Best Movie Workout Scenes

It’s no secret why so many movies include scenes of men, women, and even children enduring intense, grueling exercise. With the right soundtrack and some judicious editing, training scenes are inherently dramatic. Here, in chronological order, are seven of the most memorable and enjoyable workout scenes in movie history.

1. Rocky (1976)


How many thousands of people have run up the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art over the past 40 years, imitating what may be the most famous training scene in all of moviedom? With the “Rocky Theme” roaring in the background, and a young Sylvester Stallone hopping and bobbing and weaving atop the museum’s steps, that one legendary scene is one of the most inspirational training moments you’ll find on film. Leave your irony at the door, and enjoy it.

3. The Karate Kid (1984)

The Karate Kid

So many scenes from the original Karate Kid, starring Ralph Macchio, have been parodied through the years that it’s easy to forget how charming the film really is. While the quasi-Eastern philosophizing of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) borders on laughable, the scenes of him training Daniel in the martial arts are inspiring. What’s more, The Karate Kid portrays a realistic approach to training—one that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever had a tough but fair trainer.

4. G.I. Jane (1997)

G.I. Jane

Back in the late 1990s, when Demi Moore was one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, she took on an action-heroine role in this fictional drama about the first woman to join the Navy SEALs. The movie itself is  mediocre. But the scenes of Moore’s shaved head and ripped body performing wildly contorted exercises are eye-popping. The most famous: Moore doing a series of one-armed pushups while drenched in sweat. That wasn’t a stunt double. It really was Moore in those workout scenes.

5. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones’s Diary

It’s been a long time since Renée Zellweger’s has made headlines for something besides a red carpet surprise, but for a few years she was box-office gold. Bridget Jones’s Diary was probably the apex of her appeal. The  scene of Bridget working like a demon on an exercise bike in order to shed pounds ahead of her new, hoped-for TV career—only to tumble to the ground while dismounting—is priceless. Here’s a movie that depicts a messy, sweaty, utterly unglamorous workout.

6. Enough (2002)


What makes the workout scenes in Enough so powerful is not merely that Jennifer Lopez’s character is training to protect herself from an abusive husband, but that the audience sees both her body and her self-confidence growing stronger. The movie as a whole is so-so. But when Lopez, training in the Krav Maga self-defense technique, pokes holes in grapefruit at lightning speed to indicate how deadly she’s become with just two fingers, it’s hard not to want to take up a little Krav Maga oneself.

7. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)


There are about 18 things horribly, winningly wrong with the scene of smarmy, 1970s anchorman Ron Burgundy working out in his office. No shirt in the office? Usually a no-no, but this barbell scene is awkwardly enjoyable to witness. Christina Applegate, playing his co-anchor, practically steals the scene with a seemingly endless variety of facial expressions, all of which say: “Are you kidding me?!”

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