War movie clichés

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Incredibledisc, Dec 8, 2018.

  1. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    with the end of the year coming there is the likelihood of more than a few of us being camped out in front of the telly digesting our Christmas dinners and watching our favourite war films.

    Connoisseurs of the genre will know that many of these cinematic efforts are often prone to employing more than a few cliches that start to stick out like sore thumbs after you watch enough of them. I thought it might be a bit of fun to collect our favourites here.

    First, the men.

    Officers fall into three camps: ruthless glory hunters who will cheerfully step over the bodies of their men in their lust for promotion, the inexperienced junior officer who desperately wants to earn the respect of his men, the war weary veteran who is trying desperately to keep his boys alive - also often on the verge of breakdown for bonus points.

    Invariably, there will be a grizzled “Sarge” who is tough but with a heart of gold who takes the inexperienced rookies under his wing OR the bullying type who is loathed by the men and often exposed as a coward near the end of the film.

    The rest of the men will be composed of various archetypes drawn from Central Casting.

    The comedian - if British this will be a chirpy Cockney. If American he will be from Brooklyn. Sometimes this character will do double duty as the “scrounger”.

    The regional stereotype - dour Scot or Welshman, irrepressible Irishman. The Welshman will probably sing at some point. Italian, Jewish or Hispanic Americans will be in the US version.

    The guy who is engaged to be married - will enthusiastically show a photo of his sweetheart to the rest of the unit unaware that he is living on borrowed time. In films set in the Vietnam War this character will also invariably be close to “rotating back to the world”. Another variant of this character gets the dreaded “Dear John” letter just before the unit goes into action and thus suddenly has nothing to live for any more.

    The smart guy - has dropped out of University or left due to some kind of scandal. Will usually be writing a book and waxing philosophical at various points. May also be found writing poetry or letters home. Will often read these in voiceover.

    The idiot - often a country bumpkin type character. Sweet and simple and sure to die. Often has a lucky charm of of some kind. The American version will be from the South.

    The stone-cold killer/psycho - a heartless character with no moral compass, antagonises the rest of the unit. Usually seen taking wristwatches from corpses.

    The coward - will cause the death of one of the other characters due to their lack of moral fibre. Will redeem themselves by the end of the film sometimes by engaging in an act of self sacrifice.

    The rookie - naive and blissfully unaware of the realities of combat. He will make a screwup early in the film that “could have gottten us all killed!” Taken under his arm by the tough Sarge he will eventually learn the ropes and often play a crucial part in the last part of the film.

    In movies made pre-1990s men will frequently die while delivering a brief soliloquy while blood trickles from the corner of their mouth before gasping their last breath and closing their eyes.

    Submarines will always dive below their maximum depth, this will cause the hull to creak and small leaks to occur which the men will try to plug with their hands. Sonar pings and depth charges will be dropped for added tension.

    Aeroplanes will keep flying with multiple engine failures or rapidly dwindling fuel reserves. The crew will have a dog that will sit by the runway staring wistfully into the distance. The dog may or may not be accompanied by a chirpy mechanic (often Scottish).

    Ammunition shall be limitless and weapons will never jam ...unless the plot calls for it.

    Enemy uniforms shall always fit when you need a disguise.

    Mines can always be detected with a few careful prods of a bayonet.

    At some point a character will say “don’t you die on me damn it!” as they cradle a wounded comrade.

    The Enemy will usually be faceless cannon fodder. If required by the plot to have some kind of character they will be “The fanatical Nazi” loyal to the Führer to the end or the “Good German” who is often included to teach us the enemy is really just like us. There are no good Japanese or Vietnamese characters.

    Malfunctioning vehicles can be fixed by giving them a good thump - Americans will often accomplish this with a wrench.

    The order to move out will always come just as the men have cracked open some rations.

    Any social event which involves the mixing of units/branches of service will end in a fistfight. Everyone will run away once the MPs turn up. Anyone arrested will be given a bollocking by the CO the next day but will ultimately be let off because they are “good soldier” and “we can’t afford to lose you this close to the big show”.

    Chocolate bars must be given to children in bombed out villages.

    Petrol tanks will always explode when shot at.

    Any characters disagreeing with their officer will say “with all due respect sir...”

    The men will reach a point where they will refuse to fight/make a stand until one of the characters makes an inspirational speech. The speech will feature the phrase “now I can’t make you go with me but if we don’t finish this mission...”

    Being shot in the arm is not a barrier to using that arm for the rest of the mission.

    The guy who carries the radio always has glasses on.

    Grenades always seem to explode with the force of heavy calibre shell. Someone will throw themselves on one at some point to save the rest of the squad.

    “Leave me, I’ll only slow you down”

    The timer on the explosives shall not be bound by the actual laws of time.

    The detonator will not work the first time you push down the plunger.

    Someone will always step on a dry twig while trying to sneak up on a sentry.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
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  2. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Think I'll stick with the DVD of "Went the day well ? " then :)
    Incredibledisc likes this.
  3. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Inc.D. If you haven't seen it then the early-war propaganda clichés of 'Old Bill and Son' are most enjoyable...You have to make a leap of imagination and accept that the action could only have taken part on the Maginot Line but the scenery is more like French Flanders...but it's a cracker.

    CL1, Tricky Dicky and Incredibledisc like this.
  4. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Where’s the fun in that Rich? :-P T’is the season to embrace the naffness! I love a bit of accuracy but grew up on a regular diet of Hollywood tosh. As soon as I hear the phrase “Broadsword calling Danny Boy” I just switch off my critical faculties. :D

    I forgot to add that the inexperienced officer will usually be posh and probably public school educated. The CO will know his father.
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  5. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Cheers for that Rich - some additional holiday viewing. It also reminds me that any British was movie must contain John Mills or Jack Hawkins.
    Rich Payne likes this.
  6. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Comfort viewing. That's what it is.
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  7. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    And we do love our comforts. My Mrs will confirm that I am very much a creature of habit myself.
  8. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Bomber crews on a mission will witness the aircraft of a fellow crew go down in flames. There will be no parachutes. The last radio transmission will end in a burst of static.

    Bomb bay doors will jam over the target forcing one of the crew to manually open the doors. He will have to remove his parachute to accomplish this. A burst of flak will cause him to almost fall out.

    Officers on the bridge of a warship will drink cocoa at some point.
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  9. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    My dad's ex-Royal Sigs. "You can't say 'Over and Out'. Either it's bloody 'over', or it's bloody 'out' " :)
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
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  10. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Roger-Wilco :D
  11. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Dickie Burton doing Broadsword calling Danny boy, is one of my Christmas dinner table impressions, along with Michael Caine's doors blowing off, Donald Pleasance picking up the pin in the Great Escape and Liam Neeson's phone call to his daughter's kidnappers in Taken.

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  12. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    An impressive and insightful summary. You, my friend, have indeed watched way too many war films but you were clearly paying attention.:)
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  13. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    "Vor you za var is over"
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  14. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Guilty as charged.
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  15. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Nothing from 'Zulu', Old Boy ?
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  16. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Uptight, stuffy tea-drinking Brits will be shown the error of their ways by their brash American counterparts who will win the day with their plucky determination and devil may care tactics.
    canuck likes this.
  17. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    Could expand his Burton repertoire...

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  18. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Maybe not cliche, but certainly classic.

    "Always with the negative waves Moriarty"


    " I’m drinking wine and eating cheese, and catching some rays, you know."

    "Definitely an antisocial type"

    "You see, man, we like to feel we can get out of trouble, quicker than we got into it."

    "we are holding ourselves in reserve in case the Krauts mount a counteroffensive which threatens Paris… or maybe even New York"

    "Sixty feet of bridge I can get almost anywhere. Schmuck! "

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  19. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    A personal favourite. The film is about a heist but it’s Sutherland who undoubtedly steals the film :D
  20. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Invariably sporting a large mustache, swagger stick and an exaggerated Sandhurst accent.
    Incredibledisc likes this.

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