There’s nothing like a great line of movie dialogue. Classics like “I’m the king of the world,” “Why so serious?” and “There’s no crying in baseball” are instantly recognizable and can live on long after the movie itself.
But for every Academy award winning screenplay, there’s a pile of scripts filled with tired and overused lines that you can’t get through a Netflix binge without hearing repeatedly. Once upon a time, they were original. An underpaid, overworked screenwriter toiled through draft after draft to bring them to life… probably on a typewriter…. in the days of black and white. In the decades since, these lines have become screenplay clichés.
The groan-inducing one-liners listed here aren’t the only overused dialogue you’ll hear in movie theaters– but they’re some of the worst offenders because they’re so ubiquitous.
Once you start listening for them, these lines can really hurt your enjoyment of the movie. We hope this doesn’t sour you on a favorite film, because chances are you’re a fan of at least one title here.
So with that said…. (dramatic zoom shot)…. let’s do this.
15. “Let’s Do This.”
How about let’s not? This line seems to pop up in every big-budget summer popcorn movie, usually alongside Dwayne Johnson and a poor 3D conversion.
Typically this line appears in action movies, and is used as an expression of the hero’s bravado in the face of danger, or to kick off a “preparing for battle” montage. This is because of the action movie principle that tells us that all of our movie heroes must be either snarky or tortured.
It’s used in cinematic classics like 22 Jump Street, Blade, and (a movie that really didn’t need to exist) last year’s Point Break remake. “Let’s do this” is in the freshman class here, having only become overused in the past 15-20 years.
14. “It’s Not What It Looks Like.”
What else can you say when your dad walks in on you mounting a pastry on the kitchen counter? American Pie is a textbook example of this line, and it even pops up in one of the movie’s sequels, but you’ve seen it in other movies. It’s often referring to an overtly sexual situation the character who’s been busted is trying to downplay, and it’s often exactly what it looks like.
To the character walking in, it often looks like cheating, which is exactly what it is when Melanie Griffith catches Alec Baldwin in Working Girl. To the audience, however, it looks like a filmmaker couldn’t even be bothered, because this is a line that’s been kicking around since the golden age of cinema.
13. “Is That All You’ve Got?”
There are two flavors of this line: in fight scenes, where our hero is getting beaten but isn’t defeated yet and wants to show they’re still tough (Ali, Alien 3) or, in a comedy, the character who is comically weak or unskilled and is delivering the line with irony (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo). Both are equally overused and outdated.
Here’s a helpful hint: if the response to this line is either “I’m just getting warmed up,” or “Now it’s my turn,” you can go ahead and change the channel.
The earliest use of “Is that all you’ve got?” that we could find was delivered by Sylvester Stallone while in the ring for 1979’s Rocky II, making this one of the oldest cliché lines on our list and one you’re still likely to hear today.
12. “I Could Tell You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You.”
It’s an ‘80s classic. Tom Cruise is charming his way through flight school in Top Gun and wants to make an impression on his instructor, Kelly McGillis. As anyone who has seen the movie can tell you, he does. It’s brilliant: it sells the character’s wit and cockiness in a single moment.
The only problem is that this was 30 years ago, and several hundred imitators later, this line needs to be retired for good. It comes up most often in scenes where the guy is trying to break the ice with his love interest by making her laugh. Even in serious movies, it’s an attempt at comedy. But not only is it not funny anymore, it’s now impossible to believe that any woman would go for it…. or that any guy who says it is anything but lame.
11. “Yeah, You Better Run!”
When Katie Holmes’ Rachel is about to get mugged in Batman Begins, she delivers this overwrought gem when a thug runs from her pepper spray… not realizing that he was actually frightened by Batman appearing behind her. When she realizes Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader is with her, she’s then terrified.
This line is heard almost exclusively from characters who are the prey in the scene, followed by their predators running away, and of course the moment where they turn around and meet the toughest person in the movie.
10. “_____ Is My Middle Name.”
In case you’re noticing a pattern here, a lot of the worst offenders on the list are attempts at being witty and clever. And for some reason, some screenwriters think that nothing says witty and clever like a line that’s been used in decades of well-known movies, when characters want to show that they embody the concept of whatever trait is convenient to the plot.
Austin Powers satirized this conceit by giving Austin the actual middle name ‘Danger’. But before that, there were way too many action movie characters who snappily told us their middle name was: “nice” (Corey Feldman in The Goonies), “trouble” (Chris Evans in Fantastic Four), and even “thin” (Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon).
9. “Don’t You Die On Me!”
It seems like for every character injured in a movie action sequence, there’s another character there stating the obvious: “don’t die”. Would this actually be encouraging to anyone that’s fighting for their life?
Nevertheless, it’s the line that John Travolta says to Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction when she overdoses– modified, like others on this list, with an f-bomb so you know it’s edgy and the character is really serious. This line also goes well with tears: it’s said by a crying Matt Dillon to Ralph Macchio in The Outsiders, Patricia Arquette to an already-dead Christian Slater in True Romance, and William Baldwin to Kurt Russell in Backdraft (notice a pattern?).
8. “I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This…”
This line has been used so many times and in so many different movies that it just needs to stop. It’s been delivered by just about every character in every Star Wars movie, including at least a couple of times in the original. It’s one of the most influential franchises of all time, so that alone was probably enough to spawn a generation of imitators. Which is exactly what happened: the line is in Gravity, Rounders, and Platoon, as well as comedies like Dude, Where’s My Car and Stepbrothers. The line was actually used pre-Star Wars in another famous space movie, 2001, so maybe it’s just particularly well-suited for letting us know a mission is going south. But we’re all for the element of surprise, so it’s time to retire this one.
7. “It’s Gonna Blow!”
This one’s not even fair: just pick an action movie from the last 50 years. National Treasure is a favorite simply because the line is delivered by Nicolas Cage overacting in a way that only he can, so it transcends the sloppy writing and becomes entertaining. It’s a mystery why writers feel the need to fill dead air with this cliché when it’s always followed by an explosion a split second later. Like some of the other entries on our list, this one has become so tired and cheesy in action movies that it now has more impact when used in a comedy: like Steve Martin on the bounce house in Cheaper by the Dozen, or the late, great Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire.
6. “We’re Not So Different, You And I.”
This is a classic favorite of the chin-stroking villain taunting our hero during the big showdown. This line is for classic movie bad guys, or at least the ones their writers want to be classic, like the Green Goblin in Spiderman, Commodus in Gladiator, or Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. They (and hundreds of others) all deliver this line, and in a way they’re right. Screenwriters love a chance to show that the hero and villain in a story have some things in common, which is probably how this line began. However, it’s a little on-the-nose to just have a character say it out loud, so this line just feels lazy. You might as well just have them say, “I’m the bad guy.”
5. “I Was Born Ready.”
The snarky swagger of this line might say 21st century to you, so you may be surprised at how old this cliché really is. It dates back to some old-school Hollywood alpha males, like Burt Reynolds in Smoky and the Bandit and Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China. When those guys told you they were born ready, you better have believed them. So if you’re an aspiring writer thinking of using this line, ask yourself, “Is my character as cocky as 1970s Burt Reynolds, driving that muscle car, saying this into a CB radio, and wearing that moustache?” Spoiler alert: they aren’t. Even if they were, this line has been beaten into the ground by too many pale imitators. If someone asks your character if they’re ready, keep it simple and have them respond with a simple “yes”.
4. “Get Out Of There!”
Here’s another version of a character warning others of an impending explosion, and it’s so simple it’s easy to wonder why no one’s tried to top it. This line has been yelled by some iconic characters right before a memorable explosion, but it would be extremely tough to beat the one in Lethal Weapon, an action classic that belongs on any list. That’s hardly the only movie this 4-syllable staple has made it into: versions of it can be found in Lord of the Rings, Apocalypse Now, and Armageddon. Another spin on this line happens often when a character is phoning another character to warn them they’re in danger. A textbook version of that appears in The Matrix, when a phone call from Lawrence Fishburne’s Morpheus makes Keanu Reeves’ cubicle job a lot less boring. This one’s so quick and simple it’s not as cheesy as these others, but it’s still a cliché.
3. “We’ve Got Company!”
Han Solo is breaking Princess Leia out of the Death Star in Star Wars. John Connor is being chased by the police in Terminator 2. Indiana Jones is being pursued in the Temple of Doom. All different characters in vastly different situations, but they all deliver the same line! No one can deliver a cliché line like Harrison Ford, but of course he did it before this line was played out. It’s not hard to understand why a screenwriter would want to copy Star Wars and Indiana Jones– after all, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. What is hard to understand is why more screenwriters haven’t tried to top a simple 3-word expression that basically says, “The bad guys are here.” But in the decades since it first appeared, our non-scientific research says this has become on of the most cliché movie lines of all time.
2. “You Just Don’t Get It, Do You?”
This is a classic, usually delivered by a moustache-twirling villain who’s taunting the good guy. It’s the point in the movie when it seems like all is lost, and the villain must explain why they’re so much smarter than the hero…. though not so smart that they won’t be defeated in the next 15 minutes.
One flaw with this exchange is that “it” is usually something we spotted a while ago before getting up for more popcorn, and have already guessed how it will play out. Think about it: is a screenwriter who’s lazy enough to drop this dud into a script going to surprise us by crafting a huge twist?
This line can also be used by a supporting character explaining to the hero how naïve they really are; sometimes in a police interrogation room. Both versions are immortalized in movies like Speed, The Devil Wears Prada, The Terminator, and Mission Impossible II.
1. “S/He’s Standing Right Behind Me, Isn’t S/He?”
We’ve all seen this one: a character is berating someone else in the film to a friend or colleague, only to realize– usually from the look on their audience’s faces— that the subject of their contempt is standing directly behind them. Cue awkwardness.
It’s amazing that this became so overused, because it’s more than a line of dialogue: it requires all the scenes that use it to be shot, performed, and edited the exact same way. That means that every time you see this gag, an entire production crew worked to make it happen. But the cliché lives on nonetheless, in movies like Miss Congeniality, GoldenEye, Scooby Doo, and countless TV shows.
If you’re an actor considering a part and this comes up in the script, you might want to pass, or you’ll end up in a supercut of all the times this was (over)used.
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