10 Greatest Movie Montages of the ’80s

Whether used to depict training or competition in sports movies or simply to convey a sugarcoated sense of general winning-ness over time, the montage has become an inescapable staple of American cinema. What’s more, dressed for success, this cinematic cliché was embraced in the Eighties as it was in no other decade.

What was it about the montage technique that was so beloved of the era of spandex, bad hair, worse dress sense, big egos, and a love of male muscle? We can but guess — though it did of course provide an excuse for an extra slice of cheesy Eighties music to be layered on top of this hamburger of different shots and episodes cut together. Here are ten of the best.

10. The Karate Kid

Ah, The Karate Kid. The classic 1984 teen martial arts movie that brought us “wax on, wax off” and the path to manhood of Daniel LaRusso (played by a baby-faced Ralph Macchio) who proved that even pre-pubescent pups don’t have to be bullied by the bad guys. During the course of the movie, “Daniel-san” not only gains a father figure in the verbally challenged Mr. Miyagi but gets a girl who looks twice his height and twice his age — although he has to wait until the sequel for his balls to drop, and by then his love interest has dumped him for a football player.

Despite a memorable finale, in which our pint-sized hero battles his nemesis, Johnny “sweep the leg” Lawrence, while standing on one leg, it was the build-up to the finale that made young palms start to sweat with muttered vows kindled about spending allowances at the local karate gym. As our hero surprises everyone except the entire adult movie theater audience by progressing through the tournament’s early rounds, “You’re the best!” shouts the permed, Eighties sweater-wearing Ali, and on cue Joe Esposito’s song of the same name kicks in, signalling the start of the movie montage we’d all been waiting for.

Daniel beats up an extra, then nervously bites his nails as the Aryan brotherhood from the Cobra Kai dojo kick ass, watched menacingly by their bullet hole-chinned sensei, an ex-Vietnam Special Forces sociopath. But runt Daniel does (less-than-convincingly) step up to the plate to show he’s got what it takes in the fighting stakes. It was the Eighties with a crappy white bandana, and we loved it. Sorta.

About The Author