The Fifth Element

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
You no trouble. Me... Fifth element... supreme being... me, protect you... Hmm? Sleep.
Leeloo, The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element is a 1997 Science Fiction Film directed by Luc Besson, starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker and Ian Holm. Not to be confused with Element Number Five.

The movie opens in 1914, in an Egyptian temple, where an archaeologist, assisted by a reporter, discovers hieroglyphs that report about a Great Evil that is unleashed and tries to destroy all life every five millennia and the weapons to defeat it: four stones representing water, fire, air and earth and a "perfect being" representing a fifth element sealed in a sarcophagus. A priest on site seems incredibly disturbed that the discovery is being made, going so far as to (unsuccessfully) poison the archaeologist to prevent the discovery. Just as the discovery is made, the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who made the temple in the first place (and whom the priest, and all those who have come before him, have secretly served) arrive in a giant space ship and take away the stones and the sarcophagus, explaining that they are unsafe with the imminent war on Earth. The aliens also order the priest to continue to take care of the temple and to pass on his knowledge, as it was passed on to him, to prepare for the Great Evil's incoming. The priest points out that they're leaving Earth defenseless, and the aliens reply that when the Great Evil returns, so shall they. Cut to...

2263, where the Great Evil is starting to form itself. On their way to deliver the five elements back, the aliens are shot down by a ship of another race of proud warrior aliens, who steal the box which would contain the stones. The remains of the "fifth element" are found and Earth scientists reconstruct it, generating an orange-haired Mysterious Waif named Leeloo, who breaks out of the lab and dives into a taxi driven by ex-soldier Korben Dallas. With the Great Evil getting closer, Korben has to help Leeloo save the planet.

Tropes used in The Fifth Element include:
  • 2-D Space: The border of the Federated Territories is a massive line of buoys (presumably scanners) which detect incoming ships and turn green to indicate that they may pass. There's not even multiple lines.
  • Action Girl/Action Girlfriend: Leeloo.
  • Aerith and Bob: In the same character's name, no less. Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel... Zorg?
  • Aggressive Negotiations: Korben Dallas negotiates by shooting the leader of the Mangalores, knowing this will take the fight out of the others.

Dallas: Anyone else want to negotiate?
Fog: Where did he learn to negotiate like that?
President (with a glance toward the General): I wonder.

  • Air Vent Passageway: Played straight when Leeloo escapes the lab in the beginning. Subverted when she tries it against Zorg; he has a machine gun and the vent is noisy, so he does eventually hit her.
  • Always Lawful Good: The Mondoshawans.
  • Arc Words: "Time not important. Only life important." "Four elements gathered around a fifth."
  • Ask a Stupid Question: "Uhh, negative. I am a meat popsicle."
  • Attack Backfire: The big dark planet of evil is attacked by Earth's military with several rockets. Instead of the rockets hurting it, they cause it to get bigger.
  • At the Opera Tonight: One of the most entertaining opera scenes on film, inter-cut with a fight scene for Leeloo. Actually an opera in space in a Space Opera. How appropriate!
  • Auto Doc: The machine used to "repair" Leeloo. It actually reconstructs her from what is essentially a bone fragment containing living cells.
  • Awesome but Practical: The Replay feature on the ZF-1 is cool. If you can hit your target once, you can proceed to send another few dozen at them with very little effort. Extremely practical. The first hit in a gunfight is often decisive, but armor can often stop a bullet, or you might graze them or not actually damage them badly enough to stop them. Or they could be a giant alien who needs more than one hit to take them down. That first hit will be even more decisive when it turns into 30 more hits while the shooter is behind cover.
  • Ax Crazy: Zorg.
  • Badass: Dallas. Leeloo can kick serious ass if she wants to.
  • Badass Adorable: Leeloo is cute, innocent, has No Social Skills, No Nudity Taboo and is perfectly capable of breaking every bone in your body without breaking a sweat. Which she will do if you cross her.
  • Bad Boss: Never disappoint Zorg.
    • And even if you don't, he'll still fire you, just for kicks, as Dallas found out.
  • Bad Cop, Incompetent Cop: The cops here never manage to do anything more than get in the way and die.
  • Bad Liar: David the apprentice priest.
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: Lindberg, the President of Earth, played by Tom Lister, Jr.
  • Ballistic Discount: Subverted, where Zorg shows the Mangalores all the fancy special features of the consignment of assault rifles they've ordered, and they walk off with them without completing their side of the bargain. Turns out his insurance policy was to show them all the fancy special features except explaining What That Little Red Button Does—it's a high-explosive self-destruct.
  • Big Applesauce: Of all the places to bring a Supreme Being, it's, of course, New York City.
  • Birthmark of Destiny: Leeloo carries the symbols of the four elements in her wrist.
  • Brick Joke: When the Mangalore fail to deliver the stones to Zorg, he tricks them into blowing themselves up with the ZF-1's self-destruct function. Guess what happens to Zorg on the ship later (see Karmic Death below)?
    • During one of the phone calls with Korben's mother (specifically; to the President because her son saves the Earth), she can be briefly heard alluding to previous scenes:

"I might as well throw myself into traffic[1] or Saran Wrap myself to the bed[2] and pretend my child is suffocating me..."

  • Buffy-Speak: Ruby Rhod falls into this when the Mangalores strike the cruise ship. What's worse, despite how vague the description is, General Munro knows exactly who he's talking about.
  • Bullethole Door
  • Camera Spoofing: A thief at the beginning of the film does this to Korben's apartment camera by wearing a hat with a picture of the background on it. Thus, by tilting his head at the camera, it looks like everything's clear. Then he pops up and tries to mug Korben. Korben tricks him into turning the gun safety on, takes his gun, then compliments the hat.
  • Camp Straight: Ruby Rhod and his entourage play every camp stereotype to the hilt, even though they're not gay. Just because Ruby's fabulous doesn't mean he doesn't love the ladies. A lot. According to the DVD Commentary, Ruby (originally named "Loc") is a combination of Prince and Lenny Kravitz.
    • Ruby even oddly uses the female pronoun when referring to himself on radio calling himself Miss Ruby Rhod.
    • Also applies to Baby Ray, the deaf "star of stage and screen", who is surrounded by a gaggle of admiring ladies when we first meet him. If anything, it seems like this is the fashion of the future and Korben is the aberration as a manly man.
  • Car Cushion
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Zorg.
  • The Casanova: Ruby Rhod.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Zorg: "I am... disappointed."
    • Ruby Rhod: "Are we green?" and "BZZZZZZZZ!"
  • Chance Activation: David does this with the Air element stone.
  • Chekhov's Gun: If you want an example of how to use this trope well, look no further. Almost everything important in this movie is introduced in a previous scene. A partial list includes Korben's matchbook, Leeloo reading about martial arts, and the Mangalores being able to shapechange.
  • Clone Jesus: Leeloo, though she isn't really cloned per se.
  • Closet Shuffle
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: At the end, Korben and Leeloo start making love in the regeneration chamber when the President comes in to congratulate Korben.
  • Colony Drop: Well, a huge moon-like thing, anyway.
  • Conspicuous CG: The arms of the machine that reconstruct Leeloo are rather blatant.
  • Cosmic Keystone: Leeloo, who acts as a super weapon against evil.
  • Costume Porn: Literally. Costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier!
  • Crapsack World: If you really look at it, despite all the high tech gear, Earth, with it's overcrowded and polluted cities and oppressive police rule, really doesn't look like a good place to live.
  • Crash Into Hello: Leeloo literally crashes through the roof of Dallas's car.
  • Creepy Monotone: The attendant that introduces Korben to his room.
    • Except when she talks about Ruby Rhod, then she gets all excited.
  • Description Cut/Gilligan Cut: Oh, honey. The movie lives on these two tropes.
  • Die Hard On A Boat IIIIIIIIN SPAAAAAACE!!!!!: With bonus points for starring Bruce Willis himself.
  • Down to the Last Match
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma: Dallas kisses an unconscious Leeloo. He realizes this was a bad idea when in the next moment she's woken up and is pointing his own gun at his head while angrily saying something in an alien language. Fittingly, what she says is translated by the priest as "Never without my permission".
  • Dulcinea Effect: Korben is moved enough by the shaky pleading of the unintelligible redhead that just fell through the roof of his cab, to get into a high-speed chase with the police. He's at least Genre Savvy enough to realize that he's getting into far more trouble than he can really afford.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Great Evil.
  • Element Number Five: We would have just called it The Fifth Element if this movie hadn't beaten us there.
  • Eureka Moment: After David's Chance Activation of the Air Stone, it takes the others a few minutes to work out that he did so by breathing on it; from there, it's a short step to "use each Element to activate its respective Stone."
  • Evil Laugh: Zorg gets one and breaks down in tears.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once
  • Evil Sounds Deep: "Mr. Shadow" appears only as a voice on the telephone, and it's about as deep as you can get and still be comprehensible.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Sleep regulators, which will regulate your sleep."
  • Exclusively Evil: The Mangalores.
  • Fan Service with a Smile: The female staff of every non-governmental organization shown onscreen. Note the McDonald's drive-thru girls... My goodness.
  • Fictionary
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Flat What: Zorg gets a couple of these.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: The poster on this page.
    • The DVD cover is even worse: the floating heads take up almost the whole cover, and it looks as if the cars are frantically running away from them.
  • Flying Cars
  • Food Pills: Leeloo pours a small amount of food pellets into a bowl, puts the bowl in a microwave-like device, closes the door, presses a button, and opens the door again, pulling out an instant roast chicken with all the trimmings. Forget faster-than-light travel; that is clearly the pinnacle of human achievement.
  • From a Single Cell: This happens to Leeloo in the beginning.
  • Fun Personified: Ruby Rhod.
  • Future Music: The techno-rock-opera fusion performed by the Diva.
  • Futuristic Superhighway: New York City of the 23rd Century has designated "lanes" for Flying Cars stacked on top of each other throughout the city.
  • George Lucas Throwback: The movie's script was intended to be basically a Troperiffic Reconstruction of all the Sci Fi French Belgian Comic Books of The Seventies and Eighties that the writer was a fan of.
  • Glass Cannon: As described by the Diva, Leeloo is more fragile than she seems; she can fight, but she can be hurt, and her heart is even more vulnerable than her body.
  • Going by the Matchbook: Surprisingly, searching for and not finding matches is a repeated in-joke.
  • Harmless Freezing: General Munro and two of his men were stuffed in the freezer by Korben Dallas to hide them from the cops. He freed them after a couple of minutes when they were already frozen still. But later on the General seems to be OK again.[3]
  • Heroic BSOD: Leeloo descends into despair as she sees humans' inhumanity to their fellow humans, almost losing it completely when Diva is killed, and then decides to read up on the "WAR" section of the dictionary. This becomes an important plot point almost immediately afterward as she initially refuses to save the universe if war and violence are all it has to offer.
  • Homage:
    • Much of the futuristic New York and the character of Korben Dallas pay homage to the Harry Canyon story from Heavy Metal.
    • The French comic series Valerian by Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin features a near-identical flying taxi in the album Circles of Power, though with driver whose personality has little in common with Korben's. Much of the costume inspirations also comes from this comic. Mézières was one of the film's Production Designers. The other was Jean Giraud aka Moebius!
    • The rather terrifying lieutenant the Military planned to send with Korben, played by Julie T Wallace, has Leia's Hairstyle from A New Hope, only cranked Up to Eleven. Possibly also a Crowning Moment of Funny (for some, of course, it's Fetish Fuel).
    • Earth's military spaceships look a lot like bloated Star Destroyers.
  • Hostage Situation: "Anyone else want to negotiate?"
  • Hot Pursuit: How many police cars does it take to stop one taxi?
  • If You Want Something Done Right, Do it Yourself: Jean-Baptisete Zorg mutters this as he marches up the stairs, holding a ray gun and a crate.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: The four element stones are held by Diva Plavalaguna (inside her body!) who hands them over to Dallas as she is dying.
    • And the Mondoshawan, twice: once with the key to the temple, and once with Leeloo herself.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: Literally: the bad guy uses a cockroach fitted with an antenna to spy on the president. Of course, there's a downside to this: the President squashes the bug (and the microphone) when it climbs onto the desk. Goodbye, eardrums! [4]
  • Informed Attractiveness: The only way you could believe that Chris Tucker dressing like RuPaul is one of the sexiest media personalities in the universe is to have one or more of the female extras explicitly tell you they find him sexy.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Leeloo, who at first doesn't bother to hide her nudity when changing clothes. Then again, she is with two priests of the order that knows who and what she is.
    • Then again, she also undressed in front of Dallas even though he tried to kiss her while she was unconscious.
  • Instant Expert: Leeloo learns English in the space of about a day, by speed-reading the 23rd century equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the novelization, she learns all the languages of humanity.
  • In the Future We Still Have Roombas: The cleaning robots that instantly jump into action in Zorg's office.
  • Jewish Mother: Korben Dallas's mother seems to be this.
  • Karmic Death: Zorg, who is bombed when one of his own mercenaries sets one off, mere seconds after disabling the one he himself triggered earlier, and Mr. Shadow, who is killed by The Power of Love.
    • Further emphasized by the fact that earlier in the movie Zorg mocked the Mangalore's moral code of dying for honor only to become a victim of one of their "honorable" deaths.
  • Kavorka Man: Despite dressing and behaving in a fashion that evokes Camp Gay, the ladies love Ruby Rhod, and he loves them right back.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: There's nary a personal-scale Energy Weapon in sight, just kickass ballistic weapons.
  • Large Ham: Zorg, Ruby Rhod.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Done to Korben as he's funneled into the VIP lounge to appear on Ruby Rhod's radio show.

Korben: (to flight attendant fangirl) Yes, I'm sure you're very excited, but I'm on my vacation, and I don't want to be bothered. I'd like to remain anonymous.
(Cue massive fanfare, followed by Ruby Rhod sliding into the scene wearing a mic/headset)
Ruby Rhod: KORBEN DALLAAAAAAAAAAAAS!!! Here he is, the one and only winner of the Gemini Croquette contest!

  • Laser Guided Tykebomb: Leeloo acts very naive and flighty at times, but when it's time for business, just pray you're on her side and not her enemy.
  • Little No:

Zorg: Oh, no.

Mangalore: "For the honor..."

  • Mandatory Unretirement: Note: Never join the military in the Future.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Leeloo and Korben. Hard to tell for sure though, it's possibly subverted. They never say if Leeloo is immortal or was just kept in stasis.
  • Memetic Sex God: Ruby Rhod, in-universe.
  • Mickey Mousing: Happens when the Diva is singing an opera and Leeloo is kicking some ass against aliens. Seen here.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Zorg and Korben's group miss each other by seconds when trying to escape the hotel.
  • Mobile Kiosk: An amusing flying Chinese restaurant/boat.
  • Motor Mouth: Ruby Rhod.
  • My Beloved Smother: Korben's mother.
  • Mysterious Waif: Leeloo again, of course. She basically has the market cornered on all anima-related tropes.
  • Naked on Arrival: Add one more trope for Leeloo, though to be fair they did build her from a severed hand up.
  • Neck Lift: Korben does one to Ruby Rhod.
  • Nothing Can Save Us Now: "We're never gonna make it." Cue a clever action that does lead to them being saved.
    • The general is assured that Leeloo's containment vessel is unbreakable. Thirty seconds later, she breaks through the glass.
    • With her bare hands, no less! Also counts as Special Effects Failure, as the obviously whole glass has quite clearly been replaced with a visible breakaway circle for Leeloo to punch, and the timing is slow enough that you'll probably notice it without having to pause.
  • Not with the Safety On, You Won't: Dallas helpfully tells someone trying to rob him that the gun isn't loaded, and even gives him time to push the button, turning the safety on.
  • Offhand Backhand: Done by Leeloo after brawling with a Mangalore strike force, and earlier (accidentally) by Ruby Rhod to a flight attendant with his mic/pimp-cane.
  • Oh Crap: Zorg has one of these in the form of a Little No before he realizes that the Proud Warrior Race is going to manually detonate the bomb anyway.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The alien opera diva.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: Korben Dallas is sent to retrieve the elemental stones, rather than, say, intercepting the Diva with the Navy and avoiding the whole public-place hand-off thing.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Again, Leeloo.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Korben in the ship as the Mangalore bomb blows up the ship above Phloston.
  • Overly Long Name: Leeloo Minai Lekarariba-Laminai-Tchai Ekbat De Sebat; she goes by "Leeloo Dallas" (Multipass) a few scenes later. "Ekbat De Sebat" is actually her title.
    • Yes, she knows it's a Multipass!
  • Overly Long Scream: Ruby Rhod is prone to these when things get hectic.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: Said to Leeloo.
  • Police State: The Federated Territories, or at the very least New York, are like this. "This is not an exercise. This is a police control." You have to live with that in your own home, to say nothing of the spaceport. The police are extremely well-armed and can put hundreds of holes in your vehicle just based on suspicion of you being a car thief.
  • Popcultural Osmosis: Flying cars in canyons from Blade Runner, but possibly also from the Metal Hurlant comics of which Luc Besson is inordinately fond. To the point of hiring Metal Hurlant artists as designers, as noted above.
  • Post-Historical Trauma: Leeloo's breakdown towards the end, once reading about the dreaded W for War in the encyclopedia.
  • The Power of Love: What with the discussion between Leeloo and Korben near the end, people thought this was what the title referred to. Word of God from director Luc Besson has clarified in an interview that the Fifth Element is actually sex.
    • Does that mean the beam that stops the dark planet is Leeloo having the ultimate immodest orgasm?
  • Product Placement: McDonald's. Could that sign be any bigger?
    • Maybe if the camera crashed into... oh never mind.
  • Professional Butt Kissers: Ruby Rhod's entourage.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: Leeloo's DNA.
  • Retired Badass: Korben is this, up until he's unretired.
  • Roboteching: The ZF-1 does this with bullets. It's just that good. The ZF-1's Replay function was so iconic it inspired several guns in later works, like the Bullseye Rifle in Resistance Fall of Man.
  • Rubber Forehead Aliens: Both played somewhat straight with Plava Laguna and averted impressively with the Mondoshawans. The Mangalores are a bit of a subversion, in that they appear to be inspired by Star Trek-type humanoid aliens but have high-tec anamatronic complete facial prosthetics that make them seem very authentic.
  • Rule of Fun: The movie is an intentionally over-the-top, off-the-wall pop epic, cheerfully embracing every sci-fi staple it can get its hands on and running with it.
  • Schmuck Bait:

Zorg: Now a real killer, when he picked up the ZF-1, would've immediately asked about the little red button on the bottom of the gun.

Cornelius: It's a - it's a - it's a - it's a - it's a - it's a...
Ruby Rhod: No no no no no no. 'Cuz if it was a bomb, the alarms would go off 'cuz all these hotels have bomb detectors, right?
[the alarms go off]

  • This Is Sparta: "I am... a little... disappointed. And if there's one thing... I do not like... it is to be... disappointed."
    • Mr. Shadow also gets a fairly chilling one during his phone conversation with Zorg, complete with stigmata.


  • Trash of the Titans: The airport has a mountain ridge of trash running through it due to the janitorial staff being on strike.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: Plava Laguna keeps the stones inside her chest for safe keeping.
  • Troperiffic: Mysterious Waif MacGuffin Girl? Check. Sissy Villain glowing with cartoon villainy? Check. Ultra-manly man Action Hero played by Bruce Willis? Check. Rubber Forehead Aliens, hovercar chases, Waif Fu, the Ultimate Evil, and the world being saved through The Power of Love? Check, check, check, check, check. This movie is a lovingly prepared four-course meal of cheesy sci-fi tropes.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: Twice.
    • Both times used to hilarious effect.
  • Unflinching Walk: Though he actually stops just prior to the explosion, Zorg qualifies when he tricks the Mangalores into blowing themselves up. He doesn't even flinch at the big boom in the tunnels, while his assistant freaks out.
  • Updated Rerelease: This movie has been re-released more than once because it is great for showing off new high-end TVs. It's nearly always kept prominently displayed as a result.
  • Vicious Cycle: An evil planet that comes to life every five thousand years attempts to collide with the Earth, causing a chain reaction that would destroy all life in the universe. This can only be prevented by the use of an ancient superweapon and, in the film, The Power of Love.
    • The shot at the end when we see how close the planet got to colliding with Earth also has our eerily similarly sized moon lingering in view as well, implying that its origins were from the last time this happened (and that it was also a very close call).
  • A Villain Named Zrg: Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Zorg has one surprisingly early when the Mangalores fail to deliver the stones. He then has an even bigger one when he himself fails, though this is justified as he knows what will happen if he fails Mr. Shadow.
  • The Voice: Korben Dallas's mother is heard but never seen.
  • Waif Fu: And another Leeloo trope. We are not at home to Mr Newton, no sir.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: Ruby Rhod proclaims the attack of Fhloston Paradise as the "best show I ever did."
  • We Do the Impossible: Korben.
  • You Are Already Checked In: Used intentionally to the point of being a Running Gag.
  • You Have 48 Hours:
    • They have 48 hours before the Big Bad Ultimate Evil could attack.
    • Zorg also gives such an ultimatum to one of his underlings.
  • You Have Failed Me...: Used by Zorg on the poor underling who failed to impersonate Dallas.

Right-Arm: Sorry, sir, this will never happen again.
Zorg: I know.

  • You Monster!: Priest Vito Cornelius tells Zorg "You're a monster", to which Zorg replies "I know."
  1. Happens to Leeloo during her lab escape.
  2. Happens to Cornelius in Korben's apartment.
  3. In the novelization, it's Not So Harmless: the General is later described to have had a couple of fingers amputated as a result.
  4. Life Imitates Art/Technology Marches On: We can already do this.