Best Sports Movie Montages

Matt Haupert@@matthaupFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2014

Best Sports Movie Montages

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    HERMANN J. KNIPPERTZ/Associated Press

    The movie montage is a truly magical place where miracles can happen right before your eyes.

    With the montage, a sports team can go from last to first in a matter of minutes.

    An aspiring boxer can cram months' worth of training into the duration of a single song.

    Championships can be won, and dreams can be accomplished without a single word being spoken.

    Indeed, the movie montage is a beautiful representation of the way life should be. Some of the very best montages in the history of cinema have come from sports movies (And in fact, four of the montages featured on this list are from the same sports movie series—I'll give you one guess as to what it is.).

    Join me on an epic journey through 11 great sports movie montages that have turned failures into victories and nobodies into heroes in less time than it takes to click through a list on the Internet.

    Note: There are many, many more great sports movie montages than are included on this list. Not all are available online. Feel free to share your favorites in the comment section.

Cool Runnings

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    At times incredibly hilarious and wonderfully inspiring, Cool Runnings is perhaps the most lovable sports movie ever made—and the training montage offers one of the very best parts.

    John Candy has a rousing turn as the couch for the newly founded Jamaican bobsled team, featuring four ambitious young Jamaican men who have never touched a bobsled in their lives.

    Their training is exactly what you'd hope to see out of a John Candy-led bobsled team: They struggle in earnest, practicing by pushing Candy in a Volkswagen and later preparing for the cold weather by getting locked in a freezer.

    Cool Runnings was the last film that Candy made in his lifetime, and it's safe to say that he went out on top.


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    The 2011 Oscar-nominated film, Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, found a way to do a montage in a way that had never been done before.

    The montage in question is used to capture the A's record-tying 20-game winning streak in 2002, and combines clips of the actors with actual 2002 footage of games and SportsCenter broadcasts. The use of real-live footage utilizes the actual excitement of the event and emphasizes the story's important place in history.

    By the end of the montage, no matter where you are from and to which team you pledge your allegiance, a small part of your heart will be forever be rooting for the eternal underdogs from Oakland.

Little Big League

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    Dion's "Runaround Sue" might not initially seem like a song that makes sense for a baseball movie.

    Then again, the film is based on the premise of an 11-year-old kid becoming the owner and the manager of the Minnesota Twins, so the choice of song is really the least of our concerns at this point.

    Nevertheless, this profoundly awful movie delivers a profoundly entertaining montage, including an excessive amount of dancing, some moderately exciting baseball and a handful of touching moments between the ambitious kid and his players.

    In other news, this montage, which takes us through a late-season four-game series against the Cleveland Indians, is arguably the most exciting three minutes of Twins baseball I have seen in the past decade.

Over the Top

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    I think it's an absolute travesty, and an embarrassment to the film industry, that Sylvester Stallone is more famous for the Rocky series than he is for Over the Top, which could possibly be the greatest arm-wrestling movie ever made.

    Let me give you a quick rundown:

    Stallone attempts to win back his son by winning an arm-wrestling tournament.

    At that is already more than you need to know.

    This epic montage features a bunch of grown men arm-wrestling, and getting really, really into it, and it's sort of fascinating to watch.

    In the most shocking news of the century, the film received primarily negative reviews from critics.

Karate Kid

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    There are a lot of things that make this classic montage from The Karate Kid so great:

    There's the song, "You're the Best" by Joe Esposito, that seems to have been written for no other purpose than to accompany a great karate montage.

    There's the fact that said song coincidentally comes in right after an adoring fan shouts, "You're the best!"

    Then, of course, there's the joy of watching the strong, fast and hilariously temperamental squad of bullies from Cobra Kai get knocked down by our wide-eyed protagonist over and over and over again. 

    There's something really beautiful about watching stereotypical movie bullies suffer, and nobody does it better than The Karate Kid.

The Cutting Edge

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    Isn't love great?

    The Cutting Edge tells a story that needs to be told: Stuck-up figure skater Kate meets washed-up hockey player Doug, and the two get paired up as an Olympic figure skating team, but, SPOILER ALERT, fall in love in the process.

    In this montage, we see both sides of their relationship:

    The fierce competitive nature that shines through on their faces during those intense "I'm gritting my teeth because I'm working so hard" close-ups.

    The playful flirting as Doug pulls Kate's hat off her head and runs off with it.

    While this training montage may not have as much brute intensity as any of the Rocky films, it provides far more romance than Sylvester Stallone could ever offer.

Teen Wolf

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    In the thrilling comedy, Teen Wolf, Michael J. Fox appears to stand at about 3 feet tall and weight no more than 50 pounds.

    After turning into a werewolf, becoming incredible at basketball and then reverting back to his original minuscule human body, Fox has to prove that he can do it alone in the biggest game of the season.

    Fortunately for him, athletic ability, size and logic are three things that don't matter in a montage, so the minuscule little man is able to zip around the court, passing and scoring at will despite needing to look down while he dribbles and barely being able to make a layup.

    To the surprise of nobody who has ever seen a movie, the little fella succeeds and carries his team to victory, proving that being bite-sized doesn't stop you from being the best.


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    The first seven montages included on this list are mere child's play compared to the four that we'll conclude with.

    In Sylvester Stallone's storied acting career, in which he has played Rocky Balboa a bunch of times, plus a few other characters who talked and acted just like Rocky Balboa, he has become the unquestioned king of the training montage.

    The first Rocky film got it all started.

    Stallone's training montage is backed by the most epic pump-up music that has ever been written, and takes us through Balboa's rigorous workout regime: running, lifting, sweating, punching meat carcasses.

    It's impossible not to watch this montage and suddenly have the inspiration to get up off your couch and begin working yourself harder than you've ever worked before.

Rocky II

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    If Rocky is going to be in another movie, then you'd better believe that Rocky is going to train accordingly.

    The second installment of Stallone's epic series makes it very clear that he is no one-montage pony.

    Though the background music is new and the workouts have developed—we now see Balboa catching birds and jumping over benches—his passion is the same. And is there anything more epic than Rocky running through the streets and the entire city emerging from the trenches to follow him along his path?

    To this day, I'm still holding out hope that Balboa is eventually going to run down my block so I can join the town in following after him.

    But Stallone wasn't quite done yet...

Rocky III

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    His hair keeps getting longer, and his muscles keep getting stronger.

    Rocky III does not disappoint, as the boxing hero once again trains like no man has ever trained before, and of course does so in the only place he knows how: a movie montage backed by the Rocky theme.

    This time around, we get an extra flavor as former rival Apollo Creed steps up to train Rocky for an upcoming fight, pushing Balboa to his limits.

    The best part by far of this new training partnership is the touching bit of bromance that we get at the very end of the montage, where Rocky and Apollo spend some time in the water splashing, hugging and smiling like only champion boxers can do.

Rocky IV

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    In Rocky IV, Stallone quits using the montage as a useful plot device in the middle of a movie. Instead, Stallone uses the montage as his primary form of storytelling.

    In this montage, our attention is drawn to the parallels between Balboa and rival Drago. While Drago works in a lab with plenty of high-tech equipment and apparent injections of performance-enhancing drugs, Rocky—because he is Rocky, after all—trains only on the Russian countryside, chopping trees, racing cars and pulling sleds across the snow.

    The montage is not just inspiring and motivational—it literally contains half of the plot points of the entire movie.

    While Rocky stands upon a mountaintop bellowing into the skies at the end of the montage, we're left wondering what heights he has left to climb, and when movies will finally stop wasting their time with boring dialogue and instead dedicate their 90 minutes solely on the art of the montage.

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