10 of Film’s Greatest Training Montages

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The London 2012 Summer Olympics kick off tonight with Danny Boyle’s highly-anticipated opening ceremony, and like most people around the world right now, we can’t wait to curl up on the couch for the next 17 days and be blown away by the crazy athletic prowess on display. Watching competitors put their all into winning a medal can be pretty darn inspiring, but of course we’re seeing the results of weeks, months, and even years of training. Luckily, there are a ton of films to help us imagine those moments that we didn’t see using one of the best cinematic devices created: the training montage. Check out ten classic sequences below, and let us know what we may have missed in the comments!

The Karate Kid

This training session is really a win for all involved: Daniel (Ralph Macchio) learns the foundations of karate and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) gets all those pesky chores done! Genius. Of course, Daniel doesn’t know how key the “wax on, wax off” move will be until he faces off with The Cobras at the big tournament, but he quickly learns to trust Mr. Miyagi’s non-traditional methods. Sure makes us re-think our shower scrubbing technique.

Chariots of Fire

While the opening scene of this movie is probably more famous, this montage is a more accurate depiction of what it was like to train for the Olympics in 1924. Here, competitors Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) and Eric Lidell (Ian Charleson) train in England and Scotland, respectively, to compete against one another in the 100-meter race. Sure, slo-mo running on the beach is majestic, but nothing really revs your calf muscles like leaping through the hillside in full suspenders.

The Cutting Edge

There was once a time when training for any sport in a film required lots of Lycra, sweaty close-ups, and overpowering music. The Cutting Edge came out in 1992, but it still does a good job of carrying over that ’80s movie aesthetic of athletic training being both intensely demanding and mildly erotic all at once (see also: Flashdance ). Figure skater Kate (Moira Kelly) is forced to take on retired hockey player Doug (D.B. Sweeney) as her new couples skate partner, which both of them hate until love unexpectedly blossoms. Maybe it was the sight of one another’s biceps?

Cool Runnings

How do you train a bunch of headstrong Jamaicans for the Olympic bobsledding trials in a place with no snow? Two words: John Candy. And of course, you push a homemade sled around the dusty hills while trying to avoid little dogs and laughing children. The key thing we’d like to take away here is that, yes, ice cream breaks are key to any athletic routine.

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

This technically isn’t a montage, but it’s still a sequence worth mentioning because Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) got some of the best physical and mental training of any athlete… or Jedi. He got to be sequestered off in a marshy oasis, learned how to move objects with his mind, and listened to Yoda talk in riddles! If only fighting the dark side were an Olympic event — we’d sure give a gold medal to anyone who could rope-climb while carrying a rambling Muppet on their back.

Batman Begins

Much like Luke Skywalker, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) uses his training time with vigilante Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) to grow both physically and emotionally, discovering the truth about his parents’ death. This sequence marks the real growth of Bruce into Batman, as he masters everything from agility and strength to theatricality and vengeance. We’re still not sure why Henri insists on sword fighting on a huge frozen lake, but it’s probably really good for your core… and it looks badass.

Kill Bill: Vol 2

Vengeance is definitely at play for the Bride (Uma Thurman) throughout both Kill Bill movies, but this sequence shows us how she learned her formidable fighting skills. Soon after Bill drops her off, naive and pigtailed, to Pei Mei’s (Chia Hui Liu) remote kung fu training ground, she realizes that she’s stuck with a more fearsome and insulting master than she had imagined. Still, she repeatedly punches walls, lugs water buckets, and puts up with all of Pei Mei’s abuse in the hope it will pay off — and oh how it does. Punch! That! Wall!!

Wet Hot American Summer

Coop (Michael Showalter) isn’t training for a sport, per se, nor is he really looking for a specific kind of vengeance, but he sure wants to win the heart of co-counselor Katie (Marguerite Moreau). After a total emotional breakdown, there is only one thing to do — learn the “new way” from wise sage and head chef Gene (Christopher Meloni). This sequence highlights everything that’s hilarious about WHAS: spoofs of other movies (Dirty Dancing, Karate Kid), completely random characters (a talking can of vegetables), and an over-the-top anthem. Also: nice short-shorts, Coop.

Rocky

You didn’t think we’d forget the most inspirational training montage ever made, did you? The moment that Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) gets to the top step of the Philadelphia Art Museum, after jogging through the cold and dirty Philly streets, is one of the most imitated training sequences — and for good reason. Every athlete works hard so they can feel that same kind of high after finally reaching their goal — the harder part is getting a Steadicam to follow you and play Bill Conti tunes.

Run, Fatboy, Run

OK, this is not a montage and Simon Pegg’s Dennis is hardly in shape, but it’s good to remember where every good athlete begins: at the very beginning. Shlubby Dennis is pushed to run a marathon in order to win back his ex, but the trouble is that he’s never run before — ever. So where to start? With a one-block run wearing tiny, inappropriate shorts. Extra points for the Bowie t-shirt, though!

What did we forget? Tell us your favorite training sequences in the comments below.