The ABCs of Film Cliches
Aliens: Aliens have just one culture - same language, same religion,
same clothes - whatever planet they come from.
Animals: Cats are feminine and a sign of trouble. If a man has a cat
he is either a villain or a pervert. Dogs know in advance who
the bad guys are and grawl at them menacingly. Creepy crawlers
will always attack the woman, even if she is surrounded by dozens
Artists: Tempramental people. Writers crumple typewritten sheets in
anger; They don't use word-processors. Painters stand with bare
torsos, hurling gallons of paint at the canvass.
Baths: Bubble baths hide everything. Bubbles never dissipate.
Bars: Troubled men gulp their drinks at one shot, and ask for another.
Birth: The trip to the hospital has endless problems and only by the
sheerest luck does the woman get to deliver in a place that has
doctors. Just a couple of hours after giving birth, she looks
as if she'd never been through it.
Bombs: All timebombs use a red digital display to show the countdown.
Cars: No one ever bothers to lock their cars when getting out.
Car chases: If you're trying to get away the car won't start until you
give it a few tries. It will inevitably get on the pavement and
hit the vegetables of the Korean greengrocer. During chases,
police cars will get battered more than the others.
Clothes: When you steal clothes from a washline, they will be a perfect
Conversation: In intimate conversation, both people face the camera, so
that one is talking to the other's back. Sometimes they both
face the window and talk to the landscape.
Eating breakfast: Mothers get up before the rest of the household and
cook a hearty meal. The family sits at the table thirty seconds
before going out on their daily business, and make do with a bit
of toast and half a glass of juice. The father takes three sips
of coffee, glances at his watch and says he has to leave, puts on
his jacket while managing another sip.
Eating dinner: If a woman prepares a romantic candlelight dinner, the
fellow won't show up. If they've just got together, they eat
from Chinese take-away boxes, preferably sitting on the bare
Engagement: When falling in love you say "I want you to have mother's
ring, it's a family heirloom". When separating you should return
the ring, though in extreme cases you can throw it into the
Falling: Women fall when chased. If there's a man around, he'll pick her
to her feet and help her run.
Falling in love: Love has many faces, in film too, but if the parties
are opposites success is assured: him serious, her fickle; her
serious, him wild. The first meeting involves a mishap, some
confusion, a mistaken identity or perhaps a collision, be it in
a corridor or in a motorcar.
Fighting: You can neutralize two hoodlums by knocking their heads
together. If you win at the end, you must lose the first round.
No matter what happens, the hero and the villian will have their
final, one-on-one fight.
Forensics: The most inarticulate detective can ask the lab to perform
the most elaborate tests. Most lab workers are members of
minority/disadvantaged groups: Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, women
and the elderly.
Glasses: Glasses are a handicap. Men in glasses are, heaven forbid,
"Philosophers", "Scientists", "Teachers", "Intellectuals". When
a man becomes an active hero, his eyesight becomes 20-20 and he
doesn't need glasses any more. Women who wear glasses are
sexually repressed. When they loosen up the glasses disappear.
If they wear contacts, one will fall to the ground and everyone
will drop to the floor to look for it.
Health: Coughing is a symptom of a terminal disease.
Hugging: American families like to hug. When hugging, one should say "I
love you, son".
Ice cream: Unhappy people eat it at night, straight from the box.
Locks: Any lock can be opened with a credit card or hairpin.
Money: In a restaurant, when the woman leaves after fighting with her
man, he will toss a couple of notes on the table without
checking the bill. Same thing in bars. There is never a problem
with change. Same thing in hotels and taxis.
Panic: When a woman enters her home, and suspects someone is lurking,
she never turns on the light. When in deep panic she screams,
hands on cheeks.
Phones: People don't introduce therselves, nor do they say "bye" when
they're done. They remember a huge amount of phone numbers by
heart: highschool friends they haven't seen in years, government
offices, every restaurant in town (they also remember the head
waiter's name). They seldom need a phone book, an address book
or operator assistance. When the phone wakes you up in the
morning, you grope for it with your hand and drop it on the floor.
If it's an Arabic film, you invariably get a bad line and have
to shout at the mouthpiece.
Police: The bosses are always mad at their top detective, threatening to
suspend him. After they do, he manages to solve the crime
single-handed. Police bosses are under pressure from the mayor,
who threatens them that if they don't get the serial killer.. and
so on ad nauseum.
Pregnancy: If a woman has dizzy spells that means she is pregnant (and
surprised). When she tells her man he is even more surprised.
Radio/TV: When the hero wants to hear a newscast he opens the set
exactly as the newsreader gets to the point and shuts it down
right afterwards. If a friend calls you and tells you to watch
for an interesting news item, you open the set and the item
starts right away.
Recordings: When the hero wants to hear a recording, he rewinds the tape
to the exact spot where the recording starts; he manages to do
this time and time again.
Ropes: Very easy to get out of, using supple fingers or rubbing against
a sharp object. Still the hero will pretend to be tied up so he
can jump at the appropriate moment.
Schools: Lessons are very short and the bell cuts the teacher in mid
Shootouts: Heros are shot in the arm or leg; they improvise a bandage to
restrict blood-flow and go on fighting evil. Women are shot in
Shopping: Put your purchases in a brown paper bag; it will fall apart
before you reach the kitchen. If this happens in the street or
the stairs it is an excellent way to meet someone of the opposite
Soldiers: If a soldier shows his friend a photo of his small-town
sweetheart, he will die soon. If he's about to go on a coveted
leave, he will die soon. If he tells his friend about a dream
he had -- well, you get the idea.
Tears: Women will cry in the bath or the shower. When crying in the
shower, their back will slide down the wall slowly until they
end up sitting on the floor. Men cry in the battlefield,
especially when it rains.
Technology: Computer experts are black or wheelchair-bound or both.
From any computer you can - with the help of the wheelchair
expert - infiltrate any large organization and access files on
the laptop computer of any villain. All computers, even the
simplest, will display a realistic 3D colour picture. Character
based terminals have all got speech synthesizers.
Toilets: Only men actually use toilets. Women just use it for their
Views: From any apartment in Paris you can see the Eiffel tower. From
any apartment in New York you can see the Brooklyn Bridge/Empire
Weather: When the heroine says "I think it's going to rain" it
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