2017 may be remembered mostly for its tumult and polarization, but it was also an amazing year for television montages.
One of the most common tools of visual storytelling, the montage is simply when a series of individual shots (often quick ones) are edited together into a coherent whole. They typically lack dialogue and are instead set to music or a voiceover.
When used smartly and sparingly, the montage can be a stylish and effective way to show the passage of time, repetition, or the movement of people from one place to another. Think morning routines, long distance travel, and the most prolific type of montage of all: the training regimen, a cliche perfected by the Rocky movies.
We couldn’t list every single montage from 2017 (pretty much all TV shows and films have at least one at some point) but here are 11 of the very best:
“Fly Like an Eagle” travel montage, Mindhunter
Filmed by The Social Network and Fight Club director David Fincher, this cheeky montage perfectly shows the monotony of business travel. This is how you condense many days—and many more miles—into an entertaining two minutes of TV.
The Game of Thrones poop montage
Perhaps even more enjoyably strange without any context, we’ll still provide some: Sam, an apprentice at the center of learning known as the Citadel, is tasked with filing away books, pouring soup, and changing out used bedpans. The resulting montage is the funniest thing Game of Thrones has ever done.
GLOW training montage
Every great fighting movie (or TV series) needs a training montage. GLOW spared us the traditionally cheesy montages of films like Rocky and just played it fairly straight, showing how the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling got up to speed on their choreographed moves. The sequence is set to “Dare” from the 1986 animated Transformers movie.
Morning routine montage, Better Call Saul
Long a creative practitioner of montages (like its predecessor, Breaking Bad), Better Call Saul made the best “getting ready” routine of the year, as we watch the rapid-fire cuts that, when combined, paint a detailed picture of attorney Kim Wexler’s morning ritual.
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” finale montage, The Americans
The Americans closed out its fifth season with this Elton John classic, which reminded me a bit of the “You Only Live Twice” montage that ended the fifth season of Mad Men—one of TV’s great season closers.
The Young Pope is sexy and he knows it
Not much to explain here. This is Jude Law, playing the literal pope, putting on the papal regalia as “Sexy and I Know It” by electronic dance duo LMFAO serenades viewers. That’s just the kind of show HBO’s The Young Pope is.
Legion goes nuts to “Boléro”
To be fair, Legion is always nuts, but never more so than in its seventh episode, when the hallucinogenic superhero drama turned into a macabre black-and-white silent film set to composer Jeff Russo’s version of the renowned French ballet composition.
The Great Disappointment, The Leftovers
Only a show as audacious as The Leftovers would dare try something like this: opening its third season almost 200 years in the past with the “Great Disappointment“—channeling that feeling you get when Jesus Christ fails to return as promised. (The montage also makes great use of an obviously anachronistic music choice which only makes the scene all the more disorienting.)
Ozark explains how money laundering works
Ozark is a TV show about a money launderer, so it makes sense that it’d give a very basic outline of how to perform the financial crime for those unfamiliar. (Quartz condones neither illegal money laundering nor using this clip as the blueprint on how to do so.) The Netflix series found a quick and clever way to show how it all works without disrupting the narrative.
“That’s Life” (and death), Preacher
I have no idea what’s going on here, as I don’t watch this show. However, it was recommended to me by more than one person as an example of the AMC supernatural black comedy’s innovative storytelling. Here we have a character named Fiore Ganesh, an angel from heaven, committing suicide over and over in myriad ways.
Late night and the news take on Donald Trump
Ever since Donald Trump’s inauguration, late night comedy and cable news shows have made a habit out of exploiting the US president’s bizarre behavior as fodder for humorous montages. Technically these are not montages in the way that the clips above are but rather “supercuts” of the same action spliced together. But who’s counting?