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26 Movie Clichés We Actually Don’t Mind

We are your self-appointed crusader against the formulaic and obvious. Except when it comes to punches, hot scientists, alcoholics and Steven Segal

  1. Really loud punches

    Ever witnessed, or even been in, a real fist fight? It’s so disappointing: landing a blow makes nothing like the bone-crunching smack that Harrison Ford, Jason Statham, Bruce Lee et al seem to achieve. Instead, even a swinging haymaker elicits barely a light “pat”. Or, in our case, a delayed laughing sound. Then later, the hazy sound of an ambulance.

  2. Briefly muted audio 

    For that glorious split second when something enormous crashes into something else that is also enormous. Like your ears are taking a deep breath. 

  3. Nicolas Cage totally losing his shit

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    Nostril-flaring, bug-eyed volatility has been Cage’s watermark for decades. Heroically irrespective of the actual role, in fact – from Vampire’s Kiss and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice to The Wicker Man, and, we imagine the messages he writes in children’s birthday cards. So hey – why not let him open a can of crazy in movies he’s not even in? Either over the credits, or as a tiny animated GIF in a corner of the screen; we’re not fussy. 

  4. A red line on a map

    So where are we going today, little red line? Ooh – in a steamboat, over the sea? How lovely! A quick turn at Morocco… and now we’ve swapped to a little aeroplane? Wheee! But wait – what does that say? “E-g-y-p-t”? Wooo! Sounds very dangerous. Thank heavens you’re with us, little red line. You’re our simplistic transitional plot device hero!

  5. Explosions in space

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    Physics experts are apt to point out that any real-life detonation in the cosmic vacuum would not actually produce a boom, shooting flames or visible shockwave (a la the Death Star) – but more likely a silent implosion, followed by a gradual scattering of debris. This is why physics experts can go do one.

  6. The spin shot

    Pioneered by Michael “Hit and Miss” Bay this is cinematographical shorthand for “Don’t go to the toilet now”. See Bad Boys, Armageddon etc: at a pivotal moment, as the hero juts his jaw against oncoming threats, a slow-motion camera pans round him from underneath – revealing that, as previously intimated, shit has most definitely become “real”. Just try not to think about the prop guy who had to build a tiny circular railway track just to facilitate it.

  7. Alcoholics

    No, not Leaving Las Vegas-style drunks, with their depression and cirrhosis. We mean cheerful, raspberry-nosed street winos – specifically the ones who, when witnessing something incredible (example: Superman flying off), can only glance at the label their drink of choice, shrug confusedly, and then throw it warily over their shoulder. This should be one of the 12 steps. 

  8. “My God!”

    Typically uttered by a high-ranking military type, as he takes off his mirrored sunglasses to stare at an unexpectedly large explosion/teeming alien hordes flooding across a battlefield/some tits.

  9. Attractive female scientists

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    Yes, statistically, some real-life female scientists will be pretty too. Surely. But no-one would claim it’s your go-to profession for premium, top-drawer ‘tang. Except Hollywood, of course, which can’t get enough of exaggerated lab-coated ultravixens. From Raquel Welch in Fantastic Voyage to Rose Byrne in Sunshine and Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough – indisputably the most unlikely nuclear scientitst ever seen. You know? That was a genuine typo just there. But what the hell – in it stays.

  10. Steven Segal

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    A walking, talking, slapping, heavy-wheezing human cliché in himself – and one that we can only aspire to match. See for yourself: from Under Siege to Half Past Dead to that terrible one about Alaska, he doesn’t possess a single facial expression, gesture, vocal cadence or glib one-liner that you don’t vaguely recollect from umpteen previous action movies. Watching him is like watching 1986 in human form. Or in other words: ace.

  11. The bad guy’s explanation

    What – you think it’s cynically papering over plot holes? That the villain’s oddly comprehensive plot recap and rationalization in the third reel is merely pandering to audience attention spans? Speak for yourself. We have a weak bladder. Plus, we missed the first 20 minutes fretting over our pick ‘n’ mix selection. 

  12. That moment everyone realises their mouths have been sewn to the anus of someone else. 

    Happens more than you think. And in movies, too.

  13. Everyone in the future speaks English

    And not, as is far more likely, some baffling hybrid of Chinese, Hindi and txtspk. Although watching Star Trek’s Worf trying to pronounce the Cantonese equivalent of “OMG Captain” might be a laugh. 

  14. The montage

    From the training montages in Rocky (1 or 4) to the construction montages in The A-Team to… look, when is someone going to release Movie Montage: The Movie? Please? Then we can stop paying this band to sit in the office playing up-tempo incidental music.

  15. A team of specialists getting together

    You know: they’re living their own lives – fisherman, carpenter, biker – when they’re suddenly called up to help out in a cause. Basically, think INDUSTRIA on a daily basis. 

  16. Cigarettes being lit in close-up

    Et voila: instant dramatic poise, in everything from The Maltese Falcon to The Usual Suspects. Who cares if it’s making fags (British kind) look cool to impressionable children? Just look at that Zippo flare! Smell the smoke! Listen to the over-amplified tinder-like crackle of the tobacco igniting! Aaah. NB: they don’t actually make this noise in real life. As our lack of ear hair is testament.

  17. Simple but dangerous natives

    The Ewoks, the Na’avi, the Indians from Dances With Wolves – weird how we always end up cheering for what is, in actuality, cinema’s most overused Vietnam analogy. Makes you think, really: if the Vietcong had all-over blue body fur and befriended Kevin Costner, the Tet Offensive might have won the war.

  18. Sam Rockwell, dancing

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    YouTuber aeide13 gets first credit for spotting it – his Dancing Machine video celebrating all of The Rockster’s mercury-hipped cameos. From the shimmying that made his name in Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, to Iron Man 2 grandstanding, to weirdly inappropriate goofing in Moon… just guessing when Rockwell might bust out another anatomically-impressive move is worth the ticket price alone. We actually think he’s simply dancing all the time; they just fix it in “post”.

  19. Finding car keys in the sun visor

    Yes, it’s been hokey ever since Terminator 2: Judgement Day. But what would you prefer? The hero frantically patting their pockets/handbag? Or ten sweary minutes with wire-strippers trying to hotwire the thing before calling a cab?

  20. Overly complicated computers

    Microsoft’s copyright lawyers ensure an entire industry of visual artists creating non-litigious versions of Windows for films like Enemy Of The State, Swordfish and James Bond. Luckily, simplicity is the key here: all government agencies will have a prominent logo, all computers require typed operation etc. And best of all: an enormous animated envelope. What’s that, you say? An e-mail?

  21. European Villains

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    Sure, it’s lazy casting. And transparently based on deep-seated residual US paranoia over colonial hegemony. But hey – if you want premium-quality moustache-twiddling, scenery-chewing wickedness, you know which side of the Atlantic to shop. Although not for German baddies oddly, who despite being the most evil race of all rarely feature in any movies. Apart from Die Hards 1&3. Oh, and Schindler’s List. Obviously.

  22. Lock and load

    As any gun nut will bellow at you: movie fire fights are dick. The vast majority of clicks, shunts, safety catches, hammer flicks and slide pumps? Largely pointless. Except when you’re a) threatening someone or b) tooling up against overwhelming odds with an AC/DC soundtrack. Then, they’re the punctuation marks of the gods. 

  23. Bomb timers

    In real-life, bombs explode with messy unpredictability. That’s why glaring red LED countdown clocks are a necessary visual aid for audiences. And, more importantly, the guy writing the climactic music. “Dun-dun-dun-du…BOOM! Oh balls.”

  24. The morning after

    Dawn breaks. Two lovers, entangled in sheets, blink sleepy affection at each other. The man: crinkly smiles and designer stubble. The woman: hair tousled sexily over immaculate make-up. Cynical Hollywood airbrushing? Fine: you can always sleep with us instead. We like farting and garlic. So which “version” do you prefer?

  25. Abusive organgutans

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    Sure, their dramatic range is narrow. But hey: what a range.

  26. The ‘cat in the cupboard’ jump in horror movies

    We have it on good authority it’s the same cat. Earns a fortune. Lives in a beachfront condo in Malibu. True story. 

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