The 80s was the last decade that was defined by a series of classic films. While many things went into the era of 80s cinema, the one that stands out the most is the montage.
The easiest way to show the passage of time and progress the story over a few minutes, the montage has been used as a simple tool in some movies and over used in many others (also known as "Sylvester Stallone's career"). Below are some of the best, and worst, montages from 80s films. Which is your favorite?
Call me biased, but I included this montage because "Bloodsport" is my favorite martial arts film from the 80s. A multi-day tournament condensed down to a few minutes, this is what we would call a good use of the montage. Unfortunately, the slow-mo in the montage points out the not-so-great fight choreography.
'The Breakfast Club' (1985)
"The Breakfast Club" is truly one of the films that defined the decade. You could actually say that of almost every one of John Hughes' films from the 80s. This coming-of-age film still holds strong today, and the dancing montage is easily recognizable to anyone who can call themselves a child of the 80s.
Not a personal favorite of mine, but definitely a film that stands out as representative of the decade. Patrick Swayze became a superstar with this movie and "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" became a frequently quoted line. How could we not include this montage?
Kevin Bacon taking the heavy-footed, rhythmless Chris Penn and turning him into a dancer over the course of a single song, now that's impressive.
One of the greatest films of the decade, and some people forget that there's a montage in it. What sets this one apart from others on the list is that the song isn't the focal point. In most others the dialogue and SFX are turned down to allow the song to be the only thing heard, but here its just background for the progression of the story showing the Ghostbusters' rise to fame.
Though enjoyable, "Ghostbusters 2" is often criticized for just being a rehash of the original. And unfortunately, this montage is just a rehash of the original as well. Like the first, this montage takes place immediately after their first successful ghost trapping of the film, the music is just background, and we have the "Ghostbusters running" shot like the original.
"You're The Best" from Joe Esposito is, in my opinion, one of the best songs to put on your iPod for a workout mix. Seeing Daniel-San fight his way through the Cobra-Kai to the finals of the All Valley Tournament is a perfect companion to this song, and helps to hype the audience up for the final fight.
The movie that helped put Val Kilmer on the map also has one of the more underappreciated montages. While the audience sees the advancement of several plot points, such as working on the laser or the recluse Lazlo, the best part of the montage is the progression of the classroom from full of students to just a collection of tape recorders.
'Rocky III' (1982) Opening Montage
Ah, the Rocky films. While most movies are films interrupted by a montage, the Rocky films were montages interrupted by films. Most of the "Rocky" films have a minimum of two montages, usually a training montage and then the fight montage. Since the final fight in "Rocky III" was short enough, we were instead treated first to an opening montage showing the progression of Rocky's fame since winning the title.
'Rocky III' (1982) Training Montage
And here we have the customary "Rocky Training" montage.
'Rocky IV' (1985) Flashback Montage
Going off the normal use of a montage progressing a story, this montage was a 4-minute flashback of the previous events. After the death of his best friend and former opponent Apollo Creed, Rocky gets into his expensive sports car and drives around thinking about what he's gained and lost over the years.
'Rocky IV' (1985) Training Montage
The customary training montage, showing the differences in the training styles of the two fighters. Considered such an iconic montage, it was copied for the Family Guy Star Wars spoof, "Something Something Dark Side".
Once again, we have a montage showing the rise of the lead character, in this case Tony Montana. The clothes, the music, the overall style, and the montage, everything about this movie says, "Yes, this is the 1980s."
Michael J. Fox pretty much owned 1985 with "Back to the Future" and "Teen Wolf". A classic of the decade, but a montage that basically falls flat mainly because of the choice in music. However, the content of the montage is terrific, showing the rise of Scott Howard, but giving clear hints to his impending fall.
'Teen Wolf Too' (1987) Training Montage
If ever there were a film that didn't need to be made, its "Teen Wolf Too". This film is not a classic, so why is it on the list? First, they pull the two montage card, and second, the training montage is part "Rocky" and part "Teen Wolf" by copying the purpose of the first film's montage, the rise and hinted fall of the lead.
'Teen Wolf Too' (1987) Studying Montage
I give this montage a place on the list for no other reason than the song. The "studying" montage is cliché for a college film, but the song does make up for it.
Honorable Mention - 'Make Love Not Warcraft' episode of 'South Park'
Many years too late to be an 80s montage, but still worthy of a mention on the list. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have the amazing talent of paying homage to something while tearing it apart. And this episode of "South Park" perfectly showed a modern 80s montage, while using the most ridiculous song they could find, an actual song from KISS lead singer Paul Stanley.
Honorable Mention - 'Team America World Police'
Again from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, this montage deserves mentioning because its a self-aware montage. The song itself tells what a montage is supposed to be. Ever need to explain the concept of a montage to someone, just use this as your opener.