5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

It has to be discouraging for an actor to know that very few performers ever get famous, and the ones who do, don't stay famous.

That has to be even more depressing when they realize that there are inanimate objects, from sound clips to buildings to old pairs of pants, that have IMDB listings longer than most working actors.

How? Well...

Advertisement

5
This Set Look Familiar?

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

There was a span of a couple of decades where, if you wanted a big shootout in your action movie, by God it would take place in a factory. Grated catwalks, steam rising from the ground, huge pipes snaking overhead. Valves. You know, like the first three Alien movies, where a spaceship, space colony and space prison all looked like abandoned steam plants.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
The way of the future!

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

There's a reason for that. The alien "nest" in Aliens was actually an abandoned power plant in London. And that's not the last time you saw it; in Tim Burton's first Batman movie, where Jack Nicholson becomes the Joker during a shootout at Axis Chemicals? It was shot at the same damned power plant. They even re-used some of the sets James Cameron left behind.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

But that building has nothing on the old Battersea Power Station, also in London. It's turned up in The Dark Knight (the "warehouse" where Rachel Dawes got blown up) as well as Children of Men, 1984, Full Metal Jacket and episodes of Dr. Who and Lost.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
This factory has more film credits than Samuel L. Jackson.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Hey, you want to set your movie or TV show in a high school? Head to Van Nuys.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Does that look familiar? It should, if you've seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Or Grease. Or The Wonder Years. Or Christine. Or half of the episodes of other TV shows that happen to take place in a school. That's Van Nuys High School, and we're guessing it's pretty damned hard to get an education there when every other day there's a film crew shooting a damned coming of age dramedy.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
"Hey, is that the new principal or Judge Reinhold?"

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

But probably the granddaddy of all reused California locations is the venerable Bronson Canyon. Not, surprisingly, named after epic mustache/firearm wielder Charles Bronson, Bronson Canyon has been used as a cheap ass "rock with a cave entrance" location since 1919. It was the entrance to the Bat Cave in the old Batman TV show:

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
Legend has it that Burt Ward and Adam West haunt Bronson Canyon to this day.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

And has since turned up in Star Trek VI, Army of Darkness, Cabin Fever, The Scorpion King and countless others.

And Sometimes it Gets Weird:

The most baffling recycling job has to be the way the sets from the 1969 Barbara Streisand musical Hello, Dolly! somehow got reused in everything from The Towering Inferno to the Planet of the Apes sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Action Hero.

Holy shit, if Hello, Dolly! had included a factory scene, Hollywood would have never had to build another set.

4
Fake Companies

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Let's say you're trying to make a movie featuring a plane hijacking, a plane crash or anything bad happening to a plane. For some reason, the airlines just aren't willing to pay a product placement fee for the privilege of being shown as horribly dangerous, so you've got to invent your own. But do you really want to pay the art department a million bucks to design something that isn't going to be seen for more than a second, when that money could instead go toward the coke budget?

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

No, and therefore pretty much every time Hollywood needs to depict an airplane crash or a huge flying fireball, they fly Oceanic Airlines. You probably know them from Lost, but Steven Seagal was sucked out of an airlock on Oceanic Flight 343 in Executive Decision and Chuck tells us an Oceanic flight was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
Oceanic Airlines: Consistently exploding since 1983.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

How long has Hollywood they been doing the fake brand thing? Well, X-Files fans may remember the Cigarette Smoking Man's brand was Morleys, but that ersatz brand has been cranking out imaginary cigarettes for almost half a century. This smooth, delicious, totally-not-Marlboro-at-all brand first appeared waaaaaay back in 1963, when William Shatner was fighting a giant panda on an airplane wing in The Twilight Zone. And they've turned up as recently as Burn Notice.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
Welcome to flavor country.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

And Sometimes it Gets Weird:

We can understand why no airline wants to be in a hijacking movie, and why TV networks aren't big on endorsing a certain cigarette brand (after all, cigarette TV ads have been banned for almost 40 years). But why in the hell can't they show someone using Google when it's time to, you know, Google something?

Instead, the most popular search engine in the TV universe is something called "Finder-Spyder", which utterly dominates the search market in Heroes, Prison Break, CSI, Dexter and at least a dozen other shows.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

We can't wait for "Spyder-Maps" or "F-Mail" to turn up, since TV people talking about Internet concepts don't sound enough like clueless jackasses.

3
This Sounds Familiar...

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

One of the most important parts of film making is also the one the audience almost never thinks about: sound effects. In just some random shot of a guy and a girl walking down a sidewalk, you not only have redubbed dialogue to cover for the fact that Scarlet Johansson farted over one of the dude's lines, but layers of sound added in under it. From cleaner-sounding footsteps, to the sound of passing cars, to crickets chirping away in the distance. You don't notice it, but you'd sure notice if it wasn't there.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
Sound is like the chainsaw guy that follows you around: You'd miss it if it were gone.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Luckily sound technicians have a sound effects library, a huge stockpile of everything from lion roars to children's laughter to rain on a tin roof. And that shit gets used again and again and again.

When you think of an ominous clap of thunder, you're thinking of "Castle Thunder," a clip that has been in continuous use for 70 damn years. It was recorded for Frankenstein in 1931 and since then you've heard it in Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, First Blood, Citizen Kane, Die Hard 4 and, well, pretty much every fucking movie that has had thunder in it since your grandpa was a toddler.

Film scores get their own share of mileage, too. Need a dramatic hunk of music that can build excitement for anything, ever? Just try "Lux Aeterna" from the Requiem For A Dream soundtrack.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

If you didn't see Requiem then you heard it in the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers trailer. Or in the trailer for I Am Legend, or The Da Vinci Code, or The Fountain or Man on Fire or the game Assassin's Creed. Or maybe you heard it in ads for Lost or when the judges walk in during every episode of Britain's Got Talent.

That bit of music from Requiem for a Dream is now one of the most popular bits of trailer music ever... but, ironically, it was not in the trailer for Requiem for a Dream.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
Instead, producers went with "Walking on Sunshine."

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

And Sometimes it Gets Weird:

Still, all of these ain't got nothing on the Wilhelm Scream:

A dude screamed into a microphone about 60 years ago and it's been turning up in movies ever since. It was originally recorded for a movie called Distant Drums in 1951 as a series of "pained screams" which were recycled for a few movies, and then lost until about 20 years later, when Ben Burtt found the scream on a reel labeled "Man being eaten by alligator" and stuck it in Star Wars, as the sound of a Storm Trooper falling off a ledge.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Burtt included it in every Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie, and it's been a running in-joke with sound designers ever since, showing up in everything from Poltergeist to Pirates of the Carribean. So who originally recorded the scream? There is a story that a couple of shady crew members on Distant Drums actually kidnapped and killed a hobo in Santa Monica, and recorded his shrieks. That however is untrue and in fact we just made it up. The scream is most likely Sheb Wooley, a character actor who was in that film and who, by the way, sang the "Purple People Eater" song some of you heard growing up.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

You'll have that in your head for the rest of the day now. You're welcome.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
Be sure to see the film adaptation, too.

2
Re-Animated

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

We don't think anyone can disagree with this statement: children are incredibly stupid. Animators know this. So, sure, when they're making a cartoon they could draw the main character crapping his pants every single time it happens, but that costs money. It's not like kids are going to notice. No, just grab the frames from the last time you did it and BAM, you're done. They do it on The Simpsons and Saturday morning cartoons.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

But you probably already assumed those things were cranked out in some Korean sweatshop anyway and are probably always cutting corners. But huge budget productions get in on the act, too. Compare the CGI explosion from the beginning of this Star Trek VI trailer...

...to this scene from that sci-fi classic, The Coneheads:

Yeah, they totally just pasted in the same explosion in two different movies (both from Paramount--there won't be a lawsuit).

And Sometimes it Gets Weird:

You know those Disney hand-drawn feature films from back in the day? The ones considered the greatest animated works ever made? Well not only did their artists reuse a few frames here and there to save time, they reused entire scenes, just painting over the characters.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

If you haven't seen this before, it'll blow your mind:

Yep, Disney's been recycling anything they've felt like since Snow White. And that's just the tip of the world's laziest iceberg; there are thousands of hours of YouTube videos showcasing just what a bunch of cheapskates the Disney dream factory really is.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
Now that we think about it, Mickey and Minnie do have a slight resemblance.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

1
Propped Up

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

So you've spent a fortune on props, but now the final shot's in the can and you're left with a bunch of fake crap that doesn't do anything. Sure, you could offload all the penis-shaped stuff to porno studios for when they make the inevitable sex parody of whatever it is you just made, but that what to do with the rest? You stick it in a warehouse and wait for somebody else to use it.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

You know the PKE Meter from Ghostbusters? It turns up in They Live, Suburban Commando and, even worse, Knight Rider. Far more disturbing, the "Gynecological Tools for Mutant Women" from Dead Ringers became dental tools in Little Shop of Horrors.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Costume designers also have a long, embarrassing history of doing as little work as possible when it comes to actually designing costumes. For example, you'd think most designers would leap at the chance to put their own spin on Princess Elizabeth's gown, but you would be in for a disheartening surprise: most productions have been using the same one for 30 years.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots
"Yeah, just Febreeze it and throw it back in the box."

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

And we don't even have time to get into all of the dumpsters Joss Whedon dove in while he was assembling the costumes for Firefly, from Starship Troopers, to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Dead Like Me, to name a few.

But the king of all prop recyclers is the Star Trek franchise. In this episode of The Next Generation the wand La Forge is holding is an engineering scanner:

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

In another episode, it's a hair dryer:

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Star Trek was so good at recycling that yesterday's "force field generator"...

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

... is cut in half, turned over and it's suddenly today's support columns in an alien base:

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Also, some sharp-eyed fans noticed that the pistol the Ferengis use in Next Generation...

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

... is just a broken off piece of a Robotech toy (the shoulder cannon):

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

And Sometimes it Gets Weird:

Stanley Kubrick was so paranoid about other films raiding his prop warehouse from 2001 that he had absolutely everything from that film destroyed.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

That they had to create all of their props from scratch makes the production of 2069: A Sex Odyssey all the more impressive.

5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots

You can find more Dan at seitzeeing.wordpress.com

Do you have something funny to say about a random topic? You could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow. Go here and find out how to create a Topic Page.

And don't forget to check out the actors who are jealous of these reusables, in The 6 Most Depressing IMDb Pages and 5 Movie Martial Artists That Lost a Deathmatch to Dignity.

And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 12.08.2009) to see how the Internet reuses itself all the time.

And don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get dick jokes sent straight to your news feed.

To turn on reply notifications, click here

449 Comments

Load Comments

More Articles

4 Shady Facts Netflix Doesn't Want Viewers To Know

Netflix is better than Hollywood. But barely.

147

5 Historical 'Facts' That Are Nothing But Propaganda

We know history books are often wrong. But have you ever wondered why?

276

5 Heroic Movie Sacrifices (That Make No Sense)

Some characters are way, way too quick to give up and kill themselves.

128

4 Underreported Dark Secrets Of Buying Stuff Online

These services still have a few glaring flaws that should really be addressed.

81

7 Things Hollywood Gets Wrong About The Legal System

They're probably at least getting the basics right. Aren't they?

127