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File:Cliffhanger1 3868.jpg

Gabriel "Gabe" Walker (Sylvester Stallone) was just your friendly everyday mountain rescue worker, happily flying to the rescue in the Rockies with his helicopter-pilot girlfriend Jessie Deighan (Janine Turner, from Northern Exposure), until his best friend Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker) took his girlfriend Sarah (Michelle Joyner) to climb to the summit of a cliff despite her lack of training. Of course, this lead to poor Sarah's horrifying death hundreds of feet below when the rescue equipment failed to function properly.[1] In spite of Gabe's valiant efforts, Tucker blamed him for the tragedy. Gabe, being the good-hearted musclehead that he is, took the blame to heart and left the mountains in guilt and grief.

18 months later, Gabe came back to pick up his things from Jessie, just in time to be the only climber qualified enough to reach a band of plane crash survivors trapped in the mountains by a snowstorm. Partnering himself with Tucker, who still hated him, the duo reached the plane...

...only to find the distress signal to be a ruse of Eric Qualen (John Lithgow), a maniacal terrorist leader leading a band of mercenaries who have just lost $100 million worth of Federal Bearer Bonds they hijacked during the crash. Gabe and Tucker are captured and forced to help the terrorists get their ill-gotten money...

Tropes used in Cliffhanger (film) include:


Second Mook: "What do we do with him?"
Qualen: "Send him to the nearest hospital. Fast." (throws mook out of the airplane)


Hal Tucker: "Delmar, from me to you, you're an asshole."
Delmar: Yeah? And you're a loud-mouth punk slag, who's about to die."
Hal Tucker: "Maybe. But in a minute I'll be dead, and you, will always be an asshole."

  • Five-Bad Band
  • Fridge Logic: While providing the movie with enough mooks for Walker to take down one by one, you have to wonder why Qualen needed at least five heavily armed mercenaries who's sole role during the airplane heist would have been nothing but to sit around if it had gone according to plan.
  • Groin Attack: There is one muscle that not even a martial-arts-terrorist can strengthen, as Kynette finds out the hard way in his confrontation with Walker.
  • Hellish Copter: Gabe takes down a chopper by throwing a bag of money into the rotors.
    • Actually that was just to piss Qualen off. He then hooks it to a ladder and it runs out of fuel as Qualen tries to escape.
  • Honor Before Reason
  • Hot Amazon: The only member of his team Qualen actually admires is The Squadette, Kristel, who's notably smarter than the rest of his mooks (when making the fake distress call, she claims that one of their party is running out of insulin so the rescue team won't wait till after the storm). Subverted later in a Kick the Dog moment when Qualen shoots her dead solely to force the hand of another rebellious team member.

Qualen (watching her plant an explosive booby trap): "You'll make a good wife for someone one day."
Kristel: "You should see me bake a cake."

  • Heel Realization: Tucker when he finds himself faced with a similar choice to that of the opening.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Delmar uses his soccer skills to kick the crap out of Hal.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Kynette's end at the point of a stalactite.
  • Jerkass: Tucker.
  • Large Ham: "You want to kill me, Tucker? Well take a number and get in line!"
    • Also, "DAMN YOU WALKER!!"
    • "Looks like I get to kill me a mountain man!"
    • "Partners in criiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!"
  • Literal Cliff Hanger: Several.
  • Made of Iron: Gabe AND Tucker
  • Manly Tears: Cried by Gabe when he fails to save Sarah.
  • Mauve Shirt: Agent Matheson.
  • The Mole: Agent Travers.
  • Money to Burn: At one point Gabe burns some of the money to keep Jessie and himself warm.
  • My Greatest Failure: Gabe failing to save Sarah.
  • Never My Fault: Oh sure Hal it was Gabe's fault you brought your girlfriend, who had no experience in climbing whatsoever, on a climbing trip. Or never brother to check her harness, oh yeah and assuring her it was safe to go across a cliff. Oh but I'm sure you could've save her when the harness failed when she was halfway across the line with little to no chance of reaching her or being able to pull her up. But hey Gabe at least bothering to try was certainly something to blame him for. Yeah, great reasoning pal.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Kynette's brutal beating of Walker and Delmar's "soccer-torture" of Tucker.
  • Noisy Guns: The bad guys' weapons make cocking noises every time they're pointed at someone.
  • Oh Crap: The crooked treasury jet pilot when he realizes Matheson isn't dead yet. And has a machine gun.
  • Plummet Perspective: Used to horrifying effect in the opening with a falling teddy bear.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Delmar fights Tucker and announces it like a soccer game; finally, the beaten Tucker is dangling from a cliff with Delmar's shotgun in his face. Tucker manages to stab the sadistic Irishman in the ankle with Frank's dagger, grab his shotgun while he's distracted by the pain and...

Hal Tucker: "SEASON'S OVER, ASSHOLE!" (pulls the trigger and blows a hole through Delmar)

  1. The end credits are careful to point out that the design of her harness was specifically altered for the film.