This article is one in a series about getting fit in the new year. Check out the entire Man up! series here.
If you’re ever feeling lazy, but know that you really should get up and exercise, all you need is some motivation. The eleven movies are the best of the best for telling stories of underdogs who become champions, and pushing you to reach your full potential. In fact, the trailers alone should be enough to get you off the couch.
The movie that defined the buddy cop genre also features Mel Gibson in peak physical shape as Martin Riggs, the dangerously depressed Special Forces veteran and trained killer. The final fight scene, which pits him against another kung fu champion (played by Gary Busey) in hand to hand combat, is enough to inspire you to hit the gym and work on your fighting skills.
In the second part of Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” Uma Thurman’s character goes through one of the tougher training sequences you’ll ever see in a movie. Master Pai Mei doesn’t treat her too kindly, but before long she excels, and you’ll feel like punching through planks of wood, too.
Ridley Scott’s vision of the Roman Empire at the height of its power features a lot of fighting, from full on warfare against the Gauls to one on one matches in the Coliseum. Russel Crowe, as the general turned slave turned gladiator, delivers several top notch inspirational speeches as well as astounding, if gory, moves on the battlefield in his quest to take down the murderous emperor.
Christian Bale charts Bruce Wayne’s transformation from fearful orphan to justice seeking superhero in the movie that resuscitated the Batman legacy. He takes his fear of bats and channels it into the drive to “become more than just a man,” and to be the legend that Gotham needs.
Although “Million Dollar Baby” is about a woman trying to break into the men’s world of boxing, her heart and spirit will inspire anyone to get into shape.
Sean Astin doesn’t have much on Russel Crowe or Christian Bale, but as Rudy, the little guy who won’t give up on his dream of playing Notre Dame football, he outfights them easily. I believe it’s physically impossible to watch this movie without standing up and cheering, and then feeling like it’s time to get outside and run through some tires.
This children’s comedy is an animated reboot of the classic underdog story. Po the panda, voiced by Jack Black, isn’t good for much besides eating, until he learns his destiny is to become a Kung Fu warrior and save his home from an evil menace. Though overweight and supremely clumsy, he pushes himself to develop his inner fighter, and discovers his true potential.
Mel Gibson plays William Wallace, the reluctant warrior who leads his countrymen in rebellion against the tyrannic King of England. He also gives the best pre-battle speech you’ll ever hear, culminating the famous line, “You may take our lives, but you’ll never take our freedom!”
This classic sports movie follows Gene Hackman as a washed up college coach trying to take a mediocre team of high school basketball players all the way to the state championship. It’s the ultimate Cinderella story, with glorious moments, irresistible pep talks, and the classic moment where Hackman measures the height of the basket on the championship areana, proving that the game is the same, no matter the level you play on.
There’s no brawling or kung fu in this story two Olympic runners, one a devout Christian, the other a Jew fighting to overcome prejudice, but there is a whole lot of heart. And running. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The Rocky theme song, officially “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti, has become synonymous with getting pumped up to work out. Rocky Balboa, once a fighter with great potential, puts everything he’s got into what may be the best comeback story in cinematic history.
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