Throw Momma From the Train is a 1987 Black Comedy directed by Danny DeVito in which writer Larry Donner, suffering from severe writer's block, meets writing student and simpleton Owen Lift. Larry is wracked with jealous rage over his ex-wife Margaret, who stole his book and with it, became a world-famous author. Owen, after being instructed by Larry to see some Hitchcock films to help him learn how to write murder mysteries, thinks Larry was sending him a message to exchange murders after he chooses Strangers on a Train: Owen is to kill Margaret, and Larry is to kill Owen's monstrous mother. Larry becomes entwined with the idiot "couch potato" as he is on the lam from being a major suspect in Margaret's murder, since Owen failed to tell him of his intent and didn't allow Larry to create an alibi.Anne Ramsey earned an Academy Award nomination for her role as Momma, and passed away a year later.
"Throw Momma from the Tropes":
Adaptation Decay: An in-universe example of Owen's new book. A children's pop-up book version of the events of the movie.
Asshole Victim: Larry's ex-wife, Margaret. Ultimately subverted in that she didn't die.
Bedroom Adultery Scene: Owen is hiding behind the couch upon which Margaret and Mr. Lopez are having sex...and takes the time to flip through an issue of Us Magazine. The phone rings, and Owen pushes it to where the oblivious Margaret can reach it leading to...
Excuse Me While I Multitask: Margaret is able to have sex and carry on an intelligent telephone conversation with her agent at the same time.
Berserk Button: Larry has many of them, including any mention of his wife becoming famous.
Brick Joke: Mr. Pinsky, a student in Larry's creative writing class, creates a controversy in the class due to his planned coffee table book, titled '100 Girls I'd like to Pork'. The other students argue about it and Larry says that it 'isn't literature.' When the students are being interrogated by the police over Larry's possible involvement in Margaret's disappearance, Pinsky's police offer is too busy looking at his book ("It's a coffee table book", Pinsky explains.) Right at the end of the movie, we see Mr. Pinsky's published coffee table book sitting on Larry's desk.
Mrs. Hazeltine's bad writing results in a less-than-descriptive short story.
Mrs. Hazeltine: "Dive! Dive!" yelled the Captain through the thing! So the man who makes it dive pressed a button, or a something, and it dove. And, the enemy was foiled again. "Looks like we foiled them again," said Dave. "Yeah," said the Captain. "We foiled those bastards again. Didn't we, Dave." "Yeah," said Dave. The End.
Disappeared Dad: Owen lost his father when he was still a kid, and it apparently left a pretty big hole. The revelation comes during a rather touching scene where Owen shows off his "coin collection," consisting of the loose change his father let him keep when they would go on recreational outings.
The Ditz: Owen drifts into this territory several times.
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: One of Larry's students who overheard Larry screaming, "That slut, I wish she were dead!" tells the police, "I heard him call her a very bad name, and that he wished she were dead."
Karma Houdini: Larry's ex-wife gets away with stealing his book, and all the accolades with it, and at the end is set to make more money with the story of how she survived falling off the ship. Larry's victory is simply that he learns to stop obsessing over her, which lets him write another great book.
Then again, her success may not continue; she seems intent on milking the book for all it's worth, ie. benefiting from the film rights, but it's tough to follow an act that wasn't yours in the first place, and now that Larry's found success, he would have an easier time proving she stole his work.
Adding to that, even if Larry wasn't successful in writing a new book, Margaret's plan still has 2 fatal flaws in it. 1: She's blowing through the money faster then you could say "bankruptcy", without a plan to make more once the hype of "her" book dies down. And 2: She keeps constantly saying in interviews that she not only has an ex-husband who was also a writer, but one in the same genre who has been published before, meaning sooner or later people are going to read Larry's work and find out they're a little too similar.
Large Ham: Momma. Between this and The Goonies we can see that Anne Ramsey surely loves chewing the scenery.
Lawful Stupid: Larry. He is so sensitive about plagiarism, he changes his story from "The night was humid." to "The night was moist." when he discovers Owen started his writing assignment the same way. Probably justified, in that his hateful ex-wife stole his novel, passed it off as her own and it became a bestseller, which would be enough to give anyone a complex about the subject.
Rhetorical Request Blunder: Owen overhears Larry saying he wished his wife were dead. Guess what happens. To be fair, Owen doesn't get the idea to kill Margeret until Larry tells him to go to the Hitchcock films being screened at a local theater (to understand how a mystery novel works), and goes on about how his characters have no motivation to commit murder. Unfortunately, for Larry, one of the films being screened is Strangers on a Train, which is all about murder motives, and Owen thinks Larry intentionally wanted him to see that particular film which is very close to their current situation.
A Tale of Two Cities. Larry on the train talks to Owen about the perfect beginning of a novel and mentions A Tale Of Two Cities, "It was the best of times it was the worst of times..." Momma late in the film gives Larry a perfect opening for his abortive novel, "The night was sultry". This is a variation of the line, "The night was so very sultry" from A Tale Of Two Cities.
Small Name, Big Ego: Mrs. Hazeltine, who lashes at one writing student that he's "a no talent little shit". She's completely oblivious to her own pathetically bad writing skills.
Larry: And your metaphors... "His face oozed nice like a melted malted"...