Decades With A Weirdly Specific Movie Trope

Matt FarmerMovies, OpinionLeave a Comment

Fads come and go with each decade, and this is as true as anything with movies. Yesterdays’ westerns are today’s superhero movies. And with each decade there comes a handful of tropes that are so specific and strange it seems almost impossible that they would show up again and again, and yet here we are.

Let’s try to figure out what’s going on with these weirdly specific movie tropes.





80s – Animating Dead Bodies

For a period of time in the late 80’s, it was goddamn hilarious to slap a pair of sunglasses on a dead body, prop it up on a chair, and pass it off as alive.

Where We Saw The Trope:
Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
Commando (1985)
The Untouchables (1987)
Clue (1985)

Why It Happened:

There really doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to this one. You would think Weekend at Bernie’s had this funny idea and all the other examples were just biting its style, but it came out the latest. We guess society was just ready to see people play with dead bodies.






70s – 80s – Kids Are Shitmouth Little Bastards

In the 70s and 80s kids cussed in movies. Like a lot. They wouldn’t stop doing it. It was the best.

Where We Saw The Trope:
The Goonies (1985)
The Monster Squad (1987)
Bad News Bears (1976)
Meatballs (1979)
Sleepaway Camp (1984)

Why It Happened:

Anyone who happened to once be a child knows that kids cuss up a storm when adults aren’t around. In the 70s and 80s what you were seeing was much closer to how kids actually behave. Some time in the 90s we started polishing up these kids movies, we guess to make moms more comfortable? If you want to see a 10 year old girl call a group of bad guys “cunts” these days, you gotta watch something hard R like Kick Ass.




THE DARK KNIGHT, Heath Ledger as The Joker, 2008. ©Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection


Late 2000s and Current – Caught On Purpose

Our heroes of current movies will often catch the villain halfway into the film, only to later find out they let themselves be caught on purpose. And if they do get caught when they don’t mean to, it’s okay because it still plays into their hands. They’re also usually put into a glass box in the middle of the room for some reason.

Where We Saw The Trope:
The Dark Knight (2008)
Skyfall (2012)
Avengers (2012)
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Why It Happened:

We currently like our villains to be smart and weaselly as opposed to unstoppable strong guys – the Joker was a way better bad guy than Bane, even though technically Bane was more formidable. Why does it keep happening though? Maybe because movie audiences are becoming more sophisticated and we would rather see an intense face-to-face conversation between the hero and the villain. Or maybe everyone saw Christopher Nolan do it and thought it was perfect for stealing (it was.)





90s and Early 2000s – Brad Pitt/Brice Willis Twist Ending

Everything had a dark, suspenseful twist in it. Mostly in 1999 or 1995, and mostly involving Brad Pitt or Bruce Willis.

Where We Saw The Trope:
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Fight Club (1999)
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Se7en (1995)
The Game (1997)
Memento (2000)
Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Why It Happened:

The 90s in general was a cultural backlash against the bright and gaudy nature of the 80s. We kept upping the ante until in 1999 we had to have Brad Pitt take his shirt off and beat the ever loving hell out of the Hulk. That was really the culmination of the 90s angst, and we finally cheered up in the 2000s when we found out boy bands were cool.





80’s – Body Switching

Freaky Friday came out in 1976, but for some reason in the late 80s we got obsessed with making Freaky Friday again. Then it sorta happened again in the mid 2000s when a bunch of these movies were remade.

Where We Saw The Trope:

Like Father, Like Son (1987)
Eighteen Again (1988)
Vice Versa (1988)
Dream A Little Dream (1989)
All of Me (1984)
Big (1988)

Why It Happened:

Our theory – based on so little science that it would amaze you – is that it was a reaction to the youth culture of the time. Young people in the 80s were all doing coke, listening to Guns N’ Roses, and generally scaring the hell out of their parents. As a result the old white dudes that run Hollywood clearly wanted to address the issue by having these damn kids walk a mile in their parents shoes via a Tom Hanks movie.

Matt FarmerDecades With A Weirdly Specific Movie Trope