movie clichés
(Thought of another? Please email it to me.)


  • Whenever the main character is traveling by plane to another city, there's a shot of an airplane taking off from a runway. (Landings not included).


  • All aliens can learn English from watching TV.
  • All aliens from the same species look identical.
  • All aliens can breathe the same atmosphere as humans.


  • Small dogs like nothing better than to hump a leg.
  • Doberman Pincers are always just one second away from chomping on the hero or heroine.
  • All dogs instantly sense a bad guy and will start barking or cowering.
  • If you suddenly change scene to a broad vista of wilderness, the cry of an eagle or hawk will be heard as the camera pans.

bombs and explosions

  • No one diffuses a bomb with more than ten seconds before detonation. Usually it's at the last second unless you're James Bond, in which case the final read-out is 007 seconds.
  • All bombs have a highly visible LED display of time remaining until detonation.
  • Any climactic explosion will be seen three times (with tight editing so as not to confuse the audience.)
  • The hero (or heroes) will be just beyond the blast radius — or merely thrown forward a few feet, suffering only some cuts and bruises.

chase scenes

  • More often than not, a chase scene will feature a large pane of glass that shatters as the hero goes through it.
  • If the hero is fighting on a moving train or truck and seems to fall off, he has somehow managed to cling to the bottom of the moving vehicle and will get a chance to climb back on.
  • If the protagonist is hiding from the bad guy by perching in a tree (or any slightly elevated place), the bad guy will pause just below that spot.
  • Ventilation systems are easy to enter when you need to hide from bad guys in a pinch. They also give you ready access to any other part of the building.
  • (See also: driving and running).


  • Including a scene in a girls dorm where half-naked coeds are having a pillow fight.
    (For example, see: Dukes Of Hazzard.)


  • No one ever makes typos when typing on a keyboard.
  • Everyone knows how to type as fast as they can speak.
  • Passwords are always guessable and will most likely be the name of a pet.
  • Important files will be copied or downloaded in the nick of time.
  • A character will never have to wait for a computer to boot up.
  • Computer whizzes always wear glasses.

don't go there!

  • Whenever something falls from the sky or bubbles up from the ground, some character must take a "really close look" at it or even feel impelled to touch the mysterious object.
  • When checking out suspicious noises, a bat or golf club is usually handy.


  • Dreams always make sense and feature people you know.
  • Waking from a nightmare requires that either your eyes fly open or you sit bolt upright in bed. Or both. Preferably as you shout one coherent word out loud.


  • Drunk main characters can always sober up in a matter of seconds.
  • When ordering a beer, never ask for a brand name. Just ask for "a beer."


  • If the hero is racing through traffic and drives through a red light, he won't be hit. Alternately, if the hero drives pell-mell into the street from a blind alley, he'll only have a near-collision. Bad guys aren't as lucky.
  • If you're having a conversation in the car, it's not important to keep your eyes on the road.
  • When you're driving, turn the wheel as if you're snaking through an obstacle course.
  • Parking is never a problem.
  • Cars falling off cliffs will explode.
  • Shots fired at the rear of a vehicle will cause the gas tank to explode.
  • A large truck blocking an alley way will be featured in a chase scene.
  • Pedestrians will always manage to escape a maniac/hero driving on the sidewalk. Fruit carts aren't so lucky.
  • No matter how ridiculously high or far you get a car to go airborne, the effects of the crash back to earth are seen on the occupant(s) by having them simply lurch forward. Often they will then give their heads a little thought-clearing shake as they barrel off to parts unknown.


  • Flashlights will always have failing batteries and often die out at the worst moment.
  • The hero has a new car or plane that can render itself invisible through cutting edge technology. Often the technology is explained in a pseudo-scientific manner that would fall apart under the most casual scrutiny.


  • Knocking people unconscious is relatively easy.
  • All Asian characters are adept in martial arts.
  • Converging enemy spaceships will run into each other when the hero takes evasive maneuvers.
  • Unless the bad guy is shot in the head or impaled, he's probably not dead yet.
  • A bullet in the arm is nothing to worry about.
  • In a one-on-one fight, both the bad guy and the good guy will know exactly how to use the weapon of choice, whether it be sword, gun, numchucks, fists, etc. It doesn't matter whether they've ever seen the weapon before or not, they'll still wield it with perfect accuracy.
  • Any villain who has a trademark method of eliminating opponents will be defeated by the protagonist forcing this trademark method to somehow backfire. If the villain has been killed by a different method, he's not really dead.
  • The first shot or burst of gunfire from a bad guy always misses; its purpose is to announce that a gunfight will now commence.
  • Characters shot with guns will fly backward, (even upward and backward) through the air — the laws of physics notwithstanding.
  • A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.
  • If you're in combat, do not show anyone a picture of your sweetheart back home — this is surely as fatal as wearing a red uniform on the USS Enterprise.


  • If it's a funeral, it's probably raining which indicates sadness. (Okay! I get it.)


  • All hookers either have a heart of gold or are the first to be killed.
  • Hooker with a heart of gold? Beautiful.
  • Dead hooker? Drugged-out ugly skank.


  • Prison wardens are either evil or the hero.
  • High-powered female executives always wear miniskirts and three-inch heels to work.
  • If you're homeless, then you wear gloves with the fingers cut off.


  • There's always at least one person who knows Morse code.
  • People know "famous computer hackers" by name.
  • There is always some sort of "Book of the Vampire" that reveals a critical, deep dark secret about one of the main characters (usually a baddie.) If it's not an actual book, it's medical records, hidden photographs or letters, or a hitherto unknown marginal character with inside information.


  • If you aggravate the bad guy long enough on the witness stand, he'll blurt out a confession.


  • Rescuer to Person In Danger: "Come with me if you want to live!" — and variants to that effect. (For examples see: TERMINATOR 2 or THE WAR OF THE WORLDS.)


  • When a character in a movie is a "reader type" he or she will usually be shown with either Ulysses or Moby Dick. When characters are shown with Moby Dick, they will generally end up acting just like Captain Ahab — something no one who has actually read Melville's novel is likely to do.


  • She hates him in the beginning and they're in the sack at the end.
  • It's a marriage of convenience between two who don't know each other. At the end they decide to stay married.
  • If one spouse is doomed to die from cancer, then their marriage is otherwise perfect and filled with romance. (For examples see: The Fountain or Always.)


  • All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread. If a character is carrying two bags at once, one of them will tear and spill its contents (loose oranges will roll every which way).
  • The heroine (or hero) goes to the fridge, opens the door and as soon as she shuts it, there's the bad guy right there!


  • When paying a bill, just the right amount is in your pocket.


  • If someone says something weird on the phone to you and hangs up, you will then give the phone an odd look.
  • If someone hangs up on you, you will immediately get a dial tone.
  • Messages left on answering machines are always heard by the wrong people.
  • If there's more than one message, one will be from Mom.
  • When people make phone calls, they rarely if ever have to dial, wait for the other person to pick up, or say goodbye.


  • Female police officers are either gorgeous or gay.
  • Homicide detectives are brooding loners.
  • When homicide detectives are told that they're off the case, they will continue to work on it, have a breakthrough, and then be re-assigned to the case.
  • During all police investigations it will be necessary to visit a strip club at least once.

romantic comedy schtick

  • A whole group of people break out into song and everybody knows all the words. Bonus: someone knows how to play the piano. (Examples: Must Love Dogs and My Best Friend's Wedding.)
  • Everybody always knows the dance steps to a group song (like to Thriller in the movie 13 Going On 30.)


  • When racing towards an elevator that closes on you, you will not think to hit the call button, but if you did, it wouldn't work.
  • If a man and a woman are running away from a bad guy, the woman will fall and the man will pause to help her up.
  • If you take a running jump at a rope or a cliff face, you'll always be able to hang on.


  • Satellites can track a person running even when flying over the Earth at high speeds.

science fiction

  • Most planets in the galaxy have an atmosphere that is breathable by humans.
  • The motion of spacecraft outside a planetary atmosphere remains aerodynamic, complete with banking maneuvers.
  • (See also: ALIENS )


  • If two characters are engaged in intercourse, they will climax simultaneously.
  • At the moment of climax one or both partners clench the sheets (or each others hands) throughout the duration of the orgasm.
  • A woman will lie in bed afterwards with the sheet up to her neck. Unless she's Monica Bellucci.
  • If a hot babe has bared her breasts in a previous movie, she won't be doing it in this one. Unless she's Monica Bellucci.

slo-mo (slow motion)

  • It is only possible to walk in slo-mo when on an airplane tarmac or aircraft carrier. Especially when there are several of you and you're all very macho.
  • If you are a voluptuous female in a tight-fitting outfit walking directly at or away from a guy, you must also walk in slo-mo. (It helps if you toss your hair as well.)
  • The word "No!" must always be yelled in slo-mo when a character is diving towards something or someone.


  • Often during a heavy conversation between two characters of the opposite sex, one of them will briefly turn their back to the other. Some moments later they will dramatically turn and face the other character again.
  • Two people talking can rarely sit or stand still. At least one of them has to move about and make dramatic turns.


  • Always there when you need one.
  • Taxi drivers are all immigrants with a shaky grasp of English.
  • Everyone always has the correct change whenever they need it, or at least over that amount if they have to leave the cab in a hurry.


  • Teenage bedrooms are either decorated with countless posters, countless stuffed animals, or a cool mobile and a telescope. If they are in the bedroom they're either on the phone, on a laptop, or having sex.
  • Teenagers can always outwit their clueless parents.
  • Windows to teenage bedrooms never have screens or storm windows and always provide a handy exit from the house.


  • Breaking news broadcasts have just begun as soon as you turn on the TV.
  • TVs either show news, sports, or classic TV fare from yesteryear (i.e. "I Love Lucy," "Looney Tunes," or an old black-and-white movie). Either that or a bogus late night talk show or Entertainment Tonight appearance.
  • All recordings are always cued to the right starting point — if not, rewinding will be accompanied by brief squealy tape sound effects.