Films

19 great movie cliches that should never stop being used

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Gary Ogden
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X movie cliches that need to stick around otherwise I’m stopping watching movies altogether

Some movie clichés are good and they need to stay

Quite often (most of the time, in fact), when I sit down to watch a movie, I am resolutely not in the mood for surprises. I want the absolute usual, thanks, and I want it streamlined in an easily digestible way, much obliged.

As such, I am absolutely a die-hard fan of the cliché, and I make no bones about it. There are, of course, a good few examples that I would happily kick down a well, but there remains a solid list of old-faithful clichés that I lust after, time and time again. A select group of filmic tropes that if, by some ridiculous reason, are absent or altered, I become unreasonably enraged. Enraged to the point of public screeching.

And here they are:

(Oh, and I suppose there are a few spoilers in here, if you’re a large baby)

1. The very skilled big man taking on a load of henchmen who are all attacking him one by one, absolutely neglecting to just go behind him and clang him on the back of the head with something

Examples: John Wick, Fist Of Fury, The Matrix Reloaded

A ‘many-on-one’ fight scene is the bread and butter of action movies, it is my life-blood and I require to see it in every movie. However, if this situation was handled realistically, it would be a pointless endeavour, a short-lived and foolish escapade that would result in the immediate incapacitation of the hero. Thing is though: let that big man wallop the nappies off thirty idiots one at a time please, because that is infinitely more enjoyable.

2. The last-minute bad guy performing a screaming lunge, covered in blood, on fire, with no arms, even though everyone thought they were dead

Examples: Cape Fear, Slumber Party Massacre, Westworld

You learn, through a lifetime of watching horror films, to know that the big murderer is categorically not dead when he’s been done through the chest with a big pitchfork and our final girl has spluttered “It’s finally over”. You know that in approximately 40 seconds, that big bastard is gonna lunge upwards with a big machete for one last-ditch attempt at killing. This particular chain of events is warm to me because not only do you get a jump scare (love them), but you also get another even more gruesome death. Two for the price of one, you’re getting.

3. The rug-pull involving someone having a nice lovely dream about doing a honking old snog, but when they wake up, they’re smooching the blasted dog!

Examples: Ali G Indahouse, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Mask

I feel, if you cannot see the funny side in a big horse or something, slobbering all over a person who thinks they’re laying the smackers on their object of affection, then you are a lost cause. A large smelly hound flapping its big wet tongue all over the lips of a lovelorn underdog, jolting him from his peaceful slumber, and you’re not laughing? You need to get your priorities straight, mate.

4. The entirely too-long training montage involving tasks that are entirely irrelevant to the skills needed in a fight, like kicking eight scorpions through a hoop whilst balancing a bowl of hot soup on your head and getting whacked on the arse with a big stick of bamboo, blindfolded, underwater

Examples: Bloodsport, Rocky, Never Back Down

Why does doing press-ups with just one finger mean you’ll win the fight? How does chasing a chicken with your arms tied behind your back help? Why the splits? Why always the splits? I have absolutely zero clue, and I give zero cares towards it - I am fully invested in the chest-beating, heart-swelling three minutes of emotional sabotage that a well-formed training montage will gift me. It rips the shirt right off my back, I tell you.

See also: A suiting up montage consisting entirely of close-ups of muscles and guns and grenades and knives and two fingers running green paint across a face sideways. It’s like the training sequence-lite, and it makes me scream just as much.

5. The destruction of the rec centre being the sole target of nefarious businessmen, only for a group of plucky youngsters to stage a dance off to save it

Examples: Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, Step Up 3, The Blues Brothers

Dancing does not generally solve real, large, actual problems. But then, things happen in films that don’t happen in real life, so the naysayers can do the proverbial “one”. All you need is an evil developer and a plucky gang of youngsters doing enough headspins to convince them they’re in the wrong. And who hasn’t completely changed their entire way of thinking and also lost millions of dollars by seeing two people do the robot? I don’t know who, and nor do you.

6. “You’re all gonna DIE! Don’t go into them there woods ya heard! YOU’LL DIE! dIE i TeLL yA!”

Examples: Cabin Fever, Friday the 13th, A Crack In The Floor

If a group of sexy young thangs go off to smoke pot and do sex in a cabin in the woods, and nobody with weird teeth warns them about it, then what sort of satisfaction do you expect me to have when they are eventually killed? You see, the crazy person was correct all along - they should have listened to him! But they didn’t! And now there’s a big poker up their butt and their guts are on the rug. Never, ever learn from this, idiotic teenagers, never ever learn.

7. The extremely romantic snog even though it’s absolutely pissing it down and everyone’s getting royally soaked

Examples: Everything, ever

Does anyone like the rain? No, is the answer, but the thing is, it looks proper romantic in the movies, doesn’t it? Two people, getting drenched, having a nice big tongue and not caring whooooooo knows it. This is love, I think. Being in the street during a storm. True love. And an absolute sucker for a nice big sock on the head from some lightning. So romantic.

8. “OH MY GOD THE DOG IS ABOUT TO DIE oh phew it didn’t”

Examples: Dante’s Peak, Armageddon, Dawn Of The Dead

I have a complicated relationship with this cliché, for I believe that should a film have any modicum of threat at any point during its run-time, then it 100% shouldn’t have any dogs in it. This is for the simple reason that it is impossible to enjoy a film where there is even a slight possibility that a dog might be put in harm’s way. Still, time and again, there they are, standing on the landing in a burning house, the idiots. I would rather this cliché didn’t exist, but I’m glad when I see it, because the dog survives. I’ll happily have some bloke getting his eyes whacked out with a spade, but if even one hair on that mutt is singed, I shall go APE.

9. The end credit epilogue in which we discover what happened to the characters after the film ends, including that one bloke who died

Examples: Tombstone, Animal House, Apollo 13

Don’t you always want to know what happened to the characters after the end of the film? Like, where is Blade now? Is he still killing vampires? Has he got a new haircut? Has he died? Has Blade died?

It’s imperative I know what the gang have been up to, essentially. I enjoy it, even though, without fail, one of them has always died - this last-minute heart-tug is a cheap way of sucking emotion from the viewer, but Lord do I dig it. Make me cry at the last hurdle for no reason whatsoever, why don’t you! I won’t even complain!

10. The cat making me bang the back of my head on the wall after it jumps out of a sodding cupboard

Examples: Again, everything, ever

When I am in my bathroom, cleaning my teeth before bed, and just outside, is my flatmate, hunched over, hand clamped around their mouth, trying to stifle the giggles, because they’re about to scare all the available air out of me, I am not happy. However, when I’m watching a horror film, I have specifically chosen to be scared. I want a big loud noise and I want to jump out of my skin. I don’t care how they do it, as long as they do, so if it’s the oldest trick in the book - a damn cat - it doesn’t matter a jot to me. As long as I’ve spilled my cornflakes, I’m happy.

11. The romantic interest who time and time again, neglects to realise that their one true love was their best friend all along, the one who was suspiciously good-looking and also perfect in every other way (apart from like, using stairs or whatever)

Examples: 13 Going on 30, Love, Rosie, When Harry Met Sally

This is just nice, isn’t it? Just gives you a lovely feeling inside. They’re friends, one of them big time fancies the other, but it’s not reciprocated until the last five minutes, when it absolutely is. And then they do a big kiss set to something really ‘90s like Bic Runga, and you’ve got your chin rested in your upturned palms and you think you’re happy but then you start crying because you realise that this isn’t real life AND YOU SHALL NEVER BE HAPPY.

12. The mute henchmen who chills you to the very core of your being and is also amazing at backflips

Examples: The Raid, The Raid 2, Goldfinger

If you are in an action movie and you don’t say anything, this means that you are extremely good at kicking people’s heads in. You are the top henchmen, and simply exist to do really horrible things to people and then have a big end fight with the main hero - why ruin this with needless words? You are consistently the best thing in every movie you are in, too. Well done. I said WELL DONE. Helloooo? SAY THANK YOU.

13. The ex-special forces hard-nut who is dragged out of retirement for one last job/headbutt

Examples: Taken, Welcome To The Jungle, Under Siege

The thought of a mild-mannered family-type person suddenly switching to ruthless nose-smasher at the slightest hint of danger is something that swells my empty chest cavity with hot air, which eventually escapes through my circular mouth with a bellowing howl that disturbs dogs the borough over. This trope should continue until the world is dust - it will literally never get boring to me.

14. “Put your gun down and fight me like a man you big smelly blouse, you”

Examples: Predator, Highlander, The Princess Bride

This one is absolutely great in every possible way. If you are trying not to die (which you often are, in movies), then why, for any possible reason would you ensure that the fight is fair? Get rid of all the bad guys as quickly and as easily as you can - there is no room for honour or pride - you simply have to ensure your survival. And putting down your big gun to try and punch someone who is a maniac and giant, is a misstep of the highest order.

If I am the observer, however, you better do exactly that otherwise you’re a big teary wimp, and you belong in playschool.

15. The underdog team (the one that is the most terrible team this sport has ever seen and has no possible way in hell of winning) winning

Examples: Name a sports movie. Yeah, probably that one

There are films where this doesn’t happen, but who wants to spend a load of time with someone and then have them lose? What was the point in that, mate? Why have you introduced me to the loser? Why wasn’t this film about the winner? In real life, I want a particular person or team to win, because it makes me feel happy, so if you have the opportunity to make that literally happen, then do it. For me. Absolutely zero time for losers.

16. “Let’s split up! No, actually let’s, NO ACTUALLYLET’SALLSPLITUPANDGETKILLED”

Example: Have you ever seen a slasher movie mate

This is related to the ‘one-on-many’ fight scene cliché. If it didn’t exist, our horny bunch of teenagers would likely be able to overpower the big nutter in a hockey mask, but as it stands, they are now on their own, and as such, they can now get their heads punched into a bin one-by-one. This is the only way it works, so it must never change.

17. The scene where someone explains that the person they’re facing is the hardest man in the entire world and that because of this they are all going to die

Examples: Any Bourne film, any Seagal film, any film starring me

When you are introducing a new character that has not been established before, it is necessary to quickly explain exactly how tough and scary they are - you can get this over and done with so quickly, either by (as can be seen above) simply stating their name with more emphasis than the world has ever seen, or giving a rundown of their special forces achievements, including that time they killed two thousand people using only a hole punch. This is exposition 101, guys.

18. The opening scene of a horror or action movie so ridiculously serene and sweet and lovely and coated in Vaseline, that you know something really gross is about to happen

Examples: Death Sentence, Taken, I Spit On Your Grave

Revenge, yeah, it’s always gotta start off all cute (often with home video footage, one of my favourites). You’ve got to have a cute family, a cute dog, be cute yourself, everything is cute, because that means when ‘the bad thing’ happens, it makes it all the more shocking, and all the more satisfying once the revenge starts. You actually killed his dog? The dog? You murdered a dog? Whoooo boy are you in for a deep hiding! Say goodbye to your skeleton!

19. ANIMALS COVERING THEIR EYES

BEST CLICHÉ EVER INCLUDE IT IN EVERY MOVIE FROM NOW ON AND FOR EVERMORE THANKS

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Gary Ogden

Shortlist writer and "the least woke person in the office", Gary Ogden, likes horror movies, Cheestrings, tapping his leg under the desk, "having a drink", hiding from responsibility, screaming into the mirror whenever he is alone, and assorted other things. Mainly the screaming thing though. @garyblogden

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