All hail the glorious ’80s musical montage! Perfect for depicting long passages of time in a matter of minutes, the montage has come to be one of the defining characteristics of popular ’80s cinema. Many of the most beloved movies from the decade have them. So which are the best? Luckily, questions like that are what we’re here for. So, in chronological order, here are our favorite ’80s musical montages.
10. Chariots of Fire (March 30, 1981)
Since we’re going in chronological order, let’s begin with one of the first great ’80s montages, the “Run In God’s Name” scene from Chariots Of Fire. With the sound of Vangelis’ Academy Award-winning soundtrack blazing in the background, this scene depicts the training of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, two athletes bound for the 1924 Olympics. This is one of the first great training montages of the decade, depicting an athlete’s rise from mediocrity to greatness. Many of the entries on this list are training montages, so clearly, the first would have to among the most important.
9. Scarface (December 9, 1983)
“First you get the money. Then you get the power. Then you get the women.” This immortal line from Tony Montana, the antihero of Scarface, summarizes the business ethics of both ’80s America and the cut-throat Miami drug trade. Set to the pumping synths of Paul Engemann’s “Push it to the Limit,” this montage shows Tony’s rise to power and glory. Who knew that high crime could look and sound so cool?
8. Ghostbusters (June 7, 1984)
If you were alive during the ’80s, then you knew Ray Parker Jr.’s theme from Ghostbusters better than the National Anthem. And who can blame you? It’s one of the catchiest songs of the decade! And it was given a killer montage in the film, too. During the film, the song plays while we watch the eponymous group of paranormal crusaders rise to fame and riches. Well, maybe not riches, but definitely fame!
7. The Karate Kid (June 22, 1984)
If this list wasn’t in chronological order, then there’s a good chance that this would be much, much higher. The tournament montage featuring Joe Esposito’s “You’re The Best Around” is one of the most famous and beloved of the decade. Who didn’t want to see Daniel-san wipe the floor with those Cobra Kai bullies? This montage depicts part of the All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament, where we see the two months of training with Mr. Miyagi pay off. It only stands to reason that one of the best underdog sports movies of the ’80s would have one of the best montages, too.
6. The Breakfast Club (February 15, 1985)
One of the defining teen movies of the ’80s, The Breakfast Club is one of director John Hughes’ true masterpieces. For a film that is so dialogue-heavy, one would think that there wouldn’t be cause for an awesome musical montage. But Hughes proved the world wrong with a scene where the five students dance to Karla DeVito’s “We Are Not Alone.” The shots of the teens dancing together ranks not only as some of the most iconic images of the film, but of the decade in general.
5. Teen Wolf (August 23, 1985)
1985 was a huge year for Michael J. Fox. Not only did he star in Back To The Future, he also appeared in the incredible Teen Wolf. While the former wasn’t short on music, the latter would be the film to deliver a kickin’ musical montage. With Mark Vieha’s “Way To Go” blaring, this montage combines two things that ’80s movies loved: sport competitions and becoming popular. It’s pure ’80s goodness!
4. Rocky IV (November 27, 1985)
You knew that the Italian Stallion would show up eventually on this list. Of all of his movies (and montages), Rocky IV might well have been the best. Why? Because it perfectly captures the spirit and over-the-top glory of the ’80s. Who didn’t love watching Rocky beat the tar out of Drago and, simultaneously, Communism?
3. Dirty Dancing (August 21, 1987)
Another great training montage, the scene in Dirty Dancing where Patrick Swayze teaches Jennifer Grey how to dance, is a classic teen romance moment. The song that plays, Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes,” is unfortunately usually overshadowed by the award-winning smash hit “The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. But it is still a great song from a great movie with, of course, a great musical montage!
2. Bloodsport (February 26, 1988)
Sylvester Stallone isn’t the only ’80s action god with an entry on this list. Enter Jean-Claude Van Damme, the Belgian martial arts expert that rose to fame in Newt Arnold’s Bloodsport. Stan Bush performs “Fight To Survive” during a montage depicting several fights from the film’s central tournament. This is one scene that is sure to get the blood pumping and the masses chanting “KUMITE! KUMITE!”
1. The Naked Gun (December 2, 1988)
Let’s end this list with a montage from the delightfully hilarious Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad. A magnificent spoof (before “spoof” was a dirty word that became shorthand for “add farts to everything”) of police dramas, the film features a montage where Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley fall in love and cavort throughout town to the sound of Herman Hermit’s “I’m Into Something Good.” This scene is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and a catchy tune in your head.