Ah, the gym. Provider of the beautiful post-workout, self-righteous glow and yet the home of that deeply unpleasant, seemingly endless battle to avoid a belly. We love you and hate you in equal measure.
Hollywood, however, only loves you, as proven by the ten best gym scenes in movie history. Expect sweat, blood, bad language and at least one exploding head.
We've all been there. You're casually thumping away at a heavy bag and professional mixed martial arts superstar Erik Apple (who plays Mad Dog in the scene), starts to give you some lip. You have absolutely no choice, do you? You've gotta chop that sucker down. Tom Hardy is utterly compelling in this three minute clip, talking his way into the ring to hand out some beatdown to the mohican-ed one. Cue viscerally real fisticuffs that leave poor Erik lifeless on the ropes. Hey, you owe Tom Hardy $200. Pay da man.
PAIN & GAIN
Mark Wahlberg strutting through the gym, high-fiving giants while dishing out brilliant, back-to-back quotes, this is one of the most guilty pleasure openings to a film ever. Highlight of those quotes? No question: "If you're willing to do the work, you can have anything. That's what makes the U.S. of A great. When it started, America was just a handful of scrawny colonies. Now, it's the most buff, pumped-up country on the planet. That's pretty rad." (Jump to 2 mins 23)
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
The cock-sure, overly-aggressive, sexist Shawrelle has a beating coming from the get-go in this Clint Eastwood masterpiece, but it's the source of the pounding that really makes this scene riveting. Morgan Freeman's brilliantly named character, Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris, goes from cleaning toilets to knocking out the disdainful Shawrelle in less than a minute, while also protecting the lovable "Danger" both physically and emotionally. Cue tooth being spat out after a knockout, gloveless north paw. BOOM!
AMERICAN HISTORY X
There's so much at play here. We hate the flashback era Danny Vinyard for his loathsome views yet know he has turned a corner in the time that the film is set. Emotionally we're being pushed and pulled in conflicting directions, uncomfortable that the character that's potentially the hero of the piece has such a repulsive past. And then he removes his t-shirt to reveal a colossal swastika tattoo to the bewilderment of most inmates. Thick with tension the scene is highly charged and, shot in black and white, almost haunting in its realism.
This is vintage Ben Stiller at his funniest / most excruciating. "We should mate" he says, before quickly repeating himself as "we should date", a line which makes Christine Taylor's character Kate Veatch vomit in her mouth. "In some cultures, they only eat vomit." says Stiller's White Goodman without missing a beat. "I've never been there, but I read about it... *in a book*."
Wow. So, very, wow.
Anyone who's ever been to a gym knows about the unspoken treadmill competitions that are happening throughout. If you arrive on your treadmill after the person next to you, you have to last longer than they do on it. That's a fact. This competitive streak is taken to the next level by Seann William Scott and Billy Bob Thornton in Mr. Woodcock and it's William Scott who, by some distance, comes off worst.
Home to the mother of all montages the standout moment, surely, is when Rocky races to the top of a mountain while Drago is pushed to his limit on a treadmill, while 80s music thunders out. Drago is the really memorable character here. Having seen him push through the pain barrier on his treadmill we all picture him when we've done the same on our treadmills, right? Only, y'know, at a fraction of the speed, for a fraction of the duration, at a fraction of the incline. But who's counting? (The guy on the treadmill next to you, that's who)
Death spa (tagline: The place for a killer workout) is a wonderfully cheap, 80s horror with a bafflingly absurd plot. In short, it's about a haunted gym, the spirits behind which are intent on killing off maximum numbers of gym goers in increasingly daft scenarios. Pick of the lot sees one protagonist on a bedevilled weight machine that forces his arms back to a point where his ribs crack clean out of his skin, as fellow health enthusiasts battle in vain to save him. Once you've watched that, give the trailer a try. You're welcome.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Few of us have ever had to shout for help due to an exercise machine, but in this ace scene Bill Murray must do just that as a Japanese cross-trainer barks instructions at him. The scene was actually Bill Murray's idea and the highlight has to be the flawless dismount at the end. Well played, Murray. Well played.
FINAL DESTINATION 3
Another scene that falls squarely into the guilty pleasure category, this one sees FD3 character Lewis Romero pumping iron with some of the most vocal meatheads in movie gym history. It's the old Final Destination trick: We know a death is coming we just have no idea how. Red herrings a plenty make it a tense yet fun experience, but the final curtain call for Lewis really is an eye-closer. Still, it's how he would have wanted to go.