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File:Total recall1 2551.jpg

A 1990 Sci-fi film based on the Phillip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is on its face a sci-fi take on a spy thriller, set in memories implanted into a bored construction worker of the future... or is it? Because of all the Alternate Character Interpretation, the film is often called "The thinking man's action movie."

Douglas Quaid (Arnold S.) is tired of life Twenty Minutes Into the Future. His literal life's dream is to get his ass to Mars as a way of escaping his humdrum existence. A commercial for the Rekall brand "Ego Trip" induces Quaid to try one of the trips, which are just implanted memories of a vacation that he'd never be able to take in person. Quaid elects for an enhanced set of fake memories that cast him in the role of a super spy--sort of a memory novella that he will remember living through. When something goes wrong with the procedure, he discovers that his entire life is a lie, and that he is, in reality, a super spy working under deep cover. Or is he?

The viewer is constantly challenged to decide if Quaid's experiences are real or all just a result of his "ego trip." The film is also well known for its special effects and over-the-top gore, like some other notable Verhoeven films. Highlights include tons of cool guns, three-breasted mutants, and a bizarre NES tie-in game (Or do they?)

A less-campy remake starring Colin Farrell is due to released in 2012.

Total Recall provides examples of:



20 GOTO 10


 Cohaagen: First you try to kill Quaid, then he escapes!

Richter: He had help from our side, sir.

Cohaagen: I know that.

Richter: But I thought...

Cohaagen: Who told you to think? I don't give you enough information to think. You do what you're told. That's what you do.


 Goon: I'd be upset too if a guy like Quaid was porking my old lady.

Ritcher: Are you saying she liked it?

Goon: No, I'm sure she hated every minute of it!

  • Neck Snap: In Quaid's first fight against Cohaagen's goons, one of them checks out this way in a rather gratuitous fashion.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Quaid and Melina, who somehow instantly recover from Decompression fairly quickly, despite it being previously shown to turn people into jelly.
    • It seems that the Alien reactor also managed to bring the pressure to Earth-Norm, but it still shouldn't have been that fast.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Rather than kicking in automatically, the emergency pressure doors in the Mars spaceport terminal have to be manually activated while potentially (as happens in the film) fighting against being sucked into a near-vacuum.
  • Note to Self:: the video messages Hauser leaves for Quaid.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Dr. Edgemar (the bald guy who offer Doug the red pill). And, of course, the unforgettable three-breasted hooker.
  • One World Order: Cohaagen.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: The ending is intentionally ambiguous about the nature of Quaid's fantasy.
  • Planetville: Even the presence of other tropes reinforce this. For example, the atmospheric pressurization is so fast that if it was interpreted as accurate, it not only shrinks the colony to appreciable city-size, but the whole damn planet. Subtropes include:
    • It's a Small World After All: Mars has one red light district (Venusville), and is arranged into sectors that number enough to be designated letters of the alphabet.
      • Since we don't know how much of Mars was colonized, it's possible that the human population there all lives in the same city.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • Benny! Screw you!
    • "See you at the party, Richter!".
    • From the bomb itself: "Get ready for a surpriiiise!"
  • Product Placement: Fuji Film, Jack in the Box, Pepsi, and more.
  • Psychic Powers: Kuato and a number of other mutants.
  • Publisher Chosen Title: See Adaptation Expansion above.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Lori
  • Put Their Heads Together: Quaid to two of the Mooks who attacked him after he left Rekall.
  • La Résistance: The mutant rebels.
  • Rare Guns: The Pankor Jackhammer, though it is actually a Cobray Sweet Streeper made to look like one. It's not very convincing, but damn if it doesn't look cool.
  • Red Herring Shirt: Quaid masquerading as a woman.
  • Red Light District: Venusville on Mars.
  • Red Pill, Blue Pill: A choice offered to Quaid by a Rekall psychologist.
  • The Red Planet: Quaid spends most of the film on Mars.
  • Schrodinger's Butterfly
  • Science Marches On (Geology): Mars having an ice core turned out to partially true.
  • Shout Out: To Capricorn One.
  • Shrug of God: The director.
  • Spare Body Parts: A prostitute on Mars has extra assets.
  • Spiteful Spit: Melina to Cohaagen.
  • Taking You with Me: Richter and Johnny Cab both try this on Quaid.
  • Tanks for The Memories
  • Terraform: Mars, at the end of the movie.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Quaid does this right after he slaughters the five agents trying to kill him on Earth, before he goes back to his "wife" Lori. He actually has their blood on his hands at the time.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Hauser leaves instructions to Quaid, anticipates how Quaid is going to react at various points, and seems to know roughly how long it'll take him to remove the tracking device, before continuing.
  • This Is a Drill: Quaid to Benny.
  • Title Drop

 Richter: In an hour he could have total recall.

  • Troubled Production: The Mexico City shoot was considered a nightmare for most of the cast and crew. Many cast and crew members got sick at one point from contaminated water (the only major members of the production who didn't get sick were Schwarzenegger, who had remembered being sick during the Mexico shoot of Predator and took special precautions, and producer Ronald Shusett, who would give himself B12 shots each day to avoid illness) and the air was so polluted that Schwarzenegger recalled having trouble breathing on most days.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: We have seen the future, and it is the public transportation system of Mexico City.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Benny the cab driver, until he reveals himself as a mutant collaborator. And especially after that turns out to be a lie and he was Evil All Along.
  • Used Future
  • Video Phone: Used a lot on Mars. Talking to someone on Mars was as easy as phoning them up on Earth. In fact, Cohaagen (when on Mars) uses his vid phone to call Richter (on Earth) without any technical difficulties.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Richter has a brief one after Lori's death, but pulls himself together quite quickly after nearly killing himself and his head goon.
  • Wham! Line:

 Cohaagen: "Now, here's a message from someone you trust..." (switches on computer screen)

Hauser: Hey, buddy!


 Vilos Cohaagen: Richter goes hog-wild screwing up everything that I spent a year planning. Frankly... I'm amazed it worked!