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Total Recall is a 1990 Sci-fi film loosely based on Philip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by Paul Verhoeven.

On its face it's a sci-fi take on a spy thriller, set in memories implanted into a bored construction worker of the future... or is it? Because of all the Alternate Character Interpretation, the film is often called "The thinking man's action movie."

Douglas Quaid (Arnold S.) is tired of life in the year 2084. His literal life's dream is to get his ass to Mars as a way of escaping his humdrum existence. A commercial for the Rekall brand "Ego Trip" induces Quaid to try one of the trips, which are just implanted memories of a vacation that he'd never be able to take in person. Quaid elects for an enhanced set of fake memories that cast him in the role of a super spy—sort of a memory novella that he will remember living through. When something goes wrong with the procedure, he discovers that his entire life is a lie, and that in reality, he is a super spy working under deep cover. Or is he?

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The viewer is constantly challenged to decide if Quaid's experiences are real or all just a result of his "ego trip." (Or are they?) The film is also well known for its special effects and over-the-top gore, like some other notable Verhoeven films. Highlights include tons of cool guns, three-breasted mutants, and a bizarre NES tie-in game.

A remake starring Colin Farrell was released in 2012. It's also a loose inspiration for the Total Recall 2070 series.


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Total Recall provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: 2084; we have seen the future, and it is the public transportation system of Mexico City.
  • Action Girl: Lori and Melina. Thumbelina qualifies due to how much ass she kicks during the brothel shootout.
  • Activation Sequence: When the alien device is activated there is a prolonged sequence of the long-dormant machinery turning on, interspersed with scenes of the characters being blown out onto the surface of Mars.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • Philip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" only covers the first bit, set on Earth and dealing with REKAL. Despite being regular staples of Dick's work, the Mars setting, the sectarian conflict, the ancient aliens, and the mutants are all original to the film, as is the ambiguity of whether or not the film is a dream. In fact, it's not hyperbole to say the film is even more Dickesque than the short story.
    • The Piers Anthony novelization of the movie expands on things even further, giving a few glimpses into the alien race that created the reactors and adding a bit of gratuitous sex.
  • Advert-Overloaded Future: Downplayed (if you compare this to cyberpunk movies of recent time).
    • The large ads, mostly noticeable the Fuji Film and Coca Cola signs, seen after Quaid gets off the subway.note 
    • The audio/video ads on the subway.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Hauser, who in his last video diary continues to act friendly towards Quaid and apologizes that he needs his body back.
    • Benny, who continues to keeps up his Plucky Comic Relief act when he tries to drill Quaid and Melina to death.
  • Alien Sky: The opening dream sequence shows that Mars has two moons in its orbit.
  • All According to Plan: Played with. When Cohaagen reveals that he arranged everything so that Quaid would lead him to Kuato. Quaid dismisses this as "too perfect". Cohaagen then reveals it didn't go perfectly, thanks to Quaid's trip to Rekall setting things off early and Richter screwing up a year's worth of planning. Cohaagen then admits amazement that it worked at all.
  • All Just a Dream: The ending is intentionally ambiguous about the nature of Quaid's fantasy. If it was a dream, has it Gone Horribly Wrong, or not? Does the film end with him being lobotomized, or is that just the end of his vacation?? It all comes down to whether the the scene between when they start the implantation process and when Quaid wakes up in the Johnny Cab is a part of the hallucination or if it really happened. And there's absolutely nothing that says one way or the other.
  • All There in the Manual: The aliens' motivations and a good deal of their culture are explored in the novelization.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Mars Resistance base after Cohaagen's forces attack.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The day is saved, Mars is liberated from Cohaagen and terraformed to now be a breathable planet. But we're left unsure if the whole adventure was truly real or if it was all part of Quaid's implanted memory. Needless to say, the film leaves it up to the audience to decide. In the commentary, Verhoeven thinks the movie was all in Quaid's head while Schwarzenegger thinks that it all happened for real.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Quaid is shocked and disgusted to find out that he was Hauser all along. He goes on to refuse becoming Hauser again, going as far as calling his former self an "asshole".
  • An Arm and a Leg: Richter gets both his arms ripped off in his death scene.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: The backside of Quaid's living room has a large display that can show imagery of nature.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The movie completely ignores the fact that getting guns or knives shot out of one's hand would not only hurt like hell and probably blow off some fingers, it would also leave said hand paralyzed for quite a while at the very least. Richter briefly shaking his hand after Quaid relieved him of his shotgun this way is the film's only concession to this end, and he goes back to full combat readiness immediately afterwards.
  • Artistic License – Physics
    • Mars is roughly under half an AU from Earth at closest approach, meaning it should take at least three minutes each way for the Video Phones to send messages.
    • While being on the surface of Mars unprotected would be fatal as the atmosphere is too thin to breathe, it wouldn't be nearly as gory/dramatic as in the film.
    • The finale involves Mars' frozen water core being unfrozen and turning Mars into a green, Earthy paradise within 30 seconds.
    • In the fight scene in the memory implantation suite on Mars, one of the technicians attacks Quaid with a slender metal rod, but between the more than meter of metal and his own strength, he's not able to even raise a bruise on Quaid when he parries the rod with his bare forearm, but it's still strong enough for Quaid to drive it through his attacker's skull. Being able to drive the thick metal lug that had held one of the restraining cuffs to the chair (before Quaid simply lifts the restraint straight up out of the arm) into another technician's neck and create a rather neat, circular wound is similarly silly. (OK, it's an Arnold fight scene so the laws of physics tend to go out the window, but things really should make more sense than that.)
    • Mars has 38% of the Earth's surface gravity. While people and objects would clearly still be bound to the planetary surface, people would walk and objects would fall differently.
    • Or these are clues that these events are not real...
  • Automated Automobiles: Johnny Cab the AI driven taxis on earth.
  • Ax-Crazy: Benny becomes this after being revealed as The Mole, chasing Quaid and Melina with a huge drilling machine while mocking them.
  • Badass Bookworm: When Quaid rips through the metal shackles of his Recall chair, rather than running for their lives as you might expect, the nerdy lab technicians grab the nearest heavy weapons and attack Quaid. The results are preordained, but hey, points for trying at least.
  • Bad Boss: Compared to his established friendship with his other right hand man, Hauser, Cohaagen not only lambasts and insults his mercenary Richter at every opportunity, but uses his wife Lori in Hauser's mole operation, and is thoroughly apathetic to her death caused by it. Richter makes sure to give at least a small fuck you to Cohaagen when it's obvious the plan has gone to shit.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Cohaagen has Quaid at gunpoint in the underground mine and is about to shoot him. Shots are fired and Cohaagen is shot...by Melina, Quaid's Action Girl companion.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Averted. The mutants are the good guys, despite looking quite, well... mutated.
  • Benevolent Precursors: Although it's never explained why they didn't activate it themselves, the atmosphere-creating terraforming device left behind by the aliens it not only still fully functional after half a million years of being buried in a mountain, it can also be activated by a human simply placing one hand on the huge, easily discernible power-up button.
  • Berserk Button: Johnny Cab doesn't take kindly to anyone refusing to pay the fare. When Quaid escapes using a Johnny Cab, he refuses to pay the fare, which prompts Johnny Cab into trying to run him over. Though it also appeared to be malfunctioning at the moment, so that may not be a programmed response.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Vilos Cohaagen and Hauser, who formulated the plan to take down the Mars Resistance together.
  • Big Bad Friend: Benny and, believe it or not, Hauser, both to Quaid.
  • Billed Above the Title: Arnold Schwarzenegger's name is showing prominently at the top of the movie poster.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: As Lori is about to stab Melina to death, Quaid shoots the knife out of her hand.
  • Body Horror: Mutants, especially Kuato, who is basically a deformed baby sticking out of the abdomen of a grown man.
    • Quaid removing the bug from his nose. "Take this thing out of the case, and stick it up your nose."
  • Bond One-Liner: Expected, for a Ahnold film.
    • "Considah dat a divorce."
    • "See you ad da pardy, Richta!"
    • "You think this is the real Quaid? It is."
    • Melina gets one of her own after Quaid's one against Lori.
      Melina: That was your wife?! What a bitch.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Cohaagen leaves Quaid and Melina unguarded with scientists for their forcible memory overwrites, and both Quaid and Melina are kept awake and cognizant during the procedure; Rekall at least had the good sense to knock Quaid out before implanting.
  • Bookends: Quaid's opening dream and the final scene are close matches.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Quaid kills both Dr. Edgemar and Lori this way. Kuato goes out this way as well.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Played straight to the hilt. Almost all of the many, many guns in this movie are fully automatic, yet you won't see someone reloading even once, except for Lori when she first attacks Quaid.
  • Brainwash Residue:
    • After Quaid breaks Melina out of the constraints one of the Recall machines, it seems just a bit of the Housewife programming made it though, but not by much.
    Quaid: Are you all right? Are you still you?
    Melina: I'm not sure, dear.
    • Though it appears she's simply trolling Quaid.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Quaid breaks metal shackles twice. (Unless he only imagines it happening the second time and the Rekall process actually succeeded...)
  • Broken Record
    10 GET YOUR ASS TO MARS
    20 GOTO 10
    • "Two weeks. Two weeks...two weeks, twoweekstwotweekstwoweeks..."
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Played painfully, painfully straight, to the point of possibly being Played for Laughs. Quaid uses a dead bystander this way in the subway scene with Richter and his crew shooting at him from both ends of an escalator and by the time Quaid and his meat shield get to the top the corpse is basically Swiss cheese, but still no bullets go through it to strike Quaid.
  • Bullets Do Not Work That Way: At one point, Cohaagen's men encircle Quaid and open fire at him with full automatics. This is already a pretty dumb idea, tactically speaking, considering that it practically guarantees someone's going to get shot by his own side by accident, but it becomes even more ludicrous when the Quaid they're shooting turns out to have been a hologram. So...what was stopping the bullets, then?
  • Catapult Nightmare: At the beginning, Douglas Quaid wakes up with a jolt from a nightmare of dying of suffocation on Mars.
  • Category Traitor: Benny betrays the mutants to Cohaagen despite being a mutant himself.
  • Cat Fight: Averted. The Designated Girl Fight is rather brutal and unglamorous, with no slapping and no hair-pulling except as a prelude to an attempted throat-slitting.
  • Cathartic Scream: Richter, The Dragon, does this at least once after Quaid has gotten away from him.
  • Chase Fight: Between Quaid and Richter as Benny drives Quaid to the Last Resort.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • During his fight with his wife, Quaid drops his gun which gets some focus before they move on fighting. The gun comes back later in the scene.
    • Both times Quaid hitches a ride in Benny's taxi, a Drill Tank appears. Guess how Benny later tries to kill Quaid and Melina.
    • The hologram wrist device and the drilling machine.
  • Climactic Elevator Ride: Quaid takes an elevator ride up to his final showdown with Cohaagen over the fate of Mars.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Technically, the looping "Get your ass to Mars" may count.
  • Colonized Solar System: Mars has been settled by human colonists. The mutant descendants of the first colonists are fighting a guerilla war against the colonial administration, which is only interested in mining turbinium ore for Earth.
  • Continuous Decompression:
    • Hull breaches on the Mars station causes a storm capable of hurling people through the air, despite the pressure difference being just one atmosphere. (14 psi)
    • Also happens in the climax when the reactor is started and Cohaagen, Quaid and Melina are sucked out onto Mars' surface.
  • Cool Guns: Look for street sweepers whenever Richter is really pissed off. Also the cool magazine-on-the-back Calico weapons.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Ronny Cox is back in this role again, like a previous Verhoeven film.
  • Crapsack World: Mars is definitely this. It's basically a backwater colony whose inhabitants are exploited to mine valuable minerales for Earth, have mutated due to prolonged exposure to radiation and are forced to pay for the very air they breathe.
  • Crystal Clear Picture: The visuals on the large TV screen in Quaid's living room are superimposed on the actual film. It's almost unnoticeable though.
  • Cuckoo Nest: During the Red Pill, Blue Pill scene where Quaid supposedly is in a dream and Dr. Edgemar wants Quaid to take a pill so he'll wake up.
  • Cyber Punk: The dystopia with Mega-Corp elements put the film squarely in this genre.
  • Dark Action Girl: Lori, Quaid's wife who routinely beats Quaid up.
  • Dark Is Not Evil / Light Is Not Good: Ironically, the script makes lovable blonde girl-next-door Lori a villain, while the dark-skinned, slutty ("sleazy," to use Quaid's term), and rude Melina is the sympathetic one.
    • Additionally, the various mutants are this. Although they look scary, they're some of the friendlier characters save for Benny that Quaid encounters on his adventure. Special mention goes to Kuato, who is an empathetic freedom fighter in spite of his malformed apperance.
  • Death by Irony:
    • Cohaagen, who controls all the air on Mars, dies in the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet.
    • Twice Benny is nearly killed by the giant drill machines dashing into the street. When he is exposed as a traitor, Benny tries to kill Quaid with a drill machine. Quaid then kills him by stabbing him with a portable drill.
  • Designated Girlfight: Lori and Melina engage in a brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown about two thirds into the movie while Quaid takes care of Lori's male backup. Lori eventually gets the upper hand, forcing Quaid to intervene in order to save Melina's life.note 
  • Disguised in Drag: Quaid in the "fat woman" suit.
  • Disney Villain Death: Richter. Although unlike most Disney villain deaths, its purpose was definitely not to avoid gore - it's quite gory, except in the M-rated version.
  • Divorce Requires Death: *gunshot* "Consider that a divorce."
  • Domed City: The Mars colony.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Cohaagen telling Quaid not to touch the alien power-up button that would activate the reactor.
  • Doppelgänger Spin: Quaid's wrist hologram device gives him a single image version.
  • The Dragon: Richter, Cohaagen's main enforcer.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Richter nearly screws up Cohaagen's plans several times, because Cohaagen wants Quaid alive for whatever his plans are, and Richter is constantly trying to kill him to avenge his wife Lori, whom Quaid killed (and the fact that Lori was Quaid's 'wife' for a while and was constantly in bed with him can't have helped either). He is naturally quite pleased when Cohaagen finally gives up and gives the order to take him out.
  • Dream Intro: The opening scene turns out to be one of Quaid's Recurring Dreams.
  • Drill Tank: Coincidentally, defeated with a drill.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Benny appears a couple of minutes before his proper introduction as one of two cab drivers offering Quaid his service.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: The female receptionist at Rekall takes obvious pleasure in ogling Quaid when he turns around to wait for his appointment.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: The final fight between Richter and Quaid.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones
    • Richter is definitely upset at the loss of his lover.
    • And Cohaagen over the loss of his friend, Hauser.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The Johnny Cab that Quaid hijacks, which drives itself into a wall.
  • Everyone Is Armed: When Cohaagan's men attack the
  • Evil All Along: Harry, Lori, Benny and Hauser who all turn out to be villains.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: All over the place. Perhaps as an homage to the Steam Punk genre.
    • Lots of steam can be seen in the city when Quaid goes to fight Harry and his men.
    • In the Martian colony there is excessive steam in the scene where Quaid and Melina are chased by Richter.
    • The cabin of Benny's drill tank is flooded with steam as well.
  • Excuse Me, Coming Through!: Well, he was carrying a gun, what did you expect?
  • Exploding Fish Tanks: At one point we see Cohaagen feed fish in the tank in his office. Of course, this means the tank will later break.
  • Explosive Decompression: Happens to humans exposed to Mars' lethal atmosphere. See Eye Scream below.
  • Exposition Beam: Kuato does this to unlock Quaid's locked memories. In a sense, the story itself is set in motion because the Fake Memory implanting machines in the Rekall center jostle Quaid's hidden memories (or worked perfectly).
  • Eye Scream: The eyes of characters exposed to the near-vacuum atmosphere of Mars. Even if they recover from suffocation, they should be blind after their eyes have taken that kind of abuse. But then, the entire movie seems to be a case of Eyes Are Unbreakable.
  • Fade to White
    • This was done to suggest the possibility that Quaid was being lobotomised as suggested earlier by Dr. Edgemar.
    • Or, you know, that's just his vacation ending.
  • Fade to White: The final scene fades to white after the Big Damn Kiss. According to Word of God, this was to leave some question marks regarding whether everything was a dream and Quaid got lobotomized in the end.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Quaid seems unaware of Kuato's resistance movement, despite it being featured on the news at the beginning of the film. Apparently, he simply tuned out the words "terrorist attack" and focussed solely on the Mars part.
  • Fake Memories: Rekall's business model consists in implanting these.
  • Fake Static: Richter (blaming sunspots), when Cohaagen is trying to give him orders.
  • Fanservice Extra: The triple-breasted hooker Mary has essentially three jobs: showing off her exotic rack, letting Benny fondle her exotic rack, and eventually getting shot In the Back by Richter to make a point to the resistance.
  • Faux Action Girl: Subverted by Quaid's "wife" Lori. At one point, she seems to be becoming one, then proceeds to start kicking ass all over again.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Cohaagen, who starts talking softly to Richter at his office on Mars before he loses his cool and starts Suddenly SHOUTING!.
  • Foreshadowing: Multiple examples:
    • When Dr. Lull tosses Ernie a computer chip, he looks at it and says "That's a new one! 'Blue Sky on Mars'."
    • When Quaid threatens to shoot Dr. Edgemar in the Hilton suite, Edgemar describes the events that will happen almost verbatim throughout the rest of the movie.
    • Cohaagen has a temper tantrum and smashes an aquarium. The fish die gasping for oxygen, foreshadowing the attempted suffocation of Venusville.
    • When Bob McClane at Rekall is trying to convince Quaid to buy the "Secret Agent Ego Trip" package, he tells Quaid that by the end he'll "get the girl, kill the bad guys, and save the entire planet." Which is exactly what he does.
    • When Quaid goes berserk at Rekall he shouts, "YOU BLEW MY COVER!" as per The Reveal that he's actually a Fake Defector.
  • Friend to All Children: Upon first arriving at Venusville, Quaid is hounded by prostitutes, vendors and the like, including two mystics, a woman and a girl. He ignores the woman but affectionately listens to the girl, who guesses that he's a Taurus, and also pays her.
  • Gambit Roulette: Cohaagen's plan, with Lampshade Hanging:
    Vilos Cohaagen: Richter goes hog-wild screwing up everything that I spent a year planning. Frankly... I'm amazed it worked!
  • Girl of My Dreams: Melina, to Quaid. He's been dreaming about her at the start of the film, which is an indication of his hidden memories.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Quaid's memory implantation at Rekall. Supposedly.
  • Gorn: Tons of it. It's a Paul Verhoeven movie, what did you expect?
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Yes, even a movie as gory as this has examples.
    • When Richter shoots the rat, all we see is its blood splattered on a projector's display.
    • When Quaid kills Benny with a drill, all we see is him thrashing around and screaming before Quaid withdraws the drill, now coated in blood.
    • Richter getting his arms chopped off is shown onscreen, but not we don't see him falling the ground and splattering everywhere.
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: The phrase "Kuato Lives" graffitied around Mars, as a sign that the mysterious leader of La Résistance is still alive despite Cohaagen's attempts to kill him.
  • Grand Theft Me: Quaid not being the original personality, technically he is the bodyjacker in the entire situation. Quaid was only supposed to temporarily take over to lead Cohaagen and Hauser to the resistance. Quaid didn't want to give it back.
    • That is, unless the post-Rekall sequence is a delusion.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Richter's enthusiasm to kill Quaid appears to be based primarily around the fact that Richter's wife was the agent assigned to pose as Quaid's wife Lori. And that she clearly enjoyed several aspects of that particular mission. At least until Lori gets killed, at which point his motives centre on good old-fashioned revenge. There are also added implications from his original alias, Hauser, being best friends with his Bad Boss, Cohaagen.
  • Groin Attack: Happens so often you could make a drinking game out of it.
    • Lori does this to Quaid twice the first time she fights him: once with her fist, once with a kick.
    • Later in the film she stomps on them after capturing him. This one is rather awesome. Quaid was in the middle of a fight with some mooks until Lori enters and kicks his face, seemingly knocks him out in the process. But she doesn't buy it for a moment, so she stomps on his crotch just to make sure that he's indeed still conscious, before kicking his face again and knocking him out for real this time.
    • Richter does it to a patron of the Last Resort during the assault on the place.
    • The little person prostitute Thumbelina does it to Richter's partner with a knife. Ouch.
  • Handy Cuffs: Quaid, after he's captured by the bad guys on Mars.
  • He Knows Too Much: Mentioned by Richter as the reason why he wants to kill Quaid. Since Cohaagen has other plans for Quaid, he orders Richter to catch him alive.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: When we see Quaid at his construction job, he and Harry are the only ones on the site not wearing hardhats or safety goggles.
  • Hey, Catch!: Quaid tries to slip onto Mars undetected by disguising himself in an animatronic suit. When his cover is blown, he takes off the mask and tosses it to his pursuers, upon which it cracks wise and then explodes.
    Fat Lady Mask: Get ready for a surprise! (Cue explosion)
  • Hidden Weapons: Lori has a knife holstered to her lower leg which she is about to use on Melina before Quaid is Blasting It Out of Their Hands.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: "I never wanted this. I wanted Hauser back. But no. You had to be Quaid!"
  • Hologram: Lori's tennis teaching simulation and a wrist device that creates a false image of its wearer.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: Almost every time a hologram appears in the movie it has static.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: When Melina isn't fighting to liberate Mars, she works as a prostitute. Most of the Last Resort's professional personnel seems to count as well, actually. Though it's not quite clear whether Melina really does this work, or just uses it as a cover to meet with resistance agents without arousing suspicions.
  • Identity Amnesia: Hauser erased any memory of himself and others as part of his Memory Gambit to become Quaid. This creates problems when he meets his girl friend Melina.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: Cohaagen gives a version of this as he berates a subordinate:
    Cohaagen: First you try to kill Quaid, then he escapes!
    Richter: He had help from our side, sir.
    Cohaagen: I know that.
    Richter: But I thought...
    Cohaagen: Who told you to think? I don't give you enough information to think. You do what you're told. That's what you do.
  • I Have a Family: Benny the cab driver has four kids to feed, and likes to bring it up to potential fares. Or was it five?
  • Imminent Danger Clue: Quaid realizes Lori and the doctor are lying when he sees a drop of nervous sweat on the doctor's brow. If it was all a simulation and the doctor was never in any danger, why is he so scared? Quaid kills him.
    • Or was the sweat just part of the naturalistic projection of a human being in a stressful situation? For that matter, could the doctor simply be nervous about getting sued by the customer's wife if he can't get Quaid out of the simulation?
  • Indy Hat Roll: Quaid, right after arriving on Mars, to escape enemy pursuit.
  • In Working Order: The switch that activates the alien device.
  • Ironic Echo: Richter gives Quaid a mocking "See you at the party". Quaid later repeats it after killing him.
  • Irony: Quaid is given the idea to visit Rekall by seeing a commercial about their services, saying it's a safe, economical alternative to interstellar travel. After he's deposited in a Johnny Cab after the procedure gone awry, he takes a tram back home, and there he sees a commercial touting how experimental memory tampering is and asking the viewer to choose space flight as the reliable alternative.
  • It's a Small World After All: Mars has one red light district (Venusville), and is arranged into sectors that number enough to be designated letters of the alphabet. Since we don't know how much of Mars was colonized, it's possible that the human population there all lives in the same city.
  • I Warned You: After being constantly browbeaten by Cohaagen for trying to kill Quaid rather than following the plan through, Richter very smugly demands his boss' next approach when it fails and Quaid escapes, leaving him on the brink of losing power.
    Richter: You're going to have to make a decision, sir.
    Cohaagen: (reluctant) Kill him.
    Richter: About goddamn time.
  • Kirk's Rock: The opening shot shows the formation among the rocks of Mars.
  • La Résistance: Kuato's mutant Martian rebels.
  • Large Ham: Benny, especially after he reveals himself to be a villain. "Hey Quaid! You remember me?! BENNY! BENNY'S THE NAME!"
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Cohaagen turns off the air supply for Venusville and later kicks over a fishbowl, callously leaving both to die from suffocation. He later dies himself the same way, suffocating in the thin atmosphere of Mars.
  • Leave No Survivors: When Richter and his men pursue Quaid and Melina into the mutant district, they escape and Richter shoots the first person who refuses to answer him. When they retaliate, he orders the soldiers to kill everyone and barely escapes from the ensuing slaughter himself.
  • Let's Get Out of Here:
    • Line said by Benny when a shootout ensues on a market square at the Mars station.
    • Also said by Melina after she and Quaid escaped lobotomy.
  • Lobotomy: Quaid is told by one of his co-workers it is what nearly happened to a friend of his when he went to Rekall. Later in the movie, Quaid is told that he is hallucinating the adventure in his brain and that if he doesn't exit it, he will be lobotomised. It's left ambiguous as to whether the man who told Quaid was lying or whether Quaid was indeed lobotomised. note 
  • Lockdown: Happens twice. Once when Quaid arrives on Mars and later when Cohaagen locks down a sector which has disobeyed him:
    Technician: Sir, the oxygen level is bottoming out in Sector G. What do you want me to do about it?
    Vilos Cohaagen: [as if obvious] Don't do anything.
    Technician: But they won't last an hour, sir.
    Vilos Cohaagen: Fuck 'em. It'll be a good lesson to the others.
  • Look Behind You: How the hologram wrist device is used.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Rekall has one, and will plug you in for a modest fee. Quaid may have been in it for most of the movie.
  • Made of Plasticine: Richter gets his arms not simply broken but cleanly sliced off when trapped between a blunt not-at-all-sharp rock face and a slow-moving service elevator.
  • Make an Example of Them: The reason Cohaagen gives for letting the mutants in Venusville die of asphyxiation after their uprising.
    Cohaagen: Fuck 'em. They'll be a lesson to the others.
  • Manchurian Agent: Quaid. He's unknowingly manipulated by Hauser and Cohaagen to lead them to Kuato.
  • Memory Gambit: Hauser wiped his memories and rebuilt his personality as Quaid, in order to make it easier to infiltrate the resistance. Unfortunately for Hauser and Cohaagen, Quaid experiences severe Amnesiac Dissonance upon finding out the truth, and decides that he will rather remain Quaid and do whatever he can to derail Cohaagen's plan.
  • Mind Screw: Quaid's entire adventure follows the plot of the super spy vacation he orders, as described by the Rekall salesman. Coincidence?!? Or was it?
  • Minion Shipping: Richter and Lori are a couple, even though she sleeps with Quaid for at least six weeks to build a cover (8 years' worth of memories including a wedding ceremony). Richter goes insanely homicidal when Lori is killed by Quaid.
  • The Mole: Quaid, as lampshaded by Cohaagen:
    "Fucking mutants could always sniff us out. So Hauser and I sat down and invented you, the perfect mole."
  • Moment Killer: While Quaid and Melina are kissing in the catacombs.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Everett, the chief guard on Mars, and Helm, Richter's lead goon who accompanies him for half of the film before meeting a rather gruesome end during the bar shoot-out.
  • Multiboobage: The triple-breasted hooker.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Richter, about Lori.
    Helm: I'd be upset too if a guy like Quaid was porking my old lady.
    Ritcher: Are you saying she liked it?
  • Neck Snap: In Quaid's first fight against Cohaagen's goons, two of them check out this way in a rather gratuitous fashion.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: With his drill tank, Benny creates a hole in the wall which leads Quaid to Kuato's base.
  • Nightmare Face: Tony, the head of the mutant resistance in Venusville. The mind reading mutant and her daughter as well.
    Tony: You've got a lot of nerve showing your face around here, Hauser!
    Hauser: Look who's talking!
  • No Ontological Inertia
    • Quaid and Melina, who somehow instantly recover from decompression fairly quickly, despite it being previously shown to turn people into jelly.
    • It seems that the alien reactor also managed to bring the air pressure to Earth-Norm, but it still shouldn't have been that fast.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • Rather than kicking in automatically, the emergency pressure doors in the Mars spaceport terminal have to be manually activated while potentially (as happens in the film) fighting against being sucked into a near-vacuum.
    • The elevator Quaid and Richter fight on is an even better example of this: not only does it not have any kind of safety netting, walls or doors despite the fact that it's shown rising hundreds of feet into the air, but there's next to no space between the platform and at least one of the floors it passes next to, making it extremely easy to get something wedged between them, which is exactly what Quaid does to sever Richter's arms, causing him to fall to his death.
    • Building a Domed City with non-bullet-proof glass walls and then permitting staff to carry guns is asking for trouble.
  • Nose Shove: Douglas Quaid has to shove the business end of a self-guiding pincer up his nose to extract the ball-shaped tracking bug that has been implanted in it.
  • Note to Self: The video messages Hauser leaves for Quaid.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Arnold also changes appearance when he jumps into a subway car to escape the bad guys.
  • One World Order: Not on the world, but Cohaagen's governorship seems to be the only state of any substance on Mars.
  • Ominous Adversarial Amusement: After Richter's forces riddle Quaid with bullets, the latter gets up and starts laughing loud to the shock of his opponents. Turns out the Quaid they shot was just a projection.
  • Overly Nervous Flop Sweat: When Rekall's President Dr. Edgemar meets Quaid to convince him that he is caught in his memories and should take a pill as a symbol of his desire to break out of it, Quaid puts the pill in his mouth and pretends to swallow it while watching Dr. Edgemar's reaction. When he sees a drop of sweat running down the doctor's face, he knows it's a trap and kills him.
  • Percussion Therapy: Cohaagen, after a snide Richter finally gets him to call for Quaid's death, pauses solemnly for a moment...and then smashes a nearby fish tank.
  • Planetville: Even the presence of other tropes reinforce this. For example, the atmospheric pressurization is so fast that if it was interpreted as accurate, it not only shrinks the colony to appreciable city-size, but the whole damn planet.
  • Platonic Cave: The entire setting following the Rekall implant, if one prescribes to the notion that everything following it is all taking place in Quaid's head.
  • Pleasure Island: The future version of it. Rekall offers Fake Memories of a journey to exotic places.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Benny provides much of the comedic lines. He loses it when he reveals himself to be The Mole for Cohaagen, but still retains the hamminess.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Cohaagen is both a wealthy bastard who will literally Kill the Poor, and a Straw Misogynist who does not object to brainwashing women into submission.
    Cohaagen to Melisa: You're going to be respectful, compliant, and appreciative, the way a woman should be.
  • Precision F-Strike: After asked by subordinates how to deal with the welfare of Venusville with their oxygen deprived, Cohaagen gives a nonchalant "Fuck 'em".
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • Benny! SCREW! YOOOOOOUUUUUUUUU!!
    • From the bomb itself: "Get ready for a surpriiiise!"
  • Pretty Little Headshots: When Lori gets shot in the head by Quaid, the wound is nothing more than a small hole with a trickle of blood leaking out. Notably, it's the only example of this trope in the movie. Everyone else who checks out via Boom, Headshot! gets their brains splattered across whatever's behind them.
  • Product Placement: Fuji Film, Jack in the Box, Pepsi, and more.
  • Prosthetic Limb Reveal: Benny seems like a perfectly normal taxi driver, until he helps Quaid/Hauser get into the resistance base by taking off his prosthetic hand, opening his sleeve, and showing his mutated lower arm, revealing himself to be a mutant.
  • Psychic Powers: Kuato and a number of other mutants. In Kuato's case, his main power is telepathy.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Lori claims that she was just hired to do a job when Doug finds out that his 'wife' was there to spy on him. However, later in the film this is deconstructed and eventually subverted when she brutally beats Doug for simply following him to Mars which she despises, tries to slash Melina's throat in a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown and then tries to distract with her sweet housewife facade once more to gun him down before Quaid took the upper hand. In short, she is as much of a Psycho for Hire as her real husband Richter.
  • Put Their Heads Together: Quaid to two of the mooks who attacked him after he left Rekall.
  • Rare Guns: Most of the movie's arsenal consists of firearms that never made it into the mainstream, making Total Recall one of the most extreme examples of this trope. This is likely due to a tendency in sci-fi films/TV to use Rare Guns to impersonate 'future' firearms.
    • At least two versions of the Claridge Hi-Tec/Goncz pistol serve as the go-to handgun for most characters.
    • Calico LWS appears to be much more successful in this world than in Real Life, seeing how their M900 and M950 models are used by the majority of Cohaagen's security forces. Those who aren't using Calico products usually wield the equally unsuccessful MZ14 Bullpup conversion of the Ruger AC556 instead.
    • Cobray Street Sweepers made to look like some variant of the famous Pancor Jackhammer shotgun make repeated appearances.
  • Red Light District: Venusville is a sleazy strip club on Mars.
  • Red Pill, Blue Pill: A choice offered to Quaid by a Rekall psychologist.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: Is it a memory implant gone awry or all real? In the short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" that inspired this (can't say based on, can't even say very, very loosely based on), it did really happen.
  • Screen Shake: The camera shakes violently when the eruptions from the restarting reactor hit the colony.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Some Leg: After failing to kill Quaid by herself, Lori tries to distract Quaid until her associates can deal with him by acting sexually suggestive towards him, implying that he should "tie her up". However, Quaid glances over to see them walking through the hallway on a CRTV, and knocks her out.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": Employed several times. Most notably when Quaid strangles the Recall executive and when he breaks the bones of Harry's men during their fight scene after visiting Rekall. note 
  • Soft Glass: Windows and other glass panes get shattered by the hectare, yet nobody ever suffers as much as a scratch.
  • Spiteful Spit: Melina spits in Cohaagen's face after he gloats that they'll brainwash her into a compliant housewife.
  • The Stinger: Not in the movie itself, but on the Deluxe Edition of the soundtrack album, the final track ("A New Life") is followed after a brief pause by the music from the Rekall commercial Quaid watches ("For the memory of a lifetime - Rekall, Rekall, Rekall...").
  • Super Window Jump: Richter jumps through the front window of The Last Resort brothel to escape the firefight going on inside.
  • Take a Third Option: At the Metal Detector Checkpoint, when Quaid is surrounded left and right by Richter's men, he decides to do a Super Window Jump through the detector wall. Nobody was expecting that move.
  • Taking You with Me: During the Elevator Action Sequence, when Richter is hanging from the gondola, he clings onto Quaid yelling "You're coming with me!"
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Hauser leaves instructions to Quaid, anticipates how Quaid is going to react at various points, and seems to know roughly how long it'll take him to remove the tracking device, before continuing.
    • And depending upon your point of view, the whole sequence of Quaid ordering his Rekall vacation.
  • Tap on the Head: On Earth, Quaid knocks Lori unconscious with a single punch. On Mars she returns the favor with a kick to the face.
  • A-Team Firing
    • Richter's goons surround Hauser's hologram on all sides, firing from less than 10 feet away without ever hitting each other even though the bullets should be passing right through the hologram.
    • And then, in the same scene some other goons die because the bullets do go through the hologram. It's bad enough that the gunfire works silly, but much worse when it's inconsistently silly.
      • Actually, the hologram appears to absorb the bullets, which is why nobody dies in the first scene, and the goons die in the latter scene because Melina turns off the hologram while they're still firing at it.
  • Terraform: Done to Mars, at the end of the movie. Supposedly by rapidly melting the planet's icy core to flood the atmosphere with oxygen. All at once, with no harmful side effects to billions of tons of air suddenly blasting on to the surface faster than any tornado. A window gets broken, that's it. There's not even any dust kicked up. On Mars.
  • There Was a Door: Several goons do an explosive entry right after Lori tells Quaid he's really blown it now.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Quaid does this right after he slaughters the five agents (one of them being his best friend/co-worker, supposedly) trying to kill him on Earth, before he goes back to his "wife" Lori. He actually has their blood on his hands at the time.
  • This Is a Drill: Benny tries to kill Quaid and Melina with a giant drill but is killed by Quaid with a smaller drill.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: The boss of the Rekall branch that Quaid visits calls his female chief technician a bitch during his freak-out about his client's violent reaction to the procedure. She takes it largely in stride.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: The "Martian atmosphere" variant of the trope seals the fate for Cohaagen when he is blown out onto the surface of Mars. The heroes almost die the same way.
  • Title Drop
    Richter: In an hour he could have total recall.
  • Tracking Chip: Quaid has been implanted with a tracking chip in his head which he manages to find out about and remove before the bad guys can reach him. Said "chip" has the size and approximate shape of a .45 ACP bullet and is encased in something akin to a small ping-pong ball, which seriously stressed the Willing Suspension of Disbelief about how Quaid didn't notice a foreign body of these dimensions loitering somewhere around his sinuses.
  • Train Escape: Quaid shakes Richter and his men by jumping onto a departing subway train.
  • Traitor Shot: The looks Quaid's wife and colleagues give him in the beginning every time he doesn't notice practically scream "these folks aren't nearly as friendly as they pretend to be".
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: The barkeeper at the place where Melina works, makes use of his rifle against Richter's men.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Benny the cab driver, until he reveals himself as a mutant collaborator. And especially after that turns out to be a lie and he was Evil All Along.
  • Unobtainium: Turbinium ore, which is being mined on Mars against the local rebels' wishes and keeps Cohaagen's regime running, as his superiors on Earth give him carte blanche as long as their supply remains constant.
  • Using You All Along: Quaid is being used by Hauser and Cohaagen to locate Kuato's rebel group on Mars.
  • Video Phone: Used on both Earth and Mars. Talking to someone on Mars was as easy as phoning them up on Earth. In fact, Cohaagen (when on Mars) uses his vid phone to call Richter (on Earth) without any technical difficulties or time delay.
  • Villainous Breakdown
    • Richter has a brief one after Lori's death, but pulls himself together quite quickly after nearly killing himself and his head goon.
    • After Quaid rejects his mind reformatting and threatens to turn on the machine, Cohaagen is despondent when finally giving the order to execute him, even ignoring Richter sassing him a little. After a short moment of silence, he suddenly snaps and shoves his ornamental fishbowl onto the ground.
  • Villainous Friendship: Cohaagen and Hauser (Quaid's former identity). Cohaagen acknowledges their friendship when Quaid calls the guy an asshole and makes sure he is given an obedient, mindwiped wife to "enjoy", goes into a rage when he is forced to order the death of his friend, and goes on a tirade against Quaid for making sure he's not coming back.
  • Villains Never Lie: Averted; Quaid refuses to believe Cohaagen when he lays out his Evil Plan until Cohaagen smugly plays the final tape that Hauser left behind, showing they both planned the entire thing.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The poor living conditions of the workers on Mars has led to the emergence of a resistance group around its leader Kuato demanding independence from Earth.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: Rekall offers the fake two-week Mars holiday for the price of 899 credits.
  • Wham Line:
    Cohaagen: Now, here's a message from someone you trust... (switches on computer screen)
    Hauser: Hey, buddy!
  • Wild Goose Chase: Quaid puts the Tracking Chip inside a Mars bar and leaves it for the rats, so Richter's goons will waste time chasing the signal.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Quaid. First he punches out Lori during their fight in their apartment. Later he has no qualms about shooting her, after she triumphs in a Designated Girl Fight and sneakily starts to reach for her gun.
    Lori: Honey, you wouldn't hurt me. After all, we are married.
    Quaid: Consider that a divorce.
    • Cohaagen was tempted to hit Melina for spitting at him (after making a misogynistic remark directed to her), but digress presumably thinking Hauser won't be pleased at him for hitting his girl.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The "Rekall" brand.
  • Your Head Asplode: Subverted, where the exploding head is a bomb-rigged animatronic prosthesis which Quaid wears as part of a costume. His deception uncovered, he tosses the head to his pursuers, in whose hands it cracks wise and then asplodes. Also averted and played straight, since the thin Martian atmosphere causes one bad guy's head to a splode. Arnie and his gal narrowly avoid the same fate.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Hauser basically says this to Quaid, pointing out that that's his body and he wants it back. So Try Not to Die.

"Don't fuck with your brain, pal! It ain't worth it!"

Alternative Title(s): Total Recall

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