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Too Many Overused Movie Tropes Will Bore Your Audience

Have you ever written a screenplay or made a short film you thought was original only to have most people react with a yawn — or not react at all?

This might be because you’ve been implementing too many common movie tropes. Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean you’re a bad screenwriter! It just means that you need to learn how to write better stories.

The problem with overused tropes in movies is that they have a way of sinking deep into our psyche and we start regurgitating them without even realizing it. You see a certain plot or plot point in so many movies that it practically becomes the norm.

Well, if you want to write a great screenplay that is totally original and nothing like anyone has ever seen before, it’s important to know and either improve on or avoid these 15 overused movie tropes.

15 of the Most Overused Movie Tropes

Science experiment gone wrong

There’s an obvious problem in the beginning of the story, the scientist ignores it, and the world pays the price.

Comas

Information is withheld because a character is in a coma or their coma sparks family/relationship conflict. The character could just as easily be sent away in a way that is more interesting and unique than simply placing them in a coma.

The bad guys always wear black

Dark clothing to match or accentuate a dark personality. Better character development will eliminate the need to put an evil character in black.

The main character has amnesia

A character wakes up one day to find their memories completely gone. The entire story is based on them fumbling around life looking for answers.

The lovable goof character

This is typically seen in movies or series with a group of friends – there is frequently the goofy/dumb (and sometimes inexplicably attractive) character.

The hero always gets the girl

This doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with superheroes. All too often, there is another movie made where a man swoops in, saves, the girl, and they fall in love. Yawn…

Rain at funerals

Funerals are happening every single day, rain or shine. There are other ways to convey emotion besides rain.

Stoner movies with no real plot

The plot is centered around marijuana, dudes getting high on the couch, and the funny things that happen to them because they’re high.

Time loop or groundhog day gimmick

The main character(s) wake up and relive the same day over and over (and over) again.

The grass is greener on the other side

An unhappy or ungrateful character wishes their life to be different only to realize that’s not what they really wanted, after all.

Walking away from a massive explosion

Aside from the fact that you’d go deaf, have massive burns on your body, nobody ever walks away from massive explosions like in the movies. Ever.

The boss is always an asshole

The older, richer, white boss man takes advantage of a young, pretty employee or intern. Or better yet, he or she is just a vile disrespectful person toward the main character. If it’s a cop, he’s got a chief or sergeant who’s always yelling with blood pressure through the roof.

The halo effect

Pretty characters are good, ugly characters are bad.

A retired killer (thief or whatever) does one last job

They’ve been living their life peacefully retired in Key Largo, Florida. Now, they have to save the world!

Glasses = dorky

Once they’re taken off, the character is suddenly revealed to be a beautiful, intelligent, and interesting person.

“Whatever you do, don’t look down.”

Ever heard these movie lines before?

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The Most Used Cliche Movie Lines Ever

Movie tropes are alive and well in dialogue also.

There’s nothing worse than watching a movie for the first time and knowing what the characters are going to say before they even say it. Well, unless you’re watching a comedy and it’s intentional.

Cliche movie lines are sometimes hard to avoid in screenwriting, but most times it’s just lazy writing.

However, if you’re watching a serious movie and you hear lines like “You just don’t get it, do you?” or “We’ve got to stop meeting like this!” just know it’s a great example of cliche dialogue.

As a screenwriter striving for great dialogue that actors can deliver and make movies memorable such as “May the force be with you” (Star Wars)  and “Here’s looking at you kid” (Casablanca), below is a list of lines you’ll want to either avoid or put a fresh spin on:

  1. Listen to me, and listen good, ’cause I’m only gonna say it once.
  2. Try me
  3. This is your destiny.
  4. I was born ready.
  5. Are you sitting down?
  6.  Is that all you got? – I’m just getting started.
  7. Cover me. I’m going in.
  8. No. Come in. ____ was just leaving.
  9. We’ve got to stop meeting like this.
  10. (Greeting) Well, if it isn’t ____.
  11. I’m just doing my job.
  12. You’ll never get away with this! – Watch me.
  13. Now . . . where were we?
  14. How hard can it be?
  15. You go girl!
  16. What part of _____ don’t you understand?
  17. Don’t even go there.
  18. Is this some kind of sick joke?
  19. Oh haha, very funny.
  20. Did I just say that out loud?
  21. It isn’t a gift. It’s a CURSE!!!
  22. I can do this all day…
  23. He/she is the only one who can stop it.
  24. So let me get this straight…
  25. Why are you telling me this?
  26. Go! go! go! go!
  27. We need to talk.
  28. Well, if things go sideways…
  29. Feisty, isn’t she?!
  30. It’s just a scratch.
  31. How is he? – He’ll live.
  32.  . . . and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to stop me!
  33. You say that like it’s a bad thing.
  34. Note to self . . .
  35. What seems to be the problem, Officer?
  36. What’s the worst that could happen?/ What have we got to lose?
  37. I have a bad feeling about this.
  38. Don’t you think I know that!
  39. Whatever you do, don’t look down.
  40. We’ve got company!
  41. Oh that’s not good.
  42. Awkward!
  43. What just happened?
  44. We’ll never make it in time!
  45. Stay here. –  No way, I’m coming with you.
  46. Okay, here’s what we do . . . [and cut to a different scene]
  47. Try to get some sleep.
  48. Hi, sis.
  49. Wait! I can explain! This isn’t what it looks like.
  50. In English, please.
  51. What are you doing here? – I was about to ask you the same thing.
  52. This day just keeps getting better and better.
  53. Shut up and kiss me.
  54. Not on my watch!
  55. It’s called ____, you should try it sometime.
  56. That went well!
  57. Don’t you die on me!
  58. We can do this the easy way or the hard way…
  59. Get outta there!!!!
  60. You look like shit.
  61. We’re not so different, you and I…
  62. If you touch one hair on her head….
  63. Sit down and shut up.
  64. Don’t do anything stupid.
  65. There’s a storm coming.
  66. If I’m not back in __ minutes, get out of here/blow the whole thing up/call the cops.
  67. I’m not leaving you.
  68. You have to go on without me.
  69. Don’t even go there.
  70. I’ve always wanted to say that!
  71. Listen to me and listen good, cause I’m only gonna say it once.
  72. You just don’t get it do you?!
  73. Ready when you are!
  74. Is this some kind of sick joke?
  75. Oh haha, very funny.
  76. Did I just say that out loud?
  77. Wait. Did you hear something?
  78. How is he?
  79. He’ll live.
  80. I’m . . . so cold . . .
  81. Is that clear?
  82. Crystal.
  83. What if? . . . Nah, it would never work.
  84. . . . . and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to stop me!
  85. You say that like it’s a bad thing.
  86. Impossible!
  87. (dialing on cell phone frantically) I can’t get a signal!
  88. (someone says that house is haunted) Let’s go check it out!
  89. I just need to get to the car! (drops keys and gets eaten by zombies)
  90. You just don’t get it do you?!
  91. Never send a boy to do a man’s job,,,
  92. I should’ve killed you when I had the chance!
  93. Is that all you got?!
  94. Yeah…a little TOO quiet.
  95. What part of _____ don’t you understand??
  96. I’m not leaving you behind!
  97. You’ll have to go without me!
  98. I told you. I work alone.
  99. Sir, you better get down here.
  100. This ends NOW!!!!!
  101. Welcome to the big leagues.
  102. According to my calculations….
  103. Get me the president!!!
  104. Boss, you’re gonna wanna take this.
  105. Looks like we’ve got company!
  106. Who’s in charge here?!
  107. We can do this the easy way or the hard way!
  108. If I wanted you dead you’d be dead.
  109. I got a bad feeling about this…
  110. It’s a trap!
  111. Buckle your seatbelts!
  112. Wait! I can explain! This isn’t what it looks like.
  113. Showtime!
  114. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.
  115. If we make it out of this alive . . .
  116. That’s it! You’re off the case!
  117. How long have we known each other?
  118. We go back a long way.
  119. Well, well, well . . .
  120. Aha! I knew it!
  121. Done . . . and done!
  122. Leave it. He’s/She’s/They’re not worth it.
  123. In English, please.
  124. As many of you know (yadda, yadda, yadda).
  125. Too much information!
  126. Yeah, you better run!
  127. . . . . Unless?
  128. Unless what?
  129. What are you doing here?
  130. I was about to ask you the same thing.
  131. So, who died? . . . Oh.
  132. You’re either very brave . . . or very stupid.
  133. Oh, yeah! You and whose army?
  134. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
  135. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
  136. It’s not you, it’s me.
  137. This just getts better and better.
  138. This is not happening. This is not happening.
  139. Make it stop.
  140. Shut up and kiss me.
  141. I’ll see you in hell!
  142. Lock and load!
  143. Oh Hell, no!
  144. Not on my watch!
  145. You just don’t get it, do you?
  146. I have got to get me one of these!
  147. It’s called ____, you should try it sometime.
  148. That went well!
  149. Let’s split up!
  150. Note to self . . .
  151. Honey, is that you?
  152. What’s the meaning of this?
  153. What seems to be the problem, Officer?
  154. What’s the worst that could happen?/ What have we got to lose?
  155. I have a bad feeling about this.
  156. Leave it. They’re already dead.
  157. Don’t you think I know that!
  158. Whatever you do, don’t look down.
  159. Why wont you die?!
  160. I eat guys like you for breakfast.
  161. Oh now you’re really starting to piss me off!
  162. Hang on . . . if you’re here then that means . . . uh oh.
  163. Oh that’s not good.
  164. Awkward!
  165. What just happened?
  166. We’ll never make it in time!
  167. Stay here.
  168. No way, I’m coming with you.
  169. This isn’t over!
  170. Jesus H. Christ!
  171. It’s no use!
  172. It’s a trap!
  173. She’s gonna blow!
  174. Okay, here’s what we do . . . [and cut to a different scene]
  175. Fuckin’ A!
  176. I’m getting too old for this shit.
  177. Wait a minute, are you saying– ?
  178. You’ll never take me alive.
  179. Okay, let’s call that plan B.
  180. I always knew you’d come crawling back.
  181. Try to get some sleep.
  182. I just threw up in my mouth a little.
  183.  Leave this to me. I’ve got a plan.
  184. No, that’s what they want us to think.
  185. Why are you doing this to me?
  186. When I’m through with you (etc.) –
  187. Hi, sis.

Final Takeaways

If you want to know how to write a compelling screenplay or make a great movie, give viewers something that they’ve never seen before – something that they’re not going to expect. You would be surprised at how intelligent the average viewer is.

If you can avoid or improve on most common movie tropes then you could have the next big thing everyone’s talking about.

Always Make Sure The Story Concept Is Strong

All movies start with a basic idea. That idea is then turned into a concept that can sustain a story with conflict between characters. Your concept should always be just as strong an interesting as the story itself because that’s how it will peak people’s interest to want to see it in the first place.

Jay

Jay Carver is a screenwriter, director and producer. Through his production company J-Style Films, he has done work for companies such as Turner Broadcasting. In the past, he has worked with Hollywood actor Omari Hardwick and won several film festivals including "Best Director".

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