I-Spy Guide to Cliched Film Dialogue

5 Conversations

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 an Odeon 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. We 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, my own Top Three personal 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, I'll 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. 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.


"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."


"You'd better come in."

"You'd better sit down for this."

"What's the meaning of this?!"

"Darling, I'm home!"

"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?"

"Hey, what are you doing hanging around my locker?"

"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?!"

"I CAN'T! I CAN'T!" "You must!"

"Your money's no good here..."

"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!"


"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."

Driver: "Where are you heading for?"
Evil hitchhiker / taxi fare : "Nowhere" (or possibly "Hell")

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

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

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

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

"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")


"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."

"Quick, you take the wheel, and I'LL shoot."

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

"Keep still, they can only sense movement."

"Well, preacher, I guess you'd better pray for all of us."

"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."


"The commissioner's on my back - you've got 24 hours to solve the case."

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

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

"Get me Head Quarters!"

"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."


"O.K. 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."

"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!"

"Yes, it is rather exquisite, don't you think?"

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


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

"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!"


"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."


"Mommy, it hurts..."

"Mommy, why does Daddy have to go away?"

"Mom, mom! There's something weird going on out at the old Johnson place!"


"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?"


"You can't just walk in there!"

"The Mayor/President/Doctor will see you now."


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

"We've got to talk..."

"I don't want you seeing you 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 again."

"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."


"But Inspector, why are you telling me all this?"

Grateful acknowledgements to all those on H2G2 who contributed to this list. For individual credits, see the original postings at http://www.h2g2.com/FLR26689?thread=29059&skip=0&show=20

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