Movie Clichés!


Piston-engine airplanes in the movies are unusually subject to engine failure. This failure mode is unique to filmdom - engine coughs, keeps running. Hero doesn't notice. Then it stutters, catches again. Hero notices, taps gas gauge, turns lever. Then it stutters exactly three times and stops immediately, including propeller. No further efforts are ever made to restart.


Only men are alcoholics. Any hopeless alcoholic can quit drinking when faced with an important challenge. The instant the alcoholic stops drinking, all his faculties return and he faces no annoying withdrawals.


If there is more than one or two of an alien race, they are always roughly the same size as humans.
Aliens usually speak english and have same colloquialisms. planet.
All members of alien species wear the same outfits, including clothing, hairstyles, and jewelery. This makes them readily identifiable. Aliens who do not dress like aliens are hiding something.
This may, in fact, be a consequence of the fact that aliens all have single, monolithic cultures: one language, one religion, one outfit, per planet.


Bad guys will always get killed by a snake, while the hero simply reaches out and picks it up with his bare hands. (In addition, he will either break the reptile's neck (?) or bite it's head off)
Deadly reptiles will always attack a woman first, even if she's in the presence of thirty men.
Dogs always know who's bad, and bark at them.


If the hero listens to his answering machine and one important message is unexpected then he usually has two very short messages on the tape before, one spoken by a man, one by a women. "Here'a John! I see you tomorrow at eight.".... beep ... "This is Sallieeeeee! I'll call again later." ... beep .... and then finally "Ahhhh! The killer is .....". If however the message is expected be sure that it will be the first one on the tape.

(this section courtesy of Keith Lynch)

Here are the fundamental principles of movie asteroid science, as derived from the NBC miniseries "Asteroid":

Asteroids travel through space making a noise like a powerful but subdued engine.
Asteroids are usually locked into orbits, but if a comet comes by, they can be bumped out of their rut and become dangerously unstable.
It's only the fact that everything is locked into an orbit which prevents collisions in our solar system. Any asteroid that gets loose is certain to crash into Earth within a matter of hours.
It's just barely possible to evacuate Kansas City to a distance of 100 miles in 48 hours. This requires lots of airplanes. It also requires martial law, so that "looters will be arrested on sight". (Have they no mercy?) With 30+ hours to go, people will panic in the streets and run around at random.
A mile-wide asteroid can mostly burn up in the atmosphere, causing it to do only a relatively small amount of damage (bursting a dam) when it strikes.
A river from a burst dam can exactly keep pace with a pickup truck for several minutes. It will then obligingly pause as the pickup truck turns around and goes in another direction.
When a raging river washes over a pickup truck on a bridge, the bridge won't be damaged, the truck won't be swept off the bridge, and people in the open back of the truck won't be swept away.
A four-mile-wide nickel asteroid (which would mass about a *trillion* tons) can be destroyed -- literally destroyed, so that nothing remains -- by three airplane-mounted lasers.
But with only two airplane-mounted lasers, it instead instantly explodes into thousands of pieces. Astronomers are very surprised that it wasn't literally destroyed.
Laser beams are easily visible in space.
Incoming asteroids spend several minutes in Earth's atmosphere.
Asteroids made of softer or more volatile stuff than nickel will harmlessly burn up in the atmosphere regardless of size.
Asteroids that land in the ocean will do no damage regardless of size.
Asteroids are discovered by astronomers peering directly through their telescopes in brightly lit observatories. Whatever they see will appear on computer monitors, however.
Asteroid positions are reported in plainly audible 75 BPS Baudot teletype signals.
Oddly, there will be no dog to be rescued at the last possible moment. Maybe only tornadoes and volcanoes come equipped with dogs. Would you settle for goldfish?


Every time some guy walks into a bar, usually the hero, he gets into a fight. Usually right under a BUDWEISER sign (see "product placement"). Likelihood of fight increases if country music is playing in the background.
Movie heroes in a bar will either order strong alcoholic drinks and swallow them down like iced tea or will ask for milk. The latter will always provoke sarcastic remarks and a fight will ensue.
When men drink whiskey, it is always in a shot glass, and they always drink it in one gulp. If they are wimps, they will gasp for air, then have a coughing fit. If they are macho, they will wince briefly, flashing clenched teeth.
A cup of black coffee/splash of cold water in face is enough to render the most inebriated person stone cold sober in a split second (see several thousand westerns, and "Peter's Friends.")


Whenever someone looks through the binoculars, you see two joined circles instead of one.
Glasses never collect moisture when you come in from the cold outside.
Computer geeks and "intelligent" persons use them, action heros never have glasses.
A villain will always commit murder right in front of the window when someone with binoculars is watching.


People are often exact duplicates of remote ancestors, or of their parent at the same age.
At least one of a pair of identical twins is born evil.
Radiation causes mutation not to your future children, but to you, there and then. Mutation is never immediately fatal, but first either makes you into a formless blob, or a functional creature with animal-like features.
Interbreeding is genetically possible with any person or creature from anywhere in the universe.
Newborn babies can babble, crawl, and hold their heads steady.


People never cough, sneeze, blow their noses, or show any other symptoms of being in less than perfect health.
Only exception to the above is when they're dying. A cough is a symptom of terminal illness.
Menstruation is an unknown phenomenon in movies. Female movie characters are all immune from it.
You can eat as much as you want in a film and you'll never EVER have to go to the bathroom.
Vomit is portrayed by distant toilet flush. Nobody ever throws-up on the carpet.


Evil geniuses who devise bombs to destroy things/people always have them detonate after at least an hour, giving the hero ample time to defuse it.
Bombs always have big, blinking, beeping timer displays. Evil geniuses who devise bombs to destroy things/people are always thoughtful enough to include a visible display (usually LED) of how much time remains before the bomb detonates, giving the hero accurate feedback on exactly how much time remains.
When you cut the wire to the detonator, the timer will stop. You will not be able to do this, however, until only one second remains.
All wires have different colors, so the hero can easily differentiate them when he has to cut the right one.
Bombs detonated with microwave ovens always explode 2 seconds after the timer reaches 00:00 and the microwave oven beeps (ex. "Under Siege").
Explosions always happen in slow motion. When an explosion occurs, make certain you are running away from the point of detonation so the blast can send you flying, in slow motion, toward the camera.
A building that in real life would require several dozen carefully placed explosive charges for demolition, can in a movie be destroyed by a single bomb in a car trunk (see "Lethal Weapon III"). This bomb will cause no damage to any other building on the block.


Movie passengers either don't pay cabs at all, or have the exact change. Same is true in restaurants. Checks are always designed to be 15 percent under the bills the male costumer has in his hands first.
Movie people can get cabs instantly, unless they are in danger, whereupon no cab can be found


Movie characters driving in the city will get to park wherever they like when they get to their destination.
When you are alone in the back seat of the car, make sure you sit in the middle.
Sudden accelleration of a car (be it forwards, backwards, stopping, skidding, sliding, or whatever) causes a loud skid, even on dirt or wet roads. Be prepared. Each wheel is also fitted with a smoke device to let you know when this happens. Hollywood cars are also special: when you take off quickly, you always leave a skid mark for each drive wheel, regardless of whether you have a limited slip differential or not.
Pedestrians in Hollywood have the world's best reactions, so don't worry if you have to drive down a sidewalk. Mr Pappodopolus is quite used to having his fruit cart smashed, and despite his gesticulations and curses, he always manages to get out of the way in time.
There are always people carrying around large sheets of glass on the street during a car chase.
The person behind the wheel is talking to and looking at their passenger for the entire journey without actually looking at the _road_, changing gear, signalling etc. (ex. "When Harry Met Sally").
Cars chasing each other in the middle of a city will not suffer enough damage to stop the chase.
People being chased by a car will keep running down the middle of the road instead of ducking in somewhere where a car cannot go.
A car will always explode when shot at, unless the hero is driving it.
When you drive a car, you can always recognize all the persons you know that pass you in the opposite direction.
If someone has "fixed" the foot-brakes in the car, the driver never use the hand-brake and the gears to slow down, at least not until the last moment.
Cars often end up on cliff-edges with 2 wheels in the open air. The good guys are saved just before the car falls over, the bad guys join the car in the free fall, often caused by a bird setting down on the part of the car hanging over the edge.
When a car falls off a cliff after a car chase, it usually explodes before reaching the ground.
When speeding cars hit a parked car, they fly up into the air while the parked car doesn't even wiggle
After a car crash, no movie character ever sits and shakes for five minutes, or becomes incoherent with shock.
All cars seem to run on kerosene rather than gasoline (hence the copious black smoke when they burn).
Watch steering wheels in movie cars, especially in "through the windshield looking at the driver" shots. 9 times out of 10, the spokes of the wheel, which one would think should be horizontal, or close to it, are vertical, i.e., one can see one of the wheel spokes vertical, above the dash, in front of the driver's face, even when he's driving straight.
Whenever you see someone driving, even on straight and smooth roads, they are sawing at the wheel hard enough to be running an obstacle course. The car doesn't swerve at all, of course. The amount of excess wheel-twisting is independent of speed.
Not only do movie cars always park right in front, but they are never locked. Even convertibles with their tops down, in NYC, are still there hours later.
Movie cars have all excellent brakes and can come to a full stop from 80 MPH (with loud screeches, even on dirt roads) in 20 ft.
There's never an annoying wind disturbing the coiffures of convertible passengers.
There are no stop signs in movie land. Wherever you have to drive, no matter how close or far away it is, you never have to stop before you get there.
Film cars do not have inside rear-view mirrors. Most of them do, however, have an appx 1" gray spot on the inside of the windshield where the mirror would normally mount.
Film cars never start the first time when you're running away from the bad guy.
If there is a large bump in a downhill road, speeding cars will always fly over them and hit the ground in shower of sparks. An interior view will then show the reaction of the passengers at the moment of impact. They will not be injured, even if they are not wearing safety belts. No tire damage, broken axles, or suspension failures will occur as a result of the impact. The car will then execute a sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill. Losing a hubcap at this point will be optional.
Any time you see a really nice, snazzy foreign car or a great old car like a 65 mustang, you know it's going to be smashed into a million pieces.
All too many times a Hollywood car chase will be interupted by the emergence of a semi from a driveway, alley, or street, resulting in the escape of the hunted, or the death of an expendable character.
Police cars involved in chase scenes usually tend to suffer more than any other vehicles- they have head on collisions, smash parked cars, fall into water, and of course, experience the ever popular flying-roll, causing the car to land upside down and crush the lights and siren. Usually, we never get to see the unlucky police force member before or after the inevitable accident.
A car that crashes will always explode in a ball of flames, but not until the hero can pull the important passengers to safety, and yell, "Watch out! She's gonna blow!"
Acid applied by the villain to the hero's brake lines never has any effect unless the car is heading down a steep, winding road. Cars at traffic lights have invujlnerable brake lines.
No one ever runs out of gas (even in long car chases). Corollary: every stolen car has a full gas tank and gets great gas mileage.
Vintage cars are always 100% immaculate and freshly polished. They never have any scratches, dents or repairs.
No one fumbles for car keys right before a car chase. they always jump right in and start the car up because they've left the keys in the ignition. Not a great idea in any major city.


Woman falls to the ground whilst being chased by a bad guy, even when running over level, unobstructed terrain. Note that when a man and woman are being chased, usually the woman falls, then the man pauses and helps her up.
Corollaries to the above:
Man will then continue to run with woman, holding her by the hand or preferably upper arm, even though this takes them both below the speed either one could make on their own.
All movie women must be pulled along by their hands, even if the male puller is short & fat and the woman is a track star.
All movie women try to run in heels, never stopping to kick them off.
Women not only have to be pulled along, they do not have enough sense to run and keep running unless a man touches her elbow, holds her hand or puts his arm around her shoulders.
Chasees will always stop to throw obstacles (trash cans, lumber, chairs) in their pursuers' way. No matter that they take three times as long to dump the obstacles as it takes the chasers to simply jump over them.


GOOD Chess players are always portrayed as upper class. (Go to any tournament and see how many rich guys there are there. NONE! They're too busy chasing women and driving fast cars to play chess.)
Chess players in movies are always all around brilliant and charming people. (With very few exceptions, REAL chess players are introverted and so involved with chess they have little time to WASTE pursuing anything as trivial as LOVE, A PROFESSION, or SOCIAL GRACES. Exception: Computers! Most Chess players are, or will become, Computer nurds).
Great Chess players are always honored to play on some rich guy's fancy Philipino Art Set. (In reality, better players are almost always adament about playing on a plain, unadorned wood or plastic "Staunton" set. No red or blue pieces, no ceramic or metal, no elephants for rooks.)
The board is usually set up wrong, with the black square at the players lower right, or with one or both of the King/Queen set up backwards. (WHITE SQUARE GOES ON THE PLAYERS RIGHT. QUEENS on thier own color: white QUEEN on white, black QUEEN on black.)
Supposedly brilliant players usually miss one move checkmates in critical games. This is akin to a professional race car driver backing his station wagon into the garage door.
On the other hand, good players are often portrayed as seeing 15 or 20 moves ahead in detail from a middle game, when there are still many pieces on the board. (One could more easily predict the next president and all 535 congressmen correctly before the election. In the End Game, when the number of pieces is limited, looking ahead often becomes a question of counting moves, who can get to the critical square first, or of very limited numbers of moves, and is more feasible.)
Beginners usually beat experienced players, as a mechanism for showing the neophyte's native brilliance. (This is about as common as a tall, athletic man who's never seen a basketball beating an NBA player in one-on-one. It could happen, if the pro had a really bad day, but who would you bet on?)
Players who are really behind (have lost more pieces) come up with brilliant ways to win anyway. (If they're so good, how did they get behind in the first place?)


Male characters generally are cold-natured. They need to wear jeans and leather jackets when the female characters are comfortable in cutoffs and a halter top.
Heroes are the exception to the above. He often is more comfortable in extreme cold after losing his coat or having the shirt ripped from his back. When this is not true (Cliffhanger), swimming in ice water helps.
Whenever anyone knocks out anyone else and takes their clothes, it's always a flawless fit.


Word processors never display a cursor.
You never have to use the space-bar when typing long sentences.
Movie character never make typing mistakes.
All monitors display inch-high letters.
High-tech computers, such as those used by NASA, the CIA, or some such governmental institution, will have easy to understand graphical interfaces.
Those that don't, have incredibly powerful text-bases command shells that can correctly understand and execute commands typed in plain english.
Corollary: you can gain access to any information you want by simply typing "ACCESS ALL OF THE SECRET FILES" on any keyboard
Likewise, you can infect a computer with a destructive virus by simply typing "UPLOAD VIRUS" (see "Fortress")
All computers are connected. You can access the information on the villain's desktop computer, even if it's turned off.
Powerful computers beep whenever you press a key or whenever the screen changes. Some computers also slow down the output on the screen so that it doesn't go faster than you can read. The *really* advanced ones also emulate the sound of a dot-matrix printer.
All computer panels have thousands of volts and flash pots just underneath the surface. Malfunctions are indicated by a bright flash, a puff of smoke, a shower of sparks, and an explosion that forces you backwards.
People typing away on a computer will turn it off without saving the data.
A hacker can get into the most sensitive computer in the world before intermission and guess the secret password in two tries.
Any PERMISSION DENIED has an OVERRIDE function (see "Demolition Man" and countless others).
Complex calculations and loading of huge amounts of data will be accomplished in under three seconds. Movie modems usually appear to transmit data at the speed of two gigabytes per second.
When the power plant/missile site/whatever overheats, all the control panels will explode, as will the entire building.
If you display a file on the screen and someone deletes the file, it also disappears from the screen (e.g Clear and Present Danger).
If a disk has got encrypted files, you are automagically asked for a password when you try to access it.
No matter what kind of computer disk it is, it'll be readable by any system you put it into. All application software is usable by all computer platforms.
The more high-tech the equipment, the more buttons it has (Aliens). However, everyone must have been highly trained, because the buttons aren't labelled.
Most computers, no matter how small, have reality-defying three-dimensional, active animation, photo-realistic graphics capability.
Laptops, for some strange reason, always seem to have amazing real-time video phone capabilities and the performance of a CRAY Supercomputer.
Whenever a character looks at a VDU, the image is so bright that it projects itself onto his/her face (see "Alien", "2001").


Two people will often converse while one stares out the window, with their back to the other. When an emotional point is made, the first person will turn around.


When you go to rob a bank in a film, you will always choose the teller who has just started his or her first day on the job.


In situations like the Vietnem war, and violent inner city neighborhoods, the person with the most plans, prospects, and hopes will die.
A dying person's last words will always be coherent and significant.
A good person will always die in the presence of friends.
If a person good person dies with his eyes open, a friend will close them, and they will remain closed. If a villain dies with his eyes open, no one will close them, and the camera will linger on his face.
When your sidekick, lover, or similar acquaintance is on the verge of dying, don't call an ambulance; instead hold her warmly and whisper words of comfort, or kiss her passionately. Theoretically she may not be much into it under the circumstances, but hey, it may be your last chance! Then, when she relaxes or slumps over visibly, you can say your tearful good-bye to her, because this means she is dead. Alternately, if she is already slumped over when you get to her, check her pulse, but if the resulting music is soft and slow, don't bother trying CPR. If she doesn't like this treatment better than a chance to save her life, don't worry; it's not like she will be able to do anything about it!
(see also VILLAINS)


The hero and heroine in love always get a great table in a restaurant, even in New York City at lunch on Saturday (When Harry Met Sally).

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