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Common movie clichés

Posted on January 20th, 2013
Posted on January 20th, 2013

by Coop Cooper

Now that awards season has begun, the box office is getting a little less active while the nominees get re-releases and media attention. Even those big, award-winning films contain a few egregious clichés (trite or overused expressions or ideas). Here’s a big list of some of the most common clichés that you will notice in films today. The best films out there avoid these as best they can, but most of these will never go away…

  • Female leads in a romantic comedy are always a clumsy, clueless (yet supermodel-gorgeous) young professionals who whine about not finding “the one” when that person is right in front them.

  • Cars instantly explode when shot or wrecked. Also drywall and car doors can magically shield characters from bullets.

  • Cell phones conveniently work in impossible places (like underground), don’t work at all in places where they should or always run out of battery power at the worst possible time.

  • Futuristic societies are always portrayed as either a socialist dystopia/utopia, a brutally oppressive dictatorship or a chaotic apocalyptic wasteland.

  • In romance films, desperate characters often make intense stalker-like confessions or gushing expressions of love that would send any normal person running, but somehow wins over the romantic interest.

  • Mortally injured people always manage to say exactly what they need to say before dying.

  • Guns fire an impossible number of bullets before reloading, and characters with no shooting experience suddenly become crack shots.

  • A one man army will shoot hundreds of trained killers dead but these military-trained bad guys can’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn.

  • Explosions with shrapnel and fire never seriously hurt heroes, it only launches them off their feet for several yards. Also, people who crash through plate-glass windows are never seriously injured.

  • No matter where someone is stabbed, they always bleed from the mouth.

  • Something (usually a cat) will jump out to scare someone, who ends up not seeing the actual threat behind them.

  • A hero will shoot the villain once, assume they are dead, then drop the gun giving the surviving villain chance to attack again.

  • A character who is about to lose their love interest will sprint (usually to the airport) to finally confess their love in an attempt to win them back at the very end.

  • In movies, sneezes are a symptom of a mild cold or flu, but if a character coughs, it means he/she is going to die.

  • Heroes walk calmly in slow motion away from explosions (SNL did an entire skit about this).

  • Gun silencers make the “whispering” sound as opposed to the real ones which sound more like a loud car door slamming.

  • People who fall from buildings always land on a car.

  • Creepy children always seem to know what’s going on before the adults/parents do.

  • Time bombs are always diffused with one or two seconds left. Hollywood has recently recognized this cliché and upped the time to 8-30 seconds.

  • Whether they have been there before or not, people in bars will order a ‘beer’ or a ‘drink’ but never specify what kind/brand (and you never see them pay for it). Also, when characters make plans with others, they often forget to include pertinent information like ‘where’ and ‘when’ or exchange numbers before departing.

  • Surveillance footage can always be magically enhanced, computers can be hacked in a few seconds and emails announce themselves with a big mailbox or letter popping on the screen.

  • Laser guns – which look like oversized Nerf guns – fire projectiles that move slower than actual bullets.

  • Amnesia is never brain damage, but a minor inconvenience which will eventually be reversed. Also, hypnosis is most commonly used to force people to commit murder.

  • Racist stereotypes are used for comedic effect (e.g. sassy Latina mother, angry Asian shop owner) or to foster outrage (e.g. violent black urban thug, violent southern white racist). As enlightened as Hollywood claims to be, their business relies heavily on these character types.

Of course there are many more of these and many of them are genre-specific, but next time you watch a movie, see how many of these you can spot. They are more common than you might think.

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