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Just Another Hollywood Guy

I think it would be so cool if during the final race to the airport he gets stuck in traffic and she flies off to Paris never to be seen again...

And as the romantic lead is stuck in traffic he discovers that his taxi driver is his long lost high school sweetheart. They rekindle their love for one another, get married and live happily ever after.

Oh? And what of the romantic female lead?
She, of course, falls for a fellow passenger who turns out to be an international spy and they live an exciting life dodging the espionage agents he's doubled crossed until they're finally caught in Tangiers and killed.

Okay, Part this is romantic and part of this is wishful thinking. But, heck, it would be a little different than most rom-coms, right?


A "RACE to the departure gate"??? Has anyone tried getting through the security line at LAX lately? Without a ticket? That's pretty laughable.
By the way, didn't respond to your "Burn" posts (loved them - haven't looked at Astor Place the same way since!) but I've always said you had nice legs...The miniskirt+Uggs is a good look for you, Mernit!


Just Another Hollywood Guy - that's been done before (sort of) in the indie film Next Stop Wonderland. Check it out. Great airport scene. Billy, do you know this movie?

Fun Joel

As much as I hate this cliche (and others of course), I think the reason writers keep using it is that it works for most audiences, lazy and unimaginative as it is. What I mean is, if the rest of the movie really worked, all they want is to see these two people get together. And they don't mind if the scene is cliched, so long as it tugs at the heartstrings. If the rest of the movie sucked, it doesn't really matter what the ending is.

Now, this is not to say that a stronger ending wouldn't be preferable. Just that if the rest of the movie is good, the lazy writer is more likely to have the leeway to get away with his boring retread ending. And we all know how lazy (we) writers can be. So give an inch and watch them take a mile. (Ooh, there's a good cliche!)

E.C. Henry


Thanks for refering to me as a "little rom-com chick-o-lette." I feel young again!

You shouldn't diss ALL rom-coms ending at the airport. "A Fish Called Wanda" ROCKED and it ended at an airport. And of course I've written a rom/com that ends with an airport scene, and it ROCKS as well! So some people got it wrong. Some writers have used it, and gotten it right!

As far as Judd Apatow goes, any fan of the romantic comedy should tip their hat to his successes. While his macho chick flicks can UNDERSTANDIBLY feel sand in the boxer shorts at varrious points, Judd has managed to broaden the rom-com's appeal and bring in the interest, and $$, of adolescent males. Thus breathing new life into our beloved genre. Judd's successes SHOULD help facilitate studios funding new romantic comedy projects, which is something I'm all for. I have always felt the success of the one CAN be benefical to the all. And who knows, now that Judd has proven himself a master in one subset of the genre, maybe he'll embark on a new project with a more traditional (less rauchy) romantic comedy appeal that makes everyone scratch their head and marvel at how brilliant, and a master at the genre, he really is.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA


It's the ticking clock. The use of the airport provides both a deadline and obstacles for the hero to overcome to express his love. This is difficult to produce in other ways, there are so few deadlines in modern life that can be applied to love. You could end with a wedding as in The Graduate. Or with a death ala Romeo and Juliet, but that is difficult to pull off in a romantic comedy.
One of my favourites that that emulates this situation with out using the cliché is When Harry met Sally. Harry races across New York to arrive at the stroke of midnight, a highly significant time for both of them. He could have just called the next day but it would have lacked the emotional impact both for them and us.
The climax must be a transition from conflict to resolution. And the feeling is this must happen with a sense of urgency. This may be the influence of the action movie, the romantic equivalent of the big bang.
The reality of love is not based around crisis and deadline, peoples lives rarely turn on a moment. And even when they do we usually don’t notice until much later.
While writing this I keep thinking of Woody Allen’s Scenes from a Mall. There is no ticking clock in this film, no urgency and no climax. The emotional intensity is acheved by placing the whole story into a single trip to the Mall.
So my solution to the airport scene is to forget action and urgency and think about life, love and emotional intensity.

Tom Green


I confess. I've written that cliché.(A really, really long time ago. And I'll never do it again. And I'm sorry.)

Christian Howell

I just can't stop laughing. That was too funny. I don't think I could ever imagine that type of ending. It has to have some kind of setup which would telegraph it - person contemplates trip, gets feelings hurt (another hated cliche), decides to do it, leaves a message with main relationship character, etc. etc.

That is like the ultimate boy gets girl, loses girl, jumps in front of 747 after ripping girl's heart out being a loser, jerk, asshole, chauvinist, blah, blah, blah.

Just give em pistols at 30 paces. How heartfelt is a teary visit to the emergency room? Just kidding.

I'm working on a few different rom-coms right now and I have yet to encounter an airport. Maybe a bus station - just kidding again.

Judd has made a mark with the raunchy comedy, but I want to see women in more forceful roles other than the hated sister\girlfriend.

But then one of my favorite movies is Must Love Dogs, so maybe I'm jaded.

Rachel Hauck

Wow, I never thought of it before. I loved it in Friends but acutally because I wanted Ross and Rachel to finally get together! It had very stupid moments though.

Viewers and readers however love the man-to-the-rescue, the pursuit. We don't care about cliche!

On the other hand, with new security issues and cell phones the airport scene to save the day is almost ridiculous.

But ask me to suspend belief? No problem. Did you see the big sun ball in Spiderman 2? The one doused in the Hudson?

Yeah, I can suspend belief...

(who has an airport scene at the end of her latest book. BUT, it's not an I love you don't leave save the day scene.)


Just Another: Sounds good to me!

Binnie: Let alone such factors as "the white zone is for the immediate loading and unloading of passengers," etc...

Hey Christina, yes and I remember liking it a great deal.

Fun Joel: That sounds true, but nonetheless, I remain a staunch and rabid Anti-Cliche-ist. 'Sides, if you're good enough to write a "good" movie, shouldn't you be good enough to come up with a fairly original ending?

EC, I'm not knocking "all" of them. I'm knocking the ones that read (or view) exactly like the many, many, many, many, many, many, many ones we've seen before.

Welcome John: Yes, of course, it's the clock and the urgency. My point is, there are at least 100 other ways to speak to that ticking urgency without resorting to this hoariest, most banal of over-used resolutions -- ways that would perhaps be more specific to the film in question, if its writers USED THEIR IMAGINATIONS.

For example, "When Harry..." does a great tweak to another aspect of the cliche, the climactic "Now I'm Finally Going To Tell You I Love You" speech: breathless Harry (after making his ticking clock urgent dash) tells Sally, "I love you," and she says, "You can't just show up here, tell me you love me, and expect to make everything all right." Which forces Harry to make his (marvelously specific and unique) "things I love about you" speech -- an original twist that's memorable and great.

(By the way, "Scenes From a Mall," while starring Woody Allen and Bette Midler, was written and directed by Paul Mazursky. But thanks for reminding me of it -- I'd like to take another look.)

Tom: No apologies necessary, you're obviously a much, much better writer by now. Right? (And thanks for the link!)

Christian: Man, if you can make a bus station work, that would be awesome.

Hey Rachel: I think that it worked in "Friends" precisely because we so wanted to see a situation that was familiar and raised stakes and suspense around "is it going to go the way we always expect it to go, or...?"
In that particular case, the writers' very knowing use of a cliched situation really did speak to viewer expectations.

And hey, Great Minds Think Alike: I have an airport scene at the end of my book, too -- but it's purposefully tweaked to send up the genre convention.


The best parody of this was in Not Another Teen Movie, where the cute guy rushes to the airport to try and stop the girl he loves, announcing his intentions to a group of people waiting in security line, who just let him go through. Then, a moment later, the nerdy guy tries to do the same thing, and the crowd just rips into him. Not the best of movies, but a very good way to make fun of the time worn cliche.

Sadly, that didn't mean the end of the cliche.

Here's a nice twist: Guy gets on the plane as it takes off, declares his love, the passengers are all happy.... when snakes are released on the plane.

I think I may be on to something.


I, for one, would love to read Virgin Burns 4! It was a great series and I enjoyed it very much. As for Running To The Airport... maybe under certain highly specific circumstances, like a change of heart about the antidote to the time-release poison (or antivenom)?

Perhaps you could combine both posts and make a massive art project out of scripts using the RttA Cliche and set it on fire! Unfortunately the capricious nature of the law treats what would be art in the desert as arson in the living room, but it would probably be satisfying nevertheless.


Hey I just though of another airport ending 'Whats Up Doc'.

scarlet hip

My favorite part of these rom-com endings is the girl always seems to have been able to pack up her life in one day. Hello! Do you know how much work is involved in moving! Closing out accounts and hiring a mover and dealing with your landlord and packing up all your shit. Or she just leaves everything behind - because that is a rational reaction to being dumped by your boyfriend. Get a grip!

This must be why no man has ever chased me through an airport declaring his undying love for me.


Bring on Virgin Master 4....sorry, Virgin Burns 4!

Billy, I disagree on one point, if it was JA you would chase her to the airport (where you would find about 10 of us already clinging to the undercarriage).


I just remembered the race to the airport scene in Liar, Liar. Remember it? With Jim Carrey hanging outside a plane going down the runway? Now that was a funny "you can't leave" scene. I'm sure the screenwriters were like, "How can we make this sequence fresh?" And one of them said, "He's outside, on the tarmac, literally stopping the plane!!" Doesn't that smell like a 3AM, caffeine-fueled idea to you? An idea that ended up working...

Frank  Conniff

One of the worst of the kind of scenes you're talking about was the scene near the end of "Top Gun" when Tom Cruise rushed to the airport at the last minute to express his love for his own ego.

Then there was the scene in "The Glen Miller Story" when June Allyson was about to rush to the airport to express her love for Glen Miller, but then she stopped herself and said, "Hey, it's no big deal, I'll express my love to him after he flies though the fog and lands in England. I mean, what's the rush?"

Then, in "Strategic Air Command," the entire movie was nothing but scenes of June Allyson and Jimmy Stewart driving to the airport to express their love for each other.

But I have to say, the most unbelievable rush to the airport scene in a romcom was "Shakespere in Love." I just didn't buy it.

By the way, maybe someone should start an airport shuttle service that specializes in driving people to the airport who want to express their love to their lovers at the last minute.

I could use that service myself right now. You see, I just Fed-Exed Judd Apatow my new romcom screenplay entitled, "The Guy Who Had To Rush To The Airport To Express His Love To His Girlfriend At The Last Minute." Now I have to rush to the airport at the last minute to prevent this screenplay from leaving town before I can express my hatred for it. Billy, I wished I'd read your post earlier.


Running through airports conjures up images of O.J. Simpson and Hertz Rent-a-Car Commercials for me. I just can't get romantic after that...

Joanna Farnsworth

That's him. That's the Billy we know and love. Intelligent, witty and humorous. A lone crusader for Romance. Drowning in a sea of undisciplined screenwriters. Behind a mountain range of BAD scripts. Endlessly panning for gold. Three cheers for our Hopeless Romantic leader!

I say it's time to save his sanity. Let's give him a break. How about writing him some endings worth reading. No more chase and declare love AT ALL. Whether or not at an airport.

How do we kill the cliche? We go back to climaxing plot with the heroine proving (for all to see) she's the Romance's kind of gal. Romancing The Stone did it best. You don't win your Adventurer by running to tell him you love him. That's how you lose him. You win him by showing you're his kind of Adventuress.

That's what brings 'em running back. That's what makes 'em leave the Departure Gate just for you. Prove you've overcome your fear of flying. He'll steal that plane and fly you into the sunset before you can even say clich...

alisa kwitney

I always had a soft spot for Crocodile Dundee's race over peoples' heads in the subway. But I agree about airports, although I see the urge to create a last reversal before the happy ending. I end my novel Flirting in Cars, with a low speed chase, as my heroine is a new and lousy driver, and has to stop her disillusioned lover from rejoining the army. I figured that was one action, unlike boarding a plane, that really did make continuing the relationship a tad more difficult.


Mike: Yup. You may also be ON something, but that's not for me to say...

Jen: Fire-as-art is always immensely satisfying. Even when it goes a little bit out of control...

John: Love that movie. And given the farce of it all, the airport climax was par for the course.

Scarlet: Yes, the packing! So true. And happy to have helped you comprehend why you haven't yet yielded any airport proposals.

Oh, Dave, you got me -- except I'd never have let Ms. Alba get that far away from me.

Christina: Yes!!! And as it happens, I know one of the writers -- Steve Mazur -- and that kind of imaginative thinking is typical of his wit.

Frank, Frank, Frank... I stop laughing long enough to inquire: have you ever considered, um... writing?

Yikes, Maryan -- now I can't get those bad images out of my head!

Joanna, that's so true -- and where ARE the strong rom-com heroines of yester-year? I'd love to see another "Stone," and some writers with stones enough to do it right.

Alisa: I love the bad driver idea, and the stop-re-enlisting twist sounds great. Possible movie...?

Judith Duncan

Thanks again for a wonderful blogg and great posts,they kept me laughing.I have a background in improvisational theatre and you could always tell when someone on stage was feeling lost,scared and just wanted to find a way out,because out would come the cliche.I don't get how that can happen when something has gone through numerous drafts and development.It is lazy.I keep hearing a line from the trailer of 'No Reservations',leading man to leading woman...

"It's time you opened up and let someone in."

ARRGGHHH!!!!!How can someone seriously write that crap.I can understand the dent in your wall Billy.


John Hintergardt

I'm tired of the cheesy proclomation of love, the kiss and the applauding! It happens in other places besides the airport like cafes, bus terminals, classroms, etc... It's lame, cringe worthy and nauseating. But somehow females salivate over them. Maybe it's a vagina thing. (Yes I said "a vagina thing" to piss off the females!)


I was talking about this cliche today with a fellow scribe. Producers actually ask what your chase-to-the-airport scene is when you pitch a rom com! Maybe some scriptwriters don't put one in, but the producers insist on it. The reason it's there is that we want the two lovers to get together at the end, but he has to stop her leaving. But leaving on a plane is not really permanent enough to make us really worried if they leave. She's got an email right? He can catch the next plane right?

What if her flatmate (it's always the girls flatmate who tells the guy that she's gone) tells him that she's gone to a suspension bridge to commit suicide? He can't reach her on email then right?


Kieron: Gotta love them producers. They're so... producer-like!

I certainly like the "get thee to the suspension bridge" notion (as opposed to, like, JFK or LAX) but make sure she has no Twitter.

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