The Most Commonly Used Movie Clichés in OpenSubtitle Files

We’re excited to share fascinating research conducted by Stephen Follows, who used our extensive subtitle database to uncover the most commonly used clichés in movie dialogue. 
By analysing over 72,000 films released from 1940 to 2023, Stephen has provided intriguing insights into how often and how these clichés have evolved in cinema.

The Most Used Movie Clichés

Stephen’s research reveals that “What the hell” is the most frequently used movie cliché, appearing in just over a third of all films studied. Following closely are “What are you doing here?” and “Honey, is that you?”. 
It’s noteworthy that the top clichés are mostly questions, reflecting their role in driving plots and character interactions, while phrases like “What the fuck” often emphasize heightened emotional moments.

Trends in Movie Clichés

Certain clichés have significantly increased in prominence over the decades. For instance, “Why are you doing this to me?”, “What the fuck?”, and “This is not happening” have all seen sharp rises since the 1940s. An interesting example is “How hard can it be?”, which was virtually non-existent until the 1970s and has since risen steadily in use.

Fastest Declining Clichés

Conversely, some classic phrases are falling out of favour. Phrases such as “Follow that [vehicle]”, “Is that clear?”, and “We meet again” have seen their use decrease sharply. This trend suggests these clichés may have become so familiar they are now considered overused or predictably dull, leading filmmakers to seek fresher dialogue.


Stephen’s analysis utilised English-language subtitle files for 72,405 fiction feature films, spanning from 1911 to 2022, supplied by Open Subtitles. The metadata was sourced from OMDb, IMDb, The Numbers, Wikipedia, and Stephen’s own analysis.
 Variants of each cliché were accounted for to ensure comprehensive tracking, capturing phrases like “You haven’t seen anything yet” and “You ain’t seen nothing yet” within the same category. Each film was counted if it included the cliché at least once, providing a broad measure of their prevalence.

Start the discussion at

Read more