Hollywood Driving

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The tendency of characters in TV shows or movies who are driving to spend a dangerously long time looking at the person in the passenger seat, rather than out the windshield (or ever at the rear-view mirror, which is almost always gone).

Massive amounts of overcorrection at the steering wheel in 1950s and earlier films is a slight exaggeration of Truth in Television, where cars with worm-gear steering have very loose centers, prompting constant overcorrection to maintain a straight line - this part is now a Dead Horse Trope. Modern cars use rack and pinion steering, which is extremely precise, making constant overcorrection look just plain silly.

Hollywood drivers also never start or stop like normal people, but always floor the pedals and make the tires skid (especially in animation). And this is NOT used to show that they Drive Like Crazy - in their world, that's normal.

This trope is nearly ubiquitous, so use this section to list subversions and lampshade hangings.

Compare to Drives Like Crazy. Not to be confused with Driving a Desk, which is about visual effects.

Examples of Hollywood Driving include:


Film[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Lampshaded in Strange Brew. While driving, the McKenzie brothers discuss how people in movies never look at the road in driving scenes. During this conversation, Doug (who's driving) swivels all the way around in his seat to face Bob directly, causing them to almost crash.
  • From Two Fast Two Furious: "He did the stare-and-drive on you, didn't he? He got that from me."
  • In the film Amelie, this is brought up as a pet peeve of the title character. It shows footage from some black-and-white movie to demonstrate.
  • Lloyd drives a limo like this in Dumb and Dumber while telling his passenger how dangerous drivers are today. At one point, we hear tires screeching, and shortly afterwards there's an explosion behind the car. Lloyd doesn't notice.
  • Harold Lloyd takes the first example to a ridiculous extreme in his silent 1928 comedy Speedy. Playing a NYC cabdriver, he picks up none other than Babe Ruth, and is so starstruck that he repeatedly turns around to chat with his hero...while driving through heavy Midtown traffic at a dizzyingly fast speed, much to Ruth's horror.
  • Subverted in The Blind Side. It looks like the trope is played straight at first, but then Reality Ensues with a car accident.
  • This happens for a full 20 seconds at the end of Everything Is Illuminated.
  • Halloween 2 (2009) features a sequence where the driver of an ambulance would rather stare at the mouth of the guy in the passenger seat. Then they hit a cow.
  • XXX: When he drives Senator Hotchkiss's Corvette, Xander speaks into several cameras facing anywhere but backwards.
  • Subverted in The Descent, in which Sarah's husband holds her gaze for a few seconds too long, drifts into the oncoming lane and crashes into a car coming the other way.
    • Similarly subverted in "The Blind Side", in which Michael becomes distracted by SJ while they dance and sing in Michael's truck. Michael does not notice a truck backing out into the street, and the trucks collide.
  • The very concept of Hollywood Driving is parodied in Last Action Hero, where Jack Slater turns around completely in his seat so that he is almost lying in the back seat and drives the car entirely with his feet, all so he can fire his gun more accurately backwards. He claims that you just need a lot of practice in a low traffic area.
  • Kyle Reese in The Terminator spends half of the LA car chase yelling exposition in Sarah's face, and the other half driving on sidewalks, into oncoming traffic, screeching to stops, standing up in the driver's seat to fire a gun back over the roof of the car ... although you could argue that since he came from his particular future insane driving is justified for him.
    • Subversion, since most of the exposition was given while the car was parked, the rest of the time he looked at the road and didn't bother with anything other than driving and/or shooting.
  • Portrayed realistically in Mystery Team. Though Leroy constantly turns around to yell at the protagonists, Duncan constantly requests that he focuses on the road. This later turns out to be good advice.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the book Last Chance To See, Douglas Adams talks about how their driver would turn to look at you when asking a question. He would not look back at the road until he got an answer, making it very hard to form coherent sentences.
  • Used in the Twilight series by Edward especially, who stares at Bella for long periods while driving at excessive speed.
    • Justified, to a certain extent, by the fact that vampires in the series have superhuman senses and reaction speeds, and Edward in particular is a mind reader. No need for this guy to take defensive driving.
      • Edward may have superhuman reaction time, but Bella's clunky car does not. It doesn't matter how fast you can slam the break or jerk the wheel if the vehicle takes the same amount of time to respond. Slamming the break especially quickly doesn't change the stopping distance, anyway.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • This caused Dick and Mary to crash once on 3rd Rock from the Sun.
  • Real Life: Ken and Curt, from the fourth season of Canadas Worst Driver, have this cited as among their worst problems. And Scott from Season Six was often called "Hollywood" as an insult by his nominator, who eventually cancelled Scotts insurance. In other words, Scott was kicked off the show by his own nominator—in the second episode, no less!
  • Truth in Television: During the Alfa Romeo Challenge on Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson demonstrates just how loose the steering is on Hammond's 2.0 Spyder, wiggling the wheel 30 degrees each way, and the front wheels shown on camera are not moving at all. He then Lampshades it by saying: "You can drive this car through an American movie!"
  • On NCIS Gibbs drives without looking at the road while speeding and heading toward oncoming traffic, much to the terror of his team members. He's never had an accident.
    • Ziva does this too, to a lesser extent.
  • A Friends episode has a moment where Joey's driving, and he looks over at the passenger. The passenger tells him that he should keep his eyes on the road, to which he replies, "Don't worry, it's out there."
  • Bones: Booth spends an inordinate amount of time looking at Bones as they talk in his SUV, instead of keeping his eyes on those busy Washington DC city streets.
    • In "The Witch in the Wardrobe", this trope is subverted when Hodgins looks at Angela's camera while driving and ends up swerving into the next lane.
  • White Collar: Lampshaded. Peter had a tendency to lecture Neal while driving and take his eyes off the road, leading to several almost crashes.
  • The Comeback, starring Lisa Kudrow. Kudrow's character Valerie Cherish is driving along, and then looks in the backseat to talk to her director, Jane, only to have Jane say, "Could you please keep your eyes on the road." Mostly because Jane was in the car during Valerie's previous foray into Hollywood Driving, which ended in a car wreck.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Dan rails against the idea of this in the commentary of an El Goonish Shive comic featuring Susan and Sarah having a conversation. Susan actually points to (bits of) Sarah; all the while, her eyes are fixed on the road ahead. In fact, the only time in the car Susan isn't looking forward is when she's shown turning right.
  • In a strip of Questionable Content, Tai is driving with Faye and looking at her and talking about Dora while driving, until Faye shouts at her and tells her that she ran 3 red lights and almost hit an old woman on the sidewalk.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The old Scooby Doo cartoons normally had the gang driving down a road at night, Fred at the wheel and normally turning it this way and that with no apparent change in the Mystery Machine's direction.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Many Ford F150s suffered from having incredibly loose steering at the center. Rack and pinion steering is a very important invention.
    • It's not necessarily the steering itself. Older Ford trucks used something they called "Twin-I-Beam" front suspension (AKA swing axles), which meant that the wheel camber varied constantly as the suspension flexed going over bumps and irregularities in the road. The result was poor handling even by truck standards.
  • It should be noted that the faster the vehicle is moving, the less you need to turn the wheel in order to turn the vehicle. Therefore, any instance of someone turning the steering wheel more than 90 degrees when they "missed their turn" at high speed is an example of Hollywood Driving. Conversely, anyone maneuvering into a parking spot at slow speed by barely turning the steering wheel is also guilty.