Ben: Well, you never know.
A couple of Disney films from Jerry Bruckheimer that can be best described as The Da Vinci Code meets Indiana Jones with a side order of Assassin's Creed (though the films do predate the games a bit by a few years).
National Treasure (2004)
Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is the latest in a long line of the "treasure hunter" Gates family. The family myth is that the Founding Fathers of the United States hid a treasure that was gathered over the course of thousands of years and protected by the Knights Templar (although sympathetic in this story). Finding a financial backer in the form of the English Ian Howe (Sean Bean) and with his close friend and resident tech guy Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) they find the missing clue to lead them to the treasure's location. What they realize is that the next clue resides hidden on the back of The Declaration of Independence, and Ian reveals his Evil Brit side and intentions to steal it.
Ben and Riley decide to steal the Declaration first so that Ian can't. Doing this not only makes them an FBI target, led by Director Sadusky (Harvey Keitel), but they also have to dodge Ian and his team of mercenaries. Along the way they accidentally pick up the historical records agent Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) and Ben's sarcastic father Patrick Gates (Jon Voight). The rest of the story leads to a Linked List Clue Methodology that takes them across many patriotic landmarks and (of course) finding "the treasure to end all treasures."
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007)
After the Templar treasure find, Ben and his father are well-respected historians making rounds at various universities and lectures. During one of their lectures, Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) shows up with a missing page from John Wilkes Booth's diary that implicates their ancestor Thomas Gates being involved with the Government Conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln. The crux of the accusation involves the idea that Thomas was actually plotting to kill Lincoln instead of eliminating a part of a map to a treasure that would have given the South the financial ability to win the Civil War.
If the treasure exists, it will prove Thomas Gates' story. To restore his family's reputation, Ben reunites with Riley to set out on yet another set of clues leading to yet another treasure. Of course, the rest of his team show up eventually, including Ben's mom Emily (Helen Mirren). But at one point they run into a jam with the clue list, which requires a (highly illegal) meeting with the President of the United States to locate his "Book of Secrets."
A third installment had been discussed since the second film was released and remained in Development Hell for almost 15 years. In May 2020, Jerry Bruckheimer announced that not only was the third film's script finished, but a series for Disney+ was also in development; the latter was officially greenlit in 2021. Currently, the third film will feature the original cast, while the series (to be directed by Mira Nair) will have a separate cast centered around the new character Jess Morales. It is unclear whether the series will be connected to the movies or simply follow a similar premise.
These films provide example of:
- Accent Interest: Ben notices Abigail's distinct Saxony German accent, but initially mistakes it for Pennsylvania Dutch.Abigail: I am an American, I just wasn't born here.
- Agent Scully: Ben's father Patrick is the family skeptic, unlike his father or Ben.
- Always Save the Girl: Subverted. When the wooden stairs in the mineshaft begin to fall apart, Ben has the choice to save the Declaration of Independence or Abigail from falling to their doom. It seems he's chosen the Declaration over Abigail, but he actually Takes a Third Option.
- Ancient Conspiracy: The questionable existence of the "national treasure" which has been in the possession of numerous historical rulers and individuals over the years including the Founding Fathers. Oh and the Knights Templar actually smuggled this treasure to America where they rebranded themselves as the Freemasons.
- Artistic License: Despite what some people would like to complain about, much of the film is a Shown Their Work regarding history (a stark contrast when compared to Jerry Bruckheimer's previous history-based work). There were a few things made up solely for the sake of a plot point to keep the story moving. A lot of the geography, on the other hand
- Artistic License History: As mentioned above, they usually avert this, however, the second film contains a very common misconception. Ben states that Dr. Samuel Mudd, a coconspirator in Lincoln's assassination, is who the expression "His name is mud," is referring to. This is actually not correct, as the phrase was used at least 2 decades before Lincoln's assassination.
- Ben's comment about the Declaration not being in Independence Hall since it had been signed is incorrect, as it was brought back there for its hundredth anniversary. A historian like Ben ought to know that.
- In the second movie, they get the Resolute desks wrong. For one, there were at least three desks made, not two. One is in the White House, one is in the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts, and one is part of the Royal Collection. None are used by Queen Elizabeth II. Furthermore, none of the desks were identical: the White House one is a large partner's desk, the museum one is a smaller lady's desk, and the third one is a writing table.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Ian Howe is arrested on the charges of "kidnapping, attempted murder, and trespassing on government property."
- Autobots, Rock Out!: In the first film, rock music is played when Ian and his minions are being bad.
- Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: The entire plot of the first movie revolves around this as a plot device. Ian turns on Ben and Riley when Ben refuses to allow Ian to steal the Declaration of Independence. Then Ben and Riley end up stealing it to 'keep it safe' and out of Ian's hands... which also gives them the moral justification they need to steal the very document they need and can use to find the Templar Treasure as a side bonus. In other words, what this all comes down to in the end is that Ben and Riley couldn't have ever even gotten close to finding the treasure had Ian not betrayed Ben for opposing the very action he and Riley are forced to do later in the movie.
- Bait-and-Switch: In the first film, a shot of one of Ian's men on the USS Intrepid looks like he's about to shoot Ben. Instead, he draws a device to generate interference so Shaw can give instructions to Ben without the FBI hearing them.
- Bald of Evil: Shaw is bald and Ian's main henchman.
- Bat Deduction:
- Ben does a bit of this when following clues. Made painfully obvious by the fact that he's never wrong. He does, however, have the benefit of generations of research into the very mysteries he's trying to solve. It happens enough that he was able to falsify a new clue to get Ian off their back and it was no more or less valid than anything they had done previously. He gets called out on it by Abigail who got tired of him considering himself right.Ben: If I'm right after I assume I'm right, then I'm correct.
Abigail: When you get to a conclusion without asking, and you happen to be right, you got lucky.
Ben: I get lucky a lot.
- The first movie has Riley quite gleeful when he realizes that he has knowledge and a deduction about the current clue that Ben didn't think of.
- Ben does a bit of this when following clues. Made painfully obvious by the fact that he's never wrong. He does, however, have the benefit of generations of research into the very mysteries he's trying to solve. It happens enough that he was able to falsify a new clue to get Ian off their back and it was no more or less valid than anything they had done previously. He gets called out on it by Abigail who got tired of him considering himself right.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The past and present presidents of America, especially the Founding Fathers, were members of the Freemasons and guarded a secret treasure that contained valuable artifacts that have been fought over by numerous aristocrats and other individuals for centuries.
- Big Brother Mentor: Ben tends to have sprinklings of this trope along with some Big Brother Instinct towards Riley.
- Big "WHAT?!": Sadusdky pulls one when he hears of The President's absence.Sadusky: ... The President's been WHAT?"
- Birds of a Feather: Ben and Abigail both have a passion for history.
- Black-Tie Infiltration:
- In the first film, Ben Gates sneaks into the National Archives during a gala event to steal the Declaration of Independence which is believed to contain a treasure map to a lost Templar Treasure. Combined with a Janitor Impersonation Infiltration in this case: Ben dresses up as a custodian to get in the service entrance, with a tuxedo on under his coveralls.
- In Book of Secrets, Ben gatecrashes the President's birthday party at Mount Vernon so he can get him alone in a secret area of the estate and convince him to let Ben see the President's Book.
- Blatant Lies: The President when he said, "What book?" to Riley.
- Blunt "Yes": Early in the second film, Mitch Wilkinson says that Patrick is calling him a liar; Patrick responds Yes. I am.
- The Book Cipher: Referred to by its proper name, the Ottendorf cipher. The various numbers hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence; these correspond not to a book per se, but to the 'Silence Dogood' letters Ben's father donated to a museum.
- Borrowed Biometric Bypass: On their way to steal the Declaration of Independence, Ian and Ben steal the fingerprint access of others. Ben uses Abigail's thumbprint lifted from a glass and placed on a rubber thumb glove. Ian just knocks out a guard and holds his thumb to the scanner.
- The Brute: Victor Shippen for Ian. He's big, quiet, and typically called on to do the heavy lifting, such as smashing a grave open with a hammer.
- Camera Spoofing: Riley does this when Ben steals the Declaration of Independence.
- Cannot Tell a Lie: Ben, who manages to come up with a pseudonym to Abigail but noticeably falls apart after.
- Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Invoked. In the first film, Patrick Gates knows that the villains will only keep them alive so long as they need help finding the treasure, and so encourages Ben to maintain that status quo.
- Cassandra Truth: Lampshaded in the scene where Ben and Riley go to Abigail's office to try and warn them about Ian's plan to steal the Declaration—not only does she not believe them (and in fact mocks them) when they explain why Ian wants it, but Riley notes that telling the truth also got all the other government agencies they went to for help to turn them away too.
- Chain Pain: Ian's gang throw a chain into a rotating fan to stop it, allowing them to pass through.
- Chekhov's Boomerang:
- The meerschaum pipe. Also, "the secret lies with Charlotte."
- On a smaller scale, the ultraviolet ink on the campaign button.
- Chekhov's Hobby: A surprising subtle one in the first film. When the FBI rattle off Ben's history they mention he was in the Navy ROTC and a certified Navy Diver. Later when getting a change of clothes and looking up the clue to the Liberty Bell, Ben mentions his watch was a rather expensive diving watch. It is all suggested so quickly it doesn't come across as "In Your Face" but only adds validity to the moment when Ben escapes the FBI. Truth in Television, as large number of treasure hunters are certified divers because a great deal of treasure hunting involves shipwrecks.
- Chekhov M.I.A.: Ben's mother was briefly mentioned in the first movie, and the dialogue implied (though did not actually state) she had passed away. She appears as an actual character in the second film. The dialogue could be interpreted as having enough of treasure hunting rather than dying, however.Patrick Gates: At least I had your mother, for however brief a time! At least I had you! What do you have? Him? (referring to Riley, who is shown with a piece of pizza in his mouth at that moment)
- Chewing the Scenery: In the sequel, Ben runs into Abigail in Buckingham Palace, almost derailing the plan. To get it back on track, he starts making a scene as only Nicolas Cage can.
- The Chick: Abigail Chase.
- Cobweb Jungle: The cast encounters many of these in the first movie as they get close to finding the treasure, since no one has been there before them for hundreds of years.
- Contrived Coincidence: In the 2nd film, what are the odds the President would be having a birthday party, giving Ben an opportune moment to speak to him about The President's Book?
- Depending on whether the party was held on his birthday or merely at some point within a week of his birthday, 1/365 or 1/52, or in layman's terms slightly worse than the odds of getting a straight or three-of-a-kind respectively in poker.
- Cool Shades: Benjamin Franklin's multi-colored-lensed ocular device from the first movie. Come on, you gotta admit they look cool.
- Deadpan Snarker: Riley Poole.
- Disney Villain Death: Shaw, when the wooden stairway in the mineshaft crumbles under his weight. It is a Disney movie, after all.
- Disposable Fiancé: Connor, the White House guy in the sequel.
- Distracted by the Sexy: In the sequel, Riley Poole is holding a bag full of indiscriminate (but obviously breakable) objects when a pretty girl walks by and asks for his autograph. He's so excited that he's finally recognized as himself (rather than as The Lancer to Ben), and a girl is actually paying attention to him, that he drops the bag immediately.
- The Dragon: Shaw to Ian in the first film.
- Dramatic Drop: Riley, on being asked for an autograph by a pretty girl, at the end of the second film. Made even better after two movies of essentially being the Butt-Monkey of the good guys' crew and getting very little respect, he finally has a Brainy Brunette Mega Nekko focused on him.
- Dramatic Irony:
- Ben having to pay $35 for...the real Declaration, thanks to ducking into the souvenir shop to avoid Abigail and the clerk spotting it and thinking he was trying to steal one of the reproductions.
- When the time comes to read the map on the back of the Declaration with the spectacles, it takes place in the Signing Room at Independence Hall. Lampshaded by Ben himself, with Abigail grinning at the awesomeness of the moment and Riley being his usual Deadpan Snarker self.
- Drives Like Crazy: Invoked in the sequel; the villains are chasing after Ben for a piece of wood with a clue on it. Ben runs a red light, holds the wood up to the traffic camera so that it gets a picture of it, and has Riley hack the police database so that he can pull the picture up. Ben then fakes giving the wood to the bad guys before chucking it into the Thames to delay them.
- Durable Deathtrap: Played straight in the second film, but averted in the first. The mineshaft leading down to the treasure room is a deathtrap specifically because the wooden stairway and elevators the Freemasons built to get down safely have rotted away after two hundred years.
- Dying Clue:
- The entire Gates family treasure hunt started like this, when Charles Carroll of Carrollton was dying from old age. When he was unable to reach President Jackson, he told his stableboy, Thomas Gates, of the treasure, including "The secret lies with Charlotte", the vessel where the pipe was found.
- At the end of the prologue for the second film, Thomas Gates tells his son Charles "The debt that all men pay" while dying from gunshot wounds inflicted by Michael O'Laughlin. This turns out to be the answer cypher that leads Ben and Riley to a clue in Paris.
- Eagle-Eye Detection: A necessary skill to find the various clues and advance the plot.
- Enemy Mine:
- In the first movie, after Ian gets away with the Declaration but Ben (with the spectacles) gets caught by the FBI, Abigail realizes they have no choice...so she and Riley go to Ian for help in rescuing Ben in return for the treasure. Thanks to both their being taken hostage and Ben's dad, they all end up having to work together to try and reach the treasure room.
- In the second movie, this is enforced by the villain himself after he takes Mrs. Gates hostage—Ben has the second half of the coded message thanks to the Book of Secrets, but the villain has the last extra clues needed to find the hiding place thanks to a letter his ancestor received from Queen Victoria. Thus they have to work together both to spare Mrs. Gates' life and have all the needed clues.
- Establishing Character Moment: When Ben, Riley, Abigail, and Ben's dad are looking for Ben's mom's office at the university (she's a professor), they aren't sure whether they've found it, until one of her frustrated students angrily storms out of the office shouting "I hate her!" Ben's dad looks at the others and says "We're in the right place."
- "Eureka!" Moment: Lots of them.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Ian is quite visibly devastated at the death of Shaw - unusual given that Shaw's a Mook.Ian: Can you imagine that any one of your lives is worth more to me than Shaw's? We go on.
- Evil Brit: Ian Howe, the villain of the first movie, has a British accent, as do most of his Mooks.
- Exact Words: How Ben convinces Agent Sadusky not to take him in at the end of the film.
- Expospeak Gag: Ben uses very technical, roundabout language when describing to Abigail why he wants to examine the Declaration, presumably hoping to confuse her enough that she'll go along with it (or perhaps he's just trying to make it sound less dumb). It doesn't work even a little bit.Abigail: What do you think you're gonna find?
Ben: We believe that there's an encryption on the back.
Abigail: An encryption, like a code?
Ben: Yes, ma'am.
Abigail: Of what?
Ben: A cartograph.
Abigail: A map.
Ben: Yes, ma'am.
Abigail: A map of what?
Ben: The location of [clears throat] of hidden items, of historic and intrinsic value.
Abigail: A treasure map?
- Fakin' MacGuffin: Ben is able to slip the baddies a souvenir Declaration of Independence instead of the real thing.
- Family Honor: While this appears to some degree in the first movie (finding the Freemason treasure will prove that the Gates family was right and weren't just crazy treasure-hunting loons), it is much more directly a motivation in the sequel, where finding the City of Gold will prove why Gates' ancestor had his name on a page in the Booth diary (because the conspiracy appealed to him to crack the code for them) and thus exonerate the family of being connected with Lincoln's assassination.
- Family Theme Naming: The Gates family - Benjamin Franklin, Patrick (Henry) and Thomas (Jefferson) Gates are all named after American founding fathers. The credits reveal that Grandpa's real name is John Adams Gates.
- Fingore: Due to the absence of ink, Ben stabs his thumb with a knife to make a substance to read the stem engravings on the pipe in the first film. Riley is noticeably squicked out.
- Flat "What":
- Ben responds with this when his dad tells him he doesn't have the Silence Dogood letters.
- Also used by Riley when Ben tells him he is going to steal the DOI and again in the sequel when Connor refers to him as "Ben's assistant."
- Fool's Map: Patrick is convinced the Templar treasure is just a story intended to keep the British going in circles looking for it.
- Foreign Cuss Word: When Ben and Abigail are fighting over the Declaration post-heist. (It's previously established that she was born in Saxony.)Abigail: Verdammt! Give me that!
Ben: You know something? You're shouting again.
Riley: I'm pretty sure she was swearing, too.
Ben: Well, we probably deserve that.
- Forensic Accounting: Ben is identified by the FBI in the first film because a clerk at the National Archive gift store thought he was trying to shoplift a reproduction of the Declaration rather than, you know, steal the real one. He didn't have enough cash on him to buy it so he used his credit card, which the FBI can track.
- Frameup: In the sequel, the Big Bad deliberately makes it look like Gates' ancestor was involved in killing President Lincoln (and thus ruining the Family Honor)...all to force Ben to help him find the treasure as part of clearing his name. Turns out that the evidence was just a forgery, which he anticipated would will Ben on to finding Cibola to restore his family honor.
- French Jerk: Subverted, for a change, in the second film, as two French police officers help translate a clue for Ben and Riley.
- Friend or Idol Decision: Ben has to save either Abigail or the Declaration of Independence - he Takes A Third Option and saves them both. It is subverted in that Ben makes it clear that the Declaration was his first priority, and Abigail supports this, saying she would have done the same thing had the situation been reversed. Which confuses Ben.
- Fugitive Arc: Given the litany of minor crimes Ben commits over the course of both movies, this catches up with him when the law gets involved.
- Funny Background Event: In the sequel when Riley is discussing the Book of Secrets in front of the White House, the men on top of the White House in the background are real Secret Service snipers keeping eyes on the film crew.
- Gambit Pileup: Such gambits are pulled by Ben, Ian, and even the FBI ("Someone's gotta go to prison, Ben.") in the course of the first film. The last gambit had Ben turning Ian and his Mooks in to cover his own ass.
- Genre Blind: Apparently none of our heroes have ever seen an Indiana Jones movie.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Benjamin Gates.
- Girl of the Week: At first seemingly played straight in the sequel, with an off-screen breakup with Gates and Chase, forcing Ben to break into his own Mansion-like house. Though she joins the other two about a half hour in for the rest of the film.
- Greater-Scope Paragon: The American Founding Fathers and the Freemasons, the ones who realized that the eponymous treasure had to be kept out of the hands of the British or they'd use it against the Revolutionaries, and so hid it away in a place that only someone who found and understood the clues they left behind would be able to find it.
- Guile Hero: Ben Gates is one of these. He gets through most of the first film by cleverness, only having to actually hit a mook once in the entire movie and even though he gets shot at several times, he never holds a gun or other weapon and he lets the cops take care of Ian Howe instead of beating him up and killing or turning him over to them like an action hero would.
- This in contrast to Ian from the first film, who's more direct and ruthless, and one of the main reasons for Ben stealing the Declaration of Independence before he does is that he expects that he'll destroy it trying to get the map off of it. This contrast is best shown when they both go after the document at the same time, with Gates infiltrating as a guest at a gala going on at the same time, and Ian and a squad of goons breaking into the building Splinter Cell-style, including tasering a guard for his fingerprints.
- Hand in the Hole: Spoofed by Gates in the sequel. He sticks his hand in a hole to uncover a treasure, and then starts screaming bloody murder. Nothing happened, it was just a lever.
- Held Gaze: The first variant occurs twice between Ben and Abigail. First, when they are arguing about her coming along with them to keep the Declaration safe: they gaze deeply into each other's eyes and Ben gives in to Abigail, with the Jefferson Memorial in the background. The second time it happens is when the adventurers are down in the tunnel beneath Trinity Church; Ben grabs Abigail, and they look deeply into each other's eyes soulfully before they kiss. Which is then hilariously lampshaded by Powell:Powell: Why does that never happen to me?
- You can almost hear the viewer's response in your head. "BECAUSE YOU'RE A BAD GUY!"
- The Hero: Ben Gates. He wants to find the treasure and will do what he has to, but it's because of what we could learn about world history in the process rather than the financial value.
- Hero Insurance: Addressed and ultimately avoided in both films. In the first, Ian was used as a scapegoat for the Declaration being stolen, mostly due to being an actual criminals in their general actions, including fighting against the FBI. The public doesn't know Ben and family were involved with that part. In the second, the President covered for Ben's actions. Absolutely massive bribes of money and history also helped.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ben and Riley. It's unclear how they met, but they've clearly known each other for a long time, completely trust each other, and are best friends.
- Hey, Catch!: Done with a flare in a room filled with gunpowder to escape being shot.
- High Concept: A treasure map hidden on the back of the Declaration Of Independence. Concepts don't get much higher than that.
- Hollywood Geography: The National Archives does not have a ballroom or any rooms with the size of where they had that reception. The rear entrance where the two are shown are exiting, in fact, has very small rooms where researchers use microfilms and access historic documents. That's not even getting to how Washington D.C. even at night would never have such a lull in traffic along Constitution or Pennsylvania Avenues where a car chase would take place
- Hollywood History: There were Founding Fathers, and several were part of an organization known as the Freemasons, which some claim was related tangentially to the Knights Templar. But part of the movie's premise is that there was a Secret History of the Freemasons and the Knight Templar, so it can also be labeled under Artistic License.
- Hollywood Silencer: All of Ian's men equip their handguns with suppressors that make the stereotypical "thwip".
- Hot Librarian: Abigail, given she works at the National Archives.
- Hyper-Awareness: Ian is able to see Ben, Riley, and Abigail while they're ascending a dark belltower, while he's across the street.
- I Have Your Wife:
- Or rather your girlfriend and funny sidekick. Plus your dad.
- The sequel plays it more straight...sort of. Wilkinson holds Gates Sr.'s ex-wife hostage.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Every single one of Ian's Mooks. Three shootouts, no casualties. Justified in the first two cases: in one of them, they couldn't shoot without the risk of a gunpowder-hauling ship blowing up, and in the second, the shooter was on target. Ben just blocked the bullets with the Declaration's bulletproof glass shield. The third case took place in a cemetery, and although Ben had cover for the first part of it, at one point one of the mooks outflanks him and misses with several shots from twenty meters or less (but granted, this is pushing the accurate range of the average pistol shot).
- Impossible Mission: Some of the loftiest ever devised, from stealing the Declaration Of Independence to kidnapping the President of the United States.
- Improvised Armor: Ben uses the Declaration of Independence as a shield when he's being shot at (or rather, the case fitted with bulletproof glass the Declaration was being kept in).
- Improvised Weapon: When Gates has to get up close with one of Ians men, he first hits the guy with the Declarations case before following it up with a punch.
- Indy Ploy: While Ben usually plans things out, he's not above making it up as he goes if things go off the rails.
- Invisible Writing: A secret message was written on the Declaration of Independence with invisible ink that was revealed with heat. Further clues were embedded in the Declaration of Independence, visible only through a pair of glasses with switchable chromatic filters.
- Jerkass: Shaw isn't nice to anyone, as shown when he's asked by a vendor (who is hiding Abigail, thinking Shaw is Abigail's ex-husband) if he wants something. Shaw replies "Shut up." The vendor's remark to Abigail: "I see why you left him."
- Karma Houdini: Ben steals the Declaration of Independence and kidnaps the President of the United States of America, both of which would net someone a lengthy prison sentence, life in the latter's case, but Ben is never tried or even formally accused of either. As stated above, massive donations of cash and cultural artifacts thought lost for eternity help immensely, though Ben acts significantly humbler than one would expect of someone using this method to get out of trouble would since he's The Hero, and a Guile Hero at that.
- Keep the Reward: Double subverted. It's mentioned they were offered 10% of the worth of the treasure, but they turned it down. Then it's revealed they accepted 1% of ten billion dollars, which is 100 million. Riley himself got half of 1%, which is 50 million. Enough to buy a Ferrari.
- Kiss of Distraction: In the second movie, Abigail and Ben have to search the US President's antique Resolute desk. Abigail gets them into the Oval Office via a White House staff member she's dating, then pretends to lose an earring which they both crawl about on the floor trying to find, while Gates secretly checks out the desk. The staff member 'finds' the earring, and when Abigail sees Ben still needs more time, she begins to snog him passionately to show her 'gratitude', partly to piss off Ben.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: It's easy to miss, but when Ben is chained up with the FBI (just before Ian calls them up), an agent can be heard saying, "Looks like Ian Howe is a false identity". Ian's true name never gets mentioned at any point in the film.
- Landmarking the Hidden Base: Invoked for Mount Rushmore in the sequel. It is said from a document that it was deliberately made to hide a clue.
- Landmark of Lore: Landmarks typically serve as backdrop for some of the set pieces. In the first film, Ben explains his plan to burgle the National Archives in the Library of Congress and the ocular device is recovered from Independence Hall. For the second film, Ben, Riley and Abigail find a clue from a desk in Buckingham Palace, Ben kidnaps the President at Mount Vernon, the Presidents secret book is stored at the Library of Congress, and the entire third act plays out inside Mount Rushmore.
- Lemming Cops: The car chasing them out of the library of Congress in NT 2 get stuck on a barrier.
- Let's Split Up, Gang!: When Ben realizes that Ians men are waiting for him and his friends outside Independence Hall, he decides to "separate the lock from the key" so to speak, with him taking the ocular device and Riley and Abigail taking the Declaration, and going in opposite directions from Independence Hall, with the intention of making Ians men split up as well. It works... for awhile.
- Linked List Clue Methodology: Lampshaded/deconstructed in the original. Ben's Dad points out that there are a lot of clues, and everyone who's tried to follow them ended up wasting their life.
- Load-Bearing Hero: More like Anti-Villain, but this applies to Mitch Wilkinson holding open the drainage door at Cibola. Although also played straight for a time, since Ben was assisting.
- A Macguffin Full Of Money: The treasure. Downplayed as it includes things like scrolls from the Library of Alexandria, which are worth more than just money but everyone still looks for it because it's worth a lot of money.
- Macguffin Title: Both movies.
- Making a Spectacle of Yourself: (See Cool Shades above) Again, Benjamin Franklin's Ocular Device glasses, not only are they colonial-style, but there are four other lenses, three colored, attached to the frame, all of which can be adjusted to read the hidden messages on the back of the United States' Declaration of Independence.
- Match Cut: The second film features a dissolve between the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral in London and the Capitol Dome in Washington D.C.
- A Match Made in Stockholm: Ben and Abigail.
- Meaningful Name:
- In the first film, the characters' names are nods to Revolutionary War figures.
- All the Gates men in the series are named after them. Thomas Gates (middle name unknown, could be any of the five Thomases that signed the Declaration of Independence), Charles Carroll Gates, John Adams Gates, Patrick Henry Gates, and Benjamin Franklin Gates. All of which are justified given the family's links and history.
- Abigail Chase, likely named after America's most famous Founding Mother, Abigail Adams.
- Meta Guy: Riley
- Mission Control: Riley
- Mobstacle Course: Late in the chase through Philadelphia in the first film, Riley gets trapped by a crowd, separating him from Abigail. This leaves him unable to help her when she drops the Declaration after colliding with a biker and Ian is able to take it.
- Morton's Fork: Sadusky tells Ben he can either go to prison, or help get the Declaration back then go to prison. "Someone's got to go to prison, Ben."
- My Rule-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: To sneak Ben onto Mount Vernon Patrick fishes in the Virginian waters. When approached by Secret Service on a boat, they tell him to leave. Patrick tells them that the state constitution allows him to fish in any public water area. The agent tells him he has the right to detain Patrick for 48 hours without cause. Patrick nervously chuckles and leaves.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The Book of Secrets, despite containing all the nation's best-kept secrets, is actually not the major goal of the second movie. It's really just a small piece of a bigger puzzle.
- Noodle Incident: After being told the titular Book of Secrets exists by no less than the President himself, Ben is asked to look at Page 47 for something not specified. The audience is never shown what exactly the page holds, but Ben tells him at the end that its contents are "life-altering."
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Justified with Abigail, who is said to have a distinct Saxony German accent (which Ben initially mistakes for Pennsylvania Dutch, i.e. American of German descent): "I am an American, I just wasn't born here." Given her Anglophone name, it's possible she was in fact born to US parents based in Germany, but it's mainly there to let Diane Kruger use her native accent.
- Not So Remote: Ben and Riley are left for dead in the Arctic by Ian, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But once they're clear of the wreckage, Ben reveals that there's actually an Inuit village about ten miles away where they can catch a ride with a bush pilot.
- Nuclear Candle: Generally averted. In the first film in particular, when they find the Templar's treasure, the light from their torches only illuminates the immediate area; it takes the fire burning all of the gunpowder supply line, spread across the entire cavern, to reveal the entire place.
- Oh, Crap!: Ians henchman Victor does one of these when he realizes hes driving through a construction site.
- Our Presidents Are Different: Bruce Greenwood as the President. More specifically, Greenwood is a President Personable, and is depicted as being a genuinely noble person who is sympathetic to Gates's quest.
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Abigail's password is "VALLEYFORGE", which Ben is able to guess after Riley's anagram program produces a close approximation (the program failed to take into account multiple letter uses).
- Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Riley stumbles across one of the frozen corpses of the Charlotte's crew still in his hammock. There's also Mr. Parkington Lane falling out of his coffin, but the circumstances there make his appearance to be expected.
- The Plan: This is how Ben operates. He makes a plan and follows through it.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Riley Poole.
- Pop-Star Composer: Trevor Rabin of Yes did the soundtrack for both movies.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Unusual example of this trope applied to Heroic Sacrifice. Mitch has a choice of sacrificing himself to save Ben or letting them both die. Knowing he's screwed either way he lets Ben live so he'd be remembered as the one who found Cibola, rather than letting him die and gaining nothing.
- Reality Ensues:
- After punching out one of Ian's mooks, Ben shakes his wrist in pain. Punching someone is harder than it looks.
- In the sequel, the ancient buried treasure is discovered just in time for massive amounts of water to flood in, forcing the heroes to run for it. It seems like it will be a classic 'discover the treasure only for it to then be lost to the world forever' ending...and then cut to one of the main characters cataloging items in the now-drained treasure chamber. Because unlike a lot of hidden treasures, which are in places like forgotten temples in the middle of nowhere, THIS treasure is buried right in the middle of the United States, under a national landmark, and it's the 21st Century. Of COURSE they can just re-excavate it!
- Redemption Equals Death: Mitch Wilkinson
- Rise from Your Grave: Played for Laughs with when Ben bursts out of a Freemason crypt after finding the treasure, freaking out a guy examining the the skeleton and disintegrating wood coffin that they left when they entered.Ben: Hi. Do you have a cell phone?
- Rule of Fun
- Rule of Symbolism: When Ben's grandfather tells him the story of the Templar treasure, the fadeout causes his eye to appear over the top of a broken-off pyramid, thus creating the Freemasons' All-Seeing Eye.
- Sassy Black Woman: One helps Abigail hiding behind a meat counter when she is being chased by Ian's goons.Meat Counter Lady: If you're not a steak, you don't belong here.
Abigail: I'm just trying to hide from my ex-husband....
Meat Counter Lady: Who, baldy?
Abigail: *peaks over and sees Shaw* ... Yeah.
Meat Counter Lady: *leans back slowly with disgust* Honey, you can stay as loooong as you like.
Meat Counter Lady: [to Shaw] Do you want something?Shaw: Shut up.Meat Counter Lady: [to Abigail]] I see why you left him.
- And when he shows up at the counter:
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Ian Howe, whom Ben refers to as having "nearly unlimited resources". To some degree acknowledged by Ben when he finds the treasure.
- Secret Keeper: Variation. When Ben first tells the story of the Templar treasure to Sadusky, he seems to dismiss it as a fable and myth just like all the other government officials, but later after the treasure has been found Sadusky reiterates the Freemasons' motivations in hiding the treasure and stresses how it is too great for any one man to decide its dispensation...and right as he's saying this, Ben notices he's wearing a Mason ring. While Sadusky clearly didn't know where the treasure was, his membership plus his words suggest that he actually did believe the treasure was real, and was acting as a protector of sorts until Ben had proven himself worthy—which he does not just by finding the treasure but by insisting it be given back to the people by dividing it between various reputable museums.
- Sequel Hook:
- The original ending of the first film was changed because it was actually mistaken for a sequel hook, when it was meant to just be a funny ending. The Alternate ending can be still viewed at the extras of the DVD release, however.
- The second film has a more traditional one in the form of "Page 47."
- Back when there were plans for a 3rd film, the writers stated they wanted the next sequel to be about "Area 51", or Atlantis. It's worth noting that Riley mentions at one point that his book contains secrets regarding both topics. So, it's clear the writers were laying the groundwork for a 3rd film, and Riley's book was serving as Chekhov's Gun.
- Sequel Reset: The Gates family reputation, restored by finding the Templar treasure, is once again ruined by the revelation about the Booth diary, forcing Ben to find another treasure to clear the family name. (Riley didn't get the fame and respect the Gateses did, though, due to being just the assistant; this time around he finally gets some proper recognition). And Ben and Abigail broke up, only to fall in love and get back together again.
- Shout-Out: In the second film when Ben sticks his hand into an opening he plays a prank reminiscent of Roman Holiday.Ben: (feels around for a minute, then suddenly yells) GHAAAAH!
Everybody else: GAAAAAH!
Ben: Sorry, couldn't resist.
- Shown Their Work: In comparison to The Da Vinci Code, the film shows a more closer to reality version of both the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. The Templars in question are shown to be more along the lines of an international banking system across the Eastern Mediterranean with the treasure from Solomon's temple being the basis for their money. The Freemasons are also stated to be a successor to the Templars, which is considered fact by members of the Masonic Temple, even including how the Founding Fathers were Freemasons themselves and that members of the Masonic Temple are part of the government to this day.
- Discussed in the film. Ben's father leads Ian on a wild goose chase to Boston to find a non-existant clue to the treasure's location, referring to both the Beacon of Truth in Solomon's Temple and Paul Revere's midnight ride. Ian never did his research on the midnight ride, so he couldn't double check if the information was correct.
- Signature Item Clue: Invoked by Abigail in the second film when she deliberately drops one of her earrings in the Oval Office, then uses that as a distraction for Ben to examine the President's desk, on the grounds that it wouldn't do for an earring belonging to her to be found there.
- Soft Water: Used and lampshaded both at the New York Harbor in the first movie and the Thames River at the second. Justified, since they showed Ben diving the correct way, feet first with arms crossed. There was an earlier mention that Ben is both a Navy veteran and studied underwater archaeology he would likely have learned how to dive from heights correctly to avoid worse injury. Lampshaded as well when Ian shortly after observes that a fall like that can kill you.
- Someone Has to Die: The only way to escape the flooding city is for one person to hold open the drainage door and close it once the rest are though.
- Spy-Tux Reveal: Ben does this in both movies. The first time he dresses as a janitor to get in the front door. The second he uses a wetsuit to cross a river to the party then sheds it to pretend he was already at the party. He then lampshades, "Maybe someday I'll get to wear this to a party I was actually invited to."
- Status Quo Is God: Riley gets audited and loses his fortune so he actually has a reason to tag along. He gets the car back thanks to a pardon from the President but ends up crashing it five seconds after starting it up because he didn't check which gear it was left in.
- Steal the Surroundings: Ben does this with the frigging Declaration of Independence! After breaking into the National Archives Building (during a gala), he becomes pressed for time, due to the bolts securing the display case taking longer than he anticipated. When Riley loses his video feed, Ben forgoes the original plan and takes the whole damn thing! At least as far as the elevator, where he finally removes the Declaration from its display case.
- Stock Aesop: Subverted. Near the end of the first film, after being left underground by Ian, Ben and his group find a medium-sized, underground room with nothing in it. They think someone else found and looted the treasure already, and Ben's father tells him that the room is real, the clues leading there were real, so the treasure itself has to be real; in essence, "It's not the destination, it's the journey." Ben accepts that, but points out that the original diggers would have dug another tunnel for air and in case of cave-ins. Scouring the room more closely leads them to the real treasure room.
- Summon Bigger Fish: To get Mitch to agree to his terms, Ben called the FBI, after he kidnapped the President, and noted if what he summoned got there, neither side would win.
- Sundial Waypoint: One clue requires observing the shadow of a particular landmark at the right time of day to fall on a wall where the next clue was hidden behind a loose brick. While the sun's exact position would change over the course of the year, for the majority of the year it would land upon said wall where the hiding place was. Ben still has to look around for the right brick, though, which is helpfully marked.
- Take a Third Option:
- Lampshaded in the first movie. Also see Gambit Pileup above."Mr. Sadusky, I'm still not against you... But I found door no. 3, and I'm taking it."
- Subverted in the second movie, however.Ben Gates: "We can figure this out! We can all get out!"
Mitch Wilkinson: "It's not a puzzle! No more puzzles Ben! We're all gonna die, or it could just be me!"
- Lampshaded in the first movie. Also see Gambit Pileup above.
- Taxman Takes the Winnings: In between the first and second movies, this happens to Riley Poole and at the beginning of the second film, his Ferrari is impounded by the IRS while he is signing copies of his book.Riley Poole: [to Ben] Do you know what the taxes are on 5 million dollars? 6 million dollars.
- Theme Naming: Benjamin Franklin Gates, Thomas Jefferson Gates, John Adams Gates, Charles Carroll Gates, Patrick Henry Gates... see a pattern?
- Token Minority: A nationality variation with Shippen (the driver of Ian's van), who is Russian compared to his British compatriots.
- Train Escape: Ben uses the foot chase/street traffic variation of Type 1 in the first movie, walking hurriedly across a busy Philadelphia street ahead of Ian's men—and as soon as the vehicles are past, he's revealed as running pell-mell down the sidewalk on the other side, setting off the chase.
- Treasure Room:
- True Companions: Abigail, Ben and Riley, by the end of the first film.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: While the beginning of the plan to steal the Declaration is explained (getting it moved to the Preservation Room so it is away from both the crowded public display room and the highly-secure vault), the rest of what Ben and Riley intend is not explained. Unusually, despite this the plan doesn't work out, since a) Ian and his men get in before Ben can escape and b) Abigail, suspicious of him, follows and eventually corners him outside his van (with a detour into the souvenir shop to evade her that gets his real identity revealed to the FBI thanks to the credit card purchase of the "reproduction" Declaration).
- Villain in a White Suit: Ian wears a white parka throughout the first scene, to make him stand out amongst the dark-parka-clad members of the rest of the crew, including Ben.
- Visual Pun: Ben holding up the Declaration's bulletproof case as a shield from Shaw's gunfire. "Hiding behind the Constitution."
- Wealthy Ever After: The first film's ending.
- Weapon of Choice: Ian uses a Rutger KP94 pistol as his sidearm, while his henchman Shaw uses a IMI Jericho 941.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Ben's relationship with his father, in the mode of Indiana Jones.
Ben: "Well, maybe that's the real Gates family legacy. Sons who disappoint their fathers."
- In the first film, you get a sense that Patrick had this going with his own father as well.
- Who Shot JFK?: It's written in the President's Secret Book.
- Xanatos Gambit: The Masons in the Founding Fathers' goal was to protect the hidden treasure. Then their plan to use the Declaration of Independence works to ensure it regardless how the War of Independence comes out. If the Revolutionaries won, then the Declaration would be protected as an important piece of the new nation, and Masons can move it to protect it from thieves. If they lost the war, the Declaration would have been destroyed as it is treasonous material. So the cipher on its back would be destroyed forever. Either way, it protects the treasure's location.
- Zillion-Dollar Bill: Used as a joke by Riley, first asking if the pipe is worth a billion dollars, and then if it is worth a million dollars.