The audience mostly believes that film clichés are pointless and show a lack of imagination. But Hollywood continues to use them with just as much vigor as ever before. From the classic ticking bomb to the forgiving protagonist, Hollywood keeps serving us up more and more clichés, and we keep coming back for more.

Some award-winning films tend to use less cliché and more classical storytelling techniques. Look at about Marc Shmuger work and you’ll see some examples of this, but it does seem like film clichés are the safe and easy way to get our attention. Of course, popcorn helps too!

The rule that nobody thought to make        

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Films like “Air Bud” and “MVP: Most Valuable Primate” teach us the wisdom of considering all eventualities. This cliché is based on animals being allowed to participate in sporting events because nobody made a rule banning them from the game!

It allows for lots of great storytelling techniques. Like, for example, the moment where the pet’s skills are uncovered. Then there is the anger of some rival team when they hear that a dog’s going to be shooting hoops. Then, there might be the work involved in polishing the animal’s skills and smoothing out its disobedience. This is a cliché that basically makes a film for you. Just pick an animal, pick a sport and your job is done.

Image source: forgiving protagonist

This is where the hero is brave, courageous and sometimes a little bit stupid. For the last hour we watched as the hero exerted an untold amount of effort into defeating the bad guy, but the bad guy asks for forgiveness just before he was about to be defeated. The hero forgives, the bad guy then retaliates, and then the hero kills the bad guy.

The technique is used for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it adds a bit of a twist at the end. And it comes with a great bonus! The hero never has to deal with the moral complexity of killing a crying villain who seeks forgiveness.

The ticking bomb

10, 9, 8… Whenever you see a villain with a bomb, chances are good that it’s got a big ticking timer on the front of it. When the bomb is finally set, watch for the way the camera revisits the bomb in between scenes. 30:49, 30:48, 30:47… cuts to a scene of someone eating a sandwich, and then to a scene where the protagonist is having an argument with his wife… 22:16, 22:15, 22:14. You get the idea. Then, with literally seconds left to go, the bomb is defused.

We see this technique in films like “Armageddon” and “Face/Off.” Sometimes there’s a dramatic moment where it’s unclear which wire should be cut. One of the wires would set off the bomb, causing the very situation that we all want to avoid. The other wire will save the day. I don’t recall a film where the wrong wire has been cut, but that’d be an unexpected twist.