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The Top Ten Greatest Movie Clichés Of All Time

Updated on March 23, 2015

The art of cinema continues to attract viewers each year. The concept of going to a theatre loaded with people and seeing a full length movie on a massive screen remains a popular form of entertainment today. It doesn’t matter if the film is a new idea or a sequel to a summer box office hit, individuals will still go to see it.

If the movie is good enough, some will even go for multiple viewings. Therefore, movie producers are put under the spotlight to create motion pictures that the audience will enjoy on a grand scale. Over the many years of countless flicks, some film studios have figured out a formula to get more people to the movies.

If you pay close attention, you’ll see these guidelines that are contained in most films. More than likely if you plan on seeing that blockbuster this year, or even a lesser known film, you’ll notice if not one, multiple types of clichés. But who is to say these are all bad? If they were left out, there would be complaints among spectators and less people would attend the movie in the theatre. Yes there are certain things we just eat up even if it’s been done a million times and it will hence drive us to want to see the movie.

Our experts got together and complied this list of clichés found in nearly all movies. As you consider each, think back on your favorite movie. Whether it’s an action, adventure, or romantic comedy, chances are it has at least one of these. So sit back and enjoy the top ten greatest movie clichés of all time. Let’s start off with number 10.

No Scott, I'm going to place them in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death and assume it all went to plan, what?
No Scott, I'm going to place them in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death and assume it all went to plan, what?

10. A Character Explaining the Plot Out Loud

A big driving point of films is the story. Sometimes everything else could be done wrong, but a good original narrative can occasionally impress most movie goers. One thing issued to make sure no one is lost is have a character in the movie say out loud what is going on. Now and then this needs to be done once a character is putting together some kind of twist in the plot and there were no initial signs of those events happening. But other times it’s thrown in just for good measure to have repetition of the account. This is also sometimes done by the antagonist when he has captured the hero or his love interest. With the main character or damsel in distress incapacitated, the villain decides it’s time to explain exactly what he or she has planned to do and that no one can stop them. I suppose if you’re waiting for that shuttle to take you to the President of the United States so your threats of world domination can be spoken in person, you’d feel like making conversation with your only menace to the plan. But hey on the bright side at least no one is going to be confused on exactly what’s going on.

9. “You’ll Never Get Away With This!”

Once a villain explains what he plans to do, a famous line is more often than not followed with: “You’ll never get away with this!” This is usually the case, but it can also be uttered when the character is unsure and is desperate to show they’re unwavering faith that the enemy will be stopped. It’s a line that seems to take hold of most who are helpless but believe somewhere down the line, they in fact won’t get away with their master plan. I think it would be interesting to see every once in a while though, a line like: “<Insert bad guy’s name>, come on, you know this isn’t going to end well right? You’re the bad guy.” Or “Have fun with that! I’m going to escape once you leave and then surprise you later on because you think I’m no longer a threat.” Either way, audiences love to hear that tone of disbelief spoken even when all seems lost.

8. Dramatic Trailers

One phase of attending a movie is seeing about a dozen trailers before the main feature. What every movie needs is that punch you in the face trailer with the movie trailer voice, explosions, yelling, deafening bass and other loud noises. Setting up the action, drama and excitement, a movie trailer tries to throw in as much events for the around 2 minute span it has. With its orchestra and choir set as the soundtrack, it hopes to blow people away from its extravaganza of scenes. Obviously its mission is to appease people who like conflict or have A.D.D. On occasion the whole movie can be summed up in the clips you see and therefore you almost don’t need to even go see the motion picture. Still, once that preview is over, you’ll lean over to your spouse or friend and whisper, “I want to see that.”

7. The Slow Death Scene

An avenue to keep the audience invested in the film is to have a shocking death of a character. The set up can be momentous and sometimes take you off guard. Being shot, stabbed, a trap set by the villain or other ways usually gets the attention of viewers. It can really throw a curve at you when the plot is starting to take off too. However, as is the case most of the time with a close associate to the main character, it takes a few minutes for them to die. This gives the opportunity for the dying character to address his friend or family member with his last words. With each and every breath getting harder than the last, the individual will make amends for past quarrels and consoles who they’re speaking to with how they lived a good life. The character with them will continue to reassure them with words such as: “It’s going to be ok,” or “Stay with me! You’re alright!” They could have a 40 foot piece of metal sticking through them, but these comforting words are never missed. Then, the person finally stops moving and stares off into space. For bonus points, the hero may afterward let out a loud, "No!!" Nevertheless we devour these scenes the same way a fat kid who loves cake.

6. “Oh My God!”

Movies have an arsenal of shocking occurrences that shake up the characters. Each event can vary from an explosion, someone hacking all the network systems, a meteor heading for Earth, a high speed car chase or aliens attacking different parts of the globe. When such an occasion occurs, a person will simply speak three words: “Oh, my, God.” To add to the suspense, some may take off their glasses or say it after taking a drink of coffee. Either way, when a thrilling moment needs built up in order to feel the anxiety of the characters, those words fit the bill. Although it can sometimes be overdone to a major extreme*.

*For example, see the movie “Cloverfield”.

5. The Big Speech

Dialog can be a legendary part of a movie and a majority of the time it can be the most memorable. From little quotes, to an entire scene, fans will recall the best and their personal favorites. So it makes sense that most movies will include a big speech or memorable line for a lovable character. This can come in mostly two different forms.

The first and probably most used in recently memory is the big speech given to a group about to charge into battle. The captain of a team or leader of the army will stand in front of the crowd and express his fighting zeal that will hopefully trigger excitement in the entire band of people. It never fails to work however, as the screenwriters no doubt pour over the exact words they want the leading man to say. It’s so effective, that you know if that individual never stood up with the moving discourse, they may have lost the battle or game.

The other big speech occurs in films with some kind of romance. There’s a simple formula to follow that studios do well. First the pair meet and fall helplessly in love, they have numerous memories together, then they fight and breakup or have a rough patch. From here, usually the man will rush to see her when he comes to his senses at the end of the movie and realizes he’s going to lose the love of his life. By getting to the wedding he needs to break up or the woman is leaving town just before it’s too late, the man will go on to give a moving speech of how much he loves her. The woman seeing by his lecture how much he still cares about her, will almost always stop whatever is going on and get back together with him for a happy ever after. If it didn’t end that way, there would be nothing but complaints about how horrible the movie as a whole was. Hence, this is one of the biggest clichés in movies.

Get down!
Get down! | Source

4. “Get Down!”

When there’s action, it’s impossible to never hear the line: “Get down!” It makes perfect sense in theory when you think about it. If you heard someone shout, "get down!" you know something is going on and you better listen. I personally wouldn’t want to stare at an explosion or just stand as a perfect target for someone as they fire aimlessly. The best solution then, is listen and do what they say if you want no harm to you. But like most things, it can be overused on occasion. The moment may need some kind of drama and feeling of fear in the characters, so the writers may squeeze the line in to capture that feeling of dismay. Regardless of how much it is used, the audience will still love those action-packed scenes with the line thrown in.


3. Stare Off Into the Distance or Out the Window While Talking

For serious conversations throughout a movie, there calls for a certain person to play up the drama. It may be cops interrogating a suspect, someone recalling a brutal story or a feud between friends that are trying to get a point across to the other. It never neglects a character to either stare off into the distance or out a window while he does so. We can understand whatever they’re talking about may be difficult for them to blurt out so they may have to do that. However, if you were to look at yourself and others when having a conversation, you'd see that people just don’t talk like that in real life. Although it can be cool to look out the window while you talk about that one time you saw a train wreck, it’s just not normal in the everyday lives of people. Nevertheless, films can’t resist to put it in those dramatic scenes and we still enjoy it almost every time.

2. Just in the Nick of Time

In order to have a plot that is worth investing in, there needs to be some kind of problem. If all things were rainbows and butterflies in films we’d probably lose interest pretty fast. Therefore, in some capacity the main character has to be in some kind of trouble. It could be himself or someone close to him that has a near death experience. However stories love to have a “near-miss” when bad things happen. It can be something like possibly a car crashing into another, but everyone gets out just as the collision happens unharmed. The prime scene of them all, is the hero is cornered with no way out. The villain has them right where they want them, and nothing stands in their way. What do they choose to do? Slowly, very slowly, they’ll raise their sword or gun toward the main character. For good measure, the villain may add lines as they do so, such as: “I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” or “This time you can’t stop me!” But what happens next? That’s right, someone or something hits or hinders them just as he is about to finish the job. Apparently their own pride becomes their downfall time and again, because you’d think they could talk all they want after they finish off their arch enemy. Oh well, it makes for good slow motion sometimes and who doesn’t enjoy that?

1. The Slow Clap

The biggest cliché of them all can be none other than the slow clap. Every time something significant occurs, a slow clap should follow. The custom of giving a round of applause when ones want to show approval or appreciation for something isn’t enough in movies. When such a situation calls for praise in films, it must be done slowly, building up to a normal speed. To gain even greater acclaim, a standing ovation is added in as well. It’s no wonder then movies enjoy having a grand finale for a character that gives them a slow clap from everyone. It’s usually done so well, that we all wish we’d receive a slow clap just like in the movies at least once in our lives from an auditorium full of people.

Movie Clichés

Which is the greatest movie cliché of all time?

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Were there any other clichés left out of this list? Comment below with your thoughts on movie clichés that you enjoy.


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    • BeyondGS profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Ohio

      @Robert Sacchi: Good points. In one way or another, something goes wrong for the bad guy time and again. Some are downright silly too. Sometimes the big speech is important (I included the Mighty Ducks scene because they were doing so bad they needed a pep talk during intermission. As kids, that goes a long way and is more believable). The problem is movies almost make a requirement for it anymore, and it isn't as memorable. All good thoughts though, thanks for the comment and read!

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      3 years ago

      Good list, thank you. One thing about #5 - The Big Speech, in Casablanca Rick's speech was to convince his lover to go with her husband. Closely related to Just in the Nick of Time is the empty gun or other malfunction. That one doesn't require any words, just the knowledge that if the gun worked the person who lived would have died.

    • BeyondGS profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Ohio

      @SheGetsCreative Totally agree! He was the movie trailer voice. It's fun to look back on old movie trailers and hear his voice. Thanks for the read and vote!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I voted for "Get Down". Don LaFontaine was the greatest voice-over trailer guy in the biz. Cliché or not, trailers will never be the same now that he's gone (unless narrated by Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones) ;)

    • BeyondGS profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Ohio

      I agree belleart, seems like you expect it to happen more than anything. I almost lose interest in a movie when all they do is throw in the expected scenes.

      The slow clap in theory is an awesone thought. People clapping and smiling for you. However like you said, it never happens in real life.

      Thanks for the comment and read! I appreciate it!

    • belleart profile image


      4 years ago from Ireland

      This is Brilliant! I see most if not all of these in nearly every movie I watch and its getting to the point now where Im actually expecting some of them when I watch certain films.

      Absolutely hate the slow clap...when does that ever happen in reality?!

    • BeyondGS profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Frienderal, I agree those are pretty common to see in films. They easily make the top ten.

      That's a really good idea for a hub, I'll look into that. Thank you again for the nice comment.

    • BeyondGS profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you for the great comment bethperry, I really appreciate the kinds words. There are so many to name but at least the movies I watch, these are never left out.

      That is another line that gets used a lot. I think it is usually spoken right before someone yells "Get Down!"

      Thank you again for the vote and read. :)

    • Frienderal profile image


      4 years ago from Singapore

      Interesting hub! I feel that the top clichés are the slow death scene and "Get down". Perhaps, you can do a hub on "Top 10 common movie poster". I will look forward reading that :)

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      4 years ago from Tennesee

      Oh gosh, you are so dead-on with all of these! And I absolutely detest the slow clap. If there was one I might add to the list, and it is the line, "We gotta get out of here!" I do believe I've heard that line in more films than any other except "I love you", lol.

      I voted on the dramatic trailer; as a good trailer can make or break a movie's financial success.

      Thanks for posting, very enjoyable reading.


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