Movie Rule no. 915: The Alarm Clock

Ever notice how certain clichés seem to recur as plot devices in a lot of movies—no matter what genre? There are unwritten rules in movies, and I have decided to pull back the curtain and reveal these hidden movie rules.

Rule no. 915: No movie character can ever set their alarm clock for a time that would allow them not to be late for their job, appointment, etc.

Corollary Rule no. 915a: If for some reason an alarm clock is set at an appropriate time, the character must use the Snooze button to ensure that they are late.

Why is it that the only time we ever see alarm clocks in movies, the still-sleeping character looks at it and immediately discovers that he or she is late? If they have to be at work at 8am in downtown NYC, why don’t the characters set the alarm clock for like 5:30am so they can wake up, drink some coffee, take a shower, get dressed, and have a reasonable commute to work? Why does the main character always have to be late for everything?

Matrix (2000): And who sets an alarm clock for 9:18? Did he just sleep through it? Does the alarm ever work? We certainly never see Neo get to work on time. Just sayin’.

Back to the Future (1985): Marty has only been at Doc’s house for 5 minutes, so when Doc tells him that the clocks are all 20 minutes slow, it means that Marty left his own house 20 minutes late! Why is he so surprised to find out that he is therefore 20 minutes late?

The obvious answer is that being late is a plot device to cheaply increase the tension in any given scene.


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