Show, don't tell. It’s one of the oldest rules of narratological theory. What better serves the story? An exposition dump of dialog, or imparting information through action. To put it another way, Anton Chekhov is reputed to have said "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
This rings especially true for films and television, being fundamentally visual mediums. And could there be a more pure interpretation of this message than the humble montage? An editing technique in which a series of short shots are sequenced to condense space, time, and information.
Originating in the 30s, the montage's rise to pop culture status started with the release of Rocky in 1976. This editing style is synonymous with sports movies as a quick method for condensing months of training down to a few minutes, and often comes accompanied by music that makes you feel like you could tackle the run up those famous Philadelphia Museum steps yourself!
You are presumably well aware of the Rocky movies and their contribution as we know it. There are, however, so many other great contributions out there in the world of cinema. That’s why we here at LWKS present to you now, in Technicolor, some of our favorite movie montages that aren’t from Rocky.
Without a single word of dialogue, a couple's entire life of highs and lows are condensed down into everything you need to know. So concise, emotional, and packed with visual storytelling, it could be a short film in its own right.
The moment where the characters lose their inhibitions as they find each other. Pure joy for both the characters and the audience.
The over-arching theme of the relationship between religion and crime comes to a head as Michael ascends to the role of Godfather - in every sense of the term.
Both a parody and a complete love letter to montages all at once… through the medium of puppets! It also manages to serve as a perfect example of how a music-based montage can be structured. You could use this as a lesson in film school.
Look, we said no Rocky. We didn’t say anything about spin-offs! This Rocky sorta sequel was better than it had any right to be, and the same is true of its montage. Blending internal struggle with external (Rocky’s cancer and Creed’s physical conditioning) and old school with the new school (classic Rocky theme ‘fighting stronger’ mixed with Lord Knows by Meek Mills). This montage effortlessly showcased that the classic ‘get hype’ training montage still holds a place in modern cinema.
This concludes our brief list of movie montages that demonstrate the purpose and variety of the editing technique in both modern and classic cinema. While these are some greatest of all time potential contenders, this is by no means an exhaustive or definitive list. Let us know what montages you think are missing, and would like to see included when we get around to part two. If you flat our disagree that some of our examples here are GOAT contenders, then you can let us know that too!
Want to start editing your own movie montages today for free? Just head to www.lwks.com
For now, we’re off to throw logs around in the woods and run through the surf on the beach, all set to a banging 80s soundtrack. See you at the top of the steps.