Home > Contemplations > Cell Phones In Movies And TV: What A Difference!

Cell Phones In Movies And TV: What A Difference!


"Run Lola, Run" German "Lola Rennt" Poster

I just watched the German movie “Run Lola, Run” which came out in Germany in 1998 and was struck by how different this movie would have been if the characters had cellphones.

Without getting too plot heavy (and ruining the movie) the beginning of the movie hinges on Lola being late to meet her boyfriend and because there were no payphones around she couldn’t call him to tell him about her lateness. Him also not having a cellphone meant that when Lola didn’t show up and he couldn’t find any payphones either to try calling her house or another one of their friends (there seems to have been a severe lack of payphones in Germany in the late 90s) he had to take the subway. These 2 plot points lead to the entire movie believably being able to happen.

Run Lola Run English poster

Now think about the movie happening now or even five years later. Lola would have been able to call or text her boyfriend about what happened causing her to be late. Even if she didn’t, her boyfriend would have been able to call her to find out where she was or call a friend to come pick him up. The movie’s entire plot falls apart with the presence of cell phones. People in 20 years will watch this movie and think how quaint it was that they didn’t have phones with them at all times.

This brings me to my next point of how movies and TV plots have been affected by cellphones, the TV series “24”. This was a show that began a few short years later, premiering in November of 2001 and running until May 2010 but the presence and availability of cellphones the show possible.

“24” took place within a 24 hour period and each episode of the season was one hour of that day. The protagonist, Jack Bauer, and his friends at the fictional US Government agency CTU relied on cellphones and smartphones for the plot to develop at the breakneck speed which it played out. CollegeHumor even has a video of the supposed ‘lost pilot’ of 24 from 1994. In that clip, every time Jack needs to get in touch with CTU he has to run outside of the building he is infiltrating to a payphone with a quarter to call them. When they need to get schematics of a bomb to him, they need to print it out and bike courier it to him because at 950KBs to put it on a disk would take “THREE FLOPPIES“! Check it out below:

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[Direct link to the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMLH_QyPTYM]

It is simply amazing how different our world is now that we have all these devices at our fingertips. However, watch a movie or TV show from even a little more than a decade ago and it really drives home what a big difference technology makes in our day to day lives. Without cellphones and smartphones 24 would have had to have been called 48, 72, or even 168 (that’s 24*7, or a full week…I did the math on a calculator so don’t feel embarrassed if you didn’t know that offhand).

Recently, I flipped past the movie “She’s All That” on TV randomly one day and I stopped to watch a bit because I remember Rachel Leigh Cook being really hot. As I watched for a few minutes, I was struck by the differences in our society since 1999 when, in that movie, you hear a ringer go off and all the girls in the high school’s popular and rich clique walking together pull out their pagers to check who got a page! A page! Times have certainly changed haven’t they!

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  1. October 31, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Fun post.
    I’m not sure you need to avoid spoilers on a movie that came out 12 years ago.
    (Or maybe you do. That very thing seems like the kind of topic you’d blog about.)

    I occasionally giggle when I remember the Zach Morris phone. My parents had one or two. I think some people still use pagers.

  2. November 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    I hadn’t seen that phone case before but now I want one.

    • November 1, 2011 at 5:25 pm

      Haha – go for it! I think there are other versions out there too which are variations on the theme. That was via a quick Google search.

  3. December 5, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Cell phones are a convenient plot device in movies, they can make the storyline more along faster. Often it’s just lazy writing though.

    • December 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      Interesting take on that David. Can you explain what you mean in more depth?

  4. Chris
    September 13, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    I just watched Run Lola Run for the first time… I know right? Anyway… I had a cellphone in 1997, how come absolutely no one in Germany did? It seemed a little weird. Were they in an alternative universe… one where some people are blessed with the ability to change the outcome of a game of roulette by screaming maybe?

    • September 15, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      True, people had cell phones in 1997 but they certainly weren’t as widespread as they became even 5 years later.

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