Yeah, to you it’s Thanksgiving; to us it’s Rocky Week. Today, Ryan Coogler’s highly anticipated Rocky spin-off, Creed, hits theaters and to celebrate, we’ve carved out a feast of features. On Monday, Dan Caffrey finished his own Rocky Marathon. On Tuesday, Blake Goble and Sarah Kurchak ranked all the sidekicks that helped make the Italian Stallion a champ. Today, we’re celebrating the art of the montage. Come Thursday, you’re gonna be crappin’ thunder!
A montage, at its most fundamental level, gets us from point A to point B. It’s a technical and tactical move on behalf of the filmmaker, who strings together a series of shots in order to condense space, time, and information. More often than not, however, it’s a lazy tool, especially for sloppy screenwriters who cram in a ton of story without any natural finesse.
Sometimes, though, they’re fucking brilliant.
If done well, a montage can rile up a crowd, it can boost a character, it can shake up the moods. For some, it’s the most memorable part of the film, the golden nugget that they can walk away with and return to mentally from time to time. Actually, that’s a likely argument for every inclusion on this list; after all, why else would we be writing about them?
Well, technically because it’s Rocky Week, and if we’re being honest, like the ol’ Italian Stallion himself, we immediately decided that there’s no better montage than what lies in the 1976 original. The problem is we really wanted to write about other ones, so we flipped through our memories and came up with a definitive 10 that all lead up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Care to run with us? Flip ahead.
10. “We’re Gonna Need a Montage”
Team America: World Police (2004)
Team America: World Police, a movie that probably stood as the funniest film you’d ever seen if you were young enough when it was first released over a decade ago and is still funny but probably not quite as politically incendiary as you might once have assumed, is remembered for a lot of things. Numbers one through five on that list probably land in the general realm of “MPAA-baiting puppet fucking,” but what the marionette-driven satire also managed was the kind of sly commentary on hacky, xenophobic Michael Bay thrillers that would then be run into the ground when Bay became film geekery’s favorite punching bag.
Nowhere is this clearer than during the film’s obligatory self-improvement montage, set to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “Montage”. For some, this may have been an introduction to the trope, for others a loving and accurate knockoff of the sports movie montage. It helps that Parker and Stone’s song is basically an amalgam of every other montage song prominently featured on this list and that it’s hard to shake said song being the first thing that comes to mind when watching a bad action movie advance through too much time in just one clean montage.
Best Shot: It’s a quick one, which is part of the joke as much as anything, but Spottswoode chain-smoking through every scene is a great deadpan bit, no more so than at 0:22, when he re-enacts the first karate duel in The Matrix with a square in hand.