I-Spy Guide To Cliched Film Dialogue

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A film cliche could be defined as a hackneyed and unimaginative device stagnating the celluloid art form and betraying a dearth of inspiration or talent of any kind on the part of the creators. On the other hand, as anyone venturing into a cinema of late will testify, current screenwriters instead view cliches as useful, reliable standards that have been tried and tested and proven to work. And, to quote another cliche, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. The cinemagoers salute them for their brave crusade in the war against independent thought.

A full attempt to list the cliches of plot, stock characters, handy stereotypes, and common scenes that only ever happen in the movies would require a good thousand pages to really do the subject justice. And besides, such a tome presumably already exists on the hard disk drive of every Hollywood writer, for easy cut-and-paste convenience. For the record, and since "High Fidelity" is doing the rounds, three perennial favourites would have to be:

1. Someone turns on the news on a radio or TV... and the story being broadcast JUST at that moment has direct relevance to the film. Variation: Person bursts into the room. "Quick! You'd better see this." Cast rush into another room. There is a TV there. A news item relevant to the plot is invariably JUST STARTING. Uncanny!

2. A character wakes from a nightmare... by sitting bolt upright in bed and facing the camera.

3. When a character is on the phone, and the other person hangs up or is cut off, they pull away and LOOK at the telephone receiver in surprise.

Instead, this entry will concentrate on those fossilized and surreal lines of "real" dialogue that simply won't go away. A handy, popcorn-friendly at-a-glance guide, based on some recent filmgoers' postings to H2G2, to accompany you on your next visit to the cinema or video rental emporium. Hours of fun can also be obtained by imbibing alcohol whenever one of these lines is discovered. The author promises that with the right, film, you will be roaring drunk before the obligatory kiss. Or, for the non-drinkers,just tick each one off as appropriate. Here, then, is how to speak if you find yourself on the wrong side of the camera. Whether you've read the script or not.


If a film doesn't have at least one of these, it ain't worth watching...

"We gotta get out of here!" or "Let's get out of here!" (apparently the most common film line ever). Or, a common variation: "Let's get out of here. This place gives me the creeps."

"You stay here... Try and get some rest."

"It's crazy, but it just might work."


Less common, but still seen very regularly, insert one of these whenever stuck for ideas. Instant inpiration!

"You'd better come in."

"You'd better sit down for this."

"What's the meaning of this?!"

"I've got a job to do, and I intend to do it!"

"We've got to stop them! But how?"

"Why don't you take a day (few days, week) off? You deserve it."

"Whaddya mean, you've never done this before?"

"There's no room in this organisation for people like you."

"There'll always be a place in this organisation for you if you change your mind."

"Well, if the coach has quit, I guess I'LL have to run the kid's football team."
(generally spoken by a plucky/determined mother. Guess who wins.)

"Boy, are YOU in trouble!"

"What the...?"

"If this ever gets out, we're finished!"

"You'll never work in this town again."

"Twenty years of work and you want me to throw it all away?"
(Obviously they never made a back-up copy)

(in a slurred voice) "There was something in my drink, wasn't there?"

"Don't worry - you're one of us now."

"Why don't they answer?!"


"You must!"

"Trust me..."

"Do you really want to gamble with the lives of hundreds of innocent people?"

"Follow that car!"

"Where to?"

"Just drive!"

"It's your money, bud!"

"Where the HELL is that artillery..?"

"I need it here and I need it NOW!"

"Oh yeah, one more thing sir..." *click*

"Get your ass over here!"

"Don't panic, don't panic!

I'm not panicing!


If a character dies, it's a life wasted unless he goes out with a bang and/or one of these favourites.

"It's quiet - too quiet..." (cue arrow through head)

"Johnny/Stacey/Rover, is that you?"

"I'll be back in no time."

"Well, there WERE some murders just like that round here, but that was over 90 years ago."

"What was that noise? I'm going outside to check it out"

"This fog/forest/building, it almost feels like it's alive."

"This (place) is built on the site of an Ancient Indian Burial Ground."

"But they're...they're MOVING."

"But it can't be him - I saw him die with my own eyes."

(Spoken by murder victim with his dying breath) "The murderer... is...urk (Dies)

What's that noise out in the woods - I'd better go and take a look."

(Following a long monologue about something really nasty only to have it approach from the rear) "It's standing right behind me, isn't it?"
Or "There's something really bad behind me, isn't there?"

"What noise? I didn't hear a noise. Go back to sleep."

To dog whining and snuffling in hedge: "What is it, boy? There's nothing there!"

"I'll just go and check down in the basement."

"You go on without me. I'll be okay."

"We're safe at the moment - they only attack at night." Or: "They mostly come at night. Mostly." (as pointed out in "South Park")


Usually tall, blonde and with a jaw you could crack walnuts on, where would we be without heroes? And where would any self-respecting hero be without his plan and of course, a complete list of things he HAS to say (Heroes aren't usually big on originality or brains, they leave the thinking up to the scientists. They get paid for it...)

"Okay, here's the plan..."

"I've been studying the plans, and I think I've found a weak point."

"Every day, they turn the (lasers/pumps/alarm system) off for 5 minutes while they check out the backup systems."

"We'll head 'em off at the pass."

"It's a million-to-one chance, but it might just work"

"You guys go on. I'll try to hold him off."

"Hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride."

"Keep still, they can only sense movement."

"She's gonna BLOW!!"

"Cover me" - in every cop movie ever made. Westerns too. Also: "Cover me: I'm going in."

"Stay here."

"No way, I'm coming with you." (more famous last words)

"Right, you cause a diversion while I...(insert heroic deed here)"

"Look at this picture of my sweetheart - we're going to get married when the war's over."

"But I gave all that up when I retired from the unit/left Berlin (Prague/Saigon/Moscow) - all I care about now is my daughter."

"Don't you worry about anything. Everything's gonna be O-K."
Or, "You're gonna be FINE." (to a dying character)

"You know you won't shoot me, so just give me the gun."

"I'm too old for this s***!"

"I've got a bad feeling about this."

"That's what they WANT us to think!" or "That's just what he wants!" Or, "That's just what they'll be expecting!"

"Are you ready?"

"I was born ready."

"No, wait - there's a ventilation grille over there."

"Sure I know how to work this ship/control panel/airplane."

"That's it, we're sealed in here - hang on, how did that (insert random small furry animal) get in here?"

"For you, the war is over."

(Gasp, wheeze.) “It's getting dark... I'm going now... Tell my wife/girlfriend/mother/horse/dog that I ... (moan, gasp) I love her.” (Slump, die.)

"Hurry we only have (insert ludicrously small amount of time here) until the bomb goes off..."

"Let's get out of here."


Where would we be without these stalwart defenders of the peace and their unique, often cynical view of the world?

"Be careful Jack, remember this is your last day on the force."

"It's all right Sir, we'll handle it from here."

"Get me Headquarters!"

"They're not responding, Sir..."

"Don't worry, we'll handle it. We're professionals."

"There's nothing more you can do here, Jim. Why don't you go home?"


"Hang on - I recognise that sound." (on the tape of the kidnapper's telephone call)

"Play that bit again! Can you do anything with that, Joe?"

"Keep them talking for another 10 seconds, we've almost got a trace."

"Damn, he hung up, we only needed 3 more seconds to track him."

"Keep him talking."

"But what can I say?"

"Just keep him talking."

"We got him!"

"Look - if you magnify this photograph a millionfold, you can just read the address..."

"And if we assume all the robberies were within exactly 5 miles of their hideout, they must be somewhere in THIS small area."

"So, we've narrowed down their location to that big old abandoned warehouse..."

"There's only guy in this town who supplies this kind of bullet."

"What do you mean, he has an identical twin?"

"If we can just find the left luggage locker that this key fits..."

"She was clutching this scrap of fabric in her hand, so it must be important."

"Look - she dropped a book of matches from the Club Paradiso/Flamingo/ Noir."

"There's only one place I know where he could have got mud that colour on his shoes."

"Lets split up and look for clues"


Ah, the evil villain. Only the most over-used device in movie history. Even when the plot has been stopped, the world saved, the beautiful girl safe and sound, the villain will often live to fight another day, ensuing a sequel and more of the same...

"Okay Mister, stick 'em up..."

"Ah! Come in, my dear. Mr. Smith was just leaving."

"He's only one man," or, "What can one man do?" or, "No one man can stop us".

"That won't be necessary."

Non-villain: "But...I saw you die!"

Villain: "You can't kill someone who's already dead."

"You just don't get it, do you?"

"So, we meet again."

"Nobody can save you now. (Evil laugh)"

"You're either very brave - or very stupid."

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you right now..."

"Now is the time to implement Plan B!"

"No - don't kill them yet, let's take them along as insurance."

"Now! Give me what I want!"

Hero: "You'll never get away with this!!"

"Watch me."

"My work! It's too important for anything to stop me now!"

"It's almost too easy."

"It will be mine... oh, yes, it will be mine." Later: "Mine, all mine!" (cue maniacal laugh)

"Fools! I'll destroy them ALL!"

"...and there's nothing you can do to stop me!"

Villain jumps into a stopped car, points his gun in the face of the driver, and says, "Just drive."


Wearing a white lab coat, often elderly and grey (unless they're young, perky, blonde and female) the expert is there when all other hope is lost. They alone find that their incredibly obscure knowledge of thermo-molecular doo-hickory is exactly what is needed to advance the plot, and of course they provide an excellent opportunity for technobabble.

"It's made from a [substance] not of this earth (usually after a quick glance through thick spectacles)

"You mean..."

"Yes. It's from outer space"

"All we need to do is reverse the polarity on the [insert favourite sci-fi toy here]"

"It's a life form made out of pure energy."

"Look at that - the bacteria/virus/aliens can't survive exposure to (oxygen/heat/cold/light/dark/water...)"

"I'm a Doctor, not a (Insert just about anything here)!"

Or alternatively...

"I'm a (insert just about anything here) ... not a doctor!"

"As it happens, I'M a nuclear scientist/astrophysicist." (said by unlikely blonde)

"But Miss Jones, you're beautiful!"

(to unlikely blonde after she removes her glasses and lets down her hair)

"But if it DOESN'T work, it could destroy us all."

"Don't go in there! That's what they want you to do!"

"Don't open the DOOR!"

"Whatever you do, don't look down."

"But if it gets above 36 degrees / 90% of full pressure / 47 miles an hour, the whole thing's gonna BLOW!"

"She's gonna blow!"

"It's a TRAP!"


Large or small, green, blue or yellow polka-dot, seeking peace or world domination (again) our extra-terrestrial neighbours are always treayed to the juciest lines...

"Take me to your leader"

"Tell me, what is this thing you earthlings call love?"

or (the morning after)

"So, this is the emotion you earthlings call love?"

"Your puny weapons are no match for our superior intelligence."

"I do not understand - why do your eyes become moist?"

"You humans - your emotions make you weak."


Immortalised by such gems as Wayne's World and Bill And Ted. Can you believe people used to actually talk like this?

"Hey." (instead of "Hi" or "Hello")

"Yeah, RIGHT!"

"Like, DUH."

"You do the math."


"Go figure."

"Get a life."

"That is SO not okay."


"Too much information!"

"Could he BE more...?"

"Like, HELLO?"

"EXCELLENT!" (Air guitar optional)


"We've got to stop meeting like this."

"We've got to talk..."

"I don't want you seeing that boy any more."

"But Mom! I love him!"

"You're all I have...all I care about."

"I never thought I could feel this way about anyone."

"No matter how I try to hate you, I just can't!"

Couple in bed: Woman - "Don't worry, it happens to everyone."

Guy - "Well, it's never happened to me before!"

"I don't know - I just don't know anything any more!"

"I was young - I needed the money."


Thanks to a certain dog, this has become one of the greatest cliches in history...

"And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids..."

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