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The 10 Most Overused Action Movie Cliches

18 June 2013 | Features, Other Lists | by David Zou

action movie cliches

We can all agree that in order to enjoy an action movie, you need to accept the truth that all the characters represent particular archetypes and that the plot is based on the director’s personal representation of the script. Essentially, the easiest way to make the audiences understand the role of an actor implies using clichés, because the spectators are already familiar with them from other motion pictures.

However, some of these clichés fringe on absurdity and it becomes even worse when you realize that their usage is absolutely vital to the plot. In the action genre, these “formulas” are significantly more obvious and ridiculous. Let’s find out what they are.


10. Explosion? What Explosion?


The Cliché: A true badass doesn’t blanche in the face of an explosion. He doesn’t even bother looking at them. Instead, he simply strolls away, letting the heat of the blaze gently singe his neck hair as he stares into the middle distance. Flinching? Flinching’s for pussies…

Examples: Tom Jane has this down pat in The Punisher, sending two different mobsters sky high on two separate occasions, not bothering to look around at either of them. Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek look impossibly cool in Desperado, having tossed a couple of grenades through a book store window. In fact, Banderas loves an unflinching stroll, nonchanently leading a group of refugees away from a collapsing mine in The Mask Of Zorro.

The T-1000 takes it to the next level in Terminator 2, strolling out of the middle of an explosion as though it were the most natural thing in the world. That thing eats clichés for breakfast…

If It Was Real Life: It’s up to Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg to flag up the absurdity of this cliché in The Other Guys, when an explosion sends them flying to the tarmac. “How do they walk away in movies without flinching when it explodes behind them?” says Ferrell. “There’s no way! The movie industry is completely irresponsible for the way they portray explosions!”


9. He’s Mine


The Cliché: Despite being ruthless murderers, a lot of action movie villains are surprisingly sentimental when it comes down to it. How else to explain their obsessive need to be the one who fires the bullet that kills the hero? Despite having billions of dollars / world domination within their sights, most of them will risk it all just to ensure the hero gets a poetic send-off at their own hand. What price a little perspective?

Examples: This happens twice in Die Hard, with both Gruber and Karl calling off various underlings in their eagerness to finish McClane themselves. The climactic fight in The Matrix Revolutions sees Agent Smith take on Neo one on one, despite the presence of millions of clones, whilst Darth Vader likes to handle things personally throughout the Star Wars series.

Heroes don’t tend to be quite so precious about who takes down the villain, although Hook does see Peter Pan order the Lost Boys to leave the Captain to him. They don’t listen and Rufio ends up dead, proving once again that it’s one rule for the good guys, and quite another for the forces of darkness…

If It Was Real Life: Law enforcement would be a fairly arduous affair if individual criminals and coppers were embroiled in such one-upmanship…

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  • WoWed

    you want almost a complete list of action movie cliches? Watch Commando. I love the movie, but it’s more of a satire of action movies than last action hero ever was, just not on purpose.