I’d like to start a comment piece here. I invite readers to send in their favorite—or, more appropriately, least favorite—movie clichés. You know, the ones that make you cringe every time you see them, make you wonder what the writer, director, and actor could possibly have been thinking of, and why no one stopped them.
To start off, here is a baker’s dozen of my own least favorites. Some of these were fresh once—clever, funny, or surprising—but have long since lost their edge. Others were dumb the first time, and keep getting dumber with every repeated use. In either case, you wonder why they keep showing up—sometimes even in otherwise pretty-good movies.
1. A machine with numbers ticking away, or better still, a computer with a human voice, preferably female, repeating some inane phrase like “There are now two minutes and twenty seconds before self-destruct.” Because of course both the characters in the film and the folks in the audience need to be reminded that time is running out.
2. A dream that we didn’t know was a dream ends suddenly with a shot of the dreamer snapping bolt upright in bed, gasping for breath. That’s the way we all respond to frightening dreams, right?
3. And what about slapping a person who’s in hysterics? I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that this has never actually happened, but was invented for the movies and happens only in movies. Evidently a lot of folks believe in it, though—or want to, just so they can get in a lick or two of their own. Airplane! got that right.
4. People not only staying underwater for longer than humanly possible, but emerging in full breath and ready to subdue an opponent in a fistfight.