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The 5 best training montages in movies

The 5 best training montages in movies

The 5 best training montages in movies
August 07
13:00 2022

Often paired with inspiring soundtracks, training montages are movie staples that reinforce key themes of movies and speedrun a character overcoming obstacles. Viewers remember the impact of these scenes long after they end. Here are some of the top training montages in films.

  1. “Dirty Dancing” (1987)

Not being the exact type of movie that usually comes to mind when discussing training montages is exactly why “Dirty Dancing” deserves a spot on this list.

The time crunch is on and Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) must learn how to dance before an important performance when she agrees to take the place of a friend. Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) teaches Baby several different dances throughout the movie. Each gets its own training montage as the two master their skills together and romantic feelings grow.

“Wipe Out” by The Surfaris and “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen make up the soundtrack for two of the best sequences in the movie. While not traditional workout songs, both will make you want to get up and move after these inspiring scenes.

  1. “Southpaw” (2015)

It doesn’t break any barriers within the genre but the “Southpaw” training montage can hold its own against any other and has secured the number four spot on this list.

After his wife is killed, boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) has to fight to get his family back — literally. He loses custody of his daughter and the only way to prove himself as a responsible guardian is to beat the man responsible for his wife’s death in a boxing match.

Although the plot isn’t quite airtight, audiences see Billy in a time crunch to get back in shape in time for the big fight. What ensues is a two-and-a-half-minute training montage that not only focuses on Billy’s training but also the training of his opponent. The montage is also interesting simply because of the variety of impressive workouts shown to highlight the physical prowess of each boxer.

Eminem wrote the song “Phenomenal” for the movie which plays over the montage. Even though the song isn’t quite good enough to call inspiring, it certainly is motivational and would be right at home in any workout playlist.

  1. Kung Fu Panda” (2008)

The training montage in “Kung Fu Panda” stands out from others because of how character driven the scene is. It breaks up the normal training music with both important and comedic dialogue.

One of the longer training montages on the list, this scene clocks in at around five minutes. Audiences watch Po (Jack Black) train in a variety of exercises that use food as a motivator until he realizes he can do it on his own.

The scene follows the usual formula of preparing Po for a fight he can’t afford to lose. However, it is really a two-person training montage that serves as a way for Po and Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) to overcome their differences and learn to work together.

“Training Po” by Hans Zimmer and John Powell plays over the scene. While this song has more variance in tempo than others on the list, it still makes a solid inspirational song.

  1. “The Incredibles” (2004)

In less than two minutes the training montage from “The Incredibles” offers what most others fail to do — a workout-life balance.

After returning to superhero work, Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) works to strengthen his body and his relationships with his wife and children. Viewers watch Mr. Incredible take a more active interest in all aspects of his life and reap the rewards.

The scene is very convenient for the pacing of the movie and plays with the montage formula a little, which is nice to see. It offers a more light-hearted sequence that motivates through the promise of success, rather than the fear of failure.

The montage also pays homage to those that came before it by having Mr. Incredible train in a rail yard similar to the one seen in “Rocky.”

Michael Giacchino’s “Life’s Incredible Again” offers the scene cheery accompaniment that, when not in its popularly distorted form from TikTok, is sure to inspire hope.

  1. “Rocky” (1976)

Number one on this list could never have been any movie other than “Rocky.” The film made the training montage what it is today.

Audiences get to watch Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) train to fight World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) for around three minutes. The iconic montage literally put the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps on the map.

Like any good training sequence, the scene is not just a means to make the titular character physically stronger for plot convenience. Instead, it is given enough buildup and follow through to offer a meaty scene that increases the overall value of the film. It’s what gives the film some of its most iconic moments.

The scene is set to Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now.” The song is not only inspirational enough to make you start doing pushups while in the middle of writing an article but is also ranked number 21 on Billboard magazine’s Top 100 pop singles of 1977.

Fans of the “Rocky” franchise who wish they could’ve watched him train for more than twice as long while a cow gets milked in the foreground don’t need to look much further. As weird as that request may be, the other Balboa montage can be found in “Rocky IV” (1985).

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

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John Anderson

John Anderson

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