Lampshade Hanging/Film

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Lampshades hung in films.


Live-Action Film

  • The 2012 film The Cabin in the Woods is one huge lampshade-hanging exercise.
  • In the 2011 film The Muppets after the exposition of the characters' seemingly insurmountable obstacle, Amy Adams' character quips, "This is going to be an awfully short movie."
  • About the film Casablanca, from p. 372 of the screenwriting book Story by Robert McKee:

Ferrari is the ultimate capitalist and crook who never does anything except for money. Yet at one point Ferrari helps Victor Lazlo find the precious letters of transit and wants nothing in return. That's out of character, illogical. Knowing this, the writers gave Ferrari the line: "Why I'm doing this, I don't know, because it can't possible profit me..." Rather than hiding the hole, the writers admitted it with the bold lie that Ferrari might be impulsively generous. The audience knows we often do things for reasons we can't explain. Complimented, it nods, thinking, "Even Ferrari doesn't get it. Fine. On with the film."

    • The implication is clearly that he's so charmed by Mrs. Lazlo that it inspires him to an act of impulsive gallantry.
  • A Double-Lampshade Hanging happens in a single scene of the fourth wall-less biopic Twenty Four Hour Party People: Factory Records owner Tony Wilson is caught red-handed by his wife while he is receiving fellatio from a prostitute. His wife then retaliates by immediately seducing Howard Devoto, the lead singer of the band The Buzzcocks. Tony catches the pair having sex in a toilet stall. The real Howard Devoto, portraying a janitor cleaning the bathroom sink, then turns to the camera and says "I definitely don't remember this happening." There is then a disclaimer read by the actor playing Tony Wilson, stating that this incident indeed never actually happened.
  • In The Perfect Score the thieves planning to steal the SAT enter the door code to open the door to the room where they expect the SAT has been filed. One character says, "Ladies and Gentlemen I give you..." "...a complete waste of time." The room turns out to be COMPLETELY empty. One of the characters says "Wait, why would anyone lock the door to this?"
  • In the Blaxploitation Parody I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, one of the small-time thugs has a shoot out with a protagonist, but ends up running out of ammo. However, the protagonist has plenty of ammo left. "Hold on a minute!! You just shot 12 times with a 6-shot revolver without reloading!!" The protagonist smugly replies, "Whatcha gonna do about it?"
  • In Snakes on a Plane, after Samuel L. Jackson's character explains to his superiors that the bad guy has filled the plane with deadly snakes, the superior comments, "What kind of insane plan is that?"
  • Perhaps the most delicious use of this is in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me:

Austin: So, Basil, if I travel back to 1969 and I was frozen in 1967, presumably I could go back and look at my frozen self. But, if I'm still frozen in 1967, how could I have been unthawed in the nineties and traveled back to the--oh no, I've gone cross-eyed.
Basil: I suggest you don't worry about those things and just enjoy yourself. (to camera) That goes for you all, too.

Austin: Yes.

    • Or when Austin is supposedly driving around England:
  • The Forbidden Kingdom
    • Jason Tripitakas' last name is a lampshade hanging of his role as well as the story's roots in Journey to the West (Tripitaka is a title of the monk Xuanzang, and as in the novel it's the other leads [[[Jet Li]] and Jackie Chan] that really make this story). For laughs, his being one of the only non-Chinese in the whole cast is lampshaded by Jet Li.

Jet Li: He's the Seeker? He's not even Chinese!

    • The best explanation for ancient Chinese people speaking English ever. Initially, when Jason gets dumped in China, everyone speaks Chinese. Then Jason mentions that he can't understand, and Jackie Chan states, in Chinese-Accented English, "That's because you're not listening!" Thereafter, everyone speaks English.
  • In the 2008 Iron Man film, once Tony has come to accept that he's become a superhero, he proceeds to go on a little spiel describing in detail all of the trials he'll have to go through now, particularly identity crises and having to let the woman he loves in on it so she'll be up all night worrying about him. In short, all of the comic book movie clichés. And then magnificently subverts them by straight-out announcing his secret identity at a press conference.
    • His doing so was not only lampshaded but foreshadowed by Tony in his semi-sober speech as he displayed the Jericho weapons system at the very start of the film trailer: "Is it better to be feared, or respected?" As the dust and wind from the weapon's rather severe success billows toward and past him from behind, Tony finishes, "I say, is it too much to ask for both?"
    • Also, the set-up SHIELD had created (that Iron Man was Stark's bodyguard) is exactly what happened in the comic book for decades, so they're even lampshading some comic book weirdness which wouldn't fly today.
    • In the second film, they lampshade the new actor playing Rhodey by having him say (to Tony's surprise at seeing him) "I'm here, it's me, get over it."
  • In Star Trek, discussing what to do about Nero brings about a lengthy explanation that Nero's actions, beginning with his attack on the USS Calvin Kelvin decades ago have altered the timeline and created an alternate reality, thereby justifying why the film is so radically different from the canon. Spock even says so himself: "Whatever our lives might have been if the time continuum was disrupted -- our destinies have changed." He might as well have just looked right at the camera while saying it.
  • Galaxy Quest
    • When an improbably destructive obstacle impedes two of the heroes' headlong rush to save themselves:

Gwen DeMarco: What is this thing? I mean, it serves no useful purpose for there to be a bunch of chompy, crushy things in the middle of a hallway. No, I mean we shouldn't have to do this, it makes no logical sense, why is it here?
Jason Nesmith: 'Cause it's on the television show.
Gwen DeMarco: Well forget it! I'm not doing it! This episode was badly written!

    • This is far from the only lampshade hanging in Galaxy Quest, since it's about sci-fi actors living out a real version of their fictional adventures.
  • Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Marshall Willenholly is being shot at by two female criminals.

Willenholly: Why are you shooting at me? I'm just a Federal Wildlife Marshall.
Chrissy: Two reasons. One: we're walking, talking, bad girl clichés.
Missy: And two: because you're a man.

    • Also:

"I mean, a movie about two stoners who spout catch phrases? Who'd want to see that?" All three actors then look at the camera, and Silent Bob smiles.


Jonathan: Tell me more about this gold pyramid.
Ardeth Bey: It is written that since ancient times, no man who has laid eyes upon it has ever returned to tell the tale.
Jonathan: Where is all this stuff written?

    • In the third movie, The Mummy Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, an audience member asks Evelyn if the fictional character in the book she wrote is based on herself. She responds, "Honestly, I can say she's a completely different person." And that's when you realize that the character of Evelyn is being played by a different actress than in the first two Mummy movies.
  • In Thumbtanic, a character blatantly violates the maxim of "Show, Don't Tell" by narrating the sinking of the Thumbtanic, similar to a description of how it is portrayed in the film Titanic. After several seconds of this, he says "Oh, if we were ever to film this it would cost so--much--money!"
  • In the deliberately (and lovingly) trope-ridden action-fest Shoot Em Up, Paul Giamatti's villain Hertz points out exactly what the audience has been thinking, as Clive Owen's gun-toting action hero Mr. Smith takes down hundreds of bad guys without suffering a single wound himself, saying, "Do we really suck, or is this guy really that good?"
    • "Violence is one of the most fun things to watch."
  • In I Robot, Spooner, who has an intense fear of heights, comments on the "messed up" building design that forces the characters to walk out over an incredible drop, across very thin walkways, without safety rails, in order to access the only service terminal to a giant computerbrain.
  • Played straight in The Core. After discovering that the Earth is doomed, the protagonist is summoned to a meeting at the Pentagon to explain the problem to the military. When asked what can be done about it, he dives into a passionate, in-depth explanation of why the plot of the movie they're in is impossible. (Writer Revolt might be involved, specially because Executive Meddling tried to make the movie even dumber)
    • In addition, less than five minutes later in the movie, the impossible substance that makes the whole story possible is dubbed "Unobtainium".
    • Which was also done by James Cameron in Avatar for similar purposes.
  • Top Secret: "It all sounds like some bad movie!" Followed by both of the characters turning to stare directly at the camera.
  • 2006's Love And Other Disasters has several segments where characters discuss what they and their lives would be like if they were actually in a movie.
  • In Waiting..., Mitch hangs one enormous lampshade on the entire movie during the party at the end.
  • In the sequel to George of the Jungle, they just say outright that George is being played by a different actor. George himself tells the narrator: "Me new George. Studio too cheap to pay Brendan Fraser". (actually it was because Fraser was doing Looney Tunes: Back in Action... yeah). And amends with the character's Catch Phrase ("New George just lucky, I guess").
  • The Boondock Saints
    • After a gun accidentally goes off, improbably missing everyone but killing the cat, the characters look aghast. Murphy shouts, "I cannot believe that just fucking happened!"
    • Also in Boondock Saints when Agent Smecker considers the (true) theory of "assassins rappelling through the ceiling and disposing of nine dangerous mobsters in several seconds". He says "You see such things in bad television". Moments later, in flashback this trope is parodied when brothers seem surprised that all went so quickly and Murphy says that it was very different from shootouts portrayed in the movies.
  • In the film version of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, Ford Prefect is played in an American accent by American actor Mos Def; his mentioning having come "not from Guildford after all" takes on a slightly surreal edge presumably unintended by Douglas Adams. Later, Arthur mentions wondering about Ford's atypical accent.
  • This is all over Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
    • The scene where the cartoonist has a heart attack and dies. Come to think of it, this could be used to describe the film....
    • The bit with coconuts....
    • The ending, where the knights are taken away by police for their vicious murder of a historian in the middle of the movie.
  • There's a scene in the Fantastic Four movie where Jessica Alba's character comments on the the fact that, from a scientific point of view, she should be unable to turn invisible and still see since the cones in her eyes would also be invisible and utterly incapable of reflecting light. In this case, it seems less of a fourth wall breakage, and more an attempt to take the wind out of the sails of any internet nerds likely to bring it up on a blog.
  • In the 3rd Back to The Future movie, Doc insists that true love at first sight is a ridiculous concept with no scientific basis and can't possibly ever happen in real life. Then he meets Clara.
  • In Memphis Belle, two military reporters jadedly review the makeup of the titular plane's crew, commenting on how predictable a selection of men they are: "There's always a religious type." "There's always one from Cleveland." This is likely a lampshading of the stereotypical ensemble casts featured in old WWII films.
  • The 1970s version of King Kong lampshaded its own lame special effects: "What do you think knocked those trees down? Some guy in an ape suit?"
  • In Battle for Terra, General Hammer's terraforming device will take seven days to turn the planet Terra into a habitable one for human life, an obvious reference to Genesis. General Hammer reiterates, "Seven days, Jim," then follows it up with, "Very biblical, don't you think?"
  • In the beginning of Lucky Number Slevin, Bruce Willis's character is explaining the mechanics of a Kansas City Shuffle to a man in a train station. The explanation itself turns out to be part of a Kansas City Shuffle, when Willis gets the man to look right, then goes left, getting out of his wheelchair, and snaps the man's neck. This is also a reference to the fact that the entire plot of the film is, in fact, a Kansas City Shuffle.
  • Rear Window: More than one character points out what an idiot Thorwald would have to be to leave his blinds open all the time he was covering up his wife's murder.
  • In Agent Red, a Dolph Lundgren masterpiece, a character asks his character, "Never heard of the Agent Red?" to which he replies "It sounds like a bad action movie." and then there's a Beat and a brief Aside Glance.
  • In the 1990 Captain America (comics) film, the impracticality of Cap's outfit is lampshaded by the man himself saying that Dr. Vaselli -- the same woman who created the super soldier process, the shield, and yes, even the fire-proof costume -- "didn't know much about camouflage," to which another character replies "but she sure did love the red, white, and blue!"
  • In the 1st X-Men film, during the scene in which Wolverine becomes acquainted with the X-Men team and their adversaries, he repeatedly draws attention to their goofy code names. Later in the film, Cyclops heads off fanboy criticism by remarking on the film's deviation from classic X-Men outfits: "Well, what would you prefer? Yellow spandex?" (In First Class, the uniforms are yellow, and the reaction is "Do we actually have to wear these?") Magneto takes the opportunity to subtly lampshade Wolverine's Spotlight-Stealing Squad nature in each movie of the trilogy:

"Once again, you think it's all about you."

  • Barbarella. "What's that screaming? (pensively) Dramatic situations often start with screaming." This lamp needed a shade, because what she finds is some mooks tormenting Pygar the angel: they've got nothing to scream about, and Pygar is too angelically dignified to scream. So it looks like nobody screamed, it really was just a dramatic device.
  • In 2010's The Expendables, in the epilogue, Barney comments to someone how they miraculously came back from the dead, then Gunnar suddenly appears and replies that he's grateful that his friend still let him live instead of going all the way to Shoot the Dog.
  • Fatal Instinct
    • The phrase "Flash Back, Cape Cod 3 years earlier" is written on a fogged up mirror.
    • For purposes of secrecy Lana Ravine and her mechanic lover speak in Yiddish to each other, with subtitles for the audience. A man tells them he understands what they're saying, not because he can speak Yiddish but because he read the subtitles.
  • In The Monster Squad, after the obligatory put your hands in the center moment including a dog (while the characters are in a treehouse), the eldest member asks "How does a dog get up here anyway?"
  • In Alien, when the motion detector is introduced and explained as detecting "micro changes in air density" (even through walls and ceilings!), one of the engineers on the ship remarks "bullsh**". Later on, Ripley says something to the effect of "micro changes in air pressure my ass" after the detector fails to pick-up a door opening.
  • In Troll, the woman that supports the protagonist defeat the title creature has a magical mushroom as a pet and actually puts a lampshade on it every time someone visits her. It's like someone went back in time to put that in just to make it fit the name of this trope!
  • In Halloween, when Michael has hijacked a car, there is the question of whether he can drive - he's been institutionalized since he was a little boy

Wynn: Sam, Haddonfield is a hundred and fifty miles from here. How could he get there, he can't drive?
Loomis: He was doing all right last night. Maybe somebody around here gave him lessons.


Sister Superior: My Lord, thou hast always moved in mysterious ways thy wonders to perform, but this latest wonder takes some beating even from you.

  • Eliminators (1986):

"We got robots, we got cavemen, we got kung fu. What is this anyway, some kinda damn comic book?"


Lord Cutler Beckett: [Jack is about to light a cannon that's pointed at the mast] You're mad.
Jack Sparrow: Thank goodness for that, 'cause if I wasn't this would probably never work. [fires the cannon, which catapults him onto his ship, landing safely on his feet behind his crew]
Jack Sparrow: And that was without even a single drop of rum.

  • Ian's Genre Savvy line in the second Jurassic Park movie: "Oooh, ahhh. That's how it always starts. Then later there's the running, and the screaming."
  • In the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Charlie asks Willie Wonka, "Do you remember the first candy you ever ate?", prompting a flashback scene to Willie's childhood. When the scene returns to the present, the factory visitors are staring at Wonka, who shrugs and says "Sorry, I was having a flashback."
  • In "Gremlins 2: A New Batch" the writers respond to critics of the 3 Mogwai Rules set in the first film by having a Clamp Corp control room worker obnoxiously point out, "It's always midnight somewhere!", right before a gremlin bursts through his monitor panel and kills him.
  • From Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince:

Mcgonagall: Why is it that when something happens it is always you three?
Ron:Believe me Professor, I've been asking myself the same question for six years.

From the same film

He's covered in blood again. Why is he always covered in blood?

  • In the low-budget B movie Street Angels, right after the main character explains his plan (which is also a brief summary of the film's plot), the woman he's talking to comments "That sounds like the plot of a low-budget B movie."
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Henry Jones (Indy's father) directly calls out how the film treats his profession with "You call this archaeology?"
  • Paris When It Sizzles is a movie about a screenwriter and his typist, where the writer is drawing inspiration directly from their own lives and situation. Because of his cynicism, and the typist's smarts, the lampshades are thicker than the sexual tension.
  • In an early scene in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin and Obi-Wan are passing around the Idiot Ball, we get the following exchange:

Obi-Wan: Wait a minute! How did this happen? We're smarter than this!
Anakin: Apparently not.

  • "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" features George Lazenby in his only outing as James Bond, following Sean Connery in the series. During the opening sequence he fails to get the girl, prompting the line:

This never happened to the other fellow!


Back to Lampshade Hanging