Full Disclosure: This is the tweet that inspired this post.
Tell me your favorite montages ever in a movie or TV show. UP is a given.— alanna, because being yourself is scary enough (@AlannaBennett) October 24, 2018
And it really got me thinking about montage. There few more effective ways for a filmmaker to get some shit done. A good montage can do a lot of heavy lifting in a relatively short span, and spare the viewer misuse of our ever dwindling attention spans. As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, my favorite movie montages tend to contain little to no dialog, and are set to the best song on the Motion Picture Soundtrack. That way I know which cassette single to order from Columbia House before committing to the entire album.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite musically driven movie montages, in a few select categories. In no particular order, here are some of the hardest working (and driving) scenes in popular moviedom (I can’t really speak intelligently on what Truffaut got up to).
The Dance Montage
If your script calls for a character with two left feet who has to be able to do some fancy footwork by the end of the movie, you better werk! Or rather, you better have your character werk… with an instructor over a course of hours, days, or years. But ain’t nobody got time for that! Make it look easy by making it look hard, then making it look less hard. Within a few minutes your character should go from bumbling buffoon to high-fiving their instructor in triumph. Here’s a classic example from Footloose that made me run out to Rasputin Records to buy TWO copies of “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” by Deniece Williams; one for my room, and one for my mom to keep in the car (don’t worry, I ended up buying the entire soundtrack because of the “Dancing In The Sheets” montage).
And of course, no list of dancing montages would be complete without the classic “Hungry Eyes” montage from Dirty Dancing.
The Makeover Montage
Have a character who you want to pretend is uggo by hiding them under glasses and an unfortunate wig? There’s no better way to get that person from a 4.5 to a perfect 10 than slapping a bunch of different outfits on them in rapid succession and ending with a turn to the camera with a newly pressed flip. Here’s the standard bearer for the makeover montage, featured in Clueless and set to 90’s one-hit(ish)-wonder Jill Sobule’s “Supermodel”.
The makeover montage is such a trope that it’s ripe for parody and meta commentary. Here’s the dress up montage from The Sweetest Thing which pays loving homage to the power of transformation. And it’s set to “Shake Your Groove Thing” by Peaches & Herb, so it’s got that going for it.
The Progress Montage
This category of montage is where I’d stick one of the iconic Rocky training montages, but you probably play those on a loop in your head every time you break a sweat on purpose. Here instead I present Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, figuring her shit out and going from ragamuffin dilettante to urban sophisticate in double time. Set to Madonna’s “Vogue”, you knew this was coming the moment you heard they were making this movie.
Here’s Al Pacino and his crew getting their shit together, and building an empire that sits atop a mound of cocaine. It’s set to “Push It To The Limit” by Giorgio Moroder and honestly, I don’t know this song at all. It’s not good, nor does it really doesn’t work for the tone of the movie, but hey, it was the 80’s! Anything with a keytar solo was fair game.
The Gratuitously Sexy Montage
There are plenty of falling in love montages, and “how many positions can we do it in” montages, but for me the sweet spot when it comes to carnality on film is the “look how sexy we are” montage. The volleyball scene from Top Gun was a pivotal part the exploration of my own sexuality as a girl. I remember seeing it in the theater and wondering why I suddenly felt like I had to pee but not exactly. Some have accused it of being homo-erotic but I think it’s pan-erotic. Set to “Playing With The Boys” (Oh, I see it now) by Kenny Loggins, here’s Tom Cruise getting upstaged by greased up pectorals.
And of course I had to save the sexiest for last. Here’s what happens when grown men take the phrase “boys will be boys” to dangerous limits. I hope George Michael laughed his ass all the way to the bank when he said Zoolander could use “Wake Me Up”.
These are just a few examples to get the juices flowing. What are your favorite movie montages?