The 47 Greatest Movie Clichés

Tricks, tropes and too-tidy plotting


47. Falling down
Girls running away from danger often fall down over NOTHING AT ALL.

As seen in: The Strangers (2008), Scream (1996)

46. Disney Death

OMG! The hero is totally dead! No, wait, they're fine. Move along, people.

As seen in: One Hundred And One Dalmatians (1961), Finding Nemo (2003), Pinnicchio (1940)

45. On the turn
Just because you’ve been fatally bitten by a zombie or vampire doesn’t mean you have to tell your mates, eh?

As seen in: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

44. I surrender! Nearly…
Watch out for supposedly beaten bad guys who carry more than one weapon.

As seen in: Hook (1991), Bad Boys (1995), The Patriot (2000)


Next: 43 – 40



43. Light up the sky
Explosions rock space even though there’s no oxygen

As seen in: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Armageddon (1998), All The Star Treks

42. Ignition failure
Your car will fail you when you need it the most.

As seen in: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Back To The Future (1985), 28 Weeks Later (2007)

41. Time for love, Dr Jones
No physical ordeal is traumatic enough to stop the leading couple having a bit of a kiss…

As seen in: Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves (1991), Ghostbusters (1984)

40. One bullet left


As seen in: Independence Day (1996), Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)

Next: 39 – 36[page-break]


39. “You got me monologuing!”
With the hero in the deathtrap, time to spill details on those evil plans.

As seen in: From Russia With Love (1963), Iron Man (2008), The Incredibles (2004)

38. Disposable arsenal
Once a gun is out of bullets it can be thrown away like a one-use camera

As seen in: Casino Royale (2006), The Matrix (1999), The Boondock Saints (1999)

37. Survival splash
Falls from any height are fine if you fall into a river or swimming pool.

As seen in: Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), The Fugutive (1993), Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

36. Blondes are more dumb
Hot love interest chicks often turn out to be shallow mistakes

As seen in: Teen Wolf (1985), National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Next: 35 – 32[page-break]


35. The ugly duckling
Who becomes a beautiful swan lady.

As seen in: She’s all that (1999), The Princess Diaries (2001), Miss Congeniality (2000)

34. Key hiding 101
It’s definitely safest and best to hide car and door keys right next to the things they unlock.

As seen in: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Terminator (1984), Following (1999)

33. Time paradox?
Don’t worry – the universe is excellent at handling them.

As seen in: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Donnie Darko (2001)

32. Explosive ride
Cars hit on the bodywork with standard ammunition are unexpectedly flammable.

As seen in: Total Recall (1990), Goldfinger (1964), Hudson Hawk (1991)

Next: 31 – 28[page-break]


31. Back on the wagon
Alcoholics are overwhelmingly men, and in a crisis can recover instantaneously.

As seen in: Independence Day (1996), Man On Fire (2004), The Last Samurai (2003)

30. You have mail
Regardless of what window you’re browsing, email arrival is signalled by a huge envelope symbol

As seen in: Mission: Impossible (1996),

29. This way up

When spaceships meet in the three dimensional void of space they’re always aligned along the same horizontal axis.

As seen in: Star Trek (2009), Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Serenity (2005)

28. Magic pants
Shape-shifting heroes have super-clothes which adapt to their alterations.

As seen in: Van Helsing (2004), Shrek 2 (2004), Alice In Wonderland (1951)

Next: 27 – 24[page-break]


27. One at a time, boys
Groups of thugs are trained to attack in ones and twos

As seen in: Rumble In The Bronx (1995), The One (2001), The Transporter (2002)

26. Hook ‘em, Danno
American police stations always contain at least one prostitute waiting to be booked.

As seen in: Q & A (1990), Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

25. Countdown to destruction
Handy how bombs are rarely without user-friendly digital timer displays.

As seen in: Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995), Face/Off (1997), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

24. Trophy room
The deranged killer/stalker/nutjob always keeps a meticulous and insane room full of newspaper clippings and horror.

As seen in: The Fan (1996), Unbreakable (2000), Se7en (1995)

Next: 23 – 20[page-break]


23. Thunder and lightning
Very frightening – especially when they happen at the same time. Sound travels awfully fast in the movies

As seen in: Back To The Future (1985), The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

22. Keep your kit on
Women are always more naked than men in sex scenes

As seen in: Excalibur (1981 – sex in full armour!), Basic Instinct (1992)

21. Walking out of there
Don’t flinch! Just walk calmy away from the explosion you knew was coming. It’s for the poster.

As seen in: Desperado (1995), Man On Fire (2004), The Bourne Identity (2002)

20. Stolen clothes fit perfectly
“Aren’t you a little short to be a Storm Trooper?”

As seen in: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)

Next: 19 – 16[page-break]


19. The L shaped blanket
You can see him from the waist up, but she’s all covered.

As seen in: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), America’s Sweethearts (2001)

18. Where you at, girlfriend?
Single girls have a gay best friend, but men don’t get a lesbian equivalent.

As seen in: Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001), Must Love Dogs (2005)

17. Getting an Eiffel
You can see the Eiffel tower from every street and window in Paris

As seen in: Ratatouille (2007), Armageddon (1998), French Kiss (1995)

16. Sergeant shouter

Most brilliant detectives are cursed with blowhard bosses and constant threats of suspension.

As seen in: Nighthawks (1981), 48 Hours (1982), Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Next: 15 – 12[page-break]


15. The mega ‘things-are-improving-and-I’m-awesome’ montage
“Even Rocky had a montage…”

As seen in: Rocky (1976), The Karate Kid (1984), Bring It On (2000)

14. Kick him while he’s down
Why would you not kill the dangerous killer/villain/bad man you’ve just captured or incapacitated? BECAUSE YOU'RE AN IDIOT.

As seen in: Wolf Creek (2005), Red Eye (2005)


13. Bad guys can’t shoot straight
“These blast points – too accurate for Sand People.” Oh yeah?

As seen in: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Commando (1985), Rambo: First Blood II (1985), Everything.

12. Ex-wife love
Isn’t it funny how a crisis brings broken couples back together?

As seen in: Jurassic Park III (2001), Die Hard (1988), The Abyss (1989)

Next: 11 – 8[page-break]


11. Mentor is a mental
Are you sure your father figure isn’t a crazed villain?

As seen in: Mission: Impossible (1996), Minority Report (2002), L.A. Confidential (1997)

10. Manic Pixie Dream Girls
Kooky chicks that bring meaning to your life.

As seen in: Elizabethtown (2005), Annie Hall (1977), Garden State (2004)

9. Sliding doors
Heroes that just make that closing gap. Often, this person is Harrison Ford.

As seen in: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981), Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003)

8. Not so alien
The universe is populated by aliens who look like us, with some extra bits.

As seen in: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Race To Witch Mountain (2009), The Chronicles Of Riddick (2005)

Next: 7 – 4[page-break]


7. Computer hacking made easy
Cracking into any system is just a matter of hitting buttons and furrowing your brow.

As seen in: The Matrix (1999), Swordfish (2001), Jurassic Park (1993)

6. Very special boy
The mentally ill usually have bordering-on-superpower gifts of art or maths.

As seen in: Shine (1995), Rain Man (1988)

5. Don’t die just yet
Last gasp bumps from Reaper-shy villains

As seen in: Fatal Attraction (1987), The Terminator (1984), Scream (1996)

4. “My water’s broken!” “It’s a boy!”
On average, labour last for seven minutes.

As seen in: Children Of Men (2006), Juno (2007)

Next: 3 – 1[page-break]


3. The Mexican Stand-Off
If you shoot me then I shoot him and… haven’t we seen this before?

As seen in: The Matrix Revolutions (2003), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

2. Looking goo-OH JESUS

Swinging cabinet door-mounted mirror are always good for a jump.

As seen in: Shaun Of The Dead (2004), Switchblade Romance (2003), The Unborn (2009)

1. I can’t get no phone reception

Mobile phones conveniently dying for plot purposes.

As seen in: Wrong Turn (2003), Identity (2003), Jeepers Creepers (2001)


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    • rauldinho

      Nov 12th 2009, 1:58

      Excellent article! I would suggest adding another two cliches that get's on my nerve everytime i see a movie doing it. 1. Not believing when someone tells you that they saw a hideous monster. "nah, it's just your imagination...whats that? nooooooooo....." 2. When the people are in a creepy, dark and lonely place and they hear loud noise and walk to the place the sound came asking "who´s there? bobby is that you? stop it!"....and again it goes "what's that? noooooooo....." Great article, hope you like my suggestion!

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    • Hadouken76

      Nov 13th 2009, 0:34

      1)Cars that contain heroes never explode, enemies? always. Unless the bad guy has to taunt hero with dying breath. 2)Really hard move that hero has practising all movie will be used in final 5 seconds of end boss.

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    • jonmholland

      Nov 13th 2009, 10:52

      how about everything a hero hides behind is bulletproof, car doors, chairs, plywood tables etc etc

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    • thehalibutkid

      Nov 25th 2009, 12:49

      Hmmm this article is good. But there are one or two problems. Some of the movies you cite aren't actually cliches. As an example. 38. The Disposable Aresnal. The Matrix is cited as an example of this cliche. But in the case of the Matrix the whole point is that it is a virtual world where the guns are disposable. Thus because of the plausability of the situation this is no longer a cliche.

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    • woodstock1984

      Dec 1st 2009, 20:50

      When I saw James Cromwell, I though the cliché written above would be that he will be playing a president/leader.

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    • sapperwilde8976

      Dec 4th 2009, 9:24

      good article. I also have a few. Unlimited bullets, i love the bit in hot shots part deux that picks up on this. also that every barrel will blow up when shot.

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    • littlebocuk

      Jan 8th 2010, 22:51

      I think the worst "time for love" thing happened in At World's End. What the heck was that seriously?!

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