Top List Thursday – Top 10 Things That Movies Have Taught Us That Are Actually Wrong

8 min read
7

Movies are make-believe. Even when something is “based on a true story” it’s usually embellished quite a bit (see: Possession, The ). But some embellishments have happened so frequently, in so many movies, for as long as we can remember, that most people just start believing it as the truth.

Here are 10 of these “embellishments” that are simply a lie.

  • Instant Knockout Gas, Just Apply Victim

As all the lawsuits against Darryn can attest, knocking somebody out with chloroform is actually not as effortless as it looks. Douse a rag in the chemical and hold it in front of somebody’s mouth, and instead of them just instantly collapsing in a sleepy heap, as we’ve seen in so many movies before, they’re probably just going to PK you for sticking a stinky rag in their face.

The thing is, chloroform is an anaesthetic, and it really can effectively knock somebody out, but you would need to have a pretty high concentration of it and the intended victim would have to inhale it for much longer than the usually depicted split second – even longer still if the person isn’t taking great big gulps of air and/or the chloroform soaked rag isn’t forming a perfect seal over the mouth and nose. What’s more, it’s a pretty dangerous chemical that has a nasty habit of burning the skin, which kind of throws a spanner into whole “if you want her back unharmed” works.

  • Piranha-nomnomnomnomnom

A favourite water feature of evil villain lairs everywhere, this nippy little fish’s carnivorous reputation has been exaggerated by movies to the point of absurdity. Fall into a river filled with them and the worst thing likely to happen to you, would be catching a cold. While piranha are omnivorous, eating just about anything, they generally prefer other smaller fish, and they almost definitely don’t do it in a frothing frenzy. That’s not to say they won’t take a nip at you if there really was nothing else to eat and they were all starving, but it would be just that, a nip, and certainly not stripping flesh from bone faster than a Blue Bulls supporter at a braai.

  • Pew-Pew Laser Light Show

I’m sure that there’s a many a kid who’s seen Star Wars and the like, and wondered when we would get to have awesome laser battles, with red bolts of light flying everywhere! Cool, right? Well, yes, but also wrong. See, lasers are mostly invisible and need some kind of medium like smoke or dust to actually reflect off of, for the human eye to see them. What’s more, they’re beams of light – the can’t make a sound. Meaning that all those laser gun battles would actually look pretty damn boring, with people just standing around, silently pointing guns at each other, and randomly dropping dead with nary a clue as to who/what actually hit them.

Ironically, the whole “lasers are invisible unless there’s a reflecting medium” thing, is an ever-present movie trope used in just about every movie where somebody has to break into some highly secure area.

  • Would You Like To Call a Friend?

If we should ever end up in jail (maybe from trying to kidnap somebody using chloroform?), there’s one thing we can all get to do. Besides curling into a ball and crying, of course. I’m talking about your one phone call that’s your legal right, as everybody knows. Except, what everybody knows is wrong. Sure, some jails might let you make a phone call, but they’re certainly not legally bound to do it. It’s entirely up to how they’re feeling at the time, and I have a feeling they might not be feeling very cordial to somebody whining non-stop about their one phone call.

  • Keep Him On The Line Just a Little Bit Longer

Speaking about making a call, you know how long it takes to trace one? 30 seconds? 40 seconds? Try just a little bit more than zero seconds. Police can almost instantaneously pull up the address of most calls they receive, meaning there’s absolutely no reason for all that stalling and – my personal favourite – the slowly zooming-in satellite map. So why do filmmakers do it? Simply put, it’s very hard to get suspense out of:

“Do you lik-”

“OKAY WE GOT HIM!”

  • Don’t Move, He Can’t See Us

I’ve watched Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park countless time and my love for it just never wanes. It’s just such an incredible ride of fun and suspense. Suspense that’s based on what is probably a lie. You know that whole “Tyrannosaurus Rexes can only see you if you’re moving” shpiel? Total Triceratops doo-doo. According to studies, T-Rex’s actually possessed rather incredible vision (their tiny stubby arms is laughably true though), but since nobody can prove this 100% conclusively thanks to a lack of live T-Rexes (phew), this little fact was probably just overlooked in favour of scaring the bejeezus out of little kids. Classy.

So if dinosaurs ever get cloned (which, by the way, is also complete feces) and begin to run amok, you better run right with them if you don’t fancy yourself being turned into an hors d’ouvre.

  • Small Holes in Planes Make Really Big Holes in Planes

Air in a high pressure environment will always try to move to a low pressure environment. This is basic high-school science here that most people know, which is why this next movie myth is so easy to believe. If the cabin of a plane is pressurized, and somebody shoots a hole in a window (as tends to happen on movie planes), the air will rapidly escape through this whole with such force that it rips away sections of the plane’s fuselage, and maybe even a few unlucky passengers along with it. Unfortunately (or should that be fortunately?) only part of that statement is correct, as air will escape through the bullet hole, but it will be more like a stiff breeze rather than the gale needed to turn business class into an outdoors deck.

We know this for a fact, because those wonderfully mustachioed men over at Mythbusters actually proved this conclusively a few years back. Not even blowing a gaping hole into the side of the plane with explosives resulted in the type of ungodly suction that we regularly see on our screen.

  • Bullet + Gas Tank = Kaboom

And another myth successfully busted by the team of Adam and Jamie, when they proved that when you shoot a car’s gas tank with a gun, the same thing happens as when you drink too much soda at the cinema: You get a leak. That’s it, no giant fireball as the car spontaneously immolates in spectacular fashion, just because of a little lead poisoning. The fact is that unless you’re using incendiary or tracer ammo – which is definitely not regulation issue for most action heroes – when you shoot a car’s gas tank, the bullet penetrating the tank simply will not be hot enough for the fuel to reach it’s flashpoint and ignite. Even tracer ammo would need to be shot from far enough away that the prolonged air friction would raise the bullet’s temp.

  • Smoking Is Bad For You

I’m sure that at some point or another in our lives, we’ve all laid down a trail of gasoline leading to something or other we would rather not have exist anymore, and then, with a glacial coolness, took a last drag on a cigarette before dropping it in the gasoline trail, immediately sending flames racing back to our soon to be charcoal target. Just me then? Really?

Ha! I’ve never blown anything up, I was just testing you guys and you passed! Because if you had attempted the situation above, you would have found out that much like bullets being shot into a gas tank, cigarettes just don’t burn hot enough to ignite gasoline. And to prove this, a forensics expert back in 2007 dropped over 2000 lit cigarettes into some gasoline. Want to take a wild guess as to how may ignited? Yep, a big fat zero, zip, zilch, nada.

  • Shhhh…. I’ve Got a Silencer

Guns are loud. Really loud. But as we all know, there’s a simple way to turn that eardrum-rattling “BOOOOM!!!!” into the “thwipt” that sounds more like a nun farting in morning mass: simply screw on a silencer. There’s just one problem, silencers don’t technically exist. The real name for the long barrel we always see sneaky assassins and hitmen screwing onto the front of their weapons is actually a “suppressor”, and that name should actually tell you a lot.

The device can merely suppress a small portion of the noise being made by the gun, usually only about 20 to 30 decibels, not completely silence it like in the movies. This means that your “BOOOOM!!!!” will still be a “BOOM!!”, plenty loud enough to notify anybody in close proximity that you’re up to some mischief.

Last Updated: April 3, 2014

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

Check Also

Top List Thursday: Easy, cool costumes for Halloween

Cool movie- and TV-related Halloween costumes you can put together quickly and cheaply. …