11 Best Training Montages in Movie History, Ranked
Ralph Macchio's birthday -- he turns 54 on November 4 -- reminds us that, not only do we love the Karate Kid, but we love even more a training montage.
You know, that staple of feel-good, fist-pumping, sweat-exuding movies, especially from the aerobicized '80s, that shows rapid-cut clips of the star getting in shape or mastering some arcane fighting technique, usually set to some inspirational, synth-heavy anthem.
By the end of that decade, the training montage had become such an overblown cliché that it fell out of favor, which is why we cherish the few new ones that come along and relish the old ones that still make us feel like slackers. So cue up Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," raise a glass of raw eggs, and drink a toast to the best training montages ever.
11. 'G.I. Jane' (1997)
Training to become the first female Navy SEAL, Demi Moore's Lt. Jordan O'Neill shaves her head, endures hellish and brazenly sexist hazing, and, in a brief montage, shows off an enviable skill at one-armed push-ups. Bonus style points for conducting her workout in the dark, and to the tune of Three Dog Night's "Mama Told Me Not to Come" instead of some inspirational electronica anthem.
10. 'Wet Hot American Summer' (2001)
The spoof of '80s summer camp movies also includes a spoof of '80s training montages, particularly the one in "Rocky III." Here, lovelorn counselor Coop (Michael Showalter) gets trained, for no particularly good reason, in the "New Way," by psycho Vietnam vet-turned-camp-chef Gene (Christopher Meloni). The montage includes a lot of slow-motion running, pointless dancing, bro-hugging, and a conspicuous lack of improvement in Coop's muscle tone.
9. 'Batman Begins' (2005)
Haunted by his parents' deaths at the hands of a mugger, future Batman Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels to the Himalayas for martial arts training, and who better to teach him than the guy who played Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn? Liam Neeson's Henri Ducard puts Bruce through his paces, teaching him to channel his anger constructively, to treat criminals without mercy, to practice stealth like a ninja, and to survive a swordfight atop an ice-covered lake. This last never seems to come in handy back in Gotham City, but it sure looks cool.
8. 'Bloodsport' (1988)
The movie that made Jean-Claude Van Damme a star features a lengthy montage where the Belgian kickboxer's character, an American named Frank Dux (yes, an American, just go with it) becomes one of the rare Westerners to learn the fighting techniques used in the Kumite.
Like Luke Skywalker, he has to learn a lot of his skills while blindfolded, including one bizarre segment where he has to serve tea, sightless, while fighting off the occasional blow. Here, JCVD's woodenness serves him well, proving he's impervious to pain.
7. 'Mulan' (1998)
Turns out the training montage works just as well in Disney cartoons as in live-action. Like other martial-arts training sequences, this one involves swordfighting, stick fighting, and lugging around pails of water. But it also includes a song sung by Donny Osmond, (voicing the drill instructor, Shang), the ironic "I'll Make a Man Out of You."
6. 'The 36th Chamber of Shaolin' (1978)
The warrior monks in this Hong Kong classic put the art in martial arts. This is perhaps the most beautifully choreographed training sequence ever. The monks' swordfighting, stick fighting, kickboxking workouts are graceful. And their other trials, involving spikes and flaming hoops, are seriously badass. The most promising student, San Te (Gordon Liu), who makes remarkably quick progress through the instruction rooms referred to in the title, is shown mastering some especially hazardous-looking moves. Fittingly, Liu went on to play Pai Mei, who puts Uma Thurman through similarly brutal training in "Kill Bill Vol. 2."
5. 'Rocky III' (1982)
Bromance, plus calf-high tube socks, equals pure awesome.
Rocky and Apollo, boxing buddies (this fall on CW!), dance shirtless in front of a mirror, spar, and run slow-mo on a beach -- their bulging thighs glistening in their short shorts. It all ends in a big, sweaty hug. You'll want a shower after this one.
4. 'Team America: World Police' (2004)
How is marionette hero Gary Johnston to prepare himself to fight North Korean bad guys? "We're gonna need a montage." What follows, in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's satirical puppet show, is an '80s-style synth-rock number called "Montage" whose lyrics are the best things your ears will never hear.
3. 'The Karate Kid' (1984)
This 80s staple has two uh-mah-zing montages. A training one, where Mr. Miyagi proves he is the craftiest sensei of all time. Not only does he teach Daniel-san karate moves by burning them into his muscle memory, but he also gets Daniel to paint his fence and his house, sand his deck, and wax his cars in the process.
Sadly, the internet denied us a video of it. But it did give us Montage #2 (above), scored to the immortal classic (and montage anthem) "You're the Best." You're welcome.
2. 'Rocky' (1976)
Here's the training montage that started it all -- and the one that still remains a sentimental favorite. Set to the tune of Bill Conti's soon-to-be-famous "Gonna Fly Now," the montage famously shows the Italian Stallion punching sides of beef, taking blows to the stomach, doing all sorts of push-ups, and doing lots of running. You can tell he's improving because the Philadelphia locales gradually transition from eyesores to picturesque tourist spots, culminating in that celebrated ascent of the stairs of the art museum.
1. 'Rocky IV' (1985)
Here's the training montage to end all training montages. This one smartly crosscuts between Stallone's Rocky, working out with farm equipment in the snow-covered Siberian countryside, and Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago, in a sophisticated gym, being monitored by computers (and an admiring Brigitte Nielsen) and getting pumped full of steroids.
Here, Rocky does everything only a human in a movie would do to prepare for battling the boxer equivalent of the Cold War: He goes for a nice jog through snow while outrunning a car, turns a barn into "CrossFit Begins," and ascends a mountain peak where, naturally, bellows Drago's name -- calling out his foe from the faraway summit. And that's just the first half of the montage, which goes on eight punishing minutes. (#Blessed).