10 Unique Tricks Every Movie Started To Rip-Off

Great movie tricks everyone ripped off! The Matrix's bullet time, psychic nosebleeds & more.

Scanners David Cronenberg
AVCO Embassy Pictures

True innovation in the world of movies is incredibly difficult nowadays, and so when a filmmaker manages to pull off something truly original - be it a stunning editing trick or imaginative technical flourish - you can bet it'll be followed by a slew of enthusiastic imitators.

And so, what was initially a creative technique can quickly become a tired cliche, as it's so thoroughly ripped off by everyone in town that it begins to lose its sheen and ingenuity.

But in most cases that doesn't really detract from the impact of the original article, which most often stands tall as a shining example of sublimely thoughtful filmmaking craft, no matter that it's been run into the ground ever since.

The relentless imitation is really the ultimate compliment, that these tricks so thoroughly reinvented cinematic language that they just had to be adopted by such a large swath of filmmakers who followed.

And so, as over-familiar and cliched as these stylistic tricks of the trade might seem today, once upon a time they were positively fresh movie quirks like audiences hadn't ever seen...

10. Shaky Cam - The Bourne Supremacy & Ultimatum

Scanners David Cronenberg

The Trick

"Shaky cam" is the technique by which a filmmaker deliberately generates added instability within the frame by having the camera operator exaggerate their movement.

This can be achieved by simply having the operator shake the camera, or simply removing some of the camera-stabilising rigging typically used while shooting films.

Shaky cam came to light in the first Paul Greengrass-directed Jason Bourne film, 2004's The Bourne Supremacy, combining erratic camera movements with intentionally imprecise framing and fast editing.

When it works, as in The Bourne Supremacy and its sequel The Bourne Ultimatum, shaky cam can enhance a scene's energy and make the viewer feel as though they're truly in the moment with the character.

The Rip-Offs

Unsurprisingly many filmmakers have attempted to ape this technique over the years with wildly mixed results - Tony Scott's later films employed it rather liberally, as have the two Taken sequels, Quantum of Solace, and countless found footage films.

Many of these films have failed to grasp the utility of shaky cam and simply resorted to hurling the camera around carelessly to disguise lazy fight scene choreography.

But there has mercifully been something of a backlash against the technique in recent years, with films like John Wick instead offering up action scenes captured in just a few lengthy takes, where all the action can be savoured in crisp, stable medium shots.

Shaky cam certainly has its place in cinema, but sadly few filmmakers beyond Greengrass have ever made particularly compelling use of it, rendering it a cliche both tired and headache-inducing.

In this post: 
First Posted On: 

Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.