Part of the magic in action movies is seeing things on screen that probably couldn’t happen in real life. We see driving skills that are impossible, natural disasters that are exaggerated, and most importantly for this list, we see people survive the unsurvivable. There are just too many scenes like this to mention them all. Almost every shootout, every fall and every explosion would kill a person in real life. That being said, there are some that are so ridiculous, so hilariously unbelievable that we have to discuss them. So we will.
Over the years, audiences have become more critical of action film realism. As viewers have become more informed about what is realistic and what isn’t (the internet is a powerful tool), many directors have altered their strategies to make their action more reasonable. Well, more believable at least. Yet, there are still directors who couldn’t care less about realism. To them, the more overblown the action the better. Either that, or they’ve completely lost touch with reality. Here’s looking at you, Michael Bay.
Then there’s the classics. The scenes that we’ve all watched countless times and thought, “oh my God, that guy’s dead,” but he’s not. He never is. No. He survived with little more than a scratch. Most often these scenes happen with the heroes of the films because they never die, but plenty of villains survive seemingly insurmountable odds as well. Let’s take a look at the best and most unrealistic of these moments. Here are the 15 most laughably unrealistic death-defying moments in film.
15. Hard Landing – Iron Man
In Iron Man, there are several scenes that push the limits of reality. After all, it is a comic book movie, so we have to suspend our disbelief a little. There is one scene though, that makes us scratch our heads until they bleed. It starts with Iron Man coming out of his cave. He’s fully loaded in his freshly minted armored suit. He begins to blast everyone with flamethrowers, deflecting thousands of bullets. We’re ok with this. It looks awesome and we can believe it. He gets a bit shook up by some .50 caliber rounds and falls to his knees. As the boxes of ammunition and explosives around him are engulfed by flames, Iron Man decides it’s time to fly. He clicks a few buttons and takes off hundreds of feet into the sky. As he reaches the peak of his flight, his suit malfunctions, starts to break up and he plummets back to earth. He hits the ground at terminal velocity, creating a big plume of dirt and smoke. The wreckage looks grim. Bits of the suit are scattered about and Tony Stark is lodged in the ground, barely any of the suit is protecting his body, but he’s ok. He’s even able to speak. Do you believe in magic?
14. Just Hanging Around – Transformers III
There are so many times that Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) should have died in the Transformers franchise but didn’t. Every fall that resulted in him being caught by a large metal transformer hand should have killed him. Every explosion within 10 feet of him should have killed him. But the scene in Transformers III that has him cling to Starscream by a grappling hook is probably the worst of all. In this scene, Witwicky shoots a grappling hook into Starscream’s eye which causes the Decepticon to go all crazy and start jumping around. Since Witwicky is connected to the baddie, he gets pulled into the air, jerking and jolting, smashing into walls, through windows and into metal. All the while, as the guy is dangling, we’re wondering how his arm hasn’t ripped right off. To finish it all off, Bumblebee catches him before he hits the ground after a 100-foot fall. Dead, once again.
13. Flipping Out – Casino Royale
James Bond gets in his Aston Martin and starts chasing down the enemy. He probably reaches speeds in excess of 80 mph in the dark, when his headlights come across Eva Green lying on the ground. Bond doesn’t want to hit her, so he swerves at the last minute. The car begins to topple, flipping seven times, a new world record for a stunt (the previous record was six flips). As the car comes to a rest, the audience can breathe once again because the hero, Bond, James Bond, escapes unscathed. Like seriously unscathed. The guy barely even has a scratch on him.
12. The Impossible Tunnel – Mission Impossible
Realism and Mission Impossible don’t often go hand in hand. Obviously, we know this. Yet, even within an entire franchise filled with silliness, the tunnel scene will go down in infamy. You know the one. Tom Cruise, holding onto a speeding train, is being chased by a helicopter in a tunnel. Just as the helicopter clips the roof of the tunnel and slows it down, Cruise leaps from the train onto the copter. He takes out his explosive gum, says a punchline and places it on the window. A second later, the explosion goes off, like an inch from Cruise’s head. Rather than explode his skull though, the explosion just gently catapults him back onto the train, no shrapnel embedded throughout his body, no third degree burns and no impact breaks. He’s all good.
11. Invincible Bad Guy – Panic Room
Jodie Foster is a bad, bad woman. When she’s fighting off baddies, she has no fears about what kind of harm she does to them. There is one bit of damage that she lays on a bad guy that would be irreparable in real life. At the top floor of the house, she grabs a sledgehammer, winds it up, and smashes a guy on the side of the head. He then flips over the railing and falls about 20 feet, two stories to the ground below. Don’t worry though, kids. He’d be alright, well, at least until a bullet takes him down. The best part is that, not only did he survive, he survived and still had the strength and wits to fight in hand-to-hand combat afterward. This is a truly remarkable will to live.
10. Unbreakable McClane – Live Free or Die Hard
John McClane (Bruce Willis) has an ability to survive things that no other man, woman or child would be able to withstand. His bones are iron, his skin impenetrable. In Live Free or Die Hard, McClane is driving a semi truck, trying to escape the wrath of a fighter jet. When he drives it up to the top of a freeway, about 70 feet above the bottom level, the fighter jet unleashes a barrage of bullets on the truck. It basically disintegrates in the onslaught, but McClane is left untouched and unfazed. As the truck begins to slide off the ramp, McClane somersaults to the back and jumps onto the fighter jet. The pilot ejects because the jet is about to explode. McClane then jumps off the jet onto the ramp below as the jet explodes mere meters from the hero. He’s not injured though. Not in the least.
9. Falling From The Sky – Bond Skyfall
Let’s ignore the fact that James Bond is shot with a uranium bullet in the opening scene of Skyfall because that would have turned his lungs inside out. He would have bled out and would have surely died. We can turn a blind eye to this because we don’t know what kind of uranium immunity Bond has, but we can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that Bond is shot off of a train and falls about 200 feet into the water below. He doesn’t just land in the water nicely, either. He lands on his neck, like the least graceful way to land. His head would have popped right off if he landed like that, but that would have been a weird way to open a film, so we’ll forgive them.
8. The Cold Black Hole – Interstellar
Interstellar does a lot of good for science. Not only is it fairly accurate in many respects, apparently, it also generates some interest in space and sciences, which can only be a good thing. There are, however, some problems, some moments when the science gets a bit wonky. The most egregious of these errors is when Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) flies his ship above the accretion disk swirling around the black hole. The truth is that these accretion disks are hot, like crazy hot. For comparison’s sake, our sun is about 6,000 Kelvin and accretion disks can get up to several million Kelvin. So, McConaughey would get burnt up if he was just cruisin’ by it as he did in the film.
7. Unkillable Henchwoman – Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Robin Spitz/Swallows (Gia Carides) is just one of the many villains that Austin Powers has to deal with in The Spy Who Shagged Me, but she is one tough cookie. To save himself, Powers uses Robin as a human shield several different times. At first, he uses her to take a throwing knife, which catches her in the spine, but this isn’t where she dies. Next, to block a barrage of machine gun bullets, Powers picks Robin up and uses her back to take the 30 or so bullets shot at him. Then, as a bazooka launches a rocket through the air toward him, Powers picks Robin up once more and uses her to block it. They both live through this explosion, but the force blasts them out of the window and down to the ground below, about 100 feet down. In one last attempt to survive, Powers pulls Robin in front of him hoping that she will take the majority of the force of the fall. As they hit the ground, it’s revealed that Robin, too, has survived the fall, at least long enough to get the last word in.
6. Soft Landing – The Island
As the giant “R” on the 50-story building begins to tear off its mounts in The Island, you know that Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, who are sitting on the “R”, are done for. The fall below them is no less than 35 stories and there’s no chance of survival. But wait! Even though they fall through an incredible amount of broken glass and metal, they land on a coarse net with little give, so they survive. But here’s the thing. They don’t just land on the netting. They land on it with their faces. This netting should have sliced right through them, turning them into little blocks of meat, if they hit it going that fast. The metal sign that hits the netting is broken and bent by the force, but somehow these human meat sacs survive without a bruise.
5. Nuking The Fridge – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Nuking the fridge in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has become a self-standing legend in film history. The entire scene feels silly and misplaced and the science behind it tells us that we’re right in feeling that way. In reality, Indy would be dead several times over if he tried this stunt. Here’s the recap. Indy learns he’s in a nuclear test site. It’s too late to outrun the blast and there’s no safe place to hide. Well, this is the movies, so it turns out there is a safe place. It’s in a lead-lined fridge. The blast lifts the fridge up and out of the test site and Indy escapes unscathed. In truth, the force would kill him, the heat would kill him, the radiation would kill him, the landing impact would kill him and G forces due to acceleration would kill him. Indy wouldn’t have a chance in hell of living through that.
4. Freefalling – Crank/Crank 2
So Crank ends with Jason Statham falling from about 300 feet onto a car. He falls from a helicopter, has time for a fight, has time to call and leave a message, has time to chill out and relax in the air as he falls. He then lands on a car, bounces like 10 feet in the air and lands on the concrete. His eyes are bleeding and his ears are bleeding. He’s got to be dead, right? Nope. When Crank 2 starts, we learn that Statham lived. He’s not even hurt that bad, all things considered. In reality, this guy would be soup. There’s no chance that he could survive this. The car wouldn’t break his fall one bit. Crank has some unbelievable things in it, like the entire premise for instance, but nothing is crazier than the ending.
3. The Infamous Black Knight – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
When King Arthur crosses paths with the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the audience knows they’re in for a battle to the death. But it’s not the end result that’s most interesting; it’s the process. The two men begin to battle and, at first, it’s evenly matched. Not long into the fight, Arthur lops off one of the Black Knight’s arms. No worries, “tis but a scratch.” The fight starts up again. Another arm is cut off at the shoulder. The fight, however, is far from done. The Black Knight still has two legs to use, and use them he does, as he kicks Arthur from behind. Though he doesn’t want to continue, Arthur cuts off one of the knight’s legs for good measure. Now hopping around on one leg, the Black Knight continues to attack Arthur, leading Arthur to chop off his last remaining limb. As Arthur walks away, the Black Knight continues to berate him, showing that he will live to see another day.
2. It’s Raining Bricks – Home Alone 2
Kevin McAlister isn’t afraid to kill a man. In fact, almost every one of Kevin’s traps would be enough to critically maim or kill a grown man, but the villains in Home Alone and the sequel don’t die easy. The worst booby-trap in the original Home Alone would have to be the blow torch to the top of Joe Pesci’s head. This would probably be hot enough, in reality, to burn straight through his skull. Even worse than that, Home Alone 2 has Kevin launching bricks at the crooks from on top of a building. Expecting Kevin to throw the camera down, Daniel Stern gets hit in the forehead by a brick thrown from about 50 feet up instead. Then, as he lay on the ground, severely concussed, he gets hit with another brick. Same spot. One more brick. Same spot. And another. Four bricks hit Stern in the skull in quick succession. While in the film he only has a few bruises and scuffs, Stern’s skull would be well shattered in real life.
1. Parachute Raft – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones, Shorty and Willie are abandoned by the pilots in an airplane flying over the Himalayas. Thinking quickly, Indy gets an inflatable raft and jumps out of the plane with the other two close behind him. Flying through the air hundreds of feet above the mountains, these three are surely dead. But no. They land on the side of a mountain in the raft like they’re falling into a cushiony bed and slide down it with no problems. They’re not crushed and their bones aren’t shattered. Everything is going to be alright.