Wrong Genre Savvy: Film

    Animated Films 
  • Pixar's Toy Story 2:
    • Through much of the film Pete the Prospector plays the role of Sage, dispensing advice to other characters. But a glimpse of "Woody's Roundup", the TV show that represents his origin, shows Pete playing a self-sabotaging buffoon. The glimpse hints that his sagely nuggets of wisdom may actually be fool's gold. By the end of the film his true role is revealed.
    • Buzz Lightyear (or one of his duplicates) goes through this in varying degrees in all three movies. He thinks he's the hero of a Space Opera, because he's an action figure based off of the hero of a Space Opera.
  • In Megamind, Megamind thinks that Hal will be the perfect person to train as a hero once he's seen him: he thinks he's a complete nobody who can realize his true heroic potential with his help. Unfortunately, Hal fits a different set of tropes...
  • In The Princess and the Frog, Naveen mistakenly thinks that being kissed by Tiana will turn him back. Later, he accuses of her of falsely wearing the tiara, deceiving him into thinking she was a princess — and it turns out that he does just need a princess to do it.
  • Beauty and the Beast - Gaston (Big Bad) thinks he's the hero, and that Beast (Jerk with a Heart of Gold) is a monster who wants to get his claws on Belle.
  • The Incredibles:
    • Syndrome taunts Mr. Incredible about how he's obviously an Arch-Nemesis with Joker Immunity who will continue to dog and torment the family throughout their lives. He realizes that this isn't that kind of superhero story about the time he notices the car hurtling towards his jet.
    • Elastigirl warns the kids about the danger of being Wrong Genre Savvy.
    "Remember the bad guys on the shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys aren't like those guys. They won't exercise restraint because you are children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance."
  • In Frozen:
  • In Kung Fu Panda, Tai Lung grew up thinking he would be The Hero instead of the Big Bad. In fact, the entire story is a stereotypical action Hero's Journey when seen from his perspective. Set up to become The Chosen One, he is betrayed by his mentor, and spends a long time in captivity. Then he breaks out of the predicament they put him in. He overcomes obstacles and beats up a whole lot of Mooks led by The Brute; then he beats up a Quirky Miniboss Squad led by his counterpart/Shadow Archetype by revealing an Eleventh Hour Superpower he developed after his initial defeat; then he beats up the Big Bad, who was responsible for the things that happened to him at the beginning; then the Dragon Ascendant powered by an Artifact of Doom is revealed as the True Final Boss, He manages to wrest control of the artifact from the Dragon Ascendant, prepares to use it, and... his story crumbles around him, because he does not have what it takes to be The Hero.
  • Ice Blonde in Starship Troopers: Invasion is just as surprised as the audience is about who survives the film. She survives the film, of course. She's surprised Mech survives, completely inverting Black Dude Dies First, and likewise Ratzass averts Big Guy Fatality Syndrome. Trig dies, as does Bugspray, and the not-so aptly named Hero.
  • In The Boxtrolls, Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles are convinced they're the good guys fighting the forces of evil, but as the movie goes along they begin to doubt this perspective.
  • In Big Hero 6 the team becomes convinced, through comic book nerd Fred's fairly sound logic, that Alistair Krei is the masked villain Yokai because Yokai stole the microbots in the fire, Krie was shown to want them, and he's a sleezy corporate executive. They're wrong, it's one of the people they thought died in that fire, Prof. Callahan, and he wants to get back at Krei for accidentally getting his daughter killed. It wasn't an evil power/money grab, it was a revenge plot.

    Live Action Films 
  • Lady in the Water
    • The hero, Cleveland Heep, consults the movie critic in order to identify the tenants who fill in the roles of Story's helpers. However, when their plan goes awry and Story is attacked and injured, Cleveland realizes that he incorrectly identified himself. Note that the movie critic was more or less right in his ideas of who the tenants would be, but Cleveland merely interpreted the clues incorrectly.
    • Not to mention the scene where the same movie critic is confronted by the monster, and instead of running away he goes on spiel about how the movie has had no violence, deaths, lewd acts, or nudity and deduces that he is going to live with just a wound because of these factors. He must've forgotten about the female lead being naked for all her screentime.
  • The unease audiences feel toward Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs is heightened by his seemingly unsavvy placement in the structure of the story. Genre conventions would make him the villain. But the story's villain is Buffalo Bill. "Hannibal the Cannibal" is actually the Trickster Mentor. He is Yoda to Clarice's Luke, the shadow counterpart of her FBI academy instructor. Other characters call him a monster, but Clarice addresses him as she would a teacher and he is among those who congratulate her when she graduates. His function in the story places him much closer to the main character than we would expect him to be, and far too close for comfort. With his breakout at the end of the film, this genre-savvy character sheds the mentor role and assumes a more conventional role as villain. In a sense, his act signals a return to "order".
  • Last Action Hero:
    • Child hero Danny rides his bicycle head-on to play chicken with the main villain's car, reasoning that it has to work because he's the hero in a non-R rated movie where the kid would never die. Then it dawns on him that he's the Plucky Comic Relief instead, and is vulnerable. Cue ET visual gag.
    • The second half of the movie deals heavily with how badly Jack Slater's Genre Savvy as an Action Hero fails him in the gritty, real world until he learns the new rules whereas Benedict becomes Dangerously Genre Savvy right out of the gate instead.
  • Mark Wahlberg's character in The Other Guys really wants to live in a Buddy Cop movie, and partially succeeds, but fails in other places because he's so bound to genre convention (most notably, he assumes that the white-collar embezzlement plot they uncover must somehow be related to drugs).
  • A positive example: Guy from Galaxy Quest, though for the most part Genre Savvy, goes through the events of the film in a depressed and terrified state, because he is convinced that he is nothing more than a designated Red Shirt among the Show Within a Show's stars (even his name suggests thisnote ). In the end, he is told that he has a promising future as the Plucky Comic Relief.
  • Jack Burton of Big Trouble in Little China thinks he's a sort of western-style hero who takes charge and beats the bad guys with guts and bravado. However, he doesn't know anything about all the eastern mysticism going on. His best friend Wang has to explain everything to him. It's Wang who is actually the hero, out to rescue his girlfriend. Jack is actually the sidekick, just tagging along and trying to recover his lost truck.
  • Near the end of The Madness Of King George, Lord Chancellor Thurlow wastes time announcing the king's return to health by bemoaning the messenger in King Lear who arrives too late to save Cordelia. The whole film is an averted Lear — something the king seems to recognize, even if Thurlow doesn't.
  • The Stranger from The Big Lebowski is convinced that he is in a western.
  • Burn After Reading:
    • Chad and Lynda both start acting like they're in a Spy Drama after they find a disc with the financial records of a former CIA analyst, acting all mysterious around the analyst and refusing to give their real names. However, they're in a Black Comedy, so Hilarity Ensues.
    • A slightly more subtle example comes from Desk Jockey treasury agent Harry. When he shoots gym employee Chad, he believes he has killed a spy. This leads to complications when he is followed by his wife's divorce lawyer's investigator
    • A fairly subtle example comes from CIA analyst Osborne Cox. While there's no indication that his CD contains actual classified information or valuable secrets, Osbourne thinks his warmed-over ruminations about old news are the makings of a bestselling "Washington tell-all" book. He believes himself to be the wise Washington insider whose insights will be greatly valued, instead of the mid-level drunken asshole he really is.
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean movie series has a faint undercurrent of this throughout: nearly every character thinks they're in a different story than they actually are. There's a subtle Deconstructionist aspect as well, as established pirate Tropes are played with and/or dismantled.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:
      • Elizabeth thinks Barbossa's crew are standard pilfer-and-loot pirates who would hold her for ransom if they found out she's the Governor's daughter. Unfortunately, they're not after something so mundane as money, and the name she chooses to give them - Turner - is actually the very name they're looking for. She also expects pirates to honor the Code of the Brethren as if it were a binding rule of law, not realizing that Barbossa is a Genre Savvy Rules Lawyer who sees the Code more as "guidelines."
      • Elizabeth also spends a good deal of the movie expecting and hoping one of the pirates she runs into would be like the romantic, dashing rogues she reads about in her books, or for them to at least adhere to some honor-among-thieves morality. Over the course of the film she's increasingly disillusioned (Barbossa shirks the code whenever it inconveniences him, the Black Pearl crew want to rape her, Jack Sparrow's a horny, opportunistic drunk, Jack's own crew don't bother to rescue their captain once they get their ship...) until the very end. When Will risks his life to do what's right, she sees he's the kind of heroic ne'er-do-well she'd been hoping to see.
      • This gets a lampshade when Barbossa taunts Elizabeth by telling her she'd best start believing in ghost stories, because she's in one.
    • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, when the Kraken is taking down a ship full of Red Shirts, one of the merchants runs forward, bravely offering what they had previously thought was the dress of a ghost who was haunting their ship. That would have worked out a lot better for him if he had been in a ghost story, and if that ghost story was actually about him.
  • In The Man Who Knew Too Little, the "hero" thinks he's in a huge role-play featuring acted danger and spying. Meanwhile, all those around him assume he's part of their grand spy world and mistake his bumbling comic efforts as amazing super-spy work.
  • An exchange from Detroit Rock City, about whether or not some road-tripping stoners should pick up a hitchhiker:
    Jam: It's a teenage girl walking along the side of the highway. They make scary movies that start out like that!
    Trip: But they make porno movies that start out like that too, man!
  • Stranger Than Fiction is a unique case, where the main character realizes he's in a story after he starts hearing his own narration. He seeks out help to try to become Genre Savvy, and correctly deduces that in the context of his narrator's story, he's in a tragedy, which is ironically Wrong Genre Savvy as the meta-story (the movie about the story about a man who hears his own narrator, i.e., the movie you're watching) is actually a comedy.
  • The hostages in From Dusk Till Dawn, particularly Scott Fuller, have all the Genre Savvy needed to survive in a heist film or hostage-taking film. Scott even lampshades this by telling his father, "I've seen this on TV, Dad!" Pity for them the bar the Gecko Brothers choose to stop at is full of Fricking Vampire Strippers!
  • Return of the Living Dead: When confronted with a reanimated cadaver, a group of characters put a pick axe through its brain based on what they know about zombies from seeing Night of the Living Dead. It has no effect.
    Burt: I thought you said if we destroyed the brain, it'd die!
    Frank: It worked in the movie!
    Burt: Well, it ain't workin' now, Frank!
    Fred: You mean the movie lied?
    • Ironically, the idea of zombies who are smart enough to repeatedly moan "Brains" and/or who explicitly feel overpowering hunger instead of mindlessly eating, comes from this trilogy, not the original series. Or even care about brains; the originals seemed to show a distinct preference for liver.
  • The college kids from Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil believe they are in a typical Hillbilly Horrors-style horror film after two rednecks announce that they "have" one of their friends and they start dying one by one. In actuality, they're in a comedy and the two hillbillies saved the girl from drowning. All the deaths are a result of the "victims" being Too Dumb to Live. On the flip side, Chad believes he is The Hero who is going to defeat the evil hillbillies and get the girl. He's actually the villain.
  • In the little-known Alien ripoff Creature, someone says they remember seeing an old movie (specifically, The Thing from Another World) where they tried to stop the monster from killing everyone with an electrified forcefield. Not too effective against this monster.
  • The camp Disney flick Condorman features a comic book artist as its protagonist, who dreams of being a comic book action hero. He gets his chance when he persuades his CIA buddy to let him take a courier mission, but then proceeds to ham it up as the most ludicrously obvious Cloak & Dagger spy ever — which causes the Soviet agent he's meeting with to fall in love with him and defect. In a weird way, his Wrong Genre Savviness actually twists the story until he is a superhero in a spy movie.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • The knights tend to act like they are in a standard Arthurian romance, without realizing they are in anything from 1) A very low budget Arthurian Romance, 2) A realistic depiction of the dark ages, 3) A musical, or 4) A modern day Police Procedural.
    • Lancelot's Tale has a very obvious example of this. He keeps talking about how he's going to fulfill this quest of saving a Damselin Distress in his own "idiom" only for everything to go wrong for him since the movie's a parody. The script actually uses the word "genre" outright, but John Cleese forgot the correct word while filming resulting in a much funnier scene.
  • In the 2009 Star Trek, the "new" Kirk assumes that a Romulan from The Future would know what the Enterprise crew will do, so they should be unpredictable. His Vulcan shipmate more accurately recognizes that the Romulan and his ship are a Timeline-Altering MacGuffin, causing a new chain of events (though nonetheless failing to prevent the assemblage of the same Enterprise crew). Later, old-Spock takes advantage of Kirk's ignorance to falsely "imply" that Never the Selves Shall Meet is a rule of this particular Timey-Wimey Ball.
  • My Name Is Bruce has this from two angles: Jeff kidnaps Bruce Campbell, expecting him to be a real-life Bad Ass like Ash, and hoping that he can cure Gold Lick's monster problem. Bruce, on the other hand, is oblivious to the horror because he thinks that the whole thing's a prank.
  • Sam in TRON Legacy holds the lightcycle baton like a lightsaber.
    Sam: What's this? What do I do with this?
    Jarvis: I'll give you a hint ... Not that.
  • Tom in Five Hundred Days Of Summer thinks that he's in a romantic comedy where everyone gets their happy endings, you can stand up to people hitting on your girlfriend and knock them out with one punch (when he tries this, the guy gets up right away and kicks his ass), etc. Justified because he's grown up on romantic comedies and confused them with reality (and missed the point of The Graduate, declaring it the perfect love story when it clearly isn't). He's in a Deconstruction of a love story.
  • Queen Narissa, the antagonist of Enchanted, singlehandedly puts the "decon" in the film's Decon-Recon Switch of fairy-tale movies, but fails to recognize the "recon". The one character she can easily handle is Edward, who besides Pip is the only one who lacks Hidden Depths beyond what would be expected of the genre.
    • In one scene Giselle talks with her young friend Morgan, who is nervous about her father marrying Nancy, having read plenty of stories involving a Wicked Stepmother. Giselle assures her that most stepmothers are actually very nice people, a true lesson that proves its worth when Giselle becomes Morgan's stepmother. Unfortunately, Giselle uses her own stepmother-to-be Narissa as an example, unaware that Narissa actually is a wicked stepmother who is trying to kill her.
  • The priest from Outlander mistakes the moorwen for a demon and tries to exorcise it. The moorwren mauls him in the middle of his chant.
  • In The Cabin in the Woods, Marty thinks he's in a Reality TV show after discovering a hidden camera in his room. What he doesn't realise is that he's about to sabotage a ritual sacrifice that's needed to prevent the end of the world.
  • The Fugitive: When Kimble escapes through the storm drains and comes to a point where they bisect, he tosses his jacket down one tunnel and goes down the other one. The pursuing US Marshals aren't fooled for a second, they simply split up in order to check both passages. Later, when calling his lawyer, Kimble lies and says he's in St. Louis, correctly suspecting that the cops might be eavesdropping, but not that their equipment would determine that Kimble's in Chicago.
  • In Troy, Paris thinks the world works like a romantic poem. Hector angrily informs him about how War Is Hell. Later, Paris thinks The Power of Love can motivate him to defeat Menelaus in a duel. The old but incredibly strong and experienced warrior beats the shit out of him.
  • Santa's Slay: Lampshaded when Nicholas tries to shine a light in Santa's face, and all it does is annoy him.
    Santa: I'm Santa Claus, not fucking Dracula!
  • In This Is the End, the reason why Emma Watson steals the drinks from the protagonists is because she thought she was in a zombie movie and that they were about to rape her.
  • In Fresh, the titular character has a friend named Chucky who he brings into the business of running drugs. Unlike Fresh who is a smart teen, Chucky is a Leeroy Jenkins who's obsessed with the gangster movies, gangsta rap music, and comic books like The Punisher. When the two go on their first delivery job at night, they get jacked by rival drug dealers. Fresh warned Chucky beforehand that if they get jacked to drop the book bags filled with drugs and run. However, Chucky, thinking he's in a gangster film, takes out his gun and starts shooting at the adult dealers - missing with every shot. They kill him and Fresh gets away. In fact, the whole film is about a young man being Genre Savvy.
  • Played for laughs in Pay It Forward. Early on a reporter is offered a Jaguar (car) for free by a stranger. He is baffled and asks if he perhaps was expected to kill the stranger's wife in return and when this is denied he suspects the Jag to be rigged and blow up in an External Combustion (which of course was not the case).
  • Sarge from Doom thinks that he's The Hero and main character when it's actually Reaper. At one point, he even says "I'm not supposed to die!" when he's dragged off by a monster. He ultimately turns out to be the villain of the movie and Final Boss.
  • All of the Nazis in Downfall, but Hitler most of all. Hitler clings to the belief that a last-ditch counter-attack (made by military units which are woefully under strength or don't even exist anymore) is going to miraculously push back the advancing Soviets and Germany can go on to win the war. He insists such a thing will be the biggest reversal of fortune in military history, more so than Stalingrad was, and his secretaries and underlings believe him not knowing that the man has absolutely lost his grasp on reality. In real life, the OSS made a psychology report on Hitler and found something very insightful about him: he mentally processed his entire life on the model of a Wagnerian play where he was the hero, the kind of play where the hero would face insurmountable odds but prevail in the end through determination, incredible luck and divine favour. When cold, hard reality got in the way of that, he couldn't mentally process it - the report accurately predicted that the moment the war stopped going according to Hitler's "narrative", he would retreat to the seclusion of his bunker. The report also accurately predicted that he would give the order to burn down German towns and infrastructure even though such a thing would serve no purpose beyond spiteing the winners - once he saw that he was going to fail, Hitler would shift his worldview from a Wagnerian epic to a Wagnerian tragedy, the kind where the hero loses at the end and his entire castle burns down all around him like a funeral pyre to the gods. He then did everything he could to ensure as many Germans as possible would go down with him in a last blaze of glory, which meant sending Child Soldiers to their senseless deaths and behaving like a modern-day Nero.