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Richard Roeper Blog

Never look back.

How many movies feature that familiar shot of the hero walking away from a fiery inferno, never looking back even when there’s a giganto explosion that should singe the hair off the back of his neck? (Although in most cases, you don’t have Dakota Fanning with you as you’re walking way. Come to think of it, I don’t think Denzel ever had Dakota with him when he walked away from the exploding car in “Man on Fire.”)

Discuss.

And as you can probably guess, there’s a movie coming out soon with yet another “Never Look Back” scene.

33 Responses to “Never look back.”

  1. Brian Says:

    Yes, but which one is your favorite?

    I’ll go with the Joker in “The Dark Knight” (he does look back, but not untill the explosion stops, so it still counts).

  2. Michael Says:

    The flames, shock wave and sound never seem to effect the actors. There is a category for an Academy Award, Best Actor Withholding a Flinch.

    For some reason I think this originated in the Joe Don Baker Walking Tall however I am not sure there was such an explosion to walk away from in the film so I’ll go with the attitude that accompanies a “Never Look Back” scene originated in the Joe Don Baker Walking Tall.

    (at least within my movie viewing memory it did)

    Regarding The Dark Knight scene, The Joker walks away from the hospital as sections explode. He only turns back when he realizes the grand finale did not go off. He hits the remote several times. As the explosion is triggered he ducks and jumps into the back of a waiting school bus.

  3. James Says:

    Just a guess… Wolverine?

  4. Linda Says:

    The gas station blowing up in From Dusk Till Dawn. Do they look back?

  5. Jack Says:

    My personal favorite example of this is a slight variation seeing as it’s the villain performing the move, and that is Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich) from “Con Air,” in the scene in which he tosses the lit cigarette into the burning, fuel-soaked wreckage of the plane of the drug dealer who had double crossed him. He then performs the aforementioned “never look back move.” It’s made even more effective by the fact that some of the other bad guys with him do duck and look back, but not the Virus. He’s all attitude.

    If memory serves, this scene also occurs in “John Carpenter’s Vampires,” and it stands out to me because I’m pretty sure that the hero, Jack Crow (James Woods), actually flinches ever so slightly as the explosion goes off…yet still does not look back.

    On a sidenote, I’m a first time poster but longtime reader and big fan of your work, Mr. Roeper. You’re one of the reasons I studied journalism in college. Keep up the good work!

  6. Ritch Says:

    Tom Cruise in M.I. surfs the shock wave from an explosion. He never looked back, but that was because he was being propelled at 200 MPH and had to focus on escape…

  7. Dylan Says:

    When either Death Stars exploded, sure they where is space ships, but they never looked back.

  8. Chris Says:

    In Iron Man, after he shoots the missile, he starts walking away and never looks back. But then again, he has the suit on so i guess he really wouldn’t have felt the impact. Even though they do it so many times in movies, it looks really sweet if it’s done right.

  9. dail W. Says:

    well the best one was in phantasm 2 where they blew the crap out of the house and the tall man is walking away and that was without CGI.

  10. JulieM Says:

    Someone should do a scene where a character tries not to flinch and look back at the gargantuan explosion, but finds it so unbearably loud and hot that he has to run away screaming.

  11. chris M. Says:

    The old I-don’t-need-to-look-back-because-I’m-such-a-badass is the ultimate in cool. How many times has this classic scene taken place in James Bond or Jason Bourne movies? Mostly in fun and exciting but not too realistic films. In real life, there ain’t nobody that brave. Unless they’re suicidal.

  12. Matt D Says:

    The explosion going on behind him really isn’t that big of a deal in his life at that moment. I think we have to take that into account. It is what is in front of him that he needs to be concerned with.

  13. Tim B. Says:

    Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas walking away when her house blew up in Desperado. Also the first scene she is in shows her walking down a street and two cars crash into each other because the driver’s are distracted by looking at her I remember thinking that I could totally see that happening.

  14. Tim B. Says:

    Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas walking away when her house blew up in Desperado. Also the first scene she is in shows her crossing a street and two cars crash into each other because the driver’s are distracted by looking at her I remember thinking that I could totally see that happening.

  15. Dan Says:

    I’m thinking of Fred Ward at the end of Remo Williams. He ignites a tree branch using an ancient Korean technique (rubbing it with his fingertips) and drops it onto a gas-soaked car crash while the villain pleads for his life. A b-movie action classic.

  16. Eddie Nygma Says:

    ‘Remo Williams-the adventure begins’… Remo ignites a small fire on a piece of brush, hurls the brush at a leaking jeep fuel line, turns his back and walks away, says his name super-cool like. The jeep explodes and yet he never flinches or turns to see if anyone else made it out alive. Classic.

  17. Pat Halloran Says:

    Antonio Banderas and Selma Hayek in Eldorado.

  18. Marc Says:

    There was an old episode of Monster Garage where one of the cars was to be demolished because the team failed the challenge. They decided to throw some propane tanks into the car to cause a giant explosion. Jesse James faced the camera and didn’t flinch while it was going on in the background, pulling off the real “Never Look Back”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrJQTQaLgQc

  19. JT Says:

    I like it, especially when done in slow motion (but then I’m a big Woo fan). Its not just explosions – there are all sorts of “no look” moments that are cool. My favorite of all time is in Goldeneye, when Pierce is wiring up an explosive and a bullet ricochet whizzes by his head; he jerks his head but never takes his eyes off what he’s doing. Its a split second thing but for me really defined his “Bond”.

  20. Nerd With Words Says:

    Do you think it’s intentional that Denzel is actually pushing Dakota Fanning TOWARDS the explosion? “No Dakota, wait here. Actually, take a few steps back.”

  21. Agatha J. Says:

    George Clooney did it in Syriana, too. That this cliche is so overused but keeps on being used shows one thing: cliches are cliches cause they work.

  22. Michael Says:

    These examples are showing there are different flavors of “Never Look Back.”

    James Bond is always focused on the task at hand or fleeing the scene in something like a fast boat.

    Jason Bourne is usually only inches from hand to hand combat, other cars chasing and crashing into his get away, etc. there isn’t a moment for him to reflect on any of it.

    Bournes and Bonds are not heroes, they are superheroes.

    George Clooney in Syriana did not look back because he seemed more interested in getting away like a bank robber walking swiftly down the street trying to escape the scene of the crime unnoticed.

    I think the theme of what Richard introduced centers around vengeance. The “hero” rises from something having been done wrong and the explosion signifies the greatest “I showed you….” In this case the scene doesn’t display what a badass the character is so much as it is a display of how much fury the original violation incited. Not flinching or looking back is the righteous delivery of what they had coming.

  23. Jason Says:

    I’ll admit my view of this is bit simpleminded, but this particular cliche is actually the only cliche that I have a personal conflict with, the reason being that it simply won’t go away. Cliches are cliches because they work, of course. Babies are made, new audiences arise, and they appreciate it at first. But it seems that most cliches still get on enough nerves that they start to be avoided. Not this one. I saw it yet again in a movie recently, and you know what? I don’t even remember what the movie was… and that’s probably the point right there. The film had this explosion-ignoring scene in it, which was enough to make me shake my head in disappointment… yet it wasn’t enough to make the film unique! This cliche is just TOO common to make a film memorable even in lameness. Like a spot of food on the movie’s cheek… it can appear even in otherwise wonderful films, almost like the movie doesn’t know it’s there.
    I see no indication that this cliche will ever leave us.

  24. Agatha J. Says:

    I could be 100 percent wrong but didn’t Mad Max do the same thing in the first Mad Max? As he’s walking away from the last scene of carnage?

  25. Danny Says:

    Even Best Picture winners aren’t immune. In No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem did the same thing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LA-qQ4Hn8mQ

    …and he won an Oscar for that!

  26. Brian Says:

    I think a good rule of thumb is that cliches make good movies better and bad movies worse. If you’re already enjoying a movie, a well incorporated scene like the “no look back” is far more likely to work as intended. In mediocre movies it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    It doesn’t necessarily need to be an explosion by the way. Jake walking away from Harris at the end of Training Day was a good example.

  27. Shay Says:

    Lucky # Slevin. It’s not exactly an emotional “never look back” moment, but when Josh Hartnett blows up the building and doesn’t look back it still has an impact because it’s the moment in the film when everything changes. Plus, it’s the moment where you realize how bad ass he is.

  28. Alan Says:

    It’s funny you brought this up because I was thinking about this rdiculous trend when I was watching Wolverine. In additon to everything mentioned about, you’ve got Mark Wahlberg at the end of Shooter and they also did it in an episode of Smallville when they first introduced the Justice League.

  29. Brenton T Says:

    It certainly is a cliche, but can still be incredibly effective if used right.

    Javier Bardem’s “never look back” scene in No Country For Old Men takes the cake for me. Now there’s a familiar scenario tuned to artistic perfection. Only the very best can take a tired idea and turn it into something fresh.

  30. blog.richardroeper.com » Blog Archive » Never look back=Cool guys don’t look at explosions. Says:

    [...] Never Look Back [...]

  31. GreenTea Says:

    those never look back scenes are played out.

    that adam samberg and will ferrell video is hilarious.

    by the way, i think Turk 182 has the best “cool guy never looks back” scene.

    ok i actually have no idea if Turk 182 has such a scene or, for that matter, what it was about. i just remember it
    was a movie from the 80′s.

    “thanks for the movie fact.”
    “you’re quite welcome.”

  32. JR Says:

    I noticed a few cowboys in the famous “campfire” scene in “Blazing Saddles” were walking away without looking back after the “explosions.”

  33. Maegan Behrmann Says:

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