Top 15 Movie Tropes

With the number of films that come out each and every year around the world, it’s common for ideas to be reused and recycled and turned into common tropes that define genres. It is a necessity of storytelling sometimes to give audiences familiar characters, plots, and even scares because they are staples of the experience. However, there are also some tropes that just seem to jump from film to film that flat-out refuse to die no matter how ridiculous they are. This list is about the most well-established movie tropes that are recognizable to everyone.

Top 15 Movie Tropes

1. The Mean Girl Trope

The antithesis of the nice girl is the mean girl in movies. Whether it’s Heather Chandler (Heathers) Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl) Cheryl Blossom (Riverdale) or the queen of mean girls: Regina George (Mean Girls), the mean girl character type is still very common in all high-school movies. She embodies the cut-throat attitude and materialistic standards we expect from power players in the adult world, where there are no teachers trying to help everyone get along. The mean girl is often the villain or antagonist of the story.

2. Manic Pixie Dream Girl

The sad or stoic guy who doesn’t know how to have fun meets a girl who almost looks like a magical creature out of a fairy tale who helps him appreciate life and take risks. It fuels the fantasy that girls want to fix guys or the fantasy of such an unrealistic girl to actually exist. This term became part of the pop-culture vernacular because it perfectly condensed a certain type of female character that had become prevalent in a certain type of movie. Some examples of the manic pixie dream girl are, Claire Colburn (Elizabeth Town), Summer (500 Days of Summer), and Audrey Hepburn in almost every movie!

3. Ladies’ Man Trope

He is charming, magnetic, handsome, and always breaking the hearts of ladies. This term is so popular that it is not just used in movies but also for real-life guys you might encounter, if not the ladies’ man then maybe you might call him a player. Some famous examples of the ladies’ man are Joey Tribbiani (Friends), James Bond (Bond Movie Series), Bruce Wayne (DC Movies), and Tony Stark (Marvel Films).

4. The White-Savior Trope

A story about people of color that centers around the benevolent actions of a white character, is called the white-savior trope. The volume and popularity of the white savior trope to this day shows how committed our culture remains to centering white characters in stories about civil rights, black history, and racism. The recent 2018 movie, “Green Book” won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay amongst other big awards. Such a strong focus on white savior characters elevates their brushes with racism almost to the point where they are equated with actually being victimized by racism. This problematic trope has not gone away from our society yet.

5. The Bad Boy Trope

The bad boy is alluring, mysterious, and dangerous, he is played by an extremely good-looking actor which makes him desirable to many girls despite all the faults in his personality. Over the bad-rebellious persona, these bad-boy characters have a soft heart underneath and their love interests can see their redemptive qualities which has made the bad-boy character so popular that it is still part of the pop culture. A recent hit film “The Kissing Booth” features a bad boy Noah who changes his aggressive behavior for his love interest Elle. Other popular bad boys are Han Solo (Star Wars Series), Tony Stark (Marvel Movies), and Christian Grey (Fifty Shades Of Grey).

6. Token-Minority Best Friend Trope

It is a lazy trope used by filmmakers, whether it’s the Black best friend or the Asian best friend or the gay best friend, they have no lives on their own and their sole purpose is to support or add dimension to the main protagonist. They spice up the best friend’s life with witty remarks and interesting plans or act as comic relief for the audience. Some popular token best friends in movies are Dionne Davenport (Clueless), Damien (Mean Girls), Chastity (10 Things I Hate About You), and Lando Calrissian (Star Wars Series).

7. The “Crazy” Woman Trope

An uncontrollable, dangerous woman who’s often equally enthralling and terrifying. There are many reductive and problematic versions of this trope because the portrayal of mental illness is difficult in stories written for entertainment purposes. Examples of this trope are- Alex Forrest (Fatal Attraction), Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad and Birds Of Prey), Avni/Manjoolika (Bhool Bhulaiyaa), and Amy Dunne (Gone Girl).

8. The Angry Young Man Trope

The iconic angry young man has always been a kind of anti-hero like Robert De Niro’s Travis in Taxi Driver (1976) or Amitabh Bachchan’s famous roles in Zanjeer (1973) and Deewaar (1975), they reflected the anger of men against a tumultuous and oppressive society. However, the figure has evolved into a full-fledged yet sympathetic villain like Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger, or Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren.

9. The Knight In Shining Armor Trope

It is one of the most easily recognizable tropes. It is so common that people use this term in their daily lives too. The damsel-in-distress would be saved by a handsome knight in shining armor who would come to rescue her, movies have used this trope for ages. Superheroes, Fairy-tale heroes, Jaimie Lannister saving Brienne’s life (Game Of Thrones), and etc are some examples of the trope. This trope is slowly dying as it is sexist and very overused in films and literature.

10. The Damsel In Distress Trope

This trope like Knight in Shining Armor has negative connotations because the damsel is always weak and in need of a man to rescue her. It is very anti-feministic and clichéd. Some examples of this trope are- Rapunzel (Fairy-tales, animation, and live-action), Louis Lane (Superman Comics and live-action), and Mary Watson (Spiderman live-action)

11. The Mentor Trope

There is often a wiser, older character in movies whose purpose is to guide the protagonist to reach his/her full potential. This figure is the constant voice of reason and the protagonist is always attached to the mentor, most of the time the mentor dies so that the hero can continue his journey alone or sometimes betrays the hero as the mentor sometimes turns out to be the bad guy. Examples of this trope are – Obi-Wan (Star Wars Series), Dumbledore (Harry Potter Series), and Tony Stark (Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spiderman).

12. The Chosen One Trope

A trope that will never go out of style is “The Chosen One” trope. The protagonist who is special because only he/she can save the world. Whether its Harry Potter – the boy who lived or Neo from The Matrix Trilogy who is literally called, “The One”. This trope always works in fantastical or science-fiction movies.

13. The Makeover Trope

The unattractive girl who is immersed in her studies one day takes off her nerdy glasses, wears nice fashionable clothes, and takes down the evil-popular girl, seen too many times in movies. Yet, this trope refuses to die. This trope keeps getting modified but never leaves the screens. Some examples are – Clueless, She’s All That, The DUFF and Grease.

14. Zoom-In Trope

In mystery or thriller movies, the protagonist is looking at pictures for clues and suddenly the protagonist zooms in and boom! We have a major clue with us. However, in real life, a picture can never be zoomed in more than a certain capacity. Some movies that have used this trope are Fast Five, Blade Runner, Charlie’s Angels, Underworld, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

15. Femme Fatale Trope

The femme fatale is bold, beautiful, and bad to the bones. There are some features that define her, she is magnetic, seductive, and often irresistible. She makes a sensational first impression, turns several heads, and immediately hooks up the attention of the protagonist as well as the audience. She is someone who gets what she wants and knows how to get what she wants. Some examples are: India (Stoker), Catherine (Basic Instinct), and Catwoman (DC universe)

Neo controlling the Matrix by the end of the first film to make the agents run from him or Harley Quinn’s crazy antics or Regina George’s meanness, some movie tropes make us enjoy films more, it enhances our movie-going experience and makes films memorable. However, some tropes put us off as they are sexist, racist, and just too unrealistic. It’s high time, filmmakers stop using those tropes in their films. Like Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “Men may come and men may goBut I go on forever.” certain movie tropes will go on forever with some modifications in them from time to time.

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