A group of characters is in some sort of fix or trouble. One character steps up and:
- contrives a plan just Crazy Enough to Work
- or manages a bit of out of character or unexpected badassery
- or pulls off a clever bit of dialogue that stops everyone in their tracks
- pulls off some manner of complicated stunt like an old pro
The other people in the scenario, Mooks, Damsel in Distress, and even the villain are impressed by this display of incredible competence and showmanship.
The character who just amazed the crowd shrugs it off modestly, saying simply, "Saw it in a movie once."
- Saw it on a TV show
- Read it in a book
- My dad/mentor/grandfather once told me a story about it
- Dreamed I did it
- Full Metal Panic!: Kaname says this in the first season when she, Sōsuke, and Kurz are trapped by an army of soldiers in a small trench. The movie she remembers? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Yeah, not too encouraging. They come out alright, though.
- The World God Only Knows: This is Dating Sim Otaku Keima Katsuragi's schtick. Whenever someone asks him how he could make a bizarre leap of logic or figure out something in an instant, he replies, "It often goes like this. In games."
- Subverted in No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! where Tomoko Kuroki (Supposedly a gender flipped Expy of the above example) tries to apply almost everything she sees in the internet or in Otome games in order to gain popularity and get laid. Horrible Hilarity Ensues.
- Steven Wright, to a hitchhiker he'd picked up: "Put your seatbelt on, I want to try something. I saw it in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it."
- Examples from the Calvinverse:
- From Calvin and Hobbes III: Double Trouble:
Calvin: I saw this on that Jimmy Neutron movie!"
- Calvin and Hobbes: The Series has a young Frank Brainstorm attempting to be a pioneer for this reason. It doesn't end well for him.
- Later, Socrates claims to have gotten the idea to go into a tree from The Magic School Bus.
- From Calvin and Hobbes III: Double Trouble:
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, when Pegasus drops Bandit Keith through a Trap Door, he says, "I learned this trick from watching Excel Saga!"
- Shrek: Justified in that Shrek's world is literally a land of fairy tales, and that the book he mentions is specifically the tale about the very princess they are trying to rescue. Not only that, but said book is the one he was reading (and used as toilet paper) at the very beginning of the movie.
Shrek: The princess will be up the stairs in the highest room in the tallest tower.
Donkey: How do you know she's gonn be there?
Shrek: I read it in a book once.
- Demolition Man: Lenina (Sandra Bullock) explained away her martial arts prowess as being from watching Jackie Chan movies.
- In The Red Green Show movie, Duct Tape Forever, Harold tries to stop the men after him and Red by dumping gasoline on the road to slip up the limo behind them. The reasoning? He saw it in a James Bond movie once. It works...kind of...just not the way you'd expect.
- Subverted in Dumb and Dumber when Lloyd (Jim Carrey) tricks a group of tough guys they encountered in a restaurant to pay for a meal for himself and Harry (Jeff Daniels), claiming he saw it in a movie. However, it turns out the plan wasn't as foolproof as they thought.
Harry Dunn: That was genius, Lloyd ... sheer genius. Where did you come up with a scam like that?
Lloyd Christmas: I saw it in a movie once.
Harry Dunn: Ha ha! That was incredible! So what happened? So the guy tricked some sucker into picking up his tab and gets away with it scot free?
Lloyd Christmas: No, in the movie they catch up to him a half a mile down the road and slit his throat. It was a good one.
- The Goonies: Mikey suggests a plan to escape from the pursuing villains in based on a Hardy Boys story. Unfortunately, the villains have already caught up with them.
Mikey: I saw this on the Hardy Boys once. We lead a trail of jewels into one cave, and then hide out in another, and when the Fratelli's go into that cave, then we can make a run for it.
Ma Fratelli: Now that sounds like an excellent idea!
- The A-Team:
Murdock: [while flying a helicopter] Hold on, guys, I'm gonna try something I saw in a cartoon once!
- Hilariously played with in Tropic Thunder by one of the protagonists, an actor, slowly going insane from withdrawal symptoms (due to being a junkie).
Jeff Portnoy: I know this is gonna sound crazy, but in this one film I starred in we had to infiltrate the girl's bathroom of a highschool. So we built a catapult out of women's underwear and launched ourselves over the fence!
(Everyone stares at him for a moment before trying to find a more reasonable plan)
- In The Return of the Living Dead, the Genre Savvy characters who have seen Night of the Living Dead (1968) try to put a zombie down by Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain, with less than satisfactory results.
Frank: It worked in the movie!
Burt:Well, it ain't working now, Frank!
Freddy: You mean the movie lied?
- Titanic (1997): When Jack kisses Rose's hand:
Jack: I saw that in a nickelodeon once and I always wanted to do it!"
- In Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, after the pair are murdered by the "Evil Robot Uses" (resulting in them becoming ghosts) they try to warn everyone by possessing Ted's dad; when Ted asks Bill if he's sure it will work, Bill replies, "It worked in The Exorcist, parts 1 and 3."
- In the The Pirate Movie, Frederic dropped his sword when threatened by The Pirate King. He hears a voice tell him, "Use the Force, Frederic." The sword blade glows and he calls it back to his hand, disarming The Pirate King, his mentor, The PK asks, "Did I teach you that?" He responds, "No, saw it in movie once." Since the whole reality turns out to be All Just a Dream (of Mabel's), it's justified.
- In Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) gets his idea it to take down Giant-Man by tying up his legs and knocking him over from Star Wars.
Peter: Hey guys, you ever see that really old movie Empire Strikes Back?
- In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory the children need to sign a contract to go inside the factory, Mike Teavee claims that he "Saw this in a movie once: Guy signs his wife's insurance policy, then he bumped her off."
- Parodied in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When Tom shows up to help Huck break Jim out of captivity, Huck's pragmatic plans are always dismissed by Tom, because they 'ain't got enough style' and Tom likes to do things that he got out of books, like trying to dig a tunnel with case knives or giving Jim a bunch of pet snakes and rats.
- The Golden Rendezvous by Alistair MacLean. The protagonist disarms the Big Bad, who has a concealed shoulder holster, simply by yanking his jacket down over his shoulders, immobilising his arms. When the Big Bad calmly asks if the protagonist is a professional like himself, he replies "American movies."
- In Infinity Beach, Solly gets the idea of blowing the alien Shroud out of Hammersmith's airlock from a movie (implied to be Alien). Unlike in Alien, it doesn't work.
- In the Hoka stories, by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson, the Hokas—a race of teddy-bear-like aliens—operate entirely on this principle. They absorb fictive universes (essentially, the race is a sponge for tropes), and become them. Cowboys, spacemen, Sherlock Holmes, The Jungle Book—they cover a lot of ground.
- Repeatedly used in Sonic the Hedgehog in Robotnik's Laboratory with the key difference being that they saw it on "video". Whether video is just the book showing it's age and referring to Video Tapes or that the Mobius equivalent of TV is called Video, is never made clear.
- The Terror: When the situation is especially bleak and crew morale is at a low, one crew member proposes a carnivale to cheer everyone up. He notes he got the idea from some pulp novel he read, but he can’t remember the book’s name or how it ends. His description makes clear he’s talking about “The Masque of Red Death”, a story by Edgar Allan Poe about The Beautiful Elite trying to distract themselves from a spreading plague by throwing a party, and it ends with the characters all dying horribly at the hands of a monster. Guess what happens at the party the crew throws.
- House parodies this in a third season episode "Lines in the Sand" when he conducts a differential in the lobby:
Cuddy: Is this your master plan? Disrupt hospital business until I replace your carpet?
House: Devious. Saw it in a James Bond movie.
- Abed, in Community, occasionally bursts out with this trope.
- Psych episode "Romeo and Juliet and Juliet" has Shawn mention "I saw this in a Jackie Chan movie..."
- The A-Team Season 3 episode "Breakout" has a couple of robbers coercing Murdock at gun point to drive the van to get away. Murdock, normally an Ace Pilot, breaks out some Badass Driver skills:
Robber: Where'd you learn to drive like that?
Murdock: [deadpan] I saw Cannonball Run five times.
- Heroes: Used very literally with Monica, whose superpower is being able to copy anything she's seen in person or on TV — carve a tomato into a rose, play the piano, kick a robber's ass with a flashy wrestling move, Ceiling Cling...
- Garak on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine often uses variations of this phrase to handwave his impressive abilities or intimate knowledge of things like classified military codes. Since almost everyone knows he used to be an actual spy (and a fairly important one at that), none of the main cast believe his explanations for a second.
- Quoth Castle, as he's about to do something stupid while being held hostage at a bank robbery: "don't worry mother, I saw this work on Die Hard."
- Tony in NCIS is an inveterate film buff. When he comes up with a scheme to override a video feed in order to end a hostage situation, his colleagues automatically assume he saw it in a movie, and in spite of his protests they ultimately pinpoint which movie (it was Speed).
- Blossom: Blossom blinds an intruder (who turns out to actually be her brother) by blowing talcum powder in face. When Six asks her where she learned that trick, Blossom replies "MacGyver". (Also counts as an Actor Allusion as as Blossom's actress Mayim Bialik had played a recurring character on MacGyver.
- JAG: After getting Harm out of a minefield in Afghanistan (season 7, episode 23 "In Country"), Mac acknowledges that she only learned how to do it by watching movies.
- Doubles as a Mythology Gag in the first episode of Weird Science, where Gary and Wyatt are discussing the creation of Lisa.
Gary: We could do it! I saw it in a John Hughes movie once!
- In one episode of Dracula: The Series, the heroes escape from a death-trap the Count has in his castle because one of them saw how to in a movie. It later turns out the Count only had the trap installed in the first place because he saw the same movie.
- In Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica (2003), Starbuck and Helo are stranded on Cylon-occupied Caprica and come across the local resistance movement. The leader, Samuel Anders, asks Starbuck for professional help and support, as the tactics they're using are ones they've seen in movies. We see one of their (literal) Hollywood Tactics fail in "The Plan."
- Star Trek: Enterprise: While visiting a planet of humans still living in the Old West, Trip says he can ride a horse because he's "seen every John Ford western." T'Pol is less than optimistic.
- Doctor Who: in Gridlock, Martha Jones persuades the driver of an air car to shut down all systems (including the much-needed air purifier) so that the large monsters in the poisonous fog won't find them.
Martha: I saw it on a film. They used to do it in submarines. The trouble is, I can't remember what they did next.
- Chuck Greene from Dead Rising can learn new combo weapons by, among other things, looking at movie posters. Namely movies by Clint Rockfoot.
- Max in Life Is Strange mentions this when she successfully gains access to the Dark Room by only trying the faded numbers on the keypad.
Max: Yes! I thought that only worked in the movies.
- Subverted in CROSS†CHANNEL. In two different scenes, Taichi insists he can drive cars because he's seen how it works in manga. Naturally, this leads to hilarious results.
- Played straight but justified in Umineko: When They Cry. Trying to interpret the game board's story as a mystery rather than a fantasy story, various characters use knowledge gained from reading mystery novels.
- An exchange between Jessica and Anna in ATOM GRRRL!! at a casino:
Anna: Hey, by the way, where did you learn to play roulette?
Jessica: Oh, yesterday. I figured, "hey, why don't I check out a Man Ketsudaira movie?"
- Least I Could Do has Rayne bust out a Big "NO!" at goofing a chance with a girl. She calls him on being a bit dramatic and he says he Saw It in a Movie Once.
- Cyanide & Happiness got that guy with a cat, and he did read this comic...
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! many of Molly's engineering feats are inspired by pop culture. When she activated her transforming snow ballista, she managed to include shout-outs to Tom Corbett: Space Cadet, Robotech, Battle of the Planets, Sailor Moon, and Ultraman.
- In the episode "Citizen Khan", Clementine Clevenger attempts to escape a locked room with a Bedsheet Ladder while saying "This always works in the movies." Unfortunately, the knots get undone and she falls with her noting, "So much for the movies!" Luckily, she has a soft landing in a horse trough.
- Another Tale Spin example: Baloo uses this line almost verbatim in "The Road to Macadamia".
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987):
- One episode has Donatello attempt to save an alien in a crashed vessel thus:
Donatello: Quick, boil some water!
Raphael: We're not delivering a baby, dumbo!
Donatello: ...I heard it in a movie once...
- Michelangelo and Donatello are tied up back to-back in chairs with a bomb next to them. Mikey reveals that he has seen a scene like this before on TV and, following his direction, the two rock back and forth to tip over onto the floor. However, when Donatello asks what to do next, Mikey realizes that he doesn't know — at the time, he'd gone to get popcorn before the scene had finished.
- One episode has Donatello attempt to save an alien in a crashed vessel thus:
- A less modest version happens in Ben 10: Alien Force. Julie does the "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight with her pet, Ship and when Ben is surprised she pulled it off, she says, "You're not the only one who's seen 'Brain Stealers from Outer Space'."
- In an episode of The Venture Bros., after fighting one of Wide Wale's henchmen offscreen Brock is asked where he learned a jump move and replies "Achilles in Troy".
Zoidberg: We can escape through the nasal capillary into the sinus!Hermes: Strange. Usually, you don't know anything about human anatomy.Zoidberg: I learned it from a decongestant commercial. "Soothing action, action, action, action..."
- In the episode "Law and Oracle" Fry manages to pull off a trick on a light cycle, and when asked where he learned it he replies "Sunny D commercial."
- In "Parasites Lost"
- In an episode of Freakazoid!, Cosgrove tells the audience to Clap Your Hands If You Believe (and throw in some Hugbees) to save Freakazoid's life after having seen it work in a movie once.
- In the pilot episode of Storm Hawks, Aerrow briefly breaks the fourth wall when he tells a rightfully worried Radarr that "it's okay, I saw this before in a cartoon" right before jumping off his Skimmer to perform a Final Fantasy-esque stunt.
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy slaps Lucius with a glove in order to accept a challenge because he saw it in a movie.
- The Tom and Jerry cartoon "Fit to be Tied" features Spike, while beating Tom, doing something he claims to have seen on TV.
- The Simpsons:
- One episode features Homer trying to stop an animal stampede by yelling "Jumanji". After it fails, Homer wonders if there is anything from movies worth learning.
- Another episode has Homer trying the camera trick mentioned in the NCIS example, "citing" the film The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down.
- And in another he sees someone get what he wants by slapping people in the face with a glove. He instantly adopts this and succeeds — until a "Southern gentleman" accepts his challenge to a duel. He also tries it with Jimmy Carter and has to flee the ex-president.
- In one episode (9x13), Homer is being questioned by the tax department about his falsified tax return. When they threaten him with a prison term, he says "No sir, please - I can't go to prison! They pee in a cup and throw it on you! I saw it in a movie!" to which the interrogating agent responds "You won't be seeing any prison movies where you're going - prison!"
- In an episode of Pinky and the Brain:
Pinky: Zounds, you're a good driver, Brain.
Brain: I've watched a lot of The Dukes of Hazzard.
- On Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bullwinkle describes a situation with a lot of $50 words. When Rocky asks what it's supposed to mean, Bullwinkle says "I dunno...I heard it on Meet The Press."
- Looney Tunes:
- In one of Friz Freleng's cartoons featuring two Mexican cats, the smart cat uses a trick to catch Speedy Gonzales, saying he'd seen it in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
- In Frank Tashlin's "The Major Lied at Dawn" (1937), the Major — after suffering a beatdown against an army of jungle animals — pulls out a can of spinach, saying "By jove, if it's good enough for that sailor man, then it's good enough for me."
- The Hair Bear Bunch: The Bunch is rehearsing for a scene in a revisionist version of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears". Twinkles Sunshine, the movie's star and revisionist of the script gives the bears instructions when the evil prince arrives.
Twinkles: When the three bears see the evil prince, they grab him and throw him out of the window.
Square Bear: I saw that on television wrestlin' last night!
- In SpongeBob SquarePants after being stranded in the middle of nowhere in "Pizza Delivery", Spongebob tries to get himself and Squidward back home by using tactics from old pioneers which he says he "saw in a movie once." Most of them worked albeit their progress was constantly hindered by Squidward.
- A Looney Tunes episode set in the cold of the Canadian winter, "The Iceman Ducketh", sees Bugs Bunny trying to evade Daffy Duck, who is chasing him on skis. Bugs comments to the audience, "I saw this in a toothpaste commercial once," before tossing a bucket of water in front of Daffy, which instantly freezes into a wall of ice.
- An episode of Transformers Prime sees the Decepticons' warship overrun with dark energon zombies. Knockout tells Starscream to aim for the head, as he's seen done in human horror films. It doesn't work.
- In a second season episode of the Rugrats called "Tooth or Dare", Angelica comes up with various ideas to pry out Chuckie's prominent front teeth in order to get money after hearing the story of the Tooth Fairy. One of the attempts she makes is something that she tells Chuckie and her cousin, Tommy, she once saw in a movie. When the plan inevitably fails, Angelica claims, "Well, it worked in the movie!"
- In The Flintstones episode "Fred's Second Car", Fred and Barney are trapped in a gangster's hideout and Fred gets the idea for them to tackle a mook and grab his gun when he walks in, saying he saw it in a gangster movie on TV. However, the mook dodges the attack, and he taunts "I watch TV too, fellas".
- Almost any time Stumpy from Kaeloo does something intelligent, it's because he saw it in a movie.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In "Cookie Dough," Bloo tries to help raise money to buy the house a new roof by selling lemonade, claiming he saw it in movies. While this would be a pretty good idea to raise money, he ends up doing on a cold/rainy day in the middle of winter.
Mac: Was it summer in those movies? You know? Summer: the season that people drink lemonade in...Bloo: It seems so obvious now that you say it.
- Steven Universe: In "Off Colors", Lars suggests that he and Steven stand still, saying that Yellow Diamond's robonoids won't see them if they do. He turned out to have Wrong Genre Savvy, and the two barely avoid getting blasted.
Lars: I think that movie...was about dinosaurs.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: In "The Firebird Sweet", Grim suggests that he and Mandy enter Eris' factory through the sewer pipes, claiming that he saw it in Drums Along the Mohawk.
Mandy: I don't remember that being part of the movie.