This maelstrom of kicks, punches, and cheesy one-liners was a breakout hit for Jean Claude van Damme, so it’s no surprise that it features a legendary training montage. To prepare for the Kumite, a secret—and deadly—martial arts tournament, the Belgian bruiser runs a gauntlet of brutal challenges, from high-flying splits to a blindfolded tea ceremony.
If you’re intimidated by the thought of a one-armed pushup, then this homage to the warrior workout will have you sweating bullets. To condition herself for the role of a hardcore Navy lieutenant, Demi Moore weathered months of training with a former Navy SEAL, starting each day with a 4am workout. Quite frankly, the results speak for themselves.
Not all training montages are the stuff of action heroes and cheesy 80’s soundtracks. In fact, one of the first (and greatest) can be found in this iconic Kung Fu flick, complete with swords, spikes, giant boulders, and of course, some good ol’ rings of fire. Rings. Of fire. We’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.
The montage may hold a special place in film history, but it’s a pretty ridiculous concept, and no movie captures that better than the fever dream that was Team America. In one action-packed minute, the satire covers every go-to trope, trick, and cliché, from rock anthems and weightlifting to… is he shaving?
2. Rocky (1976)
The first in history, and the first in our hearts. From the upbeat theme song to the unforgettable finale, Rocky set the bar for every training montage since, and gave skinny kids everywhere the workout soundtrack of a lifetime. That said, while it’s certainly the most iconic montage, it’s not necessarily the BEST, which leads us to our final pick…
If you’re surprised to see another Rocky movie on this list, then you clearly don’t know your montages. While the first film established the recipe, the fourth installment perfected it, pitting the old school methods of the Italian Stallion against 261 pounds of rage-fueled, Soviet-financed muscle: head to head, workout for workout. Simply put, it doesn’t get any better than this.