A pen is just a writing utensil, right? Not when it’s in the hands of creative filmmakers. Pens can become a variety of weapons, tools, and comedic punchlines. Here are 10 creative uses of pens in movies.
Among a litany of memorable traits about the facehugger and xenomorph in Alien is the fact that they have acid for blood. This makes them particularly difficult to kill. Dallas borrows Brett’s pen to test the acid as it works its way through the hull, and sure enough it doesn’t leave the pen in pristine condition. But at least he’s polite enough to return it to Brett when he’s done poking a dangerous substance with it.
In this scene from the 1989 film Batman, the Joker demonstrates his penchant for theatricality by murdering a mob boss with a feather pen in broad daylight in front of a group of cops and reporters. It adds a whole new meaning to putting a feather in the cap(o).
The Bourne Identity
This scene is so great. First, Jason Bourne uses a pen to write down information about his forgotten past and then later he uses that same pen to fight off a ghost from his past in the form of a trained assassin. Bourne is always improvising weapons because, although he’s an expert with guns, he’s constantly discarding them at every opportunity. And so, when he’s driven to desperation, he transforms a pen into a deadly weapon capable of disarming a man intent on killing him.
Gabe Walker and his girlfriend Jessie Deighan are on the hunt for millions of dollars of stolen cash in the Rocky Mountains, and when they come across the second of three suitcases full of money, she asks what they should do. He asks if she has a pencil, but they clearly use ink to write a message on one of the $1000 bills. There’s nothing unusual about sending a message with a pen. But what makes this such a memorable moment is the fact that Walker taunts the bad guys when he might have been better off leaving them in doubt about his status, much like John McClane after he kills his first terrorist in Die Hard.
Q’s gadgets often help James Bond get out of tight jams. Neither Boris Grishenko nor any of the other bad guys in the room has any idea that he’s holding a bomb, which he’s constantly arming and disarming, as he’s clicking a pen. Only Bond knows this fact, which he uses to his advantage. He waits until just the right moment to knock the pen out of Boris’s hand and create a diversion that allows him to escape with his lady friend.
The scene where Peter Banning meets Captain Hook is a prime example of what makes the film Hook so good. Hook demands Peter take out his weapon and fight him, and Peter gladly obliges. He pulls out his pen and checkbook, and asks, “How much?” as if this were a hostage ransom negotiation for his kidnapped children. What Hook does next is simply genius. I couldn’t find the full clip, but you can click on the video below to watch the final five seconds of this interaction.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones thought his father could use a Luger to free himself from his captors inside a tank full of Nazi soldiers. But it turns out that all he needed was a well-timed kick by his son and a little ink squirt from his pen to finish them off. Looks like he took his own advice and ensured the penitent man would pass.
The Man Who Knew Too Little
I looked high and low for a clip from this movie, and I couldn’t find the one I wanted, so I settled for the still image below. In this spy thriller comedy full of mistaken identities, Bill Murray’s Wallace Ritchie gets taken prisoner by two real spies who want to get information from him. So they use syringes disguised as ordinary pens to drug him for questioning. I’d never seen a pen used in this way before, but it makes a lot of sense. It’s a perfect disguise for an injection device, and it’s quite effective, too. Oh, and the interrogation scene is hilarious. You should definitely check it out.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad
A lot of comedy is about loss. The greater the loss, the funnier the punchline. We already know that Vincent Ludwig is guilty of attempted murder on Officer Nordberg, and this scene begins his painstakingly long comeuppance. When Lieutenant Frank Drebin shows up in Ludwig’s office, he is treated to a long explanation of his many priceless artifacts, all of which will be destroyed by the end of the film. Starting with his rare samurai pen, which can only be damaged by water, and his Japanese fighting fish, which can only be killed by a samurai pen, apparently.
Anton Ego uses his pen to make or break French restaurants. His reviews have the power to sway public opinion in favor of small dives and against huge chains. But he is finally brought to a startling realization that his words add nothing of value to the world compared to even the worst-cooked meals when his taste buds come in contact with Remy’s ratatouille. And that realization is symbolized by his falling pen.
Stroke of Genius
Each of these examples is a stroke of genius on the part of the filmmakers. But this list is by no means exhaustive. Do you have any examples of other films using pens in unique ways? Penny for your thoughts.
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