"The Definitive List of Clichéd Dialogue"

November 26th, 2009 by

Just about a month ago, I posted this:

Writer Kevin Lehane, whose script “Grabbers” made the most recent Brit List, the UK equivalent of The Black List, has a blog called The Anthology of Codology. I was bumping around it the other day and hit this post: “The Definitive List of Cliched Dialogue”. The first 10:
  1. I was born ready.
  2. Are you sitting down?
  3. Let’s get out of here!
  4. _____ my middle name.
  5. Is that all you got?
    I’m just getting started.
  6. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
  7. Don’t you die on me!
  8. Tell my wife and kids I love them.
  9. Breathe, dammit!
  10. Cover me. I’m going in.

You can read the rest of the list — 111 in all! — here.

Got any to add to the list?

Well, two things have happened in the interim. First, GITS readers did come up with some suggestions which Kevin added to the list. Second, since Kevin has become so busy with his writing career, he decided to take a respite from blogging. But that presented a problem: Where to host the list of cliche dialogue? So I get this email from Kevin:

Over the weekend I discontinued my blog. A new beginning and all that. Anyway, it seems a shame to lose some of the posts which people found useful and entertaining, particularly The Definitive List of Cliché Dialogue. So I was wondering if you’d like to post it on your blog, maybe as a guest post from me? If so let me know. It’s now 120 lines and always ever growing. If this sounds worth it to you, let me know and I’ll forward you the full post.

And of course, I said yes. So here is the official list as it now stands with Kevin’s original introduction:

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Don’t even go there! You know as well as I do, I’ve literally been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and to be honest with you at the end of the day when push comes to shove and it all boils down to it if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Know what I mean? Basically, what I’m trying to say is with all due respect between you and me screenwriting is not rocket science, it’s about breaking the mold, thinking outside the box, giving it 110% 24/7. And I think we can all agree clichés suck but, hey, it’s a job. You gotta do what you gotta do. Just remember you’re writing for an audience and there’s no “I” in . . . you get the picture.

Here is my “definitive” list of the worst offenders when it comes to lazy, trite dialogue:

1. I was born ready.

2. Are you sitting down?

3. Let’s get out of here!

4. _____ my middle name.

5. Is that all you got?

I’m just getting started.

6. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

7. Don’t you die on me!

8. Tell my wife and kids I love them.

9. Breathe, dammit!

10. Cover me. I’m going in.

11. He’s standing right behind me, isn’t he?

12. No, no, no, no, NO! I’m not going. [Cut to them going.]

13. No. Come in. ____ was just leaving.

14. You’d better come in.

15. So, we meet again.

16. We’ve got to stop meeting like this.

17. (Greeting) Well, if it isn’t ____.

18. I’m just doing my job.

19. You give ___ a bad name. Calling you a ___ is an insult to ____.

20. You’ll never get away with this!

Watch me.

21. Looking good. [Said into a mirror.]

22. Now . . . where were we?

23. What the. . . ?

24. How hard can it be?

25. Time to die.

26. Follow that car!

27. Let’s do this thing!

28. You go girl!

29. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

30. . . . Yeah. A little too quiet.

31. If I’m not back in __ minutes, get out of here/blow the whole thing up/call the cops.

32. What part of _____ don’t you understand?

33. I’m not leaving you.

You have to go on without me.

34. Don’t even go there.

35. I’ve always wanted to say that!

36. Ready when you are!

37. Is this some kind of sick joke?

38. Oh haha, very funny.

39. Did I just say that out loud?

40. Wait. Did you hear something?

41. It’s just a scratch.

42. How is he?

He’ll live.

43. I’m . . . so cold . . .

44. Is that clear?

Crystal.

45. What if? . . . Nah, it would never work.

46. . . . and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to stop me!

47. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

48. Note to self . . .

49. Honey, is that you?

50. What’s the meaning of this?

51. What seems to be the problem, Officer?

52. What’s the worst that could happen?/ What have we got to lose?

53. I have a bad feeling about this.

54. Leave it. They’re already dead.

55. Don’t you think I know that!

56. Whatever you do, don’t look down.

57. Why wont you die?!

58. I eat guys like you for breakfast.

59. Oh now you’re really starting to piss me off!

60. We’ve got company.

61. Hang on . . . if you’re here then that means . . . uh oh.

62. Oh that’s not good.

63. Awkward!

64. What just happened?

65. We’ll never make it in time!

66. Stay here.

No way, I’m coming with you.

67. This isn’t over!

68. Jesus H. Christ!

69. It’s no use!

70. It’s a trap!

71. She’s gonna blow!

72. Okay, here’s what we do . . . [and cut to a different scene]

73. Fuckin’ A!

74. I’m getting too old for this shit.

75. Wait a minute, are you saying– ?

76. You’ll never take me alive.

77. Okay, let’s call that plan B.

78. I always knew you’d come crawling back.

79. Try to get some sleep.

80. I just threw up in my mouth a little.

81. Leave this to me. I’ve got a plan.

82. No, that’s what they want us to think.

83. Why are you doing this to me?

84. When I’m through with you (etc.) –

85. Hi, sis.

86. Impossible!

87. Wait! I can explain! This isn’t what it looks like.

88. Showtime!

89. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.

90. If we make it out of this alive . . .

91. That’s it! You’re off the case!

92. How long have we known each other?

We go back a long way.

93. Well, well, well . . .

94. Aha! I knew it!

95. Done . . . and done!

96. Leave it. He’s/She’s/They’re not worth it.

97. In English, please.

98. As many of you know (yadda, yadda, yadda).

99. Too much information!

100. Yeah, you better run!

101. . . . Unless?

Unless what?

102. What are you doing here?

I was about to ask you the same thing.

103. So, who died? . . . Oh.

104. You’re either very brave . . . or very stupid.

105. Oh, yeah! You and whose army?

106. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

107. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

108. It’s not you, it’s me.

109. This just getts better and better.

110. This is not happening. This is not happening.

111. Make it stop.

112. Shut up and kiss me.

113. I’ll see you in hell!

114. Lock and load!

115. Oh Hell, no!

116. Not on my watch!

117. You just don’t get it, do you?

118. I have got to get me one of these!

119. I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.

120. It’s called ____, you should try it sometime.

121. That went well!

Feel free to disagree.

And to memorialize things further, I’ll create a tab under Lists called “The Definitive List of Clichéd Dialogue”.

Thanks, Kevin, for the inspiration and time to compile the list. And best of luck with your writing. Fingers crossed re “Grabbers” getting made!

22 thoughts on “"The Definitive List of Clichéd Dialogue"

  1. Neil says:

    After every script, I'll now check this list to make sure it's free from horrible horrible dialogue *insert mediocre sarcasm here and rant about why some of those lines are perfect!*

    Nevertheless, a good list and worth checking against. Cheers :)

  2. Pablo Villaça says:

    After someone says something negative about the character:
    "I'm right here!" or "Am I invisible?"

  3. Melkor Mancin says:

    Listen to me, and listen good, cause i'm only gonna say it once.

  4. Kurt Halfyard says:

    Heh, looks like someone has been on a Arnie/Governator marathon! It seems action films are the worst offenders of 'cliche' dialogue.

  5. bonzob@earthlink.net says:

    Should be noted that if you subvert the cliche in an interesting way, you can surprise the audience with something unexpected. Joss Whedon does this a lot. There's three I can think of just in Serenity.

    One is a spin on something from this list — "Remember, if anything happens to me, or you don't hear from me within the hour… you take this ship and you come and you rescue me."

    Another fun one: "I'm takin' your sister under my protection here. If anything happens to her, anything at all, I swear to you… I will get very choked up. Honestly, there could be tears."

    And lastly, the Captain, after a crewman threatens mutiny:
    "Do you want to run this ship?"
    Which is of course the standard cliche threat that should shame the crewman into quieting down. But instead the reply comes:
    "Yes!"
    To which the flustered captain responds:
    "Well… you can't."

  6. 6p00e551ee9d288833 says:

    I don't know if this quite qualifies as a line, but one of my least favorite bits of lazy writing is dialogue that begins thus:

    "Let me guess — "

  7. Jeff says:

    Either I'm a sadist or a masochist, but there's a sick part of me that wants to write a script that uses all 120 of these cliches.

    Watch, I'll send it out and it'll be my first Hollywood script sale and I'll learn the horrible truth… it was my avoidance of cliche that staunched my career.

  8. david620 says:

    How about the excruciatingly obvious military/action/cliche'…

    "Fire in the hole!"

  9. Gaffney says:

    Jeff – Yes! My first thought was to create a character that only speaks from this list of lines. I just may have to do it to satisfy that sick puppy side of my being.

  10. Stephen Hoover says:

    "Are you okay?" is in about half the films I see. I guess it's better than, "Penny for your thoughts?"

    The 'eyes on you' bit from MEET THE PARENTS was great back then. But it keeps popping up. Was in the trailer as the tag for OLD DOGS.

    Then there's this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIZVcRccCx0

  11. stefano altieri says:

    That's not a ___. This is a ___!

    I'm only gonna say this once,

    Sorry I'm late.

    Did I miss anything?

    So, where was/were I/we?

    Take the wheel!

    It's suicide.

    On Three. One, two…

    Alright, here's what we do…

    Don't shoot!

    Cuff 'em!

    I'll drive.

    No. I'll drive!

    Are you tryin' to get us killed?

    Ok, you drive. But at some point go real fast, against traffic, in reverse, and ask me to take the wheel 'on three'.

    You got it!

  12. Scripted Wit says:

    Just wrote a post about this doozy…"I've got a confession to make…"

    ugh.

  13. Daley Productions says:

    Oh, man. I counted at least 5 on that list that I've used. Or, used very close versions of. Crap. I'll never be a good writer.

  14. Viewers Like You says:

    my ultimate if I never hear it again line

    "That's what she said"

  15. Tania says:

    OVER MY DEAD BODY.

  16. SelenaRobins says:

    Any piece of dialogue that has the word SURREAL in it.

  17. […] hear in movies and TV Shows, and I really wished I wouldn’t. A huge chunk of it comes from Go Into The Story & Kevin Lehane‘s collaborative effort to make the 121 Definitive List of Cliched […]

  18. […] hear in movies and TV Shows, and I really wished I wouldn’t. A huge chunk of it comes from Go Into The Story & Kevin Lehane‘s collaborative effort to make the 121 Definitive List of Cliched […]

  19. double8content says:

    Now, if you’ll excuse me…

  20. […] hear in movies and TV Shows, and I really wished I wouldn’t. A huge chunk of it comes from Go Into The Story & Kevin Lehane‘s collaborative effort to make the 121 Definitive List of Cliched […]

  21. “Why, that’s most inane, far-fetched idea I have ever heard! …..but it might just work.”

Leave a Reply

Connect with: