(All these clichés were contributed by the many readers of the rec.arts.movies and published originally in the website Movie Clichés List.)

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  • If there is more than one or two of an alien race, they are always roughly the same size as humans.

  • Aliens usually speak English and have the same colloquialisms.

  • All members of alien species wear the same outfits, including clothing, hairstyles, and jewellery. This makes them readily identifiable. Aliens who do not dress like aliens are hiding something.

  • This may, in fact, be a consequence of the fact that aliens all have single, monolithic cultures: one language, one religion, one outfit, per planet.


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  • Asteroids are usually locked into orbits, but if a comet comes by, they can be bumped out of their rut and become dangerously unstable.

  • It's only the fact that everything is locked into an orbit which prevents collisions in our solar system. Any asteroid that gets loose is certain to crash into Earth within a matter of hours.

  • But with only two airplane-mounted lasers, it instead instantly explodes into thousands of pieces. Astronomers are very surprised that it wasn't literally destroyed.

  • A mile-wide asteroid can mostly burn up in the atmosphere, causing it to do only a relatively small amount of damage (bursting a dam) when it strikes.

  • Incoming asteroids spend several minutes in Earth's atmosphere.

  • Asteroids are discovered by astronomers peering directly through their telescopes in brightly lit observatories. Whatever they see will appear on computer monitors, however (see Deep Impact).


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    Things I did not know until I saw ID4
    (courtesy of Perry O'Grady)

  • It is reasonable to assume that the quality of the training of United States Marine Corps pilots is such that any Marine fly boy could hop into an alien spacecraft and immediately be able to fly it into deep space.

  • The White House press secretary has a listed phone number.

  • When stuck in a tunnel and faced with Armageddon in the form of a fireball that is capable of obliterating all life in Los Angeles, simply duck into a maintenance closet and let the end of the world pass you by.

  • Despite the fact that we are able to send a fax from a beeper on our hip while walking down a street in San Francisco to a Range Rover in Johannesburg, alien spacecraft need to be hardwired to a satellite to speak to each other.

  • High class strippers with a heart of gold can operate most heavy equipment.

  • It is not beyond the realm of imagination that the President of the United States would be a fighter jock and would be willing to return to active duty to do battle with invincible alien bad guys.

  • Alien spacecraft the size of Australia can be taken out with one well-placed sidewinder missile.

  • Most laptops are configured with interfaces powerful enough to override the communications systems of the most sophisticated futuristic societies.

  • Despite the fact that they wear biomechanical body armor that can only be removed with a scalpel and the fact that they possess hyper-developed brains that allow them to destroy their enemies simply by thinking about it, alien fighter pilots have a glass jaw and can be knocked unconscious for hours with one punch.

  • Despite the fact that no living person, even on a clear day with a map and two state troopers providing an escort, can negotiate the Los Angeles freeway system without getting lost, nearly-blown-up women can drive through the shattered ruins of a decimated Los Angeles straight to El Toro.

  • When you crash an alien spacecraft into the high desert because you were hurtled back through the earth's atmosphere by an atomic blast you set off, the fact that you do not have a parachute or any other visible means of slowing your fall does not mean that you should not walk away from the wreckage completely unscathed and straight into your girl's arms.

  • The standard trip home from space, when assisted by an atomic blast, lasts approximately two to three pulls on a cigar.

  • Although aliens possess technological capabilities millions of years beyond our own that enables them to embed secret codes in our satellite network, they can be stymied by Morse Code, which is generally printed on the front panel of a child's walkie talkie.

  • The most sophisticated labs in the world have impenetrable vault doors buried 30 stories into mountains but use regular hardware store glass panes for observation rooms in the lab nerve center.

  • Although aliens possess tentacles dexterous enough to manipulate human vocal cords from outside the throat when the need to speak strikes them, they can not open a door for themselves.

  • The correct military honor for a hero who saves the world by sacrificing his own life by flying directly into the alien death ray is to clap and cheer wildly in front of the hero's family immediately after he perishes.

  • Any vehicle, including clunkers, can make the trip down from Manhattan to Washington D.C. in just a few hours in gridlocked end-of-the-world type traffic.


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  • Explosions in space make noise.

  • Exposure to vacuum makes you horribly swell up and/or explode within seconds (see Total Recall, Outland).

  • There's a deep humming in space, no doubt about it.

  • Space is not Newtonian; spacecraft can't 'coast', but just stop dead if they run out of fuel or power.

  • Laser beams are visible in a vacuum.


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  • Spaceships make noise!

  • Spaceships always fly perpendicular to the same axis. When two spacecraft encounter each other, they're always aligned on a plane and never approach at odd angles.

  • All spaceships, no matter how small, have internal artifical gravity and no matter how badly your ship gets pummeled by the evil aliens in the evil alien ship, no matter how many external panels get blown away, no matter how many sparks or how much smoke pours out of your control panels, the artificial gravity will always keep working.

  • There are tiny cameras mounted everywhere, on every panel, in your spaceship. No matter what happens anywhere int eh ship, you will always be able to ask the computer to replay the scene for you later (even if the computer went up in smoke) and unlike those blurry convenience store cameras, your tiny ship cameras always capture everyone's actions at eye-level with perfect lighting.

  • Warp or hyper-drive will always fail at critical moments.

  • Inertial dampers will always prevent passengers from being plastered against the walls during acceleration into warp speed, yet any explosion will send passengers reeling across the room.

  • In a spaceship battle scene, for a ship to fire a weapon at another, it must be in visual range. Even though the 20th century saw the advent of weapons that can be fired without visual contact, the people of the future have lost this technology.


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