6 Awesome 80s Movie Montages (That Make No Damn Sense)


Every decade has its cinematic crutch; the overused device meant to distract us from the fact that the movie has stopped making any sort of sense. For the past 20 years, it has been CGI and in the 80s it was the montage. It's helpful to think of the evolution of montage-use as the cinematic equivalent of cocaine. While it hasn't completely gone away, in the 80s it was everywhere, and filmmakers apparently believed it gave them license to completely abandon all reason and logic. Here are the most simultaneously awesome and baffling ...

Karate Kid

Before the Montage

Daniel is a 98-pound weakling. His best friend is a retired janitor who speaks broken English. Everybody in his high school hates him except for Elizabeth Shue, who just might let him feel her up if he can win the All-Valley Karate Tournament. The only problem is that his opponents spent the first half of the movie mercilessly and convincingly kicking his ass:

Since those ass-kickings, Daniel has learned how to do a slow motion interpretive dance known as Kata, and the bullies have grown angrier. That's a problem since their previous encounters have come increasingly close to the legal definition of murder.

Cue the Music

"You're The Best," Joe Esposito

The Montage

A strange thing happens to the logical part of your brain when Joe Esposita tells you you're the best around, and that nobody in the world can possibly do anything to stop you.

You head into the All-Valley Karate Tournament thinking logical thoughts, such as, "There is literally no way that this ends with anything other than an embarassing ass-beating." But then, suddenly ...


"Hey, the little douchey guy just dropped him with a single feathery punch. That seems reasonable enough to me."

"But seriously, why are there 30,000 people at an amateur karate tournament? And why are they more enthusiastic than the crowd at most Def Comedy Jams? The only people who attend karate tournaments are parents and scout masters ..."


"Maybe I should stop asking so many questions, and get back to being an unstoppable force of being the best around."

The song is so effusively congratulatory that it makes you want to believe anything. It's like the really persistent guy who tells a girl she's beautiful over and over again. She knows he's a loser, she tells her friends he's a loser, and yet the next morning she still wakes up in his race car shaped waterbed. The final montage of The Karate Kid may not be subtle or make any damn sense, but it's as effective as a chloroform soaked rag.

The Outcome

Daniel hugs Elizabeth Shue with one arm, his retired custodian best friend with the other. Film audiences leave theaters trying to figure out what just happened to them.

Back to School

Before the Montage

The film's main character, Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) has been paying people to do his homework and take his tests all year, but with an oral exam coming up, he has to learn a semester's worth of information in just one night:

And even though that last sentence describes the finals experience of pretty much every college student we've ever met, Rodney Dangerfield is old so, you know, it's worth making a movie about.

Cue the Music

Instrumental hoo-ha. We think it's piano.

The Montage

The first rule of the training montage is that you must practice the skill you are trying to learn in a variety of beautiful or quirky locations. Whenever Rocky needed to prepare, he'd just train in a bunch of different scenic places all over the city of Philadelphia, or do something quirky like punch raw meat. Dangerfield apparently saw those films, because he studies in some of the zaniest locations ever: while getting a massage, while taking a shower and even at night in the dark, apparently before flashlights were invented:

The Outcome

Not only does he pass, but he is able to win his school's diving competition too, which means that the film gives us the pleasure of seeing a geriatric Rodney Dangerfield in both the shower and in a bathing suit.


Before the Montage

The big dance is coming up and Willard (Chris Penn) is a total clod. He's the strong silent type who wears a cowboy hat, gets into fistfights and thinks dancing's for city folk. Lucky for Willard, he's recently befriended a city boy (Kevin Bacon) who loves dancing so much that at one point, he dances through an empty warehouse for seven straight minutes.

There are a few things that don't make sense about this particular montage. The music is playing in his car, which means he's actually slam dancing his way through a factory that is mostly silent. Also, about half way through he breaks into an impromptu parallel bars routine, which only makes sense if he's dancing through an abandoned gymnastics equipment factory.

When it comes time to teach Willard to dance, logic is, predictably, abandoned.

Cue the Music

"Let's Hear it For the Boy," Denise Williams

The Montage

Students of the "Practicing in Weird Locations Rule" of training montages, these guys dance outside on Willard's farm, on the football stadium stairs and in the school gymnasium:

You'd think that an embarrassingly awful dancer would find some private place to practice, especially in a town that outlawed dancing because it killed people a few years back. But this isn't logic, this is a training montage.

The Outcome

Actually, it doesn't work. By the end of the montage he still can't dance and in the climactic prom scene he just jumps around like an asshole.

In fact none of the dance monatages make any sense until you realize that Footloose is in fact a chilling psychological thriller, and that every montage is being imagined by its deranged, literally dance-crazed protagonist.

Teen Wolf

Before the Montage

Let's say you're inexplicably making a pretty standard teen movie in which the main character becomes a werewolf 20 minutes into the film. Half-way into filming, you finally read the second half of the script and learn that the werewolf becomes the big man on campus. However, you've made the werewolf look like Chewbacca if he'd just stepped off the set of a 70s porn film.

Cue the Music

"Way To Go," Mark Vieha

The Montage

"Way to Go" is not as iconic as the other songs on this list, but if you listened to the linked MP3, you heard an obviously white Mark Vieha awkwardly singing a terrible blues song with lyrics like, "Take it easy and slow Joe." This is actually appropriate, since the montage makes it clear that Teen Wolf is, intentionally or not, one big racist metaphor.

Scott doesn't turn into a teenage werewolf so much as a teenage embodiment of every single stereotype about black people. He goes from sucking at basketball to throwing down reverse jams like Dominique Wilkins.

OK, fine, maybe a werewolf would be a little more athletic, but why is he suddenly dribbling between his legs and throwing behind the back passes? Is "And1 Mix Tape street balling skills" part of the werewolf mythology?

Meanwhile, he spends school hours slapping his classmates high fives and as the montage ends, he drops to the floor in the hallway and starts break dancing.

You know, like a werewolf.

The Outcome

If you ignore all of that, the montage skips over the more unbelievable part of the plot, preventing you from asking questions like: "Why hasn't the CIA captured and destroyed him?" and "Why is Samantha so eager to test out the sexual prowess of a werewolf? Are werewolfs better in bed?"

And as insulting as the song is, at least it fills the window of time that would have been the logical place for a "Teen Wolf Rap," which probably would have give America a seven year head start on the L.A. riots.

Campus Man

Before the Montage

Todd Barrett is a poor-yet-enterprising college student who owes mucho dinero to a badass loan shark named Cactus Jack. He's about to become just another statistic in the long line of college students physically threatened by angry loan sharks in 80s movies when he devises a clever, albeit amusingly homoerotic, plan to raise cash: create a beefcake calendar! But the filmmakers have a problem of their own: This movie is supposed to be a slacker comedy and not gay soft porn. What to do about the actual photo shoot?

Cue the Music

"Future's So Bright," Timbuk3

The Montage

Todd takes photos of muscular men, develops said photos and publishes them in calendar form, all in the span of a couple minutes.

Without the montage, we'd be watching details like the makeup guy re-taping the model's sack to the back of his leg. Instead, they use one of the greatest songs of the 80s, have their main character literally wear the shades that Timbuk3 talks about in the song and the audience's brain has been shut down long enough to make this thing happen.

The Outcome

Todd's calendar is a huge hit, he pays off Cactus Jack and learns the valuable life lesson that you can't take a picture of a sweaty dude straight on or you'll get something called "pec glare."

Rocky III and Rocky IV

Before the Montage

Rocky is the alpha and omega of awesomely retarded movie montages. The first two Rocky films were made in the 70s, but they featured a cartoonishly overmatched underdog, a disproportionately evil bad guy and an unassuming love interest who turns out to be attractive without glasses. Change the setting to a Chicago high school, toss in a dusting of brat pack and you would've had every 80s movie ever made. But the film's greatest contribution to the world of 80s cinema came out of a problem with the first film's script. A large portion of the narrative arc consisted of a borderline retarded boxer exercising, like, really hard.

Cue the Music

"Gonna Fly Now" (With Bonus Funky Baseline) in Rocky III, "Hearts on Fire" in Rocky IV

The Montage

The first two films cut together a bunch of one-armed pull-ups and urban jogging to make a pretty compelling five minutes of movie.

But the movies didn't truly take the montage to the level of a retarded art-form until the third film when the 80s were in full swing. Rocky III gives us the "Rocky learns rhythm from a black guy" and "homoerotic wind sprints on the beach" training montage.

In the fourth, Rocky montages the shit out of Russia, bench pressing rustic farm equipment, outrunning cars driven by the KGB and climbing a mountain in under a minute.

The Outcome

Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!

Be sure to find out about 5 Pathetic Groups that People Think Rule the World. Or check out some ways these groups could've been prevented, in History's 10 Most Terrifying Contraceptives.

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