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20 Montages That Might Be The Best Part Of The Movie

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    Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures; Illustrated Mallory Heyer.

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    Inspiring, evocative, romantic, convenient, and absolutely cheesetastic: The movie montage must have once seemed like a brilliant innovation in film. Want to show a process that would take days, months, years in real time? Cut a bunch of scenes together and set it to just the right music, and viewers won't notice that you're taking a shortcut! Friendships and love connections cement in a minute. Losers become champions. Dorks become smooth dancers. Prostitutes obtain complete upper-crust wardrobes.

    Like with any easy technique, though, the montage quickly became an overused trope in the '80s, when every character had to "Push It To the Limit" and get higher, stronger, richer. By the early '00s, it was the stuff of satire in Wet Hot American Summer and Team America: World Police

    Today, it's starting to look like the montage has come full circle, with directors using it sparingly, so we don't always realize that's what we're watching. Fairy tales and comic book movies in particular still need that fast-forward button to advance their stories for short attention spans. 

    Here, we take a nostalgic look at some of the most awesome montages of the '80s from the likes of Rocky and Footloose, the transformative scenes of our favorite '90s gems, the loving spoofs of later films, and the newest, subtle versions that may have brought the form back in style.

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    Rocky III

    This epic training montage has something for everyone: inspirational displays of athletic prowess, Sylvester Stallone's shoulders, Carl Weathers' thighs, the long-lost male crop-top and short-shorts look, and the probably unintentional homoeroticism of Apollo and Rocky's slow-motion embrace in the ocean. We'll even forgive it for using the exact same theme song, Bill Conti's "Gonna Fly Now," as the first Rocky.

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    Scarface

    This theme song, Paul Engemann's "Scarface (Push It to the Limit)," makes us feel like we should be in spin class. It also totally fails to match the scenes unfolding before us, of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and his men bringing bigger and bigger bags of cash to the bank while he marries Michelle Pfieffer, his sister flirts with his BFF, and they all admire a tiger. Sometimes, you just need to honor ridiculousness like this.

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    Footloose

    Kevin Bacon makes a case for himself as the world's most effective dance teacher when he trains farm boy Chris Penn to master the forbidden art through pastures, fields, and school hallways. The bromance between these two is as infectious as Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear It for the Boy," making us almost wish we could see this process unfold in real time rather than just the length of the song. We bet Kevin would be up for it if we asked really nicely...

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    Karate Kid

    Have you ever tried to sit through an actual amateur sport competition of any kind? Unless you're one of the competitors, it's deadly boring. That's why this is the absolute best use of the montage technique. Speaking of which, "You're the Best," by Joe Esposito, is basically the stick by which all other '80s montage songs are measured.

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    Ferris Bueller's Day Off

    Someone has to look into whether museum attendance went up at the Chicago Institute of Art after this peaceful interlude, in which Ferris, Sloan, and Cameron ponder paintings and sculptures to the sounds of the Dream Academy covering the Smiths' "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want." It at least must have inspired some film geeks to play hooky in a much more edifying manner than ducking into the mall.