ByJon Miller, writer at
A caffeinated commentator obsessed with political pop culture and then writing about it. "Don't talk unless you can improve the silence."
Jon Miller

There may indeed be nothing new under the sun. As much as we know storylines are recycled repeatedly in Hollywood, there are certain plot devices and scenarios that every honest movie-lover can't help but roll their eyes at. Here are just a few of those movie tropes that you are more than likely familiar with.

15) THAT’S ALL IT TAKES? (offenders: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Miller's Crossing, Conspiracy Theory, Red Dragon)

Whether fives ounces of chloroform or an abrupt bash to the back of the neck; the unsuspecting guard seems to hug the ground with little to no struggle. This is a common trope portrayed in all kinds of genres from thriller to horror films. Of course, the real life circumstances of such an action is less likely. First off, you would have to hit your opponent hard enough for their neck to spurt instantly and their brain to lag behind briefly. Once the brain’s movement from the blow catches up, it would have to press against the frontal lobe. It’s a short travel, but once it happens the loss of consciousness is likely to take place. This is unlikely on the first try since it requires an almost precise blow to the almost precise spot in the back of the neck. As for the chloroform— it really depends on the person’s weight, height, and age. Even once you have all of that correlated with the amount of liquid you need, it takes more than 10 minutes for it to properly kick in.

14) THEY’LL NEVER FIND US IN MEXICO (offenders: True Romance, The Shawshank Redemption, From Dusk Till Dawn, Blue Streak)

Where does Andy Dufresne flee to after his grand prison escape? Where do the Gecko brothers have their hostages drive them with police in pursuit? Apparently the country of Mexico is the ideal safe haven for criminals looking for the perfect getaway to retire. Not sure what this says about Mexican government officials and their justice system regarding extraditions, but I’m pretty sure they’re more than capable of finding an American criminal hiding out in their country.

13) A SILENCER IS ANYTHING BUT… (offenders: GoodFellas, The Usual Suspects, The Bourne Identity, No Country for Old Men)

The sounds of regular gunshot comes from both the hammer cocking forward as well as the explosion of the gun powder located in the shell. The pressurized gas from that explosion then forces the bullet to fling out. Pretty much the only thing that silencers provide is a second barrel in front of the original gun’s barrel. It’s longer with more room inside of it to contain the gas. According to any movie with a hitman who’s gun of choice involves a suppressor, they will be able to shoot as many people in one room without disturbing anyone else in the next. Definitely not the case since the pressurized gas still has to find its way out regardless of how many barrel suppressors are there.

12) SAME SOUND NO MATTER WHERE IT’S PULLED FROM (offenders: Cobra, V for Vendetta, Eastern Promises, Machete)

You ever notice how whenever a bad guy whips out his knife from a drawer or from the sheath in his jacket the same sound of two pieces of metal brushing against one another is heard? There’s not really much that I need to add, metal cutting through air does not produce that sound.

11) MY DOG IS CLEVER THAT WAY (offenders: Cape Fear, The Lion King, The Day After Tomorrow, I Am Legend)

A herd of animals run through you— all going in the same direction. A dog barking without ease towards a tall, dark stranger with ill intentions. It’s like they can predict the plot for you well in advance. I don’t know about anybody else’s four-legged friends, but they tend to bark at just about anyone, ill intentions or not. As for sensing natural danger, they’re much more attuned to the environment than we give them credit for, but there’s never been any scientific evidence to suggest that animals maintain a sixth sense. At the very least, they can detect danger shortly before humans can, but not enough to get a head start.

10) IT’S A GOOD BAD DAY FOR A FUNERAL (offenders: Portrait in Black, Daredevil, Hellboy, Watchmen)

Black suits and umbrellas go hand-in-hand when attending the death of a beloved character. It seems to be more common in comic book adaptations, however, in reality the time between an untimely death and the funeral is approximately three to four days. If we had to wait for a rainy day to do so then we’d be backed up for months or their’d be a lot more funerals taking place during a single day.

9) IT’S BETTER TO TRAVEL WHEN YOU’RE IN A MOVIE (offenders: Pretty Woman, Fast & Furious series, Slumdog Millionaire, Friends with Benefits)

Traveling never looked more fun— as long as you have quick, frenetic edits and overhead city shots playing over a pop song. It’s common in so many kinds comedies that one has to wonder why they don’t show the boring side of travel. Traffic, construction, waiting for the train or for a plane. All of which seem to be absent in movies and we’re left wishing we could travel as rhythmically.

8) ZOMBIES? (offenders: Evil Dead, Poltergeist, Dawn of the Dead, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse)

It’s written in the fine print of horror movie contracts. You need to have the skeptic characters among the already pre-established characters. The skeptics are the ones who did not see their current predicament coming at all. They’re also the ones underwritten for exposition. What do the main characters know? Why is their plan so dangerously stupid? These are just some of the many questions written for the skeptic characters in order to provide a voice for the audience’s questions. By now you have noticed that there is a severe obsession with zombies in our pop culture— little weird that someone hasn’t heard of them.

7) I MESSED UP…AGAIN (offenders: Jerry Maguire, 10 Things I Hate About You, Hitch, Knocked Up)

It seems every romantic comedy follows the same three act formula. The first being the first encounter with the second act being the romance, and eventual mess up. This finally leads us to the third act which involves the messer making it up to the messeé. This is usually the male’s part in the movie, or “the pawn of romantic comedies” as Matthew McConaughey refers to them. Jill Solloway’s underrated film, Afternoon Delight, was the right fit to flip this common rom com trope upside down.

6) WHAT’D WE MISS? (offenders: Commando, The Silence of the Lambs, Scream, End of Watch)

Can you imagine if the police were to actually show up on time and kill Michael Myers on the spot? It certainly would have prevented the spawn of a dozen terrible sequels. As if waiting around the corner for the lead character to take care of their business, the police always show up right when the killer is defeated. Cue the sounds of vibrant sirens and screeching cars outside just as the villain is impaled on a spike after falling two floors onto it. In reality: ideally the police should be getting there a lot sooner.

5) AND NOW I AM A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSON (offenders: Pretty Woman, Clueless, She's All That, Not Another Teen Movie)

Who would have thought that a hairstyle change up or a new choice of wardrobe was all you needed to look barely recognizable. Another romantic comedy trope which involves the nerdy girl losing her glasses, ponytail, and taking on some fashionable clothes in order to be considered pretty. There are more drastic physical transformations that can count for much more à la Raging Bull and American Beauty. Then there are the physical changes that are merely material based à la The Devil Wears Prada and literally any 80’s and 90’s teen romance.

4) ENJOY THE EIFFEL TOWER WHILE YOU STILL CAN (offenders: Mars Attacks!, Independence Day, Armageddon, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra)

How many times have we seen the Hollywood sign crumble down letter by letter? How many times have we seen the Egyptian pyramids sink to rubble? We’ve seen some of the world’s most famous monuments from New York to France perish under various circumstances. It seems that whenever a natural disaster or otherworldly invasion takes place, Hollywood goes straight to a country’s defining monument as a way of declaring nowhere is safe.

3) IT’S A GOOD TIME TO BE PRETTY (offenders: Halloween, Alien, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream)

In every group there’s the cruel jock, the uncomfortably gorgeous, but dimwitted blonde, the ethnic token character, the nerd or comic relief character, and the girl-next-door. The girl-next-door is always pretty and always survives to the end. The outcome of the other characters are less certain, especially if the character is the jock or ethnic. This trope has been discussed so many times that it’s even been coined “The Final Girl.” “The Final Girl” refers to the same horror movie formula of killing its characters one by one until the last remaining female is left at the climax to defeat the villain. Many are quick to condemn Scream as yet another slasher movie, but once the dialogue is dissected thoroughly you notice that it is very much aware of its tropes and wears it on its sleeve— almost becoming a satire. Twenty-first century horror films have been making new additions to this— I mean, we obviously still have to have the “Final Girl”— but there have been other surviving members too as well as a new brand of characters created outside the premeditated original five.

2) YOU HAD ONE JOB (offenders: Star Wars series, Rambo series, Die Hard series, The Matrix series)

It’s nothing short of a miracle how most henchmen are still employed— if they are not killed in a shootout that is. For some reason capturing our hero is where they thrive, but maintaining his capture is where they need to improve. No matter where our hero runs, our henchmen seem to shoot wherever he is not. Star Wars is beyond guilty of this trope in more ways than one. The death toll attributed to Stormtroopers does not extend beyond their embarrassing aim. Many of Star Wars’ most devoted fans have anatomized every single frame of each of the films in the hopes of coming up with a justifiable reason for this. From slow lazers to an impuissant helmet sight— everyone seems to have thrown in their two cents about why no one can make a shot. However, no one is willing to concede to the fact that it’s just convenient for plot purposes.

1) MY THERAPIST’S NAME IS JACK DANIELS (offenders: Casablanca, The Shining, Leaving Las Vegas, The World's End, and far too many)

Having a rough day? Whatever perplexing reality you’re about to face from family drama to an impending epic plague, we’ll be finding you in one place during the following scene.That place would be you drinking your sorrows away in a bar or some place where plenty of alcohol is accessible. This is probably the most realistic trope on the list or maybe it just seems that way since it happens so damn often in movies. No character drinks to rid themselves of their problems, but it does offer a pause from it and often times is depicted within the second act. Of course, it is not always a place of grim mourning with whatever is on tab— it can also be a place of refuge. Shaun of the Dead’s plot revolves entirely around a group of zombie apocalypse survivors who work their way through the infected streets of England to the Winchester pub. Whichever direction your genre chooses to go in; expect alcohol and desolation to go hand-in-hand.


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