The oddly ubiquitous sliding scenes of the ’80s and ’90s


Originally published at:


Now I want to know about that semi truck double honk that’s in every other movie.


Something I never thought about, but definitely a Thing. A lot of it may have been driven by DPs playing with a new technology toy (something that should have been mentioned first), but the political/cultural explanations make a certain kind of sense to this GenXer. It isn’t so much about nuclear war and drugs but about the fact that we knew even as teenagers that our generation was not going to have the sense of economic and political certainty that the previous three generations did.

Maybe it’s used to express this friendly sentiment:


Funny that should be illustrated with Brosnan’s 007 - as soon as I read the title, the first thing that came to mind was Roger Moore sliding down the stair rail in Octopussy (?), amusingly blasting the ball-threatening decorative stop at the bottom before he reached it.
Now that I think of it, doesn’t Tim Dalton slide down a mountain on a cello case in The Living Daylights, almost exactly the same as the image posted?
I should add, I posted before watching “the full video essay”.
And I should also add, not a Bond fan particularly due to sexism, dunno why I’m suddenly such an expert :wink:

ETA: Hey, look who’s posting over at the linked article!


Nice modus sighting!


When I clicked on his name I saw that he’s got umpteen thousand posts over there and has probably been active on the ol’ AV Club since forever. Probably old news to some BBS regulars (I think Flossy is active there too).


and very meta, as I’m sure if there aren’t already, there will soon be video compilations of social media posts / instagrams / onscreen texting as overlays in TV and film as a defining obsession of the '10s


Before digital f/x people had to do physical stunts, only so many ways to choreography them. Also, cameras became smaller and more steady to hold. Not saying the social explanation is wrong, just needs to be appended, to make it more right.


I got about 40 seconds into that and the BS became just a little too palpable.



The cover gif is Val Kilmer in Willow, not Dalton as 007, though that’s what I thought it was at first, too.


That’s funny, I totally thought it was Dalton, although I couldn’t make out who was with him. Now I see it.


Seems like this was probably a result of the advent of the “summer blockbuster movie” after Jaws and, especially, Star Wars. These movies would, naturally, try and mimic the summer amusement park ride experience. (The apotheosis of this would probably be “Jurassic Park,” about an adventure at an amusement park.) Point is, it’s not that parks and waterslides were becoming more popular (they always were), but that these were specifically “summer” movies.


This brought back a couple of anecdotes about how movies get developed. A friend who is in movie and TV production told me years ago about how panicked folks get about taking any kind of risk using new ideas, but equally panicked that if someone else DOES get away with some new “thing” that all of their projects should also do that “thing”. Think “movies about asteroids”, “bullet time” etc.

The second anecdote is actually a fairly well known story by Kevin Smith about demands he put a giant spider in his abandoned Superman script and where it ended up instead. Put together, they pretty much explain every stupid trend that takes place in TV and film.


This is exactly what I thought of when I read the headline– Dalton on the cello case. Also, Chevy Chase in Christmas vacation. And Cool Runnings.

I don’t buy the politics angle for a minute, but the increased interest in waterslides and extreme sports seems pretty reasonable. Sliding down something is an easy way to show speed and excitement in sections of films that have no mechanized travel (Willow, Honey I shrunk the kids, Goonies). It’s also probably cheaper and easier to film than car chases. And like @AGC mentioned, cameras got smaller in the 80s.


What always amazed me about sliding scenes is that these out of control people would often yell “Whoa!” - as if their sled or cart would somehow stop like a horse. Of course, it never did. But they kept saying it anyway.


I could have done with a little less of the pop-psychology.

An “escape” from the “topsy-turvy political problems of the day?” Woah, yeah, good thing we’ve never had anything like those “topsy-turvy political problems” again, eh? That’s why we have no more sliding scenes.


Yup, we were definitely much more frightened of nuclear weapons in the 80s than we ever were in, say, the 50s.

While in the theater of international politics… A BIGGER FALL

Way to tie it all together guys.

My only interest was trying to count the number of distinct sliding scenes, since they kept cutting between the same ones. I think maybe there were 6? Or 7?


Yes, I wondered if they were maybe ever so slightly reaching.

Among other things, the theory implies that it should be impossible to see a movie today consisting of anything other than waterslide footage and fart noises.


I dismissed it as being a “slippery slope” argument.


I’m sorry, but the sociopolitical argument here seems like a real stretch. I’m really glad someone pointed out the ubiquity of these scenes because hey, that’s pretty funny, but to say the 80s/90s were more politically unstable than the decades buffering them on either side is ludicrous. Where are the slipping & sliding scenes in the 1960s and 70s? I don’t remember Howard Beale ever getting wet n wild, to say nothing of the post-9/11 era.

I think the real answer to why these scenes were so ubiquitous is, “Because movies tend to borrow inspiration from each other.” And if you want to dig a little deeper, it’s because these was a cheap and easy way to add a beat of excitement in a script that might otherwise be dragging a bit, and could be readily visualized with circa-1980 film technology (either shooting it on a hillside for real or doing some simple rear projection).