a real-life example of a training montage, but Arnold provided one to the world in Pumping Iron. Pumping Iron’s montage is oddly hypnotizing because of the sheer power involved. There’s no stunts here, just very real body builders. It’s no wonder that this montage helped to introduce the world to a man who would one day be a king, a killer robot, and even the governor of California.
7 – Mulan
This one, like so many other training montages, is really all about the music. While the animation is great and it tells a story, the montage really comes together because of the fantastic Disney song that plays throughout the scene. Mulan isn’t exactly an action movie, but this training montage helps you believe that an army is being put together. You’ll also never be able to stop singing the phrase “Let’s get down to business”.
6 – Batman Begins
Batman Begins isn’t the best in it is series, but it was a revelation back when it was released. One of the things that helped build realism in the film was the early training montage in which Bruce Wayne learned the skills to become Batman. A great deal of the weight in this scene rests on the shoulders of Liam Neeson, who delivers his lines with the customary growl and performs with a great deal of physicality. Christian Bale’s performance is just icing on the cake once you get past all that.
5 – GI Jane
Another genre-changing montage, this one definitely helped sell the idea that Demi Moore could become a Navy Seal. The most iconic scenes are definitely those featuring the one-handed push-ups, but one must not forget the head shaving that accompanied the montage. In fact, one can make an argument that the only part of this film that’s really worth watching is the montage.
4 – Karate Kid
The Karate Kid’s montage sequence has been parodied from here to eternity. Everyone knows ‘wax on, wax off’ by heart, at least if they were born before 1990. While some of the action is a little wooden and no one in going to be impressed by the choreography today, there’s something really endearing about this scene.
3 – The Empire Strikes Back
Luke runs through Dagobah with Yoda on his back, working towards becoming a Jedi. Say what you want about A New Hope, but this was the moment when Star Wars fully came together as something special. It left the realm of sci-fi and became a surprisingly perfect space fantasy – something that probably wouldn’t have happened without the help of headstands and tiny green puppets.
2 – Team America: World Police
This is one piece of satirethat really works as a training montage. It basically takes everything else on this list and throws it into a blender, creating a hilarious puppet catastrophe. What makes it great, though, is the inclusion of “Montage” – a song about the subject matter.
1 – Rocky
There were sports montages before Rocky, but they don’t matter. This is the montage from which all other montages gain their strength, the scene that has been parodied and homaged so often that even those who haven’t seen the movie know it by heart. This is, simply put, the greatest training montage of all time.