Almost every character type that shows up on our screens can be placed into some preexisting category. Some movies, like The Breakfast Club, address their familiar, clichéd characters head on (an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…) while others trot out familiar tropes in the hope that we won’t care, or even better, that we won’t notice. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. The best movies are always going to change and adjust and flip the expectations we have of characters we recognize. The worst movies are the ones that showcase characters so familiar and overused that we know where they’re headed before the movie is halfway over. Here are five such characters (and moments) that have reached their expiration date. It’s time for these five to be retired:
The Retired Criminal Pulled In For One. Last. Job
A man, young and handsome, definitely wearing sunglasses and maybe wearing a leather coat but possibly not, approaches another man, older and handsome, definitely sitting on a park bench and maybe feeding pigeons but possibly not. The man in sunglasses leans against the back of the bench, his head tilted away from the older man. The younger man has some to ask, or even beg, for a very specific type of help. The type of help that only the older man can provide. To anyone watching, they’re just two ships in the night, strangers in passing and certainly not plotting to rob three of the biggest banks in the city in one day. The younger man posits his question.
The older man has been expecting this. He sighs and stands. “I’m sorry that whoever it is that told you to come here has wasted your time. I’m retired. I’ve been retired. Your game, the game, has passed me by. I truly am sorry. Best of luck to you.”
The younger man expected this. He motions towards the bobbing pigeons weaving around the older man’s feet. “These birds here? They can fly anywhere in the world. They can leave whenever they want. You know why they come here, every day?”
The older man says nothing, for he already knows the answer.
“The bread. It’s tough to fly away from all this bread. Sorry to bother you. Good luck in retirement.”
With that, the two men move in their separate directions, each knowing full well they’ll see each other again very soon.
The Grizzled Detective Who Takes One Last Case That Will Probably End Up Killing Him But Not Before Giving Him Peace of Mind
His hands, worn and weathered and permanently scarred from a lifetime of fighting criminals and cement walls with equal ferocity, moved softly across the framed newspaper clipping. SERIAL KILLER HUNTED DOWN BY HERO COP. He barely recognized the young man in the photograph. Even in the black and white picture his hair and mustache were less gray than they were now. There weren’t as many wrinkles around his eyes. He was smiling. He was just a young pup back then, brave, honest, naïve. The job changed him, as it does. Nowadays, his colleagues called him “Wolf,” and perhaps it’s because his hair tended to stand on edge, almost as if by instinct, when danger approached. Perhaps it’s because his hard drinking ways earned him the reputation as the type of man who spends his nights howling at the moon. Maybe it’s because he’d turned into such a loner after his partner was killed that night that he can’t forget about, no matter how much whiskey or how many women he brings into his life.
The sudden knock on his office door startled him. “Sgt. Wolfe? Sorry to bother you, I know you’re packing up.” (It’s possible that’s why they call him Wolf as well.)
The old, tired detective puts the frame into a nondescript cardboard box. He motions for the man to come in.
“Thank you, sir. This…well I know it’s your last week. I’m not sure you want the case. It’s just, we may have a lead on the man that killed your partner.”
Sgt. Wolfe strokes the edges of his mustache, a nervous tic he adopted when he wanted to appear less vulnerable. “Give me the file. I’ll take it. I’m retiring. I’m not dead.”
He wasn’t. Not yet.
The Sassy and Emotional Vulnerable Comic Relief in a Romantic Comedy
“I’m going to need another one of these,” she shouts, drawing embarrassed eye-rolls from her friend, seated beside her. “Like, right now,” she says, mostly to no one. She stares out the plane window, shaking the plastic cup and tilting all of its contents into her mouth, going so far as to crunch the ice cubes loudly between her teeth.
The flight attendant approaches apprehensively, bracing for an inevitable fight. “Ma’am, its airline policy to only serve each passenger two drinks per flight. I’m afraid you’re at the limit…”
The woman crunches the plastic cup between her perfectly manicured fingers. “Well I’m afraid that we haven’t even taken off yet, and so my two drink limit hasn’t started yet. So here’s what we’re going to do, you and that tacky scarf are going to walk back to your little bar and get me another drink. If I have to fly half-way across the country,” she jabs a finger at her friend, “to meet a couple of guys from the internet who are probably, no, definitely going to murder us, then I’m going to need some drinks.”
Her friend mouths an “I’m sorry” to the flustered flight attendant before turning back towards her friend, whom is rolling a joint on the seatback table. “Jessie! You can’t smoke on an airplane!!”
Jessie rolls her eyes and puts her headphones in. “Don’t give me the Saint Liz routine today. Of course you can smoke on an airplane. That’s why it’s called getting high…”
The CIA Agent Who Hasn’t Been The Same Since His Wife Was Killed
Two men, agents of the law, one older and understandably weary, the other young and undeservedly arrogant, stand outside a log cabin, deep in the woods. The young man is already impatient. “Are you sure about this? People say that he hasn’t been the same since…”
“I know what people say. Trust me here. He’s our only shot,” the older agent replies, dismissively, as he pushes open the cabin door. Inside, a man is sleeping (or is it passed out?) on the couch. The shades are drawn, the house dark. The man on the couch is disheveled, hair unkempt, beard leaning towards unruly. The younger agent rips open the dusty curtains, startling the man on the couch awake. The man hasn’t seen the sun in days, maybe even weeks, evidenced by the pained look in his eyes. He recognizes the older man. He doesn’t appear afraid nor surprised. “How the hell did you find me?” The older man picks up a carton of old Chinese food and regrettably brings it to his nose before tossing it in a nearby garbage can. “C’mon Jack. How did we find you? We’re the CIA. So are you, present appearance notwithstanding. I trust you know why we’re here.”
“I trust you know I’m about to tell you to get the hell out of my house. Bring your lapdog with you,” Jack says, angrily, but in a way that makes the older man smile, internally. Same Old Jack, he thinks. He asks the younger man to wait outside.
“Is this how your story ends, Jack? Look at me. Look at yourself. You had no idea your wife was on that bus! It’s not your fault. It never has been. You took an oath, Jack. Honor the oath. Hell, honor your wife. Do something. If you want to get the men responsible, you have to come with us, now. We’ll brief you at headquarters.”
Jack rubs the sleep from his eyes. “I’ll meet you there. Let me take a shower.”
The older man jabs a thumb at the empty bottles of liquor strewn about the carpet. “I’m driving.”
The Quirky and Wise (Way) Beyond Her Years Little Sister
The young girl sits underneath her porch, in the dirt and the rocks and what may very well be a nest of raccoons, reading a book. It’s unclear exactly what book she is reading, but judging by its worn, color faded cover, we can assume that it’s a very old book, and probably even a classic. She occasionally fixes her bangs as she turns the pages, which happens frequently, as she is an excellent reader. Suddenly, her brother’s head pops into sight, as he wriggles his way under the porch. He is much bigger, as he is much older, and he is very handsome, in a sort of dangerous way. “I thought you might be here,” he says, correctly. “I always am,” she replies, also correctly.
“Hey sis, can I ask you a question? It’s about a girl,” her brother asks her, adorably. The young girl rolls her eyes, though in such a way that indicates she is very much not annoyed because she very much adores her older brother, in spite of the fact that he’s a bit of a dunce, and maybe even because of it. “Anyways, do you remember Olivia? She’s the one that’s into books and poems and all that weird stuff-she’s a nerd-like you. I want her to like me.”
The young girl puts down her book, Tolkien, it turns out. She takes a deep sigh. “That wasn’t a question. A question is expressed or worded as to elicit specific information. You just made a statement. Never mind. Look, this time it’s Olivia. Before it was Jane or Jess or whoever the blond girl was. Always the same mistake. An athlete. Party girl. A nerd. You need to look past the surface. There’s more to Olivia, I’m sure, than books and poems and the weird stuff. You need to find out who she is, not what she is? Do you know what I mean?”
The young girl’s brother nodded and smiled and ruffled her bangs, which she pretended to hate. He crawled back out from under the porch and yelled for her to stop reading so much. I love you too, she thought, fixing her hair and turning another page.