Movies are a bit different to real life, in case you didn’t get that memo.
So while it’d be fun to have lives filled with drama where the good guys always win and you can get parking anywhere you like, this is the real world, where we’re subject to a boring load of rules like “physics” and “permanent injury.”
Namely, folks in movies and on TV have a penchant for performing stunts that, in the world of the real, would either cause you grievous bodily harm or straight up get you killed. Fortunately for us, the Mythbusters have gone through the entire library of TV laws and debunked quite a few, but that hasn’t stopped impressionable people trying their luck in real life anyway.
And so, in case you were thinking about trying any of these in your back yard, here are 15 TV Stunts You Should Never, Ever Try At Home. Unless you’re Tom Cruise, apparently…
15. Chainsaws Are Not Weapons
On Screen: Chainsaws are powerful engines of destruction, in case you couldn’t figure that out from the horrendous noise. After all, you’re basically wielding a sword, if swords were bigger, bulkier, had actual engines attached and the blades rotated at high speeds to allow you to cut more stuff, more often.
The gore factor mostly means you’ll see chainsaws used by bad guys, or sometimes good guys who have a swathe of zombies to chop through. No matter the situation, if you see a guy (or sometimes girl) holding a chainsaw, you run: that thing can cut through anything, including your frail, meaty self.
Real Life: Chainsaws are designed to cut through wood. And only wood.
There’s a reason real-life tree loppers wear heavy protective equipment; chainsaws can very easily catch on fabric, and will pretty much stop dead if they encounter something harder than wood. For reference, human bones have been found to be tougher than some types of steel, so while getting hacked at with a chainsaw won’t be fun, it’s not going to last long.
The chain can very easily snap if not held still or hacking at an uneven surface, and there’s a good chance it’ll ricochet right back in the face of the user. Factor in the warm-up time of your average chainsaw (a good minute or so, including the ignition) and the likelihood of running out of fuel? Gee, it’s almost like they weren’t designed to be weapons.
14. You Probably Can’t Fit in That Air Vent
Oc Screen: So enshrined in fiction it’s basically shorthand, air vents are your go-to way of getting around a building, a la Die Hard. They can take you anywhere, let you snoop on private conversations and your only danger is a grill comically giving way beneath you. Don’t worry about light or tight corners, either; your typical TV vent is a roomy, dust-free zone with regular openings.
Real Life: Once again, reality ensues when you realize that air vents were not built for people to scuttle around inside. Why would they even need to be big enough for people, when their primary purpose is transferring air? They’re also full of bends that air can traverse and humans cannot, grills are firmly bolted in place and won’t budge without severe force and most vents simply aren’t big enough for people to fit through. That’s not even mentioning the dust that’ll have you sneezing in no time and giving up any chance you have of stealth.
Even more hazardous are those that transfer steam, since your sneaky secret agent or escaping prisoner will inevitably be met with scalding bursts of super-heated air, burning-hot pipes and there’s a good chance of getting wedged in a tight gap. And when your entire space is incredibly humid with walls getting hotter the longer you spend in there, getting stuck is not a fun option.
13. Terminal Velocity Actually Means ‘Terminal’
On Screen: Most objects on Earth will break your fall, with the sole exception of solid concrete. Falling into water is essentially an instant-getaway, while falling into a dumpster is essentially the same as landing on a car-sized feather pillow.
Real Life: It’s not the fall that kills you, sure (and contrary to popular belief, humans could actually fall indefinitely without the air being sucked from their lungs).
No, that would be the impact of landing. Sure, it’s better to fall in water than it is to fall on jagged rocks, but from a certain height it stops mattering, since the main difference is ‘becoming a smear on some rocks’ versus ‘becoming a smear on the water’s surface’. Your best chance is entering the water in a dive and hoping for the best, which at this point could still be broken limbs. Water moves out of the way to accommodate a solid object, but if a person is at terminal velocity, this simply doesn’t happen fast enough, resulting in a fall into the equivalent of ice.
As for dumpsters…well, falling into one filled with pillows might save your life. But then, most dumpsters are filled with less savory materials, broken glass being among them. Again, it’s better to jump into a dumpster than trying your luck with the concrete, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re landing on a huge pile of solid objects. Better hope someone just tossed a load of old pillows!
12. There is No Barehanded Sword Block
On Screen: Catching a sword with your bare hands is the ultimate display of skill, reserved only for masters who’ve advanced so far that they don’t even need a weapon to teach respect to their hapless opponents. Equally impressive is the arrow catch, snatching a flying arrow out of the air with peerless grace and dexterity. Both of these serve to show that a person is almost above-human in their mastery of martial arts, and also looking cool (the greatest aspiration of all fictional characters).
Real Life: Well…you could. But you wouldn’t.
If you were one of the 0.0001% of people in the world with the required dexterity and training, and you happened to find yourself being attacked by a guy with a sword and you had no time to just dodge or… grab the guy’s wrist, then okay. Maybe.
Still, catching a blade is nigh-impossible, and just REALLY impractical. Even if you managed it, that’s a sharpened blade you’ve got between your fingers; your attacker is just going to pull it right out and slice up your hands in the process.
While arrow catching is considerably easier, especially when the arrow has traveled a certain distance and has been slowed by the wind resistance, it’s still nowhere near practical. If you have the reflexes to catch arrows, you should probably use them to dodge instead. Get behind cover. Stop endangering your life by showing off.
11. Human Bodies are Terrible Bullet Shields
On Screen: Got yourself a nameless bad guy within grabbing distance? Congratulations, you now have yourself a full-functioning bulletproof shield! Because there’s nothing quite as hilarious as holding a guy in a headlock, firing over his shoulder and watching as his allies fill their buddy’s body with lead while you’re safe and warm behind him. Works every time.
Real Life: Works pretty much none of the time. Up until he’s filled with lead, that hapless henchman is going to be struggling for all he’s worth, and when your shield is actively trying to get away, that makes it a very bad shield.
Even if you’re holding up a corpse to stop that hailstorm of gunfire, you’re in for a bad time: people just don’t stop bullets the way we think they do. Anything other than a small-caliber is going to go right through that mook and hit you as well, provided they don’t just aim at the soft parts sticking out. And since that poor guy wasn’t tailor-made for you to turn into an improv meat-shield, there will be soft parts.
Having someone in front of you is better than nothing, mind, but if someone comes after you with any kind of automatic weapon, you’ll quickly find that all the effort going into holding up your corpse should probably be re-channeled into finding cover, fast.
10. Shoot the Person, Not the Weapon
On Screen: Hands down, this is the coolest way to disarm someone, especially if you do it from an odd angle and it’s totally unexpected. The suddenly-unarmed bad guys might hop around a bit holding their hands, but most of the time you can blast a gun out of a person’s grip with nothing more serious than a look of shock.
Real Life: Yeah, nah.
Shooting a weapon in someone’s grip is already an insanely-hard prospect, since there are limited angles to do so without taking their digits clean off. You might be able to come at it from the side and shoot the barrel, but it requires such pinpoint accuracy (not to mention them holding their gun perfectly still) that you probably shouldn’t even bother. Any other angle and you’ll either hit the wielder or blast their fingers clean off, which sort of defeats the whole point of disarming someone without hurting them.
Even worse, this is most often seen with old-timey revolvers, which were in themselves pretty inaccurate and mostly good for shooting big, meaty targets. Pinpoint shots like that were mostly reserved for controlled gun shows. As for today, your chances are even lower; guns have so much more power that even simply shooting the barrel of someone’s weapon is likely to snap their wrist, if it doesn’t cause their own weapon to backfire in their faces and kill them anyway.
9. Guns Aren’t Made for Spinning
On Screen: Speaking of old-timey revolvers, you’ll scarcely make it through a good-old Western without a gunslinger performing a slick set of spins with their gun, often right after fanning the hammer and before sticking it in their holster. Sure, they didn’t need to spin their gun, but dang, it looked cool.
Real Life: You could get away with this trick back in the days of six-shooters. That was because revolvers needed two steps to fire: cocking the hammer and pulling the trigger. If the hammer wasn’t cocked (such as after fanning the hammer oh-so-slickly), then things got a whole lot safer, if not all that safe.
Nowadays? Don’t even try. Guns have safety rules, and spinning a loaded one around your finger breaks pretty much every single one of them at once. Remember, that’s the trigger you’re using to spin the gun. The wrong amount of pressure at any point will cause it to fire, which combined with the rotation motion turns your slick trick into a deadly game of spin the bottle. There’s also the recoil to deal with, and since you don’t have a firm grip on the handle, that might just snap your finger.
And while we’re at it, guns have holsters for a reason: it places the barrel firmly facing the ground with no chance of movement. Sticking a gun in your back pocket, safety or no, is a marvelous way to blast one of your butt cheeks clean off. And that’s an injury nobody wants to see.
8. Just Stay Clear of Explosions
On Screen: Ah, the noble explosion, misunderstood by many and heartily abused as a result. A typical TV explosion is brilliant at destroying things, as well as people caught in the direct epicenter or swallowed by the fireball. If you’re anywhere else, expect to survive with nary more than a bit of soot on your face and a brief few moments of flailing flight as you’re lifted off your feet and carried as if on the wings of an unusually-destructive angel.
Real Life: An explosion has so many ways of killing you, which it will gleefully employ if you’re anywhere near its radius. A simple detonator creates no explosion at all; it’s pure impact, which can instantly rearrange your face and kill you with no drama required.
As for the fiery kind? Well, you probably noticed how everything near the center was violently thrown backwards, with even solid steel crumpling with the force. No, humans aren’t treated differently in this scenario; that blast wave can and will turn you into pudding. And not the good kind of pudding. That’s if the immense heatwave doesn’t turn you into something resembling a char-grilled salmon.
So you’ve found yourself outside the kill radius, and you’d like to try walking away from that explosion without even looking. Like a badass. Turns out you should’ve moved with a tad more urgency, because that’s still an explosion behind you, tossing out flaming pieces of shrapnel that are only too happy to find a new home in the back of your skull. Maybe you should’ve just legged it like everyone else.
7. Dolphins Might Just Kill You (or worse)
On Screen: Dolphins are like people, if people spoke in squeaks and were 120% nicer. Ultra-intelligent and compassionate to a fault, all your seafaring problems might as well be over as soon as you see these chirping good Samaritans of the sea.
Real Life: Dolphins are even more like people than you’d think, because while it’s very possible the ones circling your lifeboat are the decent sort, there’s also a great chance that these ones weren’t hugged enough as pups and they’re looking to vent their frustration.
That’s right: you get jerk dolphins. In fact, they’re one of the few species aside from humans that kill for fun, except there are no dolphin laws (that we know of) forbidding any of them going on murder sprees. They’re still animals acting on instincts, so while you get valid stories of them forming a protective circle to ward off a shark attack, it’s just as likely that your boat is now at the mercy of a dolphin street gang who don’t appreciate you floating into their turf and are about to straight up kill you for kicks.
Even in cases when dolphins act friendly towards humans, it’s been noted that their interest goes…uh…slightly deeper than just wanting to be friends. As in, some will try to take things to the next level. Try not to think about that on your next visit to Seaworld.
6. Just Leave the Bullet In
On Screen: The only thing tougher than getting shot and living through it is digging out that bullet, preferably with a lot of grunting through clenched teeth. No matter what you get stuck with- bullets, arrows, knives- it’s best to get that nonsense out of your body, stat. Double-extra-bonus points if you rip it out, THEN use it as a weapon.
Real Life: You’ll be looking cool for a few minutes at most, before you pass out from blood loss. See, TV folk fly into a panic whenever anyone gets something stuck in them, and you can sort of see why; that arrow definitely doesn’t belong inside a person’s shoulder. Better rip that sucker out, pronto!
Actually, that arrow/knife is currently the only thing keeping all that delicious flowing blood inside the person’s body, so there isn’t quite as much of a rush as you’d think. Unfortunately, getting shot or stabbed leaves you in the catch-22 situation of the thing inside you causing harm, but also stopping the blood flow. It should only be removed with utmost care and preferably medical expertise.
As for bullets, there’s even LESS of a hurry, since people have lived ordinary lives for years with slugs just hanging out inside them. Unlike arrows and knives, bullets carry far less risk of infection since they’re searing hot when fired. Sure, it might be nice to fish it out at a later time when you aren’t being shot at, but in reality? It’s blocking up the hole and probably germ-free. There’s no need to fly into a panic, as if every single bullet comes equipped with a timed explosive. That’s a WHOLE different problem.
5. If it’s Not a Zipline, Don’t Bother
On Screen: Is there a wire? Is something hanging off the wire? Say no more, because that thing is ripe for you to jump on-board and zip across like so many kids at summer camp. Doesn’t even matter if there’s nothing hanging from the wire, either, since all it takes is a piece of long fabric and you’re on your way.
Real Life: Just…don’t even try. For so many reasons.
Actual zip-lines are specially made to be slippery, reducing the friction as you travel along. Also, the equipment you use to zip along them is designed to, you know, hold you up and not break, sending you plummeting to the ground below. This is why improvised zip-lines simply don’t work; unless you’re sliding on a near-vertical cable with the perfect amount of smooth surface, you’ll inevitably stop dead in the middle and have to explain that one much later to the fire brigade.
There’s also the matter of what you’re using to slide, because a piece of fabric isn’t going to stand up to both the rapidly-generating friction and the weight of your body. And don’t even think about trying this with a wire hanger. Those things can very easily bend under the weight of a heavy jacket, so trusting the flimsy hook at the top to hold your entire self? You’ll be on a one-way trip to the ground holding a useless piece of misshapen metal.
4. Chemicals Are Deadly, Funnily Enough
On Screen: Need a guard to be unconscious? Want to disable an entire room, possibly for hours at a time? No problem, because chloroform rags and sleep gas have your back. Simple, pain-free naptime for your targets, with no repercussions and no escape!
Real Life: If you take nothing else away from this article, let it be this: do not play around with chemicals.
Anesthetists have to first qualify as doctors and then take an entire degree on top of that, just to be allowed to put people to sleep. There’s a very good reason for this, since anesthetic is an absurdly-precise science and even the tiniest mistake can leave a person in a coma.
There’s no such thing as knockout gas that leaves a room full of people conveniently unconscious. There are nerve agents…which are classed as chemical weapons and will (and sadly have in the past) kill people en masse, hence why they’re banned under every civilized code. Also absent from real life are sedative darts that can swiftly render someone unconscious for minutes to hours. With no chance to prepare beforehand for the victim’s exact weight, medical conditions and probably a million other things, you might as well be chucking darts filled with black mamba venom.
Chloroform gives slightly better results, but was never the instant-anesthetic solution people tended to think. Sure, if the year was 1850 and you needed major surgery it was better than a kick to the head…but there’s a good reason we’ve stopped using it.
3. You Will Fall Off Moving Vehicles
On Screen: Car surfing is cool. Train surfing is cooler. Airplane surfing? The coolest. The only way it gets better is if you’re approaching a tunnel and have to dramatically drop to avoid having your head taken off. For those true thrill-seekers, you can’t beat clinging to the side of a car, ripping open the door and tossing the driver out before taking his place at the wheel.
Real Life: Most people have never tried clinging to the top of a car in transit, which is a very good thing since it’s far more difficult than it looks. Even at slow speeds, trying to hold onto a car bonnet is a difficult task that requires a lot of strength, so you can forget having a martial arts battle on top of a highway truck.
For reference, just imagine the last time you were on a train. How easy was it to stand in the middle of the carriage, holding onto nothing, and keep your footing? Yep, that’s what handrails are for. Imagine doing the same thing, except you’re now being buffeted by winds, there’s nothing to hold onto, no protection and some guy in a suit is trying to kill you. Even a slight turn will send you careening off the edge.
We’re also calling foul on James Bond getting into fisticuffs with a guy on top of a moving train; you’d spend all that effort just trying not to fall off, and you’d better hope it’s a train with a perfectly flat roof and lots of things to hold onto.
2. A Glass Window Will Slice You Up
On Screen: Glass windows are made to be broken, preferably in slow-motion as you leap through them, land in a roll and spring to your feet, none the worse for wear. Don’t expect there to be much left of the window, either; most of it will have been ripped from the frame, or at least a circular, jagged outline.
Real Life: Hollywood uses various methods to simulate a person jumping through glass, such as a sheet of hardened sugar or a form of plastic. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that jumping through the stuff makes for a clean break, when actually, no it does not.
Glass is surprisingly hard to break if you’re a first-timer, even more so if it’s double-glazed. Without a serious, concerted bit of force thrown at the window, there’s a good chance you’ll just bounce off with nothing more than a web of cracks at the point of impact. The best option to get through a window, if it’s what you really want (hey, some people just hate taking the stairs), is to break it with a heavy object beforehand and clear away the jagged edges (with another object) before you make the journey.
Even if you do manage to smash right through with a single, determined shoulder tackle, don’t expect to take the window with you in a shower of harmless crystals. No, that thing is going to break how it likes, and how it likes is with a zillion jagged edges that can and will slice you to ribbons before you even reach the ground and have more of the stuff raining down on you.
1. Unconscious Person = Brain Damage
On Screen: No chloroform handy? All out of sedative darts? No problem. There’s nothing a good, solid punch to the jaw won’t solve! They’ll awake an hour or so later, maybe with some fuzzy vision, but no other ill effects.
For those with extra finesse, there’s always a good old chop to the neck, sleeper-hold or Vulcan nerve pinch to incapacitate your foes humanely.
Real Life: Humans do not have an off-switch.
Here’s the thing about unconsciousness: it’s really, really bad for a person, especially if it was by force. Being knocked out usually lasts for minutes at most, and any longer has a person in serious danger of brain damage. There’s nothing ‘humane’ about forcefully knocking a person’s lights out, since the blackout is often caused by the brain slamming into the skull wall. You know, the brain…a part of the body that can’t heal itself, and depends on the protection of the skull that you just clobbered with a metal bar.
As with nerve agents, it is possible in some cases to knock a person out with less force by going for the nerves, but this carries a heavy risk of instant death, and there’s no real way to tell. Sleeper holds are based on starving the brain of oxygen- which we don’t need to tell you is a horrible idea- and that jaw-punch is far more likely to break your own fingers since you’re punching pure bone.
Jury’s out on the Vulcan nerve pinch. Still probably not good for you, though.