Archives for : September2010

Things people say all the time in movies but never in real life

Film and television are riddled with cliche’s. In fact, there are so many cliche’s out there, you can categorize them. There’s simply no way to collect them all without an army of pop culture savants. But today, while watching the venerable Van Damme masterpiece, Time Cop, I realized that characters in movie and TV shows often say things that would be completely ridiculous if heard in real life, and yet these phrases have managed to become common enough to be cliche’. I haven’t been thinking about this for very long so this list is bound to expand, but here are some examples.

1) “Who sent you?”

Protagonists in action movies are always being hunted by some ultra-powerful entity. And as we all know, ultra-powerful entities don’t do their dirty work themselves – they send people. And they usually send people who are very easily defeated, and give the opportunity to the hero to demand information that will lead to the Final Encounter. Usually, the assassin/spy dies before spilling the beans, but they will often say something that, while not directly identifying the villain, provides a helpful clue to advance the plot. In our every day lives, we never get the chance to ask somebody who sent them, no matter how embroiled in shady affairs we may be.

2) “Enhance that.”

I love fictional technology. It always does exactly what you need it to do, and it’s never limited or inconsistent in any way. In movies and TV, the police and government agencies always have technology that in real life would be five to ten years away from existing, and even if it did it wouldn’t work right. In this case, photographs taken from security cameras and cell phones manage to capture enough data to be able to identify the thread count in a bystander’s coat, but only if somebody asks the computer guy to “enhance” it after zooming in far enough to make it a pixelized mess. Who knew we had the server space to store hundreds of thousands of 50 megapixel images just in case a detective needs to read the address on an envelope being carried by a dude photographed from 60 feet away?

3) “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Perhaps our lives simply aren’t dramatic enough, but I can’t fathom any situation that would compel me to shout a long No at the top of my lungs. Then again, I’ve never witnessed somebody important to me die, or come extremely close to dying in a dramatic way. The list of characters who have screamed NOOOOOOO is very long indeed, and includes such names as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Spider-Man, Frodo, and Wyatt Earp.

4) “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Want your audience to feel as though the characters in your movie have stepped way outside their comfort zone, but don’t feel confident enough to portray it without words? Use this dusty old phrase from Wizard of Oz. Somehow cliche’ from the first time it was used outside of the original context, this adage was most recently, bafflingly uttered by Stephen Lang in James Cameron’s Avatar. If you were to do this in real life, no matter what the circumstances, you would be punched in the mouth. It is a provable fact. Or someone would look at you awkwardly, but it would feel like a punch in the mouth.

5) “Who’s there?”

Again, this one could be chocked up to us not leading dramatic enough lives, but in movies (horror mainly), when somebody is alone, and they hear a strange noise, this is what they invariably say. But put yourself in that situation – can you see yourself asking “who’s there?” If you’re in a place where another person’s presence is to be expected, you would simply look for the person, or maybe say “Hello?”, but you wouldn’t ask who’s there. And on the flipside, if you were somewhere where there really shouldn’t be anyone else slinking around, what does that question accomplish? What if somebody answers? The appropriate response would be to run the fuck away.