Nothing beats the muscle-tensing, heartbeat-elevating, confidence-boosting thrill of a classic movie training montage. Get the juices flowing so you can knock down those goals with The Enclave’s top 10 fitness montages in movie history. Now, it’s time to get to work!
10. Rocky II
It seems fitting to start our list with a film from the series that established and immortalized the training montage. In Rocky II, Rocky Balboa faces new pressures to be present with his family after the birth of his son – but the encouragement from his wife Adrian, who implores him just to win, sparks a new height of commitment. Featuring Burgess Meredith’s exclamation “What are we waitin’ fer?!”, an improbable scene with a sledgehammer in a scrap heap, and a sweet interlude with Rocky Jr., this sequel delivers a solid punch.
9. The Fighter
For a good, solid, humble training sequence that might actually inspire you to get outside in your sweatpants and push yourself, check out The Fighter. Mark Wahlberg’s hard-nosed workouts alongside Christian Bale (we’ll hear more from him later) leave us no excuses.
8. The Incredibles
Can an animated fitness montage still do the trick? The Incredibles shows us the answer is yes. In between pulling and pushing train cars, spending precious time with the kiddos, and handling everyday responsibilities, Mr. Incredible manages to build his physique and win some extra attention from Elastigirl.
7. Never Back Down
In Never Back Down, we follow hero Jake Tyler as he transforms himself from angsty teen to hardened mixed martial arts competitor, with the help of sage trainer Jean Roqua, played by the outstanding Djimon Hounsou. Importantly, we learn that the distance a fighter can throw a cinder block has a direct correlation to their success in the gym.
6. Cool Runnings
The Jamaican bobsled team crosses the line sixth in our rankings. Offering a bit of humor that’s rare in the training montage realm – the team falls off the sled and all over each other – and delivering the requisite measures of progress – John Candy as Irv Blitzer even calls out their ever-faster start times – the Cool Runnings montage is an essential example.
5. Batman Begins
Epic story. Forbidding landscape. Troubled past. Enigmatic teacher. Every element you want to see in a montage shows up strong in Batman Begins. Liam Neeson and Christian Bale spar on ice and grimace their way through ninja training, building patience, agility, and our admiration for the hero.
While later films may have surpassed its achievement, the original Rocky training montage stands as a near-perfect model, one that established the genre, immortalized Bill Conti’s theme song Gonna Fly Now, and gave us the lasting image of Rocky’s celebratory pose on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
For its cool severity and inspiring aura, Bloodsport’s pinnacle montage breaks into our top three. Jean-Claude Van Damme hits the mat an impressive number of times, and it’s not just any montage that features our hero setting the table for tea blindfolded.
2. Team America: World Police
No montage list is complete without the montage that undermines all montages – including itself. In Team America: World Police, we track puppet Gary’s progress while jamming out to the original tune Montage, which helpfully reminds us that “In anything, if you want to go from just a beginner to a pro, you need a montage.”
1. Rocky IV
Without wanting to overstate this, the Rocky IV training montage might be the best bit of fitness film ever recorded. What a world of muscle-bound conflict it presents. Humble hero versus seemingly unbeatable villain. Horse carts, sleds, and good, old-fashioned hard work, or fitness scientists, state-of-the-art technology, and performance-enhancing drugs. America against not America. Top it all off with a primal yell on a mountain top. This one montage has it all. Thank you, film universe!
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