How to make the perfect movie montage

Video slide show: From "Rushmore" to "Rocky III," watch the 10 best rapid-fire sequences in film history


Matt Zoller Seitz
June 4, 2011 3:28AM (UTC)

What is a montage? The most basic definition is a sequence that jumps a film's story ahead -- a sequence of shots edited in a way that compresses both time and information. There are other definitions and uses of the word -- Soviet-style montage, for example, uses editing to build arguments through images. But for purposes of this slide show, we're highlighting the most basic definition: a sequence that cuts to the chase with style, or that packs enough information to fill a whole other film into a few graceful minutes.

Think of the wedding/baptism sequence in "The Godfather," for instance, or the breakfast table sequence in "Citizen Kane," or most of "Days of Heaven." Or better yet, watch the montage about montages in "Team America: World Police" -- a gag reel that doubles as a lesson in film grammar. ("Show a lot of things happening at once!/Remind everyone of what's goin' on!")

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Our list of favorites cites two sports movies, a Chinese kung fu epic, an Italian tear-jerker, an American tear-jerker, and an animated kid flick with an opening so poignant that it could make Genghis Khan sob like a grandma cutting onions. Add your own favorites in the Letters section. And be quick about it. The readers haven't got all day!

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Matt Zoller Seitz

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