The SDMB Dictionary of Film cliches

Please provide a Name for a cliche and its definition, add at least two sightings for reference.
Definition: When The Hero(ine) of a horror film opens a closet/container a corpse will pop out to give them and the audience a cheap jolt.
Note: The body must propell forward with no known mechanism to explain said action.

Sightings:Halloween (1978), The Mummy (1999)

In action adventure/ sci fi film, if children and/or dogs are involved in any perilous situation, ie lava flow, bomb about to explode, electric fence about to turn on, no matter how unlikely the circumstances, they will survive, often just in the nick of time.

examples: Independence day, Jurassic park, Dantes Peak etc
and might i add, when i finally get to make my zombie/asteroid disaster film, which hopefully will be soon, the kids and the fucking dog/cat will die in the first reel, and then return later as zombies, so our hero(s) have to kill them all over again. in an imaginatively murderous way. and they’ll die in a gruesome zombie manner also.


Police Captain Anger & Rage Complex

Definition: Police captains will always be pissed off when confronted with the hero detective.

Note: The captain will threaten suspension if the detective stays on the case, claiming: a) the case can’t be legitimate; it has already been open and shut b) the capt. is always right c) the captain will be accountable to the mayor of the city

Sightings: All Leathal Weapon movies and plenty more

I’m gonna take one from Jabootu’s Movie Glossary (strangely, it’s not actually IN the glossary, though they use this term in their reviews):

Voorhees Unreality Engine (VUE) - the magical device that allows the killer in slasher movies to instantly teleport to any location. With the VUE, even a slow, plodding serial killer can instantly appear in front of a victim who’s been running away at full speed.

Used in: Just about any slasher movie, including Friday the 13th and Halloween.

In addition to the Police Captain Rage™ cliche, there is also the Talk about Retiring will Bring Your Untimely Death™ cliche, used to great effect in many movies.

Also in slasher movies:

Phew! It’s only little twinkles (cat)

Where heroine searches for the intruder in the house (she lives alone, you see), she suddenly shrieks when sees something moving in the corner of her eye - only to find out that it was just her cat.

Note: When heroine relaxes she will suddenly be attacked from behind by the intruder.


When any disaster (storm, volcano, plague, shark) threatens a town, the mayor will always rtry to hush it up because he is afraid that negative publicity will discourage the big developer who wants to invest millions in the town.

Like a major disaster wouldn’t do exactly the same thing.

Used in: Jaws, Dante’s Peak, movies to numerous to list.

The Evil Nerd Principal

A victim who is being terrorized by a stalker will always be the victim of identity theft, computer hacking, brake sabotage and numerous other mechanical and computerized attacks, all of which require more technical knowledge than one might expect from a typical stalker.


If the evil nerd is a serial killer being investigated by a determined law enforcement officer, the evil nerd will have detailed knowledge of local trivia, medeival literature, nuclear physics or any other obscure field, which he will use to plant tiny clues leading the officer (whose ability to spot and decipher said clues is equally impressive) into the final showdown.

Examples:Blood Work, The Bone Collector

Oops, shoulda said “The Evil Nerd Principle.”

The Evil Nerd Principal, by contrast, is Seymour Skinner.

Stormtrooper marksmanship Despite scary-looking high tech equipment and extensive training, the bad guy’s army can’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Star Wars trilogy, Krull, The Guns of Navarone, etc. ad nauseum

MS FLoating Envelope/Talking Computer Email Client

All email is hailed by a giant animated floating envelope in the middle of the screen, and the words “You’ve got mail” will be heard, even without a sound card being installed. This email client has the ability to transmit inline full-screen digital video at DVD quality (this particular kind of video compression format also contains hidden hi-res data, allowing CIA and FBI tech agents to zoom in on far-distant license plates, or tiny serial numbers).

Sticky Titties™

With this device, all clothing, sheets, towels, etc. will adhere above the nipple, and despite extensive movement or violence, will always conceal it from the camera. Works best on mainstream actresses.

The Law of Convenient Exposition

If the hero is ever delayed while trying to gain entrance to a building/secret lab/suspect’s office, etc., he’s guaranteed to overhear information that’s vital to his quest (a password, the location of something vital, a tidbit of information that will get him in the door) while he’s sitting there cooling his heels.

Examples: Chinatown, various James Bond movies

The Big Giant Fucking Star Trek Reset Button
Especially is time travel or space/time fissures/eddys episodes.

Makes everything bad that happened go away. Or… makes the future people going into the past part of their already established history.

First Contact is a major example. And STIV:TVH. It worked in VOY’s Year of Hell. It’s not working well for ENT and rarely worked well in TNG, DS9, or other VOY. TOS’ The City On the Edge of Forever used it perfectly.


any person (usually pretty girl) entering a house/room in a suspect situation (murderous psychopath at large, monster etc) will fail to turn the light on. instead they will enter room and be surprised by said monster/psychopath. see also Its only Twinkles as mentioned above.

examples: fucking everything

Nobody will EVER lock their car/house door upon leaving. see also ENDLESS AMMUNITION

Examples: any film where anybody gets out of a car

** The Convenient Radio/Television Newscast **. Whenever something is happening and the radio/TV is turned on, there will always be an emergency broadcast on whatever is happening.

See examples in above post.

** The last second getaway **

If there is imminent danger it is escaped only at the last possible second for dramatic effect.
SEE The 5 second Rule
Sightings Strar Trek II The Wrath of Kahn, Moonraker

** The 5 second Rule**

Whenever a bomb must be defused by a hero the deactivation will not happen until the last 5 seconds of a countdown.

Sightings Golden eye, Wargames

A corollary to The Convenient Radio/Television Newscast is Turning the Radio/Television off during pertinent information. This occurs in two forms: 1. Applies to cops/politicians - e.g. a cop gets home and details of his case suddenly come up on the news program his wife’s watching. Rather than saying “oh look, honey, that’s me that is, I’m on the TV! Wahey! Hmm, I don’t like the way they’re reporting that. Etc.” the cop instead grabs the remote and turns the TV off the moment it’s apparent that the bulletin is relevant. Why? 2. Serial killers listen to the bulletin announcing that they’re at large, but turn it off just before the end of the newscaster’s apparent final sentence. Nobody knows why they don’t hang on and see if there’s any more about their latest gruesome crime.

How about the
Voluntary Disarmament and Leaving Armed Bad Guys Behind Us Rule ?

In most action movies (also TV shows) when the heroes manage to overcome a pursuer/guard/bad guy they will leave him where he lays, whether he is dead or not, and leave him with a loaded and functional firearm. The smartest thing to do of course would be to grab the gun and use it, but even if they don’t know enough about firearms to be able to use it well, couldn’t they at least take the time to get rid of it and tie up the bad guy?

Corollary: The Giant Ticking Digital Display

All bombs will have a giant digital display (as opposed to an internal timer) that shows exactly how much time our heroes have left.

The Automatic Bad Guy Death Sentence

In most action films/thrillers it isn’t good enough for the bad guy to be merely arested and tried for his crimes he must escape and cause another threat that allows the hero to summerily execute them thus serving final justice.
Note teh Hero will receive no punishment for killing the villian because murder is ok as long as it’s done to a villian.

sightings Die Hard/ Leathal weapon/ Dirty Harry