On December 3, Rocky turned 40 years old, providing us with a reasonable enough excuse to rant about the truly remarkable training montages that have popped up throughout the franchise, but both happening together almost feels like a sign. We must discuss the Rocky training montages. We have to.
So, let’s do that. Here are the six main training montages from the first six films (excluding Creed), ranked from mountain-climbing best to unspeakable, unspeakable worst.
A few notes:
- This video actually contains the two (2) training montages that take place in Rocky IV. It does not contain the other montage from Rocky IV, where Rocky drives his exotic sports car through Philly to the song “No Easy Way Out.” There are so many montages in Rocky IV.
- I love that this movie starts with Rocky as a retired millionaire with a personal robot and ends with him defeating the giant Soviet Adonis who punched his best friend to death, all thanks to a training regimen that relies heavily on tactics such as “moving some big rocks around.”
- It’s fun to imagine Rocky catching pneumonia on the mountain and having to cancel the fight after all that.
- It’s also fun to imagine the meltdown ESPN’s talking heads would have over this fight and his training methods if it took place today. (“Skip. Now you KNOW I’m from Philly. I LOVE Rocky. LOVE him. But you simply CAN NOT defeat a giant Russian by moving some rocks around. CAN’T DO IT.”)
- The funniest thing to happen in any movie ever is Rocky IV demonizing Drago and the Russians as dirty steroid-abusing cheaters while Stallone’s veins are sticking out of his comically sculpted muscles so far that they look like mountain ranges on a topographical map.
Number one with a bullet.
Okay, here’s what I want you to do: Picture yourself at the beach. It’s a beautiful California morning. You’re spread out on your towel, slathered in skin-protective goop. The sun feels warm on your face, the salty ocean breeze is blowing over you gently. Maybe you’re reading a book, or watching your little ones make sand castles. Standard, normal beach activity. Then, out of nowhere, the two most famous boxers in the world — sworn enemies until very recently — go screaming past you in a heated foot race while wearing tank tops and short shorts, and then they begin hugging and splashing in the shallow water like two children whose parents have just told them they are going to Disney World. Picture your face when you witness this. Picture the faces of everyone around you when they realize this is what’s happening. Picture the whole scene.
Rocky III is a good movie.
There’s lots to love about the Rocky II training montage. There’s him training by basically just banging garbage with a hammer at the junkyard, and him carrying a log around South Philly, and a brief interlude in the middle where he cares for his baby. Fine, great, wonderful.
But the montage reached a whole new level of insanity when Dan McQuade of Philly Mag mapped out Rocky’s big run through the streets of Philly and discovered that it checked in at more than 30 miles. Thirty miles! And the best part is that the children running behind him are with him for something like 17 of those miles. If this movie were at all accurate, Apollo would have pulverized a wobbly-legged Rocky in Round 1 and Philadelphia would have been littered with the bodies of children who died of exhaustion on the sidewalk.
It’s probably out-and-out blasphemy to rank this one ahead of the one from the original, but I’m doing it anyway because this one leads with the “hurtin’ bombs” speech, and I love any montage that prominently features the phrase “hurtin’ bombs.”
“You know all there is to know about fighting, so there’s no sense us going down that same old road again. To beat this guy, you need speed. You don’t have it. And your knees can’t take the pounding, so hard running is out. And you got arthritis in your neck. And you’ve got calcium deposits on most of your joints, so sparring is out. So, what we’ll be calling on is good old-fashioned blunt-force trauma. Horsepower. Heavy-duty, cast-iron, pile-driving punches that will have to hurt so much they’ll rattle his ancestors. Every time you hit him with a shot, it’s gotta feel like he tried kissing the express train. Yeah! Let’s start building… some hurtin’ bombs.”
And how does one build hurtin’ bombs, you ask? Well, by jogging with dogs and flinging a keg around. Obviously.
The first training montage in the Rocky franchise — the one that spawned all the others — really isn’t all that great, if we’re being honest with ourselves. It was impressive at the time, surely, what with the drinking raw eggs and running up the art museum steps and whaling away on a slap of beef while guitars wail away in the background, but it all seems so simple in hindsight. I mean, scroll back up and look at the things Rocky went on to do. Mountain climbing in Russia! Beach races in California! Hurtin’ bombs! It’s like going to a car museum and hearing someone explain that one of the models was the first to exceed 50 mph. You’re like, “Yeah, cool, but my used Dodge Neon hit 85 on the way over here.” It’s the nature of evolution.
Nope. Let’s not discuss any of this. Thanks.