Spoiler Alert

February 9, 2009

A while back I mentioned to my friend the small subgenre of films that all share the same plot: “things sure were better before we found all that money”.  This collection includes

  • A Simple Plan
  • Shallow Grave
  • Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • Millions
  • No Country for Old Men

And probably a couple of others I could think of if I really tried.  The one thing these movies all have in common is that they are better than average, in my opinion.  As directly opposed to another subgenre single line plot that I’ve seen way too much of recently: “the victim IS the killer but didn’t realize it due to insanity/split personality.”   That list is long & growing, and almost none of the movies on it are particularly good.

  • The Uninvited
  • Abandon
  • Identity
  • Fight Club
  • Three (imaginary film within a film from Adaptation)
  • Hide & Seek
  • Shutter Island (it’s not out yet – but that’s how the book is)
  • Sleepaway Camp
  • High Tension
  • Secret Window

There’s probably several dozen more I can’t remember, but jesus, with the exception of Fight Club, has this plot ever worked in a movie?



  1. How about that over used plot: Kids find a bunch of stray dogs and create a hotel for dogs in abandon building. Man if I see that one more time…

  2. You’re joking, but in all honesty, the “kids can do it!” sub-genre is universally terrible. Any time a movie features kids successfully pulling off anything it’s a sure sign of complete crap.

  3. Obviously you aren’t referring to the 1996 masterpiece, House Arrest, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.

  4. I would make a list of “kids can do it” films that are horrific, but my brain won’t let me remember the names of these films. The writer of Filmdrunk, the funniest movie blog out there has developed a shorthand for shitty movie tropes. For example, the headline for any article about a crappy consumerist girl-power movie is invariably “women be shoppin'” and it’s usually all that needs to be said about the film. Likewise, for his teen dramas he references “saving the rec center” in every article. Sometimes you don’t need an in depth review to know a movie is going to suck.

  5. I remember seeing this movie years ago called “Primal Fear” with Richard Gere and Edward Norton….I’m not a big Gere fan and at the time didn’t know who Norton was, but I remember it being a really good movie, and it was of the “split personality” type you describe. But I don’t think it would have worked without Norton, if anyone else had been playing his part the movie would have probably sucked.

  6. You’re totally right – that movie fits the genre & was actually good. So, that makes two split personality movies that worked, and both of them star Ed Norton.

  7. Does Brewster’s Million fit in the man things were good before money genre?

  8. I dunno – first, it’s a comedy, unlike any of the others. Second, even though the sudden appearance of money is the main subject of the film, inheritance isn’t as “dangerous” as finding money that you know isn’t yours.

  9. Two words: Hiding Out

  10. I am really glad you qualified your post with Fight Club being the only good one, because that was a damn fine film. And, so was Primal Fear. Ed Norton rocks.

  11. Yeah Ed Norton rocks! Plus, he’s HAWT!

    Brewster’s Millions definitely does not qualify. In that movie, even though the money initially made things worse for Brewster, at the end of the movie, he does end up “winning”, getting ALL the money AND the sexy accountant lady and the idea is that he lives happily ever after with all of his millions.

    And yes, I AM rather embarassed at my level of knowledge regarding that movie.

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