The Most Overused Scenes in Action Movies

Popcorn Movies Film

Action movies can be great for switch-your-brain-off entertainment, some action movies can be even quite intelligent if they have a good storyline. Providing the hero with a series of challenges can be stimulating for the audience and help immerse the viewer into an exhilarating, dangerous world. The action movie genre can provide escapism from the tedium of modern life, at least for a few hours. Action movies are usually a dependable source of revenue for movie studios, particularly the blockbusters. They often draw in crowds and set box office records such as Jaws which was purportedly the first summer blockbuster back in 1975. But blockbusters can have their faults and are sometimes re-offenders in predictability, using the same clichés, action scenes and situations. Some action scenes almost become commonplace and it feels as though the viewer can foretell what is going to happen next. Here are my personal choices for the most overused scenes in action movies:

Single File Attacking

The protagonist is cornered and outnumbered by the villain’s henchmen. Surely there is no hope for our hero now? But he somehow manages to fight his way to freedom. The henchmen start to attack the hero one at a time – single file giving him ample time to fight off each opponent. Wouldn’t it be easier for the henchmen to seize the hero and restrain him? In reality the hero would barely have enough energy left to engage in combat.

Happens in: Ultraviolet, Kill Bill Volume 1, Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Rapid Recovery

After a vigorous fight the hero is bruised, cut and generally badly wounded. They may have a few broken bones or be physically at a disadvantage, but still come out on top much to their rival’s dismay. Within the next scene our hero appears to be looking fine and showing hardly any (or none at all) of their injuries from the recent conflict. It makes the viewer wonder ‘how on earth did those injuries heal so quickly?’.

Happens in: G.I Joe Rise of the Cobra, The Dark Knight Rises , A Knights Tale

Doors are a hindrance

A hero and his team need to get through a door so they figure the most effective way to do so is to charge at the door. Frequently they kick, punch or hit the door (and lock) with a blunt object in order to gain access. There are usually computer locking systems or standard locks on the doors which are consequently destroyed.

Happens in: Gone in 60 Seconds , Sherlock Holmes (2009) , Red

Keep Your eyes on the road!

The main character is talking to someone in the passenger seat whilst driving a car, and constantly exchanges glances at the passenger. They do not pay enough attention to the road, in reality this would be incredibly dangerous. Most drivers rarely look away from their few car mirrors while on the road. A variant of this is the character looking down at a mobile phone as he travels in his car. The most memorable version of this scene I viewed was in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, were Ethan drives a car through a sandstorm at the same time as reading a handheld radar on his phone in one hand.

Happens in: Mission Impossible 3, The Terminator, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Terrible Targeting

The villain’s henchmen seem to be poor at aiming and shooting at the opposition. However the hero (and his team) are an excellent shot can kill with a gunshot easily. Sometimes in chase scenes the film shows incompetent police officers who are unable to shoot effectively, despite their Police (training) target practice.

Happens in: Man on a Ledge, Inception, The Avengers

Hot wiring is easy

Characters need to have a get-away car and the best way to acquire one is to hot wire it. This usually consists of taking the cover off the wires, ripping out (2 or more) wires and connecting them together. It is amusing how the character knows which wires to cut and connect like it is common knowledge. He manages to hot wire the car in a matter of seconds. Truthfully the car would take a longer amount of time to start and make the escape successful.

Happens in: Dante’s Peak, The Bourne Ultimatum, Battle: Los Angeles

Jumping off Buildings

The protagonist is cornered atop of a high building/location, to avoid capture by their adversary they jump from a height. This is normally because they think they will survive but also because they would rather die than be killed by their enemy. Often the central character will jump onto objects hiding behind the building (for example the DeLorean in the Back to the Future series) or even aside the building on the ground (dumpster/car). Occasionally for dramatic effect the character will jump into the ocean.

Happens in: Sherlock Holmes (2009), Back to the Future Part 2, The Three Musketeers

Why don’t you just Shoot him?

The villain has the hero held captive and instead of killing him/her he proceeds to say a line or speech which gives the hero sufficient time to escape and defeat him. Usually there is a complicated method of dying planned for our hero and the villain fails to kill the hero although he was in control of the situation. Frequently the villain carries a gun while continuing his monologue which makes the audience wonder ‘Why don’t you just get on with it and shoot him?’ Movie critic Roger Ebert called this ‘The fallacy of the Talking Killer’ in his book Glossary of Movie Terms.

Happens in: Goldfinger, Mission Impossible 3, The Spy who Loved me

I must note that I’m a big fan of the action genre and this article is intended to have a fairly light-hearted tone to it. I would love to hear your nominations for what you feel are the most overused scenes in action movies.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. lol this is funny! Assassinations are always over-dramaticized with the most ridiculous scene.

  2. Yvonne Carter

    The hero gets the “girl” in the end. That scene.

    I am waiting for the day when that girl will be a male. That should really test the masculinity of conventional Hollywood.

  3. Man on a Ledge was terrible!

  4. The car / vehicle won’t start. Commence chase scene.

  5. Kevin Licht

    I actually enjoy a lot of these action movie tropes. The single file attacking is one that is used a lot as a sort of ode to kung fu films and the talking killer is always a good one that’s been parodied plenty in movies like Austin Powers and The Incredibles.

    Fun read!

  6. Nicola Kahler

    Haha very engaging and funny article! The action genre is so good to watch if you want a predictable movie to zone out to or kill a few hours! Love it 🙂

  7. Jon Lisi
    Jon Lisi

    This is a funny read–great job!

    These cliches are in most action films I’ve scene, but I wonder if this might also be why I enjoy them. The absurdity of it all…

  8. Jordan David

    Keep your eyes on the road is my favorite. It happens a lot, even outside of action movies. Imagine if everybody drove like that… Good article by the way! 😀

  9. Lachlan Vass

    There is such truth in this Article

  10. I laughed when reading your points. Some of the points you mentioned are exactly what goes through my mind when I watch certain action movies. Sometimes, just seriously, can’t the producers make them more realistic?

  11. Pradeep Dhillon

    Interesting. I liked it.

  12. Jordan

    These are so true and this was an amusing, nicely written article. My only other feedback is it would be nice to see some pictures, but I imagine its hard to find images of something so specific. XD
    Good work, Anna!

    • Anna Williams

      I was thinking at one point to try and include pictures but it was mostly difficult to pinpoint action scenes clearly to highlight a whole series of small motions in time (concerning my choices anyway).
      Stills from action films didn’t really capture the whole scene I felt, so I’ve let users read/use their imagination which is always a good thing imo 🙂

  13. Nilson Thomas Carroll

    I feel like most directors (or rather screenwriters) don’t even think about these things too closely (at least the bad ones). Also notable are colors used in films, most films being made up mostly of dark gray.

  14. Danny Cox

    This was fun to read. I liked your examples!

  15. Totally agree with eyes on the road. Especially when I know the particular car is a manual or the driver controls don’t actually work that way.

  16. phrank anonymous

    this article was completely and exactly on point, and although these clichés are overused and annoyed, some movies just wont work without them even if they are serious or a parody.

  17. Figuring out someone’s password. Why do they put this in movies? So stupid. Trying finding a post it note with the password under the keyboard – at least that’s more realistic

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