11 Common Movie Tropes That Would Actually Ruin Your Life



Although it feels as though after an eight hour marathon of Grey’s Anatomy, you’d probably be able to muddle your way through complex brain surgery, it’s worth remembering that the worlds of TV and film are probably not, in reality, the best educational tools.

Because Movieland has to be much more exciting that boring old real life, writers and directors take a lot of liberties with the laws of nature, physics and common sense and, in the process, dole out some pretty terrible life advice. Sometimes you can see why (who really wants to watch a realistic 12 hour labour?), but sometimes you have to wonder whether they’re just messing with us.

Given that a fair amount of this, er, artistic license comes into play is life or death situations,we could all benefit from sorting the fact from the fiction – just in case you ever have to administer CPR, give birth or stick a super-cool landing from a very high place.

If you were to do any of these things, and more, the way they do them in the movies you would probably end up maiming or killing either yourself or somebody else and, what’s worse, you’d look like a darned fool too.

11. Put A Severed Body Part On Ice




With the wonders of medical science, cutting off a finger doesn’t necessarily mean losing it forever. Unless you follow advice from the movies, of course.

It is true that you should keep a severed body part cool, as a cooled part will be viable for reattachment for 18 hours, compared to the 4-6 hours of an uncooled part, but putting it directly into ice will scupper any reattachment plans by damaging the tissue further.

Direct contact with ice will likely cause freezer burn and frostbite – you know, that thing that causes people to lose body parts. The best advice is to gently wash any dirt and contaminants from the part, wrap it in a clean, damp cloth, place in a sealed plastic bag and suspend that in ice water.

10. Remove Foreign Objects From Wounds At All Costs

Universal Pictures

“Quick, we need to get the bullet out!”

It’s certainly a high-drama device, as our hero (or more likely our hero’s plucky sidekick) bites down on a bit of leather as somebody goes rifling around in their abdomen with their filthy fingers.

Once an object is embedded in you, that’s probably the worse it’s going to get, and it’s now more likely to be acting as a handy plug to prevent your insides becoming outsides.

Preventing infection should not be higher up on your list of priorities than preventing the person bleeding out as infection can be treated at a later date with antibiotics (whereas bleeding to death can not), and a bullet will actually be sterile when it enters the body due to the heat generated when firing.

Eventually, that giant impaling tree branch is going to have to come out at some point, but it’s the kind of procedure that would be better performed by a real doctor in a sterlie operating room, rather than your nailbitten paws.


9. CPR Is A Miracle Cure


In a 1996 study by the New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that the movie CPR success rate was as high as 75%.

Usually following someone being dragged from a lake or unexpectedly keeling over, the scene will likely feature a couple of intense minutes of frantic chest pounding and shouting before the person comes spluttering miraculously back to life. If the character is doomed to die, the first-aider will usually abandon CPR after a couple of minutes.

In reality, CPR will very rarely bring somebody back to life. This is not because it is ineffective, but because that’s not what it is meant to do.

Chest compressions are supposed to artificially keep blood flowing around the body, not restart the heart – to do that you will almost always need an electric shock. This is why it is vital that you keep administering CPR until help arrives.

In Movieland, if CPR isn’t working but dammit-you’re-not-gonna-lose-them you can always just start hammering your fist into their chest. Preferably whilst shouting.

This is called a precordial thump and should only be performed once by a highly trained medical professional in front of witnesses when there are no other alternatives – any other time and you’re just giving a corpse a beating.


8. Rush To Hospital The Moment Your Waters Break

Universal Pictures

Contrary to popular Hollywood belief, childbirth is not quite the emergency people seem to think it is.

Whilst every birth is different, a broken water or even a contraction does not always mean that you need to embark on a high-speed dash to the hospital.

Despite the fact that “My water just broke” is movie shorthand for “Sh*ts about to get real”, only 10% of women have their water break before they are in pretty serious labour. Alternatively, it can break hours or even days before labour.

For first time mothers, labour will last an average of 18 hours and if you leap into a car and drive recklessly to the hospital at the first hint of a contraction, you’re probably just going to be sent home again.

During early labour, many women simply carry on with their day, and it is even recommended that you watch a movie, meditate or even bake during this time – but perhaps that’s less dramatic than most directors were hoping.

7. Wait For The Car To Sink Before Escaping

Eon Productions

There’s all kinds of conflicting advice when it comes to escaping a sinking car.

We’ve all heard the factoid that you should wait until the car fills with water, equalising the pressure and allowing the door to open. Hollywood has apparently heard this too, and many a hero has been found calmly holding their breath in a rapidly sinking car.

Whilst the physics definitely checks out on this one, waiting for the car to become fully submerged before attempting your escape is a bad idea. To have any chance of surviving, you’d have to maintain buddha-like levels of calm to be able to hold your breath in such a stressful situation. This is without taking into consideration any passengers, particularly children, that you would also need to get to safety.

A better option would be to go for the windows as soon as you hit the water. Don’t attempt to open the door as this will just flood the car all the quicker.

You will have about 30 seconds before the water rises to window level and, if the windows are electric, your best bet is to break them.

Car windows are made from tempered glass and you will need a hard, pointed object to shatter them. Your windshield, however, is made from laminated glass and is practically indestructible. If you try to escape through the front, you will die a horrible death.


6. Using A Table For Cover In A Gunfight

Universal Pictures

Here is a list of things that are likely to stop a bullet: six inches of concrete, four sandbags, eighteen inches of water or twenty-four inches of earth.

Here is a list of things that are unlikely to stop a bullet: A flimsy wooden table, a police badge, a mailbox, a car door or another human body.

Granted, flipping a table will conceal your exact position from the shooter, that is, until they blow enough holes in it to see you. Even if it withstands a couple of smaller calibre rounds, anything other than a thick layer of sandbags is going to disintegrate if you empty a clip into it (yes, including a body, nasty).

5. Breaking Your Fall With A Dumpster


We’ve all been there: You’re being pursued by an armed and dangerous Bad Guy, and your only chance of escape is a death-defying leap from a 7th storey window. Never fear, though, because there is a pile of garbage handily placed to break your fall.

You jump, heroically, and land in the pile of broken glass, tin cans and rotting food below. The pile of trash is either deep enough to have broken your fall, but rendering escape from its stinky depths a slow, laborious ticket to tetanus, or shallow enough to easily climb out of … had you not just cleaved your skull on the hard concrete just below.

Alternatively, your flailing body slightly altered the trajectory of your fall, causing you the snap your spine over the edge of the dumpster.

There isn’t really a safer alternative to this one, just don’t just out of high things, not even into a pile of rotting trash, ‘kay?


4. Turning On The Sprinklers To Create A Distraction

Paramount Pictures

Whether as part of a distraction or some kind of romantic movie climax, a fire sprinkler system is the perfect way to clear a building in seconds, preferably whilst the hero and the romantic lead share a passionate make-out sesh in the downpour.

In Movieland, all one has to do is light a cigarette or trip a fire alarm, and every sprinkler in the building spurts forth a shower of crisp, cool spring water,

In the real world, most sprinklers can only be triggered by a heat sensor and, even then, only the outlets in the direct vicinity will be activated. At this point they will release a torrent of filthy, stinking, black, stagnant water at a rate of 400 litres per minute (compared to the eight gallons of a normal shower). For the curious, this is what sprinkler water usually looks like.

If you want to clear a building, simply pulling the fire alarm is a much more efficient, much less stinky, way to do it.

3. Punching A Shark On The Nose

Paramount Pictures

Forgetting for a moment that you will almost certainly never have to put this knowledge into practice, punching a shark on the nose is probably not a brilliant idea should one mistake you for some lunch.

The general idea is that a shark’s nose is very sensitive and one well-aimed whack will be enough to send it packing. The good news is that this is probably true, but the bad news is that most people wouldn’t be able to aim anything well mid-shark attack and, if you miss, the conveyor belt of razor sharp teeth is very close by indeed.

This, coupled with the fact that trying to punch anything underwater is like trying to run through treacle, makes the badass shark-punch a highly unlikely scenario.

If you do find yourself in the jaws of a shark, the best parts to go for are the gills and eyes. Okay, these are still relatively small targets, but they respond much better to a “panicked scrabbling” style of combat than the nose. Here, you can scratch, poke and gouge, rather than relying on your background in underwater martial arts.

2. Peeing On A Jellyfish Sting


The pain of a jellyfish sting is most often caused by nematocysts that lodge into the skin and discharge poison. This is bad enough without a slightly-too-enthusiastic do-gooder using you like a urinal.

The worst thing you can do for a jellyfish sting is to rinse it in fresh water (well, actually, the worst thing you can do is continue to rub the jellyfish all over your body but YKWIM). The change to the balance of concentrations of salts inside and out of the nematocysts will likely activate the stinging once more.

The idea behind the urine remedy is probably based in the fact that urine, unlike fresh water, contains salts and electrolytes. But, do you know what else contains salts and electrolytes? The sea. You know, the thing you’re probably no more that 10 feet away from.

Urine is way more like freshwater than saltwater and will likely end up causing the nematocysts to fire. The best thing to wash a sting with is seawater, but the most important part of treatment is removing the little barbs by scraping the sting site with a razor, credit card or piece of shell.

1. Superhero Landing




Deadpool was right, this one is really hard on the knees.

The superhero landing, you know the one, looks cool but is a disastrously bad idea. The one-leg-bent-one-leg-splayed form of the landing means that the entire force of the landing is being taken through one leg with the knee almost always bent way past 90 degrees. This is a super good way of sustaining uneven compression injuries which are precisely zero fun.

You should also never try to support your landing with your hands as, although it seems like a good way to stabilize yourself, the hands, wrists and arms can take significantly less force than the legs, increasing the likelihood of injury. To make matters worse, a common variation of the superhero landing involves slamming one knee into the ground. Come on now.

The best way to land a large jump is to land on both feet, bend the knees up to 90 degrees on impact (making sure that the feet are parallel) and, if needs be, perfect a diagonal landing roll to take the pressure off the spine. Do not, for the love of god, attempt a superhero landing from anything higher than your bed.




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