Movie Clichés Get a Bad Rep

elephant_movie clicheAlthough Mom, Dad and school played a role in developing my aptitude for learning, I attribute much of my worldly wisdom to movie-going. Thanks to the big screen, I’m well-equipped to deliver a baby from the backseat of a car stuck in traffic and I know exactly which wire to cut should I ever be used as a human explosive device in a bank robbery. I can read you your Miranda rights, cauterize an open wound with gun powder, and scale an elevator shaft with no fear of said elevator ever succumbing to gravity. More practically, I also know how to order a beer in Spanish.

I know these things not because I watched Speed thirty-two times in the spring of 1995, but because these scenes play over and over again in movies through the ages. And while some clichés – like those of the call-is-coming-from-inside-the-house variety – get a little tired, I like to think that most of them are just learning experiences. The more times we watch, the more adept at life we will be.

Here are some of the most important things you can learn from favorite clichés:

How to identify the bad guy: Be wary of men with European accents and facial hair. If you miss him the first time around you’ll get another chance – he’ll be the one narrating your demise as a grunting henchman straps the alarm clock to your new vest.

How to threaten legal action: Throw out a few menacing phrases like “lawyer up,” “turn state’s evidence,” or “mounting a case.” If that fails, just “file an injunction.”

How to find a sad loved one: If the sadness comes post-funeral, look for the nearest swing set. If you’ve finally come to your senses after a breakup, look for your scorned lover in a taxi on their way out of town or sitting in the “O” on the Hollywood sign.

How to survive anything: Align with a snarky yet intelligent youngster.

How to make a desert island home: First wait out the inevitable rainstorm, then round the bend to the field of perfectly-sized bamboo. Fight the urge to add the wrap-around veranda to your abode – you’ll be glad you have the leftovers when it’s time to build your raft.

How to turn a team of misfits into state champions: Start the big game with an elaborate synchronized dance number. It will serve the dual purpose of distracting the opposing team and inspiring the quiet second-stringer to make the winning play.

How to reinvigorate your marriage: Admit you work for the CIA.

How to conjure stuff: Read aloud from a dusty book found under a floorboard in your basement. Most effective when accompanied by spotty candlelight and children chanting in Latin.

How to find the perfect outfit: Gather your best friends and a bottle of champagne, crank up the volume on your favorite girl-power song, and rummage through the closet/dressing room/wedding boutique. Whatever you’re wearing when the song ends is the one.

While not every movie cliché is a valuable learning experience (I’m not convinced a little eraser dust will help me bypass the lasers guarding the Mona Lisa), there’s something to be said about having a mental guidebook drilled into your head to help you through potential obstacles. Knowing that nine out of ten helicopter pilots are corrupt, a standard issue briefcase holds exactly one hundred thousand dollars, and that it’s really easy to get in touch with the President’s secretary is information that may come in handy someday.

What have you learned from movie clichés?

Other posts about movies: Movie Theater Casting Call, Phonephobia, Traveling Abroad for Dummies

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About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
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21 Responses to Movie Clichés Get a Bad Rep

  1. LOL

    The first one that comes to mind is, that any man can transform an ugly woman into a gauzy sensual beauty, simply by removing her glasses and undoing the bun from her hair.

    Works every time!

    I am sure to think of more….

  2. janeybgood says:

    Love this!
    How to prove to the father of the girl that you love that you are NOT a loser:

    Partake in an intricate dance routine culminating in a death defying lift. Clicking fingers and tight clothing optional. Also helps if you have an epic name like “Johnny Castle”.

  3. The nerdy guy who’s been your buddy all along is madly in love with you, which you will realize after you get dumped by the popular guy. Then you automatically fall in love with them immediately.

  4. ashokbhatia says:

    How not to fall in love!
    Nice post.

  5. colin says:

    I always love the movies from the 50s and 60s where the female lead was a secretary lived in a fabulous apt, and always found love mid way through the movie.

  6. Awesome! I’ve learned two things – if I’m ever late for work, find a villainous looking dude because the elevator always comes right away and we don’t have to make every stop to get to my floor. And I can revive the dead by screaming at them while pounding their chests followed by sobbing that they can’t leave me now….

  7. clareycakes says:

    After spending many many *sighs* many evenings sat by myself watching fantasy style movies I have come to the following conclusions.
    1. the big scary monster is probably a coward – and will eventually befriend you.
    2. the afterlife/underworld is always a lot more fun
    3. children can save the day by creating advanced technology from bits and pieces, whilst under immense pressure- like wombles on amphetamines.

    Love this!, looking forward to future posts.

  8. If you see a ghost, MOVE! Like, out of state.
    The guy who spilled coffee on you is probably Prince Charming slumming it as a barista.
    A pet will help you find your true lovel
    The right dress and makeup can solve any problem.

  9. laboroflike says:

    If you need to retrieve the Mona Lisa, but are out of eraser dust, you can evade the lasers by executing the gymnastics floor routine that won Mary Lou Retton the gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
    If you need something, the person who has it will always need something from a third person, who will want something from a fourth person, who will be looking for something in the possession of a fifth person, who doesn’t really need it.
    When flirting, start recapping the current situation in song. Your partner will pick up the next verse, and perfectly harmonize during the refrain. This also works for dancing.
    All overheard conversations contain a sentence or phrase which make sense in the context of a murder plot or an affair. Never ask for clarification.
    When saying goodbye forever, be sure to arrive at the airport three hours early, to give the other person plenty of time to catch up to you just as you are boarding.

  10. KP says:

    Holding on to the edge of a cliff, the edge of a building, or a moving car long enough to be saved is all about if you are important and not whether you have actual upper body strength

  11. I loved this! My favorite of your list was the swing set line!!! I cracked up. As a screenplay writer, I tried to avoid them at all costs, but when enough writers go for non-cliche, that stuff becomes the new cliche! You can’t win.
    My own favorites:
    When you scoff at someone’s lifestyle (or conversely, envy it) you will soon trade identities so you can learn the lesson of gratitude.
    After having sex, when you finally get up, the white sheet will easily slip off the bed, drape attractively around your bare body, affording your lover a sneak preview of how you will look in a wedding gown.
    Nobody in your family ages until a sign superimposes over your house that says, “Ten years later.”

  12. cat9984 says:

    The music will always tell you when to beware of the person you are speaking with, either to tell you that they are dangerous or are going to cause you heartache

  13. We’ll, now I know I have a masters degree in something! Thanks for a terrific read.

  14. If you film yourself sleeping, or just doing anything in general things are going to turn out very bad (makes me think if ms. Travers in saving mr banks filmed herself sleeping in the hotel room that giant Mickey Mouse would have come to life and creepily watched her). Thanks for the article was very enjoyable

  15. Phil Taylor says:

    Loved this. I learned that if someone asks if you are a God you say YES!

  16. Reblogged this on Blog Saya and commented:
    Hahaha!! :D

  17. kitchenmudge says:

    “Put the gun down.” never works.

    Telling another character “Just get out of there.” never works.

    Cars only break down when your cell phone battery is dead.

    No matter how slow-moving and clumsy the monster is, it does no good to run from it. You will always trip. Bullets rarely hurt it. The most effective thing is usually to set it on fire. (Smokers will survive. They always have a light.)

  18. When surrounded by bad guys, the good guy’s chances of winning the fight are substantially improved because the bad guys only ever want to attack one at a time.

  19. kitchenmudge says:

    Oh, did I forget? If you know two people of different genders who absolutely can’t stand each other, you’ll be seeing them naked together in an hour or so.

  20. Greg says:

    Loved it! I found that go ahead and make my day can be used in almost any situation..

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