Action Adventure Tropes
Elements used for exciting sequences, or primarily only found in stories about adventure. Related is Spectacle.
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- Absurdly Sharp Blade
A blade that is somehow so sharp that it can cut through almost anything, and never get dull.
- Acoustic License
Cool dialogue will always be heard above the din of car chases and explosions.
- Acquired Poison Immunity
The development of immunity to a particular drug or poison by taking small doses for a long time.
- Acrophobic Bird
When escaping danger, a character who can fly will never think about flying up.
- Action Dress Rip
When an Action Girl finds herself in a dress, she'll rip it before going into a situation that actually requires action.
- Action Mom
When someone's mother gets in on the action.
- Action Dad
Male equivalent of the Action Mom.
- Action Girl
A girl who is as much of a Badass as any of the boys.
- Action-Hogging Opening
When an action adventure show has more action of a higher quality in the opening sequence than in an entire episode.
- Action Insurance Gag
Lampshading the explosive or destructive sequences in action-oriented works by way of reference to insurance or mortgage payments
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene
That bit where you actually watch the actors instead of the special effects.
- Adrenaline Makeover
When a shy or frumpy girl is embroiled in an adventure, by the end of it she has come out of her shell and often gotten sexier and/or more badass.
- After-Action Healing Drama
When bad, even possibly lethal injuries, are treated in a dramatic scene after one of heavy action.
- After Action Patchup
When the injured hero gets his injuries treated in a quiet scene after one of heavy action.
- Air-Vent Passageway
When heroes find themselves trapped in a room with all doors and windows locked, the quickest exit is always through the ventilation duct.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us
Where the heroes' home base is attacked.
- Almost Out of Oxygen
Imminent death by suffocation is always a good way to ratchet up the tension.
- Aloof Ally
An ally who is mistrustful or can't be bothered with your group, preferring to do things on their own; he generally joins up at some point, though.
- Always a Bigger Fish
Where the heroes are saved from a scary monster by a scarier monster.
- Always on Duty
No matter what time of day or night, the main cast are always the ones on duty, ready to deal with problems.
- Always Save the Girl
Where the hero values the life of their love interest over absolutely everything else, often including the rest of the world.
- America Saves the Day
Aliens (or other villains) are threatening the entire world - but it's up to the USA to beat them!
- An Ass-Kicking Christmas
The habit of some action works to take place around Christmas time.
- And Mission Control Rejoiced
When Mission Control is seriously impressed by the hero's actions.
- The Anticipator
When a character dramatically expects or waits for another to sneak up on them.
- Badass Driver
These guys can pull things behind the wheel that you'd love to be able to do (though not necessarily to be in the passenger's seat at the time).
- Bad-Guy Bar
This is the place where bad guys hang out to plot their nefarious deeds.
- Bad Habits
Where heroes or villains dress up as a religious figure as part of a disguise.
- The Bait
The character used to draw out the bad guys for a trap. Often the Butt Monkey's job.
- Band of Brothers
The danger of the situation has forged a friendship between the Heroes and his companions that transcends the usual meaning of the word.
- Banging for Help
A trapped character does this to attract attention from people outside.
- Bar Slide
The bartender slides the cup, mug or shot glass across the bar to a patron.
- Barrier-Busting Blow
A super-strong character or monster just punches through a door or wall to reach the victim on the other side.
- Bathroom Break-Out
A character makes his escape by ducking into the John.
- Big Damn Heroes
The heroic swoop to save the day just in the nick of time.
- Big Heroic Run
In which the hero runs at full tilt to save the day or fulfill his goals, usually scored with a rousing fanfare.
A type of action movie made in the 1970s and '80s where the heroes are always black.
- Blaxploitation Parody
Making fun of the Blaxploitation genre.
- Bloodless Carnage
When someone is shot, they show no wounds or blood, they just crumple up and fall on the floor.
- Bluff the Impostor
You think someone is acting like an impostor, so you say something to them with an erroneous fact, and see if they react to it.
- Bodybag Trick
When a character hides in a bodybag and is wheeled into a hospital or other facility, then gets out and does his/her mission.
- Bodyguard Babes
Where the most elite defenders of the Big Bad are exclusively female warriors.
- Bold Explorer
A person whose actions usually lead to action and adventure.
- Bolivian Army Ending
The ending of an episode, season, character arc, or especially entire series that ends in an open-ended tragedy.
- Bomb Disposal
Techniques are used to dispose of bombs, regardless if it was disarmed or not.
- Bombers on the Screen
A real-time computer map is used, showing the positions of military units (or possibly a physical map with model units).
- Bombproof Appliance
When a bomb is going to go off indoors, the hero hides in a bathtub or fridge.
- Bond One-Liner
A pithy line said by the hero just after he's killed a bad guy.
- Bond Villain Stupidity
When a villain fails to kill the hero when they have him cornered or captured.
- Bookcase Passage
A secret passage is hidden behind a bookcase or triggered by the removal or manipulation of a book in a bookcase.
- Boomerang Comeback
The thrown weapon that you thought missed its target is coming back around for a second go.
- Bottled Heroic Resolve
A drug or potion to allow severely injured heroes to get back on their feet and finish off the bad guy.
- Bound and Gagged
Don't you hate it when you get all tied up with things?
- Break Out the Museum Piece
When the modern weaponry or equipment has been destroyed or taken away, the heroes resort to outdated stuff to do the job.
- Breaking the Bonds
Heroes showing off their power by busting out of chains, ropes or similar restraints.
- Break the Badass
When you want to show that the situation is horrible, make sure your toughest character is scared!
- Bring News Back
Where a character must go back in person (often through long, dangerous roads) to deliver important news.
- Bullet Catch
Catching bullets translates into instant Badass.
- Bulletproof Human Shield
Grab a nearby Mook and let him block bullets while you head for safety.
- Cable-Car Action Sequence
A fight aboard, or atop, a moving gondola at great height.
- Cacophony Cover Up
Remain unheard thanks to a nearby louder noise.
- Can't Bathe Without a Weapon
The hero(ine) may need to undress to take a bath, but won't ever get caught without a weapon.
- Captured by Cannibals
Can the heroes escape in time to avoid becoming the main course?
- Car Cushion
The higher you are falling from, the more likely it is that a car will be there when you land.
- Carnival of Killers
When a series of assassins goes after the hero, either from a bounty offer or hired by the villain.
- Casual Danger Dialog
Where heroes in danger will crack jokes or speak casually rather than gibbering in terror.
- Catch a Falling Star
If the hero falls from too high a point, he will inevitably be rescued.
- Caught in a Snare
Exactly what it looks like — the hero or someone else gets caught in a tree snare or other boobytrap.
- Cave Mouth
When a cave's mouth looks like an actual mouth, usually that of a monster.
- The Cavalry
Where the heroes are saved in the last minute by other characters.
- The Cavalry Arrives Late
...and usually only after the hero has dealt with the threat that needed their attention.
- Cavalry Betrayal
Where apparent rescuers turn out to be actually siding with the villain.
- Cavalry Refusal
Where potential rescuers refuse to help the heroes.
- Ceiling Cling
A character avoids pursuit or detection by hanging from the ceiling of the room or hallway.
- The Centerpiece Spectacular
An exciting set piece staged in Act 2 of a work to keep the audience excited enough to pay attention through the entire work.
- The Chain of Harm
Any time a hero stops a villain's plans, and he takes it out, not on the hero or his friends, but on innocent bystanders or "weaker" people.
- Chekhov's Exhibit
A standby of all Caper films, or any other action story where a museum is involved.
- Cigar Fuse Lighting
A Badass uses his cigar to light the fuse on a stick of dynamite.
- Clean Cut
Blades slice clean through bodies and other things, with no jagged edges or thick wounds, and can slice any body part easily.
- Clifftop Caterwauling
A creature, character, hero, villain... stands at the edge of a cliff and lets loose a roar to the heavens.
- Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity
Where the hero must climb an insanely tall cliff to proceed.
- Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb
The hero has to climb a surface that really isn't cooperating.
- Clipboard of Authority
The hero can get in anywhere if he only holds one.
- Cloak & Dagger
A fictional spy agency full of glamorous secret agents, which has no relationship to real-life agencies.
- Cobweb Jungle
Any subterranean area will be full of curtains of spider webs.
- Cold-Blooded Torture
The hero is currently captured by the villains and tortured.
- Colossus Climb
The smaller character attacks the bigger character by climbing his body to attack a vulnerable spot.
- Concert Climax
When the climax of the work takes place around some big public event such as a concert, performance, sporting event, etc.
- Commie Nazis
When Fascists and Communists are conflated into one big oppressive mass.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat
An "evil" or out-of-the-ordinary character can always be identified by his concealing trenchcoat, fedora and occasionally dark glasses.
- Contract on the Hitman
A professional killer suddenly finds himself being hunted by the very organization he works for.
- Convenient Cranny
The heroes need to hide from something. That's why they happen to stumble upon a hidden space.
- Convenient Enemy Base
If the heroes crash-land or shipwreck while on a mission against a powerful enemy, they will almost always wash up very close to that enemy's hidden headquarters.
- Convenient Escape Boat
When escaping anywhere near a body of water, there will be a boat leaving the harbour the heroes can jump onto
- Conveniently-Placed Sharp Thing
Whenever someone is tied up, the bad guys always tend to leave something sharp in the room that the victim can use to cut herself free.
- Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind
The hero is helpless and about to be killed, when the bad guy is taken out by an attack from behind just in time.
- Conveniently Timed Guard
The heroes have just finished their infiltration, but on their way out a guard sees them and sounds the alarm.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment
Where the hero is tortured via some ridiculous method, like tickling or opera music.
- Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists
Luckily, only mild discomfort remains.
- Curb-Stomp Battle
An epic, one-sided ass-kicking where the kicked doesn't stand a chance.
- Curbstomp Cushion
The single thing that sweetens the defeat in an epic, one-sided ass-kicking somewhat.
- Cyanide Pill
Given to secret agents in case they're ever captured.
- Cycle of Revenge
After you get your revenge, your target's friends and family will vow revenge on you... and the cycle continues.
- Dangerously Close Shave
Where the barber ends up cutting your throat with his razor (or almost doing so).
- Dare to Be Badass
The Hero is called upon to step up to the plate and be awesome.
- Darkened Building Shootout
A classic denouement - the hero and villain have a shootout in a darkened building, with a suitably suspenseful final shot.
- The Day of Reckoning
The day when all the prophecies and plans come to a head in a massive final confrontation.
- Deadly Gas
Here's a hint: Don't get hit by it.
- Dead Man Switch
A backup plan in case of untimely death or incapacitation, used as a threat to protect the holder.
- Dead Man's Trigger Finger
A character wildly fires a burst of ammunition immediately after being shot.
- Dead Foot Leadfoot
The driver of a vehicle is killed; immediately, his foot gets stuck on the gas pedal, causing the car to speed out of control.
- Death Course
A gauntlet filled with enemies and/or booby traps that the hero character has to pass through.
- Decoy Hiding Place
An obvious hiding place is made visible to the pursuer, while the pursued actually escapes via some other means.
- Deep Cover Agent
Someone who lives a perfectly normal life for a long time, all the while being a mole or spy for another government or organization.
- Defcon Five
Used to refer to the highest state of alert (it's actually the lowest stage).
- Delivery Guy Infiltration
If you want to get into the enemy base, just pose as a delivery guy.
- Den of Iniquity
A room in the Evil Overlord's lair where the mooks go to indulge their debauched pleasures.
- Desperate Object Catch
All will be lost if a falling object isn't caught in time.
- Diagnosis From Dr. Badass
When the character gives a detailed accounting of how he's hurt, or is hurting another.
- Diner Brawl
The characters find themselves getting into a fight in a Greasy Spoon.
- Dirt Forcefield
The conspicuous lack of grime, dirt, or bruises on actors, especially those in action sequences.
- Disguised Hostage Gambit
The villain disguises hostages as bad guys to trick The Cavalry into shooting them.
- Dish Dash
A character has to dash madly around a room catching stacks of falling breakable items before they hit the floor and smash.
- Disney Death
The hero appears to have suffered a fatal wound during the final battle, only to get up a few moments later. VERY common in family action movies.
- Ditch the Bodyguards
How else are you going to have a proper adventure?
- Dog Pile of Doom
Where large numbers of mooks bring you down by jumping on top of you and physically dragging you to the ground.
- Door of Doom
It's a very imposing door, you just know it's not just a collection of knobs and hinges, and going through is a Big Decision.
- Dragons Up the Yin Yang
Any work featuring martial arts or Eastern mysticism will have either an Eastern dragon or a Yin/Yang symbol somewhere.
- Drama Bomb Finale
An otherwise comedic story trying its hand at a dramatic moment near the show's last episode or two, totally out of left field.
- Dressing as the Enemy
Where the hero dresses up in a face-concealing suit of armor stolen from the enemy to infiltrate their base.
- Drool Hello
The first inkling that a monster is above you? That yucky liquid splashing over your shoulders...
- Dungeon Bypass
Where heroes just blast through or over that complicated maze or trial that the villain has set up, rather than actually solving it.
- Dungeon Crawling
The act of exploring a dungeon while looking for treasure, avoiding traps, and beating off monsters.
- Durable Deathtrap
The ruins are ancient, but damn if those giant guillotine blades aren't as sharp as the day they were made!
- Dye or Die
Where a secret agent has to dye his or her hair to avoid detection.
- Education Through Pyrotechnics
There's no better way to make a lesson stick than by adding explosions.
- Elevator Escape
The best way to flee The Mafia.
- Enemy Rising Behind
Some one (or some thing) hostile is coming into view from behind and below.
- Ejection Seat
Try not to push that button accidentally.
- Emergency Cargo Dump
Throwing cargo out to avoid crashing, or to outrace the bad guys.
- Emergency Stash
How our hero manages to get money, IDs, and weapons while on the run.
- Empty Elevator
Will the hero/villain/monster be in the elevator when it opens? Of course not! He/she/it is hiding somewhere nearby, ready to kick ass.
- Empty Quiver
When a nuclear bomb shows up in a story, it'll inevitably end up in the hands of the bad guys.
- Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting
Everybody knows kung fu and uses it often and awesomely, and I mean everyone.
- Everyone Chasing You
A character is chased by a whole bunch of other characters.
- Extremely Short Timespan
When the events of a whole story (novel, arc, movie, etc.) takes place in a short period of time. Usually three days or less.
- Exotic Weapon Supremacy
If a character uses an unusual weapon, that indicates that they're more badass than everyone else.
- Exploding Fish Tanks
If an aquarium is shown at any point, the aquarium will inevitably be destroyed.
- Explosive Leash
Where a bomb is attached to a prisoner while they carry out a dangerous mission.
- Exposition Diagram
A diagram is set up to explain the upcoming plan.
- "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner
He's about to die, but he's got time for one last quip.
- Fast Roping
Where the heroes come onto the scene by rappelling down from above.
- Fed to the Beast
A very common Death Trap common for both Human Sacrifice and villainous disposal needs alike.
- Ferris Wheel of Doom
When you see a Ferris wheel, it's either going to start collapsing, or break free and start rolling away.
- Fighter Launching Sequence
Seeing planes, space fighters, and other similar vehicles, take off into battle.
- Fight Magnet
Wherever the hero goes, someone always wants a piece of him.
- Final Battle
The big, lavish fight scene and climax to the story.
- Flaming Emblem
Have an Iconic Logo? Make a big fire shaped like it.
- Flamethrower Backfire
What's the best way to beat a guy with a flamethrower? Blow up his fuel tank!
The classic swordplay of swashbuckling movies.
- Foe-Tossing Charge
Where a character barrels toward a target and tosses away anyone who gets in the way without a glance.
- Forced Prize Fight
Combatants are forced by the "powers that be" to brawl, box or otherwise fight. Sometimes to the death.
- Forging Scene
A scene dedicated to forging a kickass weapon or something.
- Friend to All Children
A gentle character is fond of children.
- Futile Hand Reach
When something bad happens to a character, the protagonist will reach out towards the character in question.
- Galley Slave
The hero is enslaved and forced to work as a galley rower.
- Generic Cop Badges
Badges and car decals in many cop shows are generic, with just the word "Police."
- Genocide Dilemma
Where an entire planet of people is out to destroy Earth - do we get them first?
- Giant Foot of Stomping
A big foot comes out of nowhere and stomps someone to death.
- Giving the Sword to a Noob
A moron is trusted with a vital weapon or device, and tries to use it instead of giving it to the right person.
- Gladiator Games
Where people have to fight each other, or monsters, to the death while lots of people look on and cheer.
- Gladiator Revolt
Where the hero, captured as a gladiator, starts a rebellion with the gladiators breaking out of the slave pits.
- Goggles Do Something Unusual
Eyewear that does something other than what their mundane design purpose is.
- Got Volunteered
When a character is dragooned into a dangerous job against their will.
- Government Agency of Fiction
Either a fictional government agency, or a real one described in a fictional way.
- Grave Robbing
Because dead bodies are always useful For SCIENCE!
- Great Escape
Breaking out of prison.
- Grimy Water
—>Stop falling in the death water!
— Proton Jon, Let's Play Mario's Wacky World - World 2 Part 1
- Gunpoint Banter
When two characters have their guns aimed at one another, ready to shoot, but decide to have a conversation instead.
- Hands Off My Fluffy
Where the heroes attack a monster who looks like it's accosting a girl, when it turns out the monster is the girl's pet.
- Harmless Freezing
A character is frozen solid, and then unfreezes with no adverse effects.
- Hassle-Free Hotwire
Anybody can hotwire a car: just open a random cover, grab two wires and stick them together!
- Hero Stole My Bike
A hero in a hurry grabs somebody else's car or bike to aid in his chase scene.
- Heroes "R" Us
A large philanthropic organization whose "job" is, as close as anyone can tell, to fund heroes.
- Heroes Unlimited
A Story Arc or season which features an expansion of the general cast.
- Heroic BSOD
An earth-shattering revelation or horrible event affects the hero, leaving him either mentally shut down out of shock, or subject to a violent outburst.
- Heroic Safe Mode
An earth-shattering revelation or horrible event affects the hero, causing him to flea or fight as an automatic response.
- Hey, Catch!
A character who throws something to another character to make him catch it, often to distract him.
- Hey, Wait!
In the heart of enemy territory, the hero narrowly escapes detection when they're told something like "your shoe is untied".
- "Hey, You!" Haymaker
Tap your opponent on the back, and when he turns around, punch him in the face.
- High Dive Escape
The hero or villain escapes pursuers by making a seemingly-suicidal jump off something very high.
- Hitchhiker Heroes
A band of warriors or (more commonly) would-be warriors who join up with The Hero over the course of his journey.
- Hollywood Acid
Acid in Hollywood movies does not act exactly like real acid would, and is often much more dangerous.
- Hollywood CB
The radios always work perfectly, you talk only to the person you're addressing, and you can interrupt people. Especially the bad guys.
- Hollywood Fire
Fire in Hollywood movies does not act exactly like real fire would, and is not quite as dangerous.
- Hollywood Healing
No matter how bad he's injured, the hero never ends up with permanent scars.
- Hollywood Natives
Someone has to live in wherever it is the protagonists are visiting.
- Honor Among Thieves
Thieves turn out to be remarkably honorable fellows in fiction, especially amongst other thieves.
- Hope Spot
A glimmer of hope for the hero which is quickly dashed.
- How Do I Shot Web?
Where a character has to figure out how to use his newly-obtained superpowers.
- Human Chess
Chess played where the pieces are actual people... sometimes to the death.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game
Where the villains formally hunt the heroes.
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten
The Bad Guys challenge someone (usually the hero pretending to be a Bad Guy) to do something evil to prove his evilness.
- I Know Mortal Kombat
A character acquires a needed skill, not by ever actually learning that skill, but by playing a video game which simulated that skill.
- Imminent Danger Clue
A seemingly mundane detail of the setting indicates that a character has just walked into a trap; the danger will come into play shortly after the character realizes it exists.
- I Need No Ladders
Where a character decides to screw taking the stairs, because everything's better with epic jumps.
- I Need You Stronger
The Big Bad lets the heroes continue on their quest, despite being more than capable of wiping them out, because they're not strong enough to suit his purposes yet.
- Innocuously Important Episode
A seemingly weak episode early in a Story Arc that subtly sets events in motion that lead to a big payoff later on.
- Implausible Fencing Powers
Where swordsmen can do insane things with their swords, like deflecting bullets or cutting clothes to pieces without touching skin.
- Impossible Mission Collapse
An elaborate, high-risk plan is concocted by the good guys, we hear all the planning, and then it never gets past step one.
- Impressive Pyrotechnics
Explosions always look the same, even when the materials combusting shouldn't explode that way.
- Improbable Cover
When a character leaps behind something to escape an explosion, ducks to avoid a rolling wall of flame, or closes a door on an avalanche.
- Improvised Parachute
What a character uses to slow a great fall when a real parachute is not available.
- Improvised Zipline
When a character really needs to rappel down a building but doesn't have a rope, he'll improvise one.
- Indy Escape
The character is chased down a tunnel by something very large, clich?y a boulder or a giant monster.
- Indy Hat Roll
A character makes his way under a vertically closing door Just in Time by rolling under it.
- Indy Ploy
There is no plan. The hero is just plain winging it.
- Ineffectual Death Threats
Characters make death threats that they never seem to carry out.
- Inevitable Waterfall
If a character is drifting on a raft or log along a river, they will fall down a waterfall. No exceptions.
- Infant Immortality
Even the worst villains are not allowed to kill children or infants.
- Instant Knots
Where heroes can make a rope, whip, chain or Grappling-Hook Pistol wrap itself around a distant object securely.
- Instrument of Murder
A character who has a musical instrument that doubles as a deadly weapon.
- Involuntary Group Split
The destruction of a structure separates the characters from each other.
- Juggle Fu
Someone can throw an object in the air, perform some action sequence while it is airborne, then catch it on its way down.
- Just a Kid
The young hero meets a series of dismissive characters who assume ineptness because (wait for it)? "You're just a kid."
- Just Between You and Me
Villains will pause to give a monologue to the heroes detailing their entire plot.
- Katanas Are Just Better
I slice you! Hiii-yaa!
- Keep Away
The game of tossing an object around in a group to keep it away from someone else.
- Kill Steal
Taking a kill someone else was about to make.
- Kinda Busy Here
When a cell phone rings at an inconvenient time, like when you're in a gunfight.
- Kitchen Chase
The hero runs though a kitchen to escape the bad guys.
- Last Breath Bullet
The bad guys have been defeated, but one of them pulls off a shot with their last breath, often killing one of the heroes before dying.
- Last Villain Stand
The main bad guy decides to take a one man stand against the heroes when he's got no one left to fight for him.
- Latex Perfection
A latex mask so perfect that it is impossible to tell the wearer from the person he is impersonating until the moment he pulls off his face.
- Law Enforcement, Inc.
A self-funded, self-supporting private agency which can act as a legal authority and law enforcement power, or as an official military outfit.
- Let's Dance
A common Pre-Asskicking One Liner.
- Let's Fight Like Gentlemen
No matter how much they hate each other, the two opponents will stick by the rules in their fight.
- Let's Get Dangerous
A moment in the story when the quirky, eccentric supporting cast stop being quirky and eccentric and start demonstrating why you should respect your elders.
- Let's Get Out of Here
Time to bid a hasty retreat!
- Let's You and Him Fight
Where two heroes fight each other under mistaken pretenses.
- Life or Limb Decision
When a person is forced to make a terrible choice ? they need to remove one of their appendages in order to escape with their life.
- Lighthearted Rematch
Two heroes have fought each other for real stakes. When the story's over, they smile and have a rematch for fun's sake.
- Line in the Sand
Where a military leader offers his recruits a choice to stay and fight or flee (they usually stay).
- Little Hero, Big War
Where the fantasy hero is off having adventures while a war is going on in the background.
- Little Stowaway
Children secretly following the more serious heroes on their adventure.
- Live-Action Escort Mission
Where the heroes have to get someone (often a spoiled kid) from one place to another, and have to deal with his/her antics along the way.
- Locking MacGyver In The Store Cupboard
When good guys get locked in a cell, all of the equipment that they need to escape is in the cell with them.
- Loser Has Your Back
In an action scene, the last person alive other than the hero is the last person you'd expect.
- Magnetic Hero
A hero with such personal magnetism that he is capable of persuading others to join him in his quest.
- Make Room For The New Plot
When one important plot element is abruptly resolved so that the characters can combat a more immediate, dangerous conflict instead.
Quiet, internal angsting done by real men and bad-asses.
- The Man Is Keeping Us Down
The heroes have almost won, but end up failing due to factors outside their control, often societal in nature.
- Man on Fire
Aaaaahhhhh! I'm on fire!
- Marked Bullet
A bullet with special markings or words on it. Often the name of someone a character wants dead.
- Matchlight Danger Revelation
Two animated characters are in pitch-black darkness; one strikes a match, revealing they are in an incredibly dangerous place or situation.
- Maximum Fun Chamber
An unspecified threat so awful that mere mention of it makes the strong go pale and the weak-hearted clutch their chest.
- The Meddling Kids Are Useless
The heroes get into a lot of danger and excitement, but in the end they don't actually stop the villain or accomplish anything directly.
- Menacing Stroll
The lithe, athletic walk of the perennial badass.
- Mexican Standoff
A stalemate where everyone has a weapon pointed at them.
- Midair Repair
Where a malfunctioning, falling aircraft can be fixed by the mechanic in midair, before it hits the ground.
- Minion Maracas
When somebody who would not otherwise be expected to raise somebody else off the ground, does so under the influence of a strong emotion, and shakes them in mid-air to mark their point.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment
When a dysfunctional group of losers transforms into a well-oiled machine.
- Mission Briefing
The briefing before a mission, of whatever form.
- Mistaken for Badass
A bumbling, perfectly normal Nice Guy who gets mixed up in something dangerous, and by sheer luck does the sort of things that convinces everyone he must be insanely badass.
- Mistaken for Spies
When the heroes arrive in a town just as something nasty happens, they will inevitably be accused of it and thrown in jail.
- Monumental Battle
Somehow, a disproportionate number of fictional fights break out at easily-recognized national monuments and landmarks around the world.
- Monumental Damage
Where villains or aliens attack major landmarks.
- Monumental Damage Resistance
Where the villains or aliens attacking the major landmarks leave some landmarks standing.
- Mucking In The Mud
You know that when you see a mudpit or a mud bog, you can go through it. Just be aware that there are only a few safe spots, and there are some swamps in which you can go too deep...
- Musical Trigger
A specific musical cue — not in the BGM, but in actual music being played by someone or something In-Universe — serves as the trigger for some event.
- My Country, Right or Wrong
A person who may not like the policies of their country but will fight for it regardless.
- My Name Is Inigo Montoya
The character announces who they are, unprompted.
- Myopic Architecture
The way past the door is easier than it looks.
- Nebulous Evil Organisation
A vast, deep-pocketed machine with one apparent goal: The proliferation of evil across the globe, maybe with some personal profit on the side.
- Nerf Arm
Any logically less-than-lethal weapon which ends up being otherwise just as effective as its "real" equivalent.
- Neutral Female
When the hero and villain are fighting, the Distressed Damsel will just sit there and watch, or be ineffectual in what she tries to do.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
Where a hero's actions unwittingly make the situation worse rather than better.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain
Where a villain's actions unwittingly make the situation better rather than worse.
- Night-Vision Goggles
What would you use them to look at?
- Nitro Express
Hauling unstable explosives over dangerous terrain. What could possibly go wrong?
- No Endor Holocaust
When you blow up the giant monster/enemy base/teacup, it should cause untold damage to the places around it, but we never see such damage.
- No Escape but Down
When faced with the choice of getting captured by pursuers or jumping from a great height, chose the latter.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine
When the hero is captured and, instead of throwing him in the dungeon, the villain treats him as a guest.
- No FEMA Response
A disaster has struck, but don't expect any incoming aid.
- Non-Fatal Explosions
Explosions don't cause concussion damage from the shockwave or rip you up with shrapnel... they just give you a little push.
- Nonviolent Initial Confrontation
Sometimes you really do want to ask questions first.
- No One Should Survive That
When a character survives a situation that should by all accounts have been lethal, often through sheer luck or coincidence.
- No One Gets Left Behind
The hero refuses to leave a wounded or captured comrade behind.
- No OSHA Compliance
Bases and complexes have all kinds of insanely dangerous walkways and areas, because they're cool and make for nail-biting suspense sequences.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup
Any dangerous device or technology owned by a villain is one-of-a-kind; there are no design notes, no prototypes, and no backup copies.
- Normally, I Would Be Dead Now
Where somebody survives a blow or wound that, even by Hollywood standards, should have killed them, and keeps fighting.
- Not in This for Your Revolution
A character is on a quest that could save the world, but he doesn't care about that; he's only in it for personal reasons.
- Not Worth Killing
The averagely-skilled friends of the highly-skilled hero survive their encounter with the Big Bad or Dragon because the bad guy couldn't be bothered to finish them off.
- Now It's My Turn
Where one character survives what has been built up as a nasty attack, grins, and unleashes a counterattack.
- A Nuclear Error
Where a work takes creative liberties regarding nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons policy.
- Obstacle Exposition
After having outlined the goal for the episode, Mr. Exposition will describe a list of all the insurmountable obstacles that stand in the way of that goal.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse
Where the bad guy forces the good guy into doing something via threats, kidnapping or blackmail.
- Ominous Walk
A villain, or Anti-Hero, will have an enemy at their mercy and instead of immediately shooting them, they'll slowly walk towards them.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You
Contriving to make it all about these two guys, the good guy and the bad guy.
- One-Dimensional Thinking
TV characters, when being chased by anything that is limited to one direction (e.g. a boulder) never just step out of its path. They always run straight ahead and try to outrun it.
- One Riot, One Ranger
Where the government sends in only one man to do a job that rightfully a whole squad or army should do.
- One True Sequence
Where there is a set of objects or objectives to obtain, the good and bad guys will always end up fighting over the same one at the same time.
- Only I Can Kill Him
Rule of Drama: Only the main character can kill the Big Bad. Anyone else who tries will be curb stomped.
- "Open!" Says Me
When met with an unyielding door lock, one of the heroes will just blast it off or break down the door.
- Opt Out
Where a character decides not to take part in the climactic final battle and leaves.
- Out-of-Character Alert
The villain has captured someone and sends a message in their name to their family or friends. However, something in the message is obviously something that the capturee would never have written.
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Where something is "destroyed" by just throwing it off-screen.
- Outrun the Fireball
Warning: Not recommended for those of us actually occupying real life.
- Outside Ride
Where somebody hops on the top or side of a car as it's moving.
- Packed Hero
A Conveyor Belt-O-Doom run results in the hero passing out the other end as a package.
- Paying for the Action Scene
A character gets into a fight in a private establishment and pays for the mess he/she left behind.
- Paper-Thin Disguise
An extremely transparent disguise that anybody in their right mind could see through, yet the on-screen characters can't.
- Le Parkour
A discipline which emphasizes getting from point A to point B in a straight line, even if that line goes around, under, or over obstacles. It's also really cool.
- Passing the Torch
The Hero formally hands over his heroing business to a new guy.
- Percussive Prevention
Stopping someone from doing something stupid by knocking them out and then doing it yourself.
- PG Explosives
When something explodes, the violence remains but all the blood and gore is removed.
- Pin-Pulling Teeth
Few things are more badass than using your teeth to yank the pin from a grenade before tossing.
- Plucky Middie
A protagonist in a story set aboard a sailing ship who's a young, brave teenager sailing into adventure.
- Pit Trap
A hole in the ground that's somehow covered up so as to blend in with the surrounding terrain.
- Plummet Perspective
It's a long way down if the hero falls.
- Powder Trail
A trail of gunpowder left on the ground as a makeshift fuse to blow up stuff.
- Pre-Asskicking Mutter
Villain got you by the throat? Just try to say something, they'll ease up so you can clarify and kick their ass!
- The Precarious Ledge
A character moves along a very high ledge to get from point A to point B.
- The Precious, Precious Car
A jerk has a car which he loves and absolutely refuses to let anyone touch. It will either be stolen, destroyed, or both.
- Protect This House
The hero's home comes under attack.
- Protected by a Child
Where the hero can't get to the villain to administer smackdown because a child is in the way, protecting him.
A specific person, place, or thing, or set thereof, which our hero is responsible for defending.
- Punched Across the Room
In movies and videogames, punches and kicks send you flying, usually in the direction of something breakable.
- Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...
In a fistfight, one character delivers a set of rapid-fire punches into the other one's gut, only to have him smile and start delivering serious violence.
- Punctuated Pounding
- The Purge
When a villain takes over a big company or government, the first thing he does is start ordering the deaths of quite a lot of people.
- Quicksand Sucks
Dip a toe into quicksand, and suddenly you get sucked down to the bowels of the earth!
- The Radio Dies First
A two-way radio is put out of commission to allow the plot to proceed.
- Railroad Tracks of Doom
Any time you see railroad tracks, a train will appear, usually giving a character a near-death, suspenseful miss.
- Ransacked Room
You can tell it's been ransacked because the underwear is strewn over the chair instead of strewn over the floor.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn
A group of bandits, pirates, or even mooks working for a Big Bad sack a town - looting, damaging property, and sometimes even murdering and kidnapping innocent townsfolk. Then they burn it down.
- Rated M for Manly
Something soaked to the brim with testosterone and badassery. Made by men for men.
- Redemption Demotion
When a bad guy becomes a good guy, his power potential goes down significantly.
- Redemption Promotion
When a bad guy becomes a good guy, his power potential goes up significantly.
- Redundant Rescue
Where a character is "saved" when, as it turns out, he didn't really need to be.
- Reed Snorkel
Plucking a hollow reed and using it to breathe while underwater.
- Removing The Earpiece
When an agent or operative removes their communication earpiece, they're going to disobey an order, go rogue, or say something "off the record."
- Resignations Not Accepted
The only way to leave an evil organization is death.
- The Rest Shall Pass
When the heroic team is split up by the sudden arrival of a series of villains.
- Revolvers Are Just Better
They're just COOL, dammit!
- Right Under Their Noses
The safest way to avoid detection in stories is always right under the enemy's nose. It's the last place they'll think to look.
- River of Insanity
Any river voyage or wilderness journey is a doomed expedition in which the characters alternately die, go mad, get lost, go native, or otherwise barely live to tell the tale.
- Road Sign Reversal
A villain or prankster mucks things up by flipping road signs so they point in the wrong direction.
- Rooftop Confrontation
A fight on a rooftop. It will often end with someone falling off.
- Rope Bridge
If you see one, you know one side is going to have the ropes cut, or the planks are going to fall down.
- The Ruins I Caused
After a big, property-damage-causing event, the main characters are seen on a cliff or plateau overlooking the ruins that resulted.
- Salvage Pirates
The heroes are rescued! Okay, not really; they're pirates who only want to loot their stuff.
- Save the Villain
You're gonna regret it...
- Saw It in a Movie Once
Where a character pulls off something crazy and unexpected, and says he saw it in a movie once.
- Scary Surprise Party
Something nasty happens to a character (kidnapped, in danger) but it turns out to be a surprise party.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!
Where a member of either the good guys or bad guys gets sick of it, throws his hands in the air and walks away.
- The Scrounger
The guy The Captain turns to when he needs supplies.
- Secret Path
When characters use a secret route to get somewhere, often to get around obstacles or avoid being seen.
- Secret Police
You never saw them, they didn't arrest you, and that isn't your tongue they just cut off.
- Secret Underground Passage
A hidden path often located under old houses, or in bad guy lairs.
- See the Whites of Their Eyes
In fiction, if you can't see them, you can't target them.
- Sentient Cosmic Force
A sentient Background Magic Field of universal scale.
- Separated From The Adults
An easy, convenient way to let a Kid Hero go on an adventure while still being fairly believable.
- Shaggy Search Technique
The only way to find the secret passage is by sheer luck; leaning against that candle amazingly opens the door!
- Shark Pool
A body of water filled with any variety of unpleasant creatures, such as alligators, killer jellyfish, piranha, or sharks.
- Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
Someone who's part-way transforming into a monster/zombie/robot/whatever will resist being on their side, and will help their human friends.
- Shipshape Shipwreck
No matter how ancient the shipwreck, it'll be mostly intact on the ocean floor.
- Shooting Gallery
You have to shoot the dummies. But if you shoot the civilians, you lose 100 points.
- Shoot The Fuel Tank
In fiction, shooting a fuel tank makes it explode.
- Shoot the Rope
When a character is about to be hanged, the cavalry will come to the rescue and shoot the rope.
- Shoot Your Mate
The hero is pretending to be on the bad guys' side, and his love interest or friend is held captive. The bad guy hands him a gun and tells him to shoot her.
- Shut Up and Save Me!
With the heroine in danger, the hero stops for a moment to start giving a speech or haranguing her.
- Sic 'em
After a minor victory, we are treated to a scene of the Big Bad sending more minions after the hero.
- Silent Running Mode
The crew of a ship have to be as quiet as possible so enemy radar won't pick them up.
- Single Malt Vision
If you have been drinking and your foe seems to have undergone some sort of cloning effect, so that it seems there are now many of him, shoot the one in the middle.
- Skeleton Key
A key that will open any door or lock; often shaped like a skeleton.
- Skeleton Key Card
You can open any locked door by taking out a credit card and jiggling it in the lock.
- Slave Liberation
The hero is on a mission to rescue slaves.
- Sleight of Tongue
The hero, stuck in captivity, is kissed by a sympathetic woman, who passes some item to him in his mouth.
- Slipped the Ropes
A tied up character reveals that he or she slipped their bonds ages ago.
- Smoke Out
Drop a smoke bomb and slip away while everybody's coughing.
- Snowy Screen of Death
You can tell when video cameras or visual feeds are destroyed because they get replaced with static.
- Soft Glass
When you throw yourself through a pane of glass, shattering it, you can get right up and keep going.
- Sole Survivor
The only person who survived a terrible tragedy or massacre.
- Something We Forgot
The adventure's over, everything's been taken care of...except the most important thing! D'OH!
- Space Marine
Standard FPS hero: A military man (often in bulky armour), who wields lots of big guns and kills lots of aliens.
- Spy Satellites
The omnipresent "eye in the sky".
- Spy Versus Spy
Two opposing spy organizations with James Bond-like agents.
- Stab the Scorpion
A lethal attack that we think is meant for the hero is instead meant for something that was trying to kill him instead.
- State Sec
A sprawling government agent complete with Secret Police, a paramilitary wing, a propaganda division, and more!
- Stealth Hi/Bye
When a character either suddenly appears or disappears close to someone when they weren't looking.
- Storming the Castle
It's time to gear up and assault the bad guy's home base!
- Strength Equals Worthiness
If you want someone or something to join your side, you have to best it in physical combat first.
- Suddenly Always Knew That
A character suddenly has a skill they need with little or no explanation.
- Suicide Mission
When the situation is that desperate...
- Super Multi-Purpose Room
A mundane living room, bedroom, or small apartment that can be instantly transformed into a fully-functional Super Hero lair.
- Supernatural Martial Arts
If you train hard enough, you can channel mystic energies and blow up airplanes.
- Super Window Jump
To get to or from the scene in a hurry, just jump through a window.
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands
The bad guys have cameras everywhere, even though nobody ever sees them.
- Swamps Are Evil
About the horrors of certain swamplands...
- Swiss Cheese Security
Characters can enter the premises whenever the plot necessitates it, despite presumably locked doors or obvious obstacles.
- Sword and Gun
A character simultaneously wielding a gun in one hand and a sword in another, or another combination of projectile and melee weapon.
- Sword over Head
The good guy has the bad guy where he wants him, raises his sword over his head... and can't go through with it.
- Take a Moment to Catch Your Death
The hero has just avoided a narrow scrape with death. Whew, that was... BOOM!
- Take It to the Bridge
Bridges, like crossroads, are imbued with plot significance.
- Take Up My Sword
The hero dies, and a new hero takes up the old hero's mission.
- Taking Over the Town
Villains cut a town off the outside world so they can use it for their own nefarious purposes.
- Telecom Tree
When the hero needs aid and calls his friends for help, the friends will often save the hero time by calling others the hero has helped, leading to a massive group response.
- 10-Minute Retirement
The hero gives up on his mission, only to come back when a situation arises that requires his help.
- There Was a Door
A character makes a dramatic entrance... by going through the wall.
- They Have the Scent
When animals pick up the trail of someone they're pursuing, leading to a chase.
- This Page Will Self-Destruct
When a message is designed to destroy itself after reading to keep it out of the wrong hands.
- This Way to Certain Death
A dangerous area is marked by the corpses or bones of those who previously went through it.
- Those Were Only Their Scouts
An initial victory over the enemy followed by the chilling realization that those were only the harbingers of doom.
- Three-Point Landing
Landing in a crouch with your feet wide apart and one hand on the ground.
- Throw-Away Country
When other countries are treated as one-shot disaster zones to show what could happen to the heroes' beloved home and are never touched upon afterward.
- Thrown from the Zeppelin
When the Big Bad calls investors in to finance his Evil Plan, those who object are often killed.
- Time Bomb
A character must succeed within a time limit, or bad things will happen.
- Time for Plan B
Our original plan failed. Time to blow stuff up or get the hell out of here!
- Tired of Running
I've had it with being pursued. It's time to kick some ass!
- To Catch Heroes Hire Villains
Heroes on the run for a major crime (that they may or may not have committed)? Send in the bad guys!
- Torches and Pitchforks
When the people get together in an angry mob to Burn the Witch! or kill the beast. Usually misguided.
- To the Batpole!
The heroes get to their base via a sequence of cool maneuvers before swinging into action.
- Train Escape
A train is used to end a chase, either by crossing the tracks ahead of it just in time or by hopping aboard.
- Traintop Battle
Battle atop a moving train. Common in Westerns and modern action flicks alike.
- Trash Landing
A character's fall is broken by landing in a dumpster.
- Trespassing to Talk
Waiting in a character's home or office to confront them.
- Trial of the Mystical Jury
The hero is put on trial.
- Tribal Carry
Tribesmen who capture characters will often carry them to their village like game on a pole.
- Trick-and-Follow Ploy
Where you find out the location of the enemy's secret base by tricking an ally of his to go there and deliver some kind of communication.
- Trojan Horse
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
- Trojan Prisoner
The heroes pose as guards transporting a prisoner.
- Troll Bridge
The heroes must outwit someone guarding a bridge in order to cross.
- Tuck and Cover
Saving someone else from an explosion by leaping on them and taking the blast for them.
- Uncertain Doom
It isn't stated whether the character escapes a dangerous situation.
- Underside Ride
A character hitches a ride underneath a vehicle.
- Underestimating Badassery
When the bad guys have no clue who they are messing with.
- Unflinching Faith In The Brakes
A character standing in the path of something dangerous will unflinchingly stand there, knowing whatever it is will stop just inches from them.
- Unguided Lab Tour
A protagonist walks into a top-secret workplace, and only when the audience has had a complete lab tour does anyone notice the visitor.
- Universal Driver's License
The hero will know how to drive or operate any vehicle, regardless of its general control scheme.
- Unstoppable Rage
When the hero gets utterly furious and uses that rage to completely own the bad guys.
- Unwilling Suspension
A character is tied up and suspended from the ceiling.
- Vapor Trail
A hero uses the gas spilling out of a vehicle's gas-tank to ignite a trail back to the vehicle and destroy it.
- Vertical Kidnapping
A character is kidnapped by someone from above.
- Villainous Rescue
The heroes have been rescued by the villain.
- Villainous Valour
When a hero is unstoppable, sometimes the bad guys will show otherwise heroic traits in taking him on.
- Violence Is Disturbing
When violence stops being cool and start being disturbing.
- Violence Is the Only Option
In the action genre, the only solution that works is kicking the bad guy's ass. Negotiation is useless or a trap.
- Walk into Mordor
To enter the forbidden realm, you are only allowed to use the most grueling methods available.
- Walk the Plank
Pirate punishment of preference.
- Wasn't That Fun?
A common utterance after surviving yet another escape.
- Watching a Video Game
Action adventure with a sizable dose of Video Game Tropes mixed in.
- Water Wake-up
You know it's not going to be a fun trip when you get a bucket of water thrown into your face after getting captured.
- Wax On, Wax Off
Martial arts instruction disguised as menial chores.
- Weaponized Car
When a Cool Car has built in hidden weapons that can help the hero or villain out.
- Weaponized Landmark
A powerful weapon is built inside a famous landmark or monument.
- Weapons Understudies
Only have the weapons and vehicles for one side available to you? Have both sides in your movie use them.
- Wire Dilemma
The Time Bomb is ticking down. Which wire do you cut to disarm it and not blow yourself up?
- Wild Wilderness
The woods nearby are very quiet on the outside but when you go in big adventures happen but no one outside notices.
- World Tour
When traveling the world is the adventure.
- Wrong Wire
You cut the wrong wire and now the countdown's moving faster! Oh Crap!!