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Cinematic Exercise

by Kathryn Milewski 5 months ago in playlist

For those who want to be the protagonist of their own story.

Still from "Rocky" (1976)

If you're like me, the very thought of doing a workout makes you shrivel up into a ball and lie still for several hours. It's exhausting to think about, and even more exhausting when you're running down the street or lifting dumbbells in the air. The tiredness, the sweat, the time it takes to finish a doesn't seem like it's worth the effort.

If you're a cinephile like me, you'd rather be watching a movie.

Movies are a wonderful escape from the mundanity of ordinary life. In Star Wars, you're teleported to an evil intergalactic empire on the brink of collapse from rebels and Jedi. Ferris Bueller's Day Off lets us laugh at the hilarity of a wise guy teen escaping the perils of high school. Taxi Driver allows us to explore the psyche of a Vietnam veteran as the sleaze of 70's New York fuels his urge for violence. Movies teach us valuable life lessons, introduce us to captivating performances, and provide us with some inspiration on how to lead our own lives.

But while watching movies is a great way to spend time, especially during this pandemic, you can't spend your whole life doing so. If you spent every day sitting on your sofa watching film after film and doing nothing else...your body would catch up to you. You'd lose strength, gain pounds you didn't intend to gain, and maybe even develop other serious health problems.

Therefore, we all must exercise once in a while. Yes: even you cinephiles out there reading this.

But wait! Never fear! I've devised a workout playlist intended to be fun and motivating to the fellow movie-lover. It may even make you feel like you're the protagonist of your own movie.

This is Cinematic Exercise.

It's a collection of 12 songs just under 50 minutes, taken from 12 training/fight/dance scenes from 12 iconic movies. I made sure that in every one of these 12 songs, the characters on screen were doing vigorous physical activity; whether it's punching and kicking, running, shooting, rowing, or dancing on some stairs. Hopefully it'll motivate you to get outside and moving so that you can go back to the thing you love most: watching movies.

Here's a run-through of all the songs I chose, why I chose them, and the delightful films they're from...

1. Gonna Fly Now - "Rocky" (1976)

The ultimate whip-yourself-into-shape movie, I couldn't make a cinematic exercise playlist without including something from Rocky. The theme of the film, Gonna Fly Now, is played during the movie's most iconic scene: a training montage where Rocky runs all across Philadelphia. He even runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art - now known as the "Rocky Steps."

I've heard this song played at multiple sporting events. I put it first in this playlist because it's a great song to warm up to. Just the sound of those blaring horns is enough to make you hop off your couch. Try listening to Gonna Fly Now while stretching before a morning run!

2. Barracuda - "I, Tonya" (2017)

This may be the best segue after Gonna Fly Now considering Tonya Harding's line: "This is how Rocky trained when he had to fight the Russian. And it worked!"

Played during another great montage from a sports movie, Barracuda by Heart is a rockin' 1977 jam with a galloping guitar riff and soaring vocals. It's about getting back at people who wronged you, and emblematic of Tonya Harding herself. If you don't know who she is, she's a former figure skater who was banned from the sport after the 1994 Nancy Kerrigan attack - something Harding may have been unfairly blamed for.

I,Tonya is a spunky film which tells the infamous skater's life story. The training scene where Barracuda plays is a moment where Harding learns she has a chance to compete in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games. Barracuda is the perfect song to accompany the montage, as the news of Harding's return to the Olympics picks up the pace of the film. Let the music pick up your pace, too, as you go from stretching to starting your workout!

3. Go Your Own Way - "Forrest Gump" (1994)

There's so many great songs that play during the hilarious Forrest Gump running scene. I'm talking about the one near the end of the film, not the famous "Run, Forrest, Run!" scene. Some of the songs in the final running scene include On The Road Again, Against The Wind, and It Keeps You Runnin' by the Doobie Brothers.

But the song within the scene I think fits best for a workout is Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. While the song is about leaving behind a lover (Forrest leaving behind Jenny in the movie), it's also an upbeat track about carving your own path in life. Use it as motivation to keep moving!

4. I Giorni Dell'ira - "Django Unchained" (2012)

I made sure to include some instrumentals in this playlist. I Giorni Dell'ira (Italian for 'Day of Anger') plays during the training montage in Quentin Tarantino's western, Django Unchained. It's when the titular character practices his sharpshooting in the wintertime, learning he's very gifted with a gun.

While some may argue the song Unchained (played during the famous shootout at Candyland) would have been a better choice for a workout playlist, I think I Giorni Dell'ira has a more consistent rhythm and is also energetic with it's blaring horns. While doing crunches, you'll feel like a cowboy in your own spaghetti western!

5. I'll Make A Man Out of You - "Mulan" (1998)

I'll admit: I'm not as big of a Disney fan compared to my roommates or close theatre friends. But if you don't think I'll Make A Man Out of You is the ultimate Disney karaoke song, you can fight me.

I think this is the best workout song ever made. When it plays during 1998's Mulan, the Chinese Army is training to become fearsome warriors so they may defeat the Huns. It doesn't matter how tired or sore you are, the lyrics from this tune will make you smile. The heavy drums and chorus are enough to call it a bop.

When you work out to this song, you'll be swift as a coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon, with all the strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moooooooooon!

6. Footloose - "Footloose" (1984)

If you've never heard of the movie Footloose, I'll give you the Star Lord synopsis: a great hero, named Kevin Bacon, teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that dancing? It's the greatest thing there is. The most popular song from the movie is the titular song, Footloose. You may have heard it on the radio, or at wedding receptions, or at your cringy middle school dance.

I think it's physically impossible to keep still while Footloose is playing. While you may not be able to jive in a glitter shower or dance in a maskless crowd right now (thanks a lot, COVID), you can definitely move your body to this song while completing some pushups or jumping rope.

Since this is a song about grooving, you could even integrate some dancing into your workout routine. Kick off your Sunday shoes and get cut loose!

7. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - "Kill Bill" (2003)

My cinephile friends and I agree this song is the most underrated in the Kill Bill soundtrack. The movie only plays an instrumental version of it, but it's actually ten minutes long and has some pretty awesome vocals. We played it for guests at our college's film festival, and some people actually got out of their chairs and danced!

It plays during the intense fight scene between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii. With its pounding beat and Spanish sounds, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood is a song that fills you up with vigor. I can totally see someone listening to this while running on a treadmill or punching a boxing bag.

8. Immigrant Song - "Thor: Ragnarok" (2017)

In my opinion, this is the most badass fight scene in the MCU - complete with a badass Led Zeppelin song behind it.

Immigrant Song likens the band's trip to Iceland to Norse warriors colonizing America. Ideal for the Thor franchise, considering the title character is a god from Norse mythology. It's iconic, electric, and the perfect accompaniment to the whacks and slashes of Thor, Loki, Hulk, and Valkyrie.

This is a great song to energize you when you're feeling tired and need a boost. Even the scene from the movie is about making sparks - from Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) thunder bolts, to the beautiful fireworks bursting behind Valkyrie. (Played by my fave actress - and new best friend - Tessa Thompson.)

Keep up the energy and charge through your workout!

9. In The Hall of the Mountain King - "The Social Network" (2010)

An electronic recreation of a beloved classical song. In the Hall of the Mountain King plays during the dramatic rowing match between Harvard University and a Dutch team in Aaron Sorkin's The Social Network. The teams are competing in the Henley Royal Regatta, and the Winklevoss twins (both played by Armie Hammer), put all their might into paddling.

This song may be an odd choice for a workout, as it starts out slow and only lasts two minutes. But I think it's a good tune to use if you want to do an exercise that's quick, yet very intense. You can also move slowly in the beginning of the song, then pick up the pace as the music surges. You may need to find a creative way to use this song, but it is quite lively.

10. Rock and Roll Part II - "Joker" (2019)

I was surprised to hear this song play during the iconic stair dance scene in Joker. Rock and Roll Part II is a beloved "jock jam." I remember listening to it in my mom's car as a kid, when she played a CD filled with upbeat songs commonly heard at sports games. Besides Joker, Rock and Roll Part II was also used in the sports comedy film, The Replacements, with Keanu Reeves. I personally know this song from my time spent at NJ Devils home games, when the crowd would chant "YOU SUCK!" at the visiting team when the long 'hey' rolled in.

Anyways, this song is meant to be invigorating, which is why I placed it near the end of the playlist. Like Arthur, let the pumping beat fill you up as you keep going through your workout. You're almost at the end!

11. You're the Best - "The Karate Kid" (1989)

This is the only scene from The Karate Kid I remember, thanks in part to this banger of a song. You're the Best is heard near the end of the film when our protagonist, Daniel, must take down members of the Cobra Kai dojo at a karate tournament. A seemingly impossible feat, but something he manages to accomplish. If you're a Cartoon Network nerd like me, you may also know this song from a hilarious scene in Regular Show.

I believe this is a good song to place near the end of the workout playlist because of how positive the lyrics are. Don't give up! Tell yourself you're the best as you're finishing up the last of your routine. It may give you some second wind.

12. (I've Had) The Time of My Life - Dirty Dancing (1987)

Nobody puts baby in a corner.

I made this song the closer for two reasons. First, it's slower in pace than the rest of the songs, yet zestful enough to keep your body moving. Therefore, it's a great cooldown tune you can use while doing some final stretches.

Second, (I've Had) The Time of My Life is the perfect finale song. I heard it at the end of every high school dance, before everyone went home. In Dirty Dancing, it closes the film when Baby (Jennifer Grey) and Johnny (Patrick Swayze) do a show-stopping routine for the talent show. You may not have Patrick Swayze available to lift you up in the air, but you can definitely dance, run, or do some push-ups to this song just fine.

Congratulate yourself for getting through a workout! You deserve a pat on the back. And maybe some water, too. Now get back to your spot on the couch and unpause that Criterion Collection film you were watching.

Well folks...I've had the time of my life creating this playlist for you. I hope this compilation has inspired you to start or re-watch the films I mentioned. But more importantly, I hope it gets you to run, dance, row, lift, climb, or do whatever exercise you're interested in trying. Have a happy workout! Roll credits.


Any upbeat movie songs you love that I missed? Let me know @katyisaladybug on Instagram and social media. Also make sure to give this article a like if you enjoyed, and feel free to follow the Cinematic Exercise playlist on Spotify. Thanks for reading! :)


Kathryn Milewski
Kathryn Milewski
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Kathryn Milewski

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