You shouldn’t go into a movie expecting to learn about science. Go to school for that, read a book or even go online. But the sad truth is that most of what we know about the things we’ve never experienced is from what we’ve seen or heard on TV and film. It’s not your fault that you think robots, zombies and aliens are real because movies have been showing you them forever. Movies have encouraged your imagination, infusing it with the power to take control of the logic center of your brain. But what do we do about the movies that lie to us about the way the world works? What about those movies that tell us that nature works one way, but really it works in a completely different way? Are movies endangering us? Should we rise up and fight back?
No, not really. We just need to make sure we’re not being fooled by them. We need to go through a process of re-education, and that’s exactly what this list is. We’re going to count down the 15 biggest movie lies about science and set the record straight. Science is kind of a loose term here; it’s going to encompass nature, law, history and space. It’s basically everything. This is for your own protection. The lies on this list have been in numerous films or have simply been taken as gospel. Over time, people have come to assume that these lies are truth. How many conversations have you been a part of where you have regurgitated the mistruths that you learned in film? How many people have shaken their heads at your ignorance? Let’s put an end to it at once. Let’s restore your reputation. Here are 15 movies that lied about science.
15. Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – The Fridge Nuke Shelter
Ahh, the long-fabled fridge from Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Yeah, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this one is insanely far-fetched, but let’s actually get to the bottom of it. Ever since George Lucas came out and announced the idea was his and that “scientists” have claimed Indy would actually have a 50/50 shot of surviving the nuclear blast in that damn fridge, gullible people everywhere have been accepting it as truth. Lucas claims that, if Indy didn’t break his neck, the lead-lined fridge could save him. Sure, if Indy wasn’t crushed inside of the fridge which would almost surely be smashed to bits by the shockwave force, and if he wasn’t killed by 1500+ G’s of force (the world record of Gs survived is 42), and if he wasn’t crushed on his landing, and if he wasn’t baked by the oven-like temperatures, then yeah, he might have been able to survive that. But I’d suggest not running to a fridge for protection from a nuke anytime soon.
14. Jaws – Sharks Are Man-Killers
When Spielberg gave the world Jaws, it’s highly unlikely he was looking to educate the people on the truthful nature of sharks. It’s also highly unlikely, however, that he intended to almost single-handedly ruin the reputation of these poor creatures forever. By portraying them as ravenous beasts looking to chomp down on the nearest humans swimming in the water, Spielberg created a frenzy among real-life beach-goers, turning every nibble into a massive news report. In reality, there are an average of about 16 shark bites per year in the United States. On top of that, there is only about one death every two years from shark attacks. That means you have greater odds of dying from a vending machine falling on you than you do a shark attack. It’s safe to go back into the water people.
13. Star Wars – There’s Sound In Space
I think this once-common misconception has fizzled out in recent times with films like Gravity and interstellar trying to give an accurate picture of space (though even those come with their fair share of criticism). Either way, we’ll hammer it out here. No, there is no sound in space. Here on Earth, the sound that you hear is the air being vibrated by sound waves. In space, there is no air to vibrate and therefore no sound. That means all those pews and booms you hear in your favorite space movie, such as Star Wars or Star Trek, wouldn’t actually make any noise. But, picturing a silent space battle on screen is even more disturbing than finding out that we’ve been lied to this entire time.
12. Goldfinger – Paint Suffocates Skin
In Goldfinger, the Bond girl, Shirley Eaton, is covered in gold paint and she dies from suffocation. James Bond goes on to suggest that cabaret dancers have been known to die from this type of thing, so now they leave a small patch of skin unpainted in order to allow their skin to breath. Apparently, Bond, James Bond, had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. It’s not true at all. Yet, even though this is a bunch of malarkey, the filmmakers decided to leave a patch of skin unpainted on Eaton, just in case. Well the science behind this is simple, simple enough for a small child to understand. We breathe through our mouths. Here, you try it. Turns out, we don’t breathe through our skin, so painting it makes no difference whatsoever. Now, if you paint up your body, you’re probably going to clog up all your pores. If then you went outside on a hot day and couldn’t sweat, you may die of heatstroke, so don’t go celebrating this scientific breakthrough with a can of body paint on a hot summer day.
11. The Day After Tomorrow – The World Freezing Over
The film, The Day After Tomorrow, is based on “science,” but is it at all accurate? Well the answer is two fold. Yes, similar things could happen in theory. No, it would never even come close to happening that quickly or that dramatically. In the film, the changing weather from Global Warming leads to a massive global superstorm. This storm shows itself in various ways across the world and leads to flash freezing and a new ice age in North America, all in a matter of days. Well, things wouldn’t happen like that. Even if all the glaciers melted at once, the weather changes worldwide would not take place in a matter of days. Over many years, however, weather patterns can shift and change. It makes sense that a movie would fast track this process because it would be super boring to watch otherwise. Also, don’t take your scientific cues from Art Bell and Whitley Strieber, two well-known UFO “specialists.”
10. Star Wars – Asteroid Fields
It doesn’t only happen in Star Wars, but whenever you think about an asteroid field, you no doubt think about dodging and weaving in between them in a spaceship like in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. While this is definitely exciting to watch, it’s very unrealistic. The first exaggerated part is the size of the asteroids. Most of the objects in an asteroid field are very tiny, maybe the size of a tennis ball. They wouldn’t do too much damage to the Millennium Falcon. Second, is that there is a significant amount of distance in between most of these objects in real space, like hundreds of thousands of miles between these objects. Even a rookie pilot could evade asteroids with that much room.
9. Back to the Future – The DeLorean
This one is a bit of a dream crusher for aspiring time travellers. Not only does time travel not exist, yet, but you won’t be travelling in a DeLorean, like in Back to the Future, anytime soon. To catch you up if it’s been a while, in the wonderful world of Back to the Future, time travel happens when you gun your tricked up DeLorean up to 88 mph and, presto, you’ve gone back or forward to whatever year you selected. But there’s a major problem with this all and it didn’t even take a scientist to figure it out. Not only could the car not get up to that speed in that parking lot, in that time or with those weather conditions, but the speedometer in that DeLorean only went up to 85 mph. Ugh.
8. White Wilderness – Lemmings Follow Blindly
Lemmings have had a bad rap ever since Disney’s 1958 documentary, White Wilderness. In this film, there was footage of a group of lemmings all following each other off a cliff in an ill-fated migration/suicide pact. This led to various sayings and idioms being created about lemmings as followers and stupid, but it’s all a lie. Apparently, the Disney documentary crew had installed a rotating turntable which forced the lemmings to run around in circles and fall off the cliffside into the water where they would eventually drown. It turns out that the type of lemmings filmed weren’t even the migratory kind, and the location wasn’t even the Arctic but Alberta, Canada. So next time you disparage the name of lemmings, remember that it was just another Disney lie that made you think this way.
7. Amadeus – Salieri Was Evil
If you know anything about Antonio Salieri, it’s likely because you’ve watched the 1984 film, Amadeus. In this classic film, Salieri is portrayed as an envious contemporary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, set on destroying the great composer. The film goes on to suggest that Salieri killed Mozart, but this is all a lie and it stemmed from the Russian Poet, Alexander Pushkin. The film, based on 1979 play, dramatizes the events and makes Salieri out to be someone he’s not. He never secretly commissioned a Requiem, that was Franz van Walsegg. There may have been some tension between the two composers but never anything that would amount to murder. Mozart’s own son would end up training with Salieri after Mozart’s death in 1791 as well. There’s nothing to see here.
6. Braveheart – Kilts Were A 13th Century Tradition
You may have heard that Braveheart isn’t a historically accurate documentary. In fact, it’s filled with historical inaccuracies and anachronisms, so much so that people tend to ridicule it at every turn. But there is one piece of this film that people have clung to, despite it being completely wrong, and that’s the wardrobe. We’ve seen the Scottish kilts and thought nothing of it. Of course all Scotsmen wore kilts in those days, but that’s where we’ve been wrong all along. Kilts did not become an everyday custom in Scotland until about the 17th century. It’s a sad realization, but it had to come at some point.
5. Armageddon – The Meteor Calamity
An asteroid the size of Texas is heading towards Earth. We’re all screwed unless Bruce Willis can put a bomb on that sucker and blow it up. Wait a minute. What type of bomb can blow up a rock the size of Texas? And you’re going to carry that thing in a contained box up to outer space? Ok, besides that, the best part about the lies told in Armageddon is that they’re actually mostly underestimates. Well some are. No, an asteroid the size of Texas isn’t going to sneak up on us. If there were an asteroid that big in our solar system, it would be the largest there by about 30%. We would have seen it. Also, they suggest that the asteroid would hit the Earth with the impact of 10,000 nuclear bombs. That’s cute. The actual amount of force of an asteroid that size hitting Earth would be closer to about 800,000 nuclear bombs. Inconceivable.
4. The Dark Knight – “I want my phone call”
You get arrested and they’re holding you in a cell. But you know your rights. You ask to get your one phone call. This is in countless movies and TV shows (The Dark Knight included in them), but is it accurate? Nope, not really at all. You have the right to an attorney. Depending on the place you’re being held, you have the right to a phone call… you probably even have the right to an entire phone. It all rests on the policies of the institution and the place you’re being held. You might not even get a call if they think you’re too dangerous. Basically, do some research on where you’re going to jail. If you find they allow only one phone call, you better drop that line. It may be the only time and place that it actually makes sense to do so.
3. Transformers – Breaking A Fall
Countless movies have done it, but Transformers may be the worst of them all, if only because of the massive metal hands involved. I’m talking about someone catching a falling person. Let’s say Shia LaBeouf is thrown off a building—in a movie not real life—and he is falling to certain death if he hits the ground below. But he doesn’t. Out of nowhere comes a giant metal hand to catch LaBeouf and make sure he doesn’t hit concrete. Is he fine? No! Because instead of hitting concrete, he smashed into metal. The guy is dead either way. There’s no way for these things to break anyone’s fall. They may even make it worse.
2. The NeverEnding Story – Quicksand Is Deadly
There are a few things that every kid knows. Falling down hurts and quicksand is the deadliest substance on the face of the earth. It’s basic math. The harder you struggle in quicksand, the worse your predicament gets. Remember when Artax the horse gets consumed by quicksand in The NeverEnding Story? Of course you do. That was the most traumatic event of your life. But guess what. Quicksand isn’t even a big deal. Humans and animals would really have to give it their all to sink in quicksand. You would need to thrash about like a maniac without ever trying to get out to kill yourself in it.
1. Finding Nemo – Clownfish Single Father
So where does the movie go wrong? Well this one might shock you. Science told me that if Nemo’s mom was eaten up like she was, Nemo’s dad (Marlin) wouldn’t just become the cool single dad he is in the film, no way. He would actually turn into a female. That’s right. This is because all clownfish start off as males. Some will stay males and some will become females. Whenever the female from a family dies, the male will take over her very important role. Disney’s come a long way since their cringe-worthy early days, but they definitely aren’t ready to show kids a hermaphroditic fish family just yet.