The most common Hollywood movie cliches: from hackers to unsurvivable explosions

The Tinseltown tropes you see in every film that make zero sense in real life, because who on earth abandons their car outside an airport?

From the awkward girl getting the guy to American infallibility when faced with a global disaster, Hollywood films are jam-packed with tireless tropes. Photo: 20th Century Fox, Touchstone Pictures, Summit Entertainment
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When it comes to cliches, Hollywood has been guilty of them all throughout the years.

From heroes who walk away from fights that would kill mere mortals to those dashes through airport security that would land anyone in real-life in prison (yes you, Love Actually), Tinseltown has never met a trope it didn’t love.

Delving into the meta-sphere of the cinematic eye-roll, actor Rob Lowe is set to host a new Netflix show, out on September 28, about such cliches, aptly titled Attack of the Hollywood Cliches!

Having already given romcoms the cliche treatment with 2019’s Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth, the streaming platform looks set to follow in the footsteps of popular YouTube channel CinemaSins.

In it, commentators point out all of the tropes and continuity flaws in films such as Twilight, Spider-Man, Cruella, Pretty Woman and more.

Attack of the Hollywood Cliches “analyses the origins and evolutions of everything from ‘Walking away from an Explosion', to the ‘Meet-Cute' and ‘Females Running in stilettos’,” says Netflix.

“There’s also a ‘Wilhelm Scream’ montage for real movie buffs.”

For the uninitiated, the Wilhelm Scream is a stock sound effect that has been used in films and TV series since 1951.

So, if you've ever watched a film or TV show and wondered who on Earth has the time to get up that early to make pancakes no one eats, here are 16 cliches to cross off your Hollywood movie bingo card …

1. The average guy getting the hot girl

Obviously beauty is objective but is Adam Sandler that objectively attractive that he gets to date Jennifer Aniston and Salma Hayek, two of Hollywood’s most beautiful women?

And how about Kevin James winning the heart of actual supermodel Amber Valletta in Hitch? Shall we assume these films were written by men? *Googles*. Yes. Yes, they were.

Then, on the flipside we have ...

2. The shy, awkward girl gets the guy

Two words: Bella Swan. Bonus points if the hot guy finds the seemingly quite dull girl endlessly fascinating in ways the audience just can't understand.

3. Walking away from a crash that would have killed a normal person

Watch any Fast & Furious film and within moments, someone will be strolling away from a car crash so big and catastrophic it will be visible from outer space.

See also the Aston Martin DBS rolling over and over in Casino Royale. Yes, Bond looked pretty bashed up after being pulled from the wreckage, but he still survived.

4. The 'one last case' before retirement (Also known as: retirony)

If any cop, detective, firefighter or perhaps even a photocopier repairman heads off to work for their final day on the job, waved off on the doorstep by a smiling wife who calls out to him that he’d better be home for tea, you know for sure that guy isn’t coming home.

See also: criminals pulled out of retirement for “one last job”.

5. Hacking into the Pentagon in about three minutes

For starters, it’s always the “mainframe” they’re hacking into. What is a mainframe? Who knows – just buy into it, it’s easier.

Then the hacker, who is always attractive (think Chris Hemsworth in Black Hat or Nathalie Emmanuel in Fast & Furious) and in no way looks like they live in their parents’ basement spending 23 hours a day on Reddit, hacks into Evil Corp Inc using a Nokia 3310 and a VPN.

They also say stuff like: “If we use a backdoor gigabyte we can malware spoof the encryption codes to bring down their firewall from behind the payload.”

Which leads us to …

6. Every computer virus will affect everything in the whole world at once

If you enjoyed the most recent instalment of the Fast & Furious franchise – Dom Has a Secret Brother and His Mates Go Into Space in a Car, No Really you’ll have noticed that the baddies aimed to infect every device on Earth – satellites, computers, phones, toasters (probably) – with a virus simultaneously.

It was the same in Die Hard 4, as with all computer-as-plot-device films these days, making us yearn for a time when all the teen boys in Weird Science had to do to create Kelly LeBrock was use a landline to dial up the local electricity board.

7. No one but Americans can save the world

Aliens invaded Mumbai? Asteroid heading for Sydney? No matter the country, it’ll always be the good 'ole US of A to the rescue.

Granted, their military is massive and has more money than Jeff Bezos’s head moisturiser budget, but you'd think they might enlist the help of China, Russia or India, who also have massive armies.

But thinking about it, if you've got Bruce Willis on the case, do you need anyone else?

8. Incredible breakfasts no one eats

French toast dusted with icing sugar and decorated with strawberries carved to resemble miniature Taj Mahals. Plates of pastries, stacks of pancakes with artistically drizzled syrup, jugs of orange juice, toast in racks, bowls of layered granola ...

Who on Earth is getting up at 4am to make these breakfasts, when all the kids do is take a piece of toast and walk out the door saying they're late for school?

9. Super-cool high school kids

Think about your high school days. Were you as articulate as the Dawson’s Creek kids? As super-cool and unsupervised as the Euphoria gang? As effortlessly stylish as Cher et al from Clueless? Or were you doing a tonne of homework in between trying to master TikTok dances in your bedroom with friends?

10. The surprise witness

No courtroom drama is complete without some hot-shot lawyer who needs a break at all costs suddenly conjuring up a star witness or case-busting piece of evidence in the middle of the trial.

In certain US states, prosecutors can wait up until the last minute before a trial to present evidence, but suddenly producing it mid-trial would get you into a lot of hot water with the judge.

11. 'Turn on the TV'

Something big has happened – Armageddon, the Third World War, Samantha returning to Sex and the City. Your mum calls you. “Turn on the TV,” she says and hangs up.

In Hollywood terms, the "coincidental broadcast" is when the television is turned on to the exact channel at the exact time the news report is ready with the exposition.

In real life, your Gen Z teen would ask: "What's a TV?" before telling you they already got the news from Twitter half an hour ago.

12. Cars get left anywhere

So many vehicles have been abandoned in front of airports, police stations and courthouses that car pounds in movie world must be absolutely rolling in money.

Fine, pulling off a great parallel park at the nearest garage wouldn't necessarily make for a worthy scene. But realistically, leaving your car parked in those places is, at best, going to get it towed and, at worse, get it blown up in a controlled explosion when the security breach shuts down the airport.

13. Being knocked out is no big deal

In Hollywood, if you get knocked out, you wake up again a few minutes later to discover the girl / piece of tech that will save the world / smart-mouth kid has been taken by the baddie.

In movie world, all it takes is a quick shake of the head and a spot of wincing before the protagonist is back up and starting the chase all over again. No concussion. No visit to the hospital. Not even a Band-Aid.

14. Plans are really vague

For most of us, making plans involves date changes due to unforeseen circumstances, debates over where to go, booking tables, discussing what to wear, deciding if you’re going to drive or get an Uber, and considering the merits of inviting other people.

In films, the conversation goes: “OK, great, so I'll see you later.” Later? When? Where? It’s enough to give anyone social anxiety.

15. No one looks where they're driving

Dubbed the "stare and drive", this is when protagonists look away from the road to have a full conversation while driving. Are there no junctions in movie world? Stop signs, traffic lights, zebra crossings, other cars?

16. There are only three universities in the US

The only three universities anyone ever goes to in Hollywood are Yale, Harvard or Princeton. MIT at a push, but only when writers need to highlight the "nerd" narrative.

In the UK, it’s either Oxford, Cambridge or Hogwarts. Just once it would be great to hear of a student getting on to the agriculture course at Northeast Texas Community College, or heading off to study computer information sciences at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.

Updated: September 05, 2021, 3:23 AM