Anthony Dawson sneaks up behind a landline-bound Grace Kelly in 1954's Dial M For Murder, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. (Photo: John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

You really have to feel sorry for today’s screenwriters. With modern technology, those old movie chestnut tropes of getting lost or trapped are no longer what they once were. Thanks to cell phones, Google Maps could have saved those Blair Witch campers, and the stuck-in-a-well victims in Silence Of The Lambs could have called for help. With a few simple texts, the star-crossed lovers of An Affair To Remember likely wouldn’t have been kept apart. Kevin McAllister wouldn’t have been Home Alone for long. And sending Star Wars’ Death Star plans electronically makes a lot more sense than hiding them in R2-D2.

The fun exercise of figuring out the smartphone effect on movie plots comes to us from Spinal Tap and Better Call Saul star Michael McKean, who kicked off a fairly simple suggestion on Twitter:


Since last night McKean has received hundreds of suggestions, ranging from the sitcom shenanigans of Three’s Company to the government conspiracies of Three Days Of The Condor (suggested one tweeter: “Three Minutes Of The Condor”). The thread is a fun look back at the changes in movie communications technology, where some screenwriters admit to putting their characters in places where they can’t get any bars on their phones just to heighten the suspense. Some responders recall movies in which faxing becomes the height of fevered anticipation (in The Firm, No Way Out, and The Usual Suspects). Even a writer who has been crafting suspense for decades finds himself looking back fondly to a simpler tech era: