Oh, the training montage. There’s just something about watching an underdog rise to the top that inspires people. So when you find yourself struggling with your fitness routine, what could possibly provide better motivation than a slow-motion sequence of running, lifting, and absurd workout moves set to synth-heavy 80s music?
Check out our top picks; we guarantee you’ll never feel more ready to go out, kick butt, and develop your athletic prowess—just as long as someone’s willing to come with you and blast “Eye of the Tiger” along the way!
1. Rocky IV (1985)
There were training montages in movies before Rocky came out, but let’s be real here: Rocky was the movie that turned the training montage into a cinematic icon. The montage in Rocky I is easily the most famous, but we have a soft spot for this ridiculous six-minute-long scene in Rocky IV. Here, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) faces off with the terrifying Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). While Drago trains with high-tech exercise equipment, Rocky looks way cooler and more rustic as he pulls sleds and tosses around rocks on a farm.
2. Mulan (1998)
Who said Disney can’t be bada**? Some observations about this amazing training montage:
1. Everything is better with a catchy musical number.
2. We understand that he’s a cartoon character, but hello there, Li Shang.
3. Mulan making it up that giant pole before all the male recruits = girl power at its finest.
Watch this one and you’ll be ready to get down to business (and defeat the Huns), guaranteed.
3. Never Back Down (2008)
So. Much. Testosterone. Though Never Back Down adheres to pretty much every fight movie cliché possible, there’s definitely something to be said for its training montage. Here, MMA fighter Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou) trains Jake Tyler (Sean Faris) while a pump-you-up song by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus plays in the background. The movie may be as silly as its tagline (“Win or lose…everyone has their fight”), but this montage will definitely make you feel ready to face your own fight—whether that means MMA or just working up the motivation to get off the couch.
4. Run Fatboy Run (2007)
Simon Pegg is the perfect every-man, and his tounge-in-cheek training montage in Run Fatboy Run is no different. While you might not be able to identify with Rocky or Jake Tyler, pretty much everyone can identify with the much more realistic struggles of Dennis Doyle (Pegg) as he trains for a marathon in the attempt to prove himself to his ex-fiance Libby.
Our favorite parts: Dennis curling 5-pound weights in the gym. His attempt to eat six raw eggs. The short-shorts.
5. Team America: World Police (2004)
It’s so meta, guys. In this clip, Team America parodies the classic training montage: Spottswoode has to train Gary in very little time, so the obvious solution is to compress all of the training he needs into a montage. The song—appropriately named “Montage”—lists all the ingredients for an ideal training montage, including the need to fade out at the end so it looks like more time has passed.
Best line: “You need a montage…even Rocky had a montageeeeee!”
6. Dirty Dancing (1987)
We bet you never thought you’d see that many close-ups of Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray’s sweaty, tightly-toned abs, butts, and thighs. We know dancing is a great workout, but no way is all that sweat just from spins and step-ball-changes. And “Hungry Eyes?” Really, Dirty Dancing director? Never before has a training montage seen this much sexual tension.
7. Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
What more could you ask for in your training montage than dancing, running, and men in crop tops? Wet Hot American Summer is a cult classic from 2001 that features of ton of now-big-name actors including Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, and Elizabeth Banks. Here, Coop (Michael Showalter) trains in the hope of winning the heart of co-counselor Katie (Marguerite Moreau). We’re rooting for you, Coop!
8. The Incredibles (2004)
The Incredibles is…well, an incredible movie. This montage is relatively short, but we love watching Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) transform from a slightly-flabby suburban dad to into someone who’s benching, cable-pulling, and leg-pressing train carriages. Maybe that level of fitness is just a little bit unattainable for the average person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still reach for the moon… right?
9. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Million Dollar Baby won the 2004 Academy Award for “Best Picture” and also the Spry Living certificate of achievement for “Most Depressing Sports Movie Ever.” We won’t spoil any of the big plot points for you, but this montage shows Frank Dunn (Clint Eastwood) teaching waitress Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) to box. This one’s a little more low-key than some of our other selections, but Swank’s superb acting make this montage one of the greats. It also gets bonus points for a Morgan Freeman voiceover.
10. Karate Kid (1984)
“Wax on. Wax off.” The training montage from Karate Kid is a classic because Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) doesn’t even know he’s being trained. Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) easily gets the prize for best trainer ever because his method simultaneously enables his protege to win the tournament and also gets him to do all of the household chores.
Well played, sir.
BONUS: Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow in an 80s-Style Training Montage
For your viewing pleasure.