Login or Register

Sign in with Facebook

We at Cracked get accused of taking the fun out of action movies, just because we spend all of our time talking about how laughably impossible they are. Still, we try to balance it out by finding real action hero shit that happens every day ... and the fact that it doesn't even take an action hero to pull it off.

A Co-Pilot Tackles a Hijacker While Simultaneously Disarming the Bomb

Notorious91/iStock/Getty Images

The Action Movie Cliche:

Quick, name any movie wherein a plane is hijacked by freewheeling villains. What do the pilots do when the gunmen burst into the cockpit?

Columbia Pictures
"Hey, that door is supposed to be locked!"

That's right, they give up almost immediately (or they call the hijackers' bluff and get shot). It's basically a given that any pilot will hand over control of an aircraft without a fuss.

Warner Home Video
"You have made a powerful argument that I cannot refute."

The Real-Life Badass Who Put It to Shame:

Tom R. Bennett was the copilot on Trans Australian Airways flight 408 in 1960 when his flight faced the first midair hijacking in Australian history. The hijacker, Alex Hildebrandt, methodically checked off pretty much all of the villainous movie hijacker boxes by being a disgruntled Russian with a sawed-off rifle and a bomb that he had assembled in the bathroom, presumably after disabling the smoke alarm, which is also strictly against air safety regulations. He whipped out his lethal gun-and-bomb combination and began threatening everyone on board.

First Officer Bennett, rather than instantly cave in to Hildebrandt's demands, calmly approached the man and asked him to knock it off, which, while brave, is not a tactic that generally works on hijackers. Hildebrandt responded by firing a warning shot into the ceiling, to show Bennett he meant business. Bennett responded to that by punching Hildebrandt directly in the face with one hand while simultaneously ripping wires out of Hildebrandt's bomb with the other, disarming it.

Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Getty Images
He then used one foot to make a chair out of reclaimed wood, and the other foot to make award-winning single-malt.

To be clear, Bennett was not a demolitions expert, nor had he ever worked on a bomb squad. He simply knew from watching movies that wires are a thing that bombs need, so he grabbed a handful of those fuckers and tore them the hell out. Bennett then grabbed Hildebrandt's rifle, and a struggle ensued until someone grabbed a fire ax and smacked the hijacker in the head with it.

He was restrained and the plane made a safe landing. Hildebrandt was sent to Australian prison for a very long time, which we assume is full of scorpions and dust. Bennett got the George Medal, one of the highest decorations a civilian in the British Commonwealth can receive, because giving that man a medal is literally the least they could do.

Speaking of planes ...

Ronnie O'Brien Saves Two People In Midair

Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

The Action Movie Cliche:

You know the scene where someone is falling out of an airplane with no parachute, and the protagonist either jumps without a parachute and hijacks one in midair or puts on his metal privilege suit and jetpacks to someone else to save their foolishly parachute-less ass?

Marvel Studios
"I am the one percent."

Yeah, that's awesome. But it would never happen, particularly not that second one. You can't dive down to someone falling hopelessly to the Earth and hope to rescue both them and yourself in time.

The Real-Life Badass Who Put It to Shame:

Richard Maynard was making his first-ever parachute jump, and like most beginners, he was lashed to a skydiving instructor like luggage on a rack. Maynard decided to hire the soon-to-be-badass Ronnie O'Brien to videotape his adventure (this detail becomes important shortly). O'Brien jumped first so that he could dutifully film Maynard and his instructor falling out of the plane and zooming past him for maximum dramatic effect. But when Maynard's instructor deployed the parachute, the cord wrapped around his neck and caused him to black out. Maynard and the instructor then started spinning violently out of control. Not only was Maynard unable to pull the emergency chute, but due to his inexperience, he was totally unaware that something was even wrong.

Luckily, O'Brien wasn't some greenhorn, and he noticed that some catastrophic shit was afoot. So he sprang in to action, which is a term here meaning "dove hundreds of feet toward them, exactly like that scene in Point Break."

20th Century Fox
Pictured: scientific accuracy.

O'Brien tried to grab the unconscious instructor, but he was hit in the head and knocked away by flailing limbs. It is important to mention that at this point they were 20 freaking seconds from javelining into the Earth. O'Brien merged in again and grabbed the two skydivers, stopping their spin. He then unwrapped the cord that was around the instructor's neck, deployed their emergency chute, and pushed himself clear with 12 seconds to spare. He pulled his own chute moments before he was due to hit the ground and explode into fine red mist. Incredibly, no one was injured.

Continue Reading Below

A Blind Man Saves His Blind Neighbor From a Burning Building

David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Action Movie Cliche:

It's unfair to compare blind people to Daredevil (either the comic book version or the Ben Affleck movie you've almost certainly forgotten), because Daredevil's superpower is that he can sort of see -- he has magical echolocation abilities. So a real blind person can certainly live a full life and do almost anything you can do, but you're not going to expect them to, say, go charging into dangerous situations and rescue people. They'd only be adding one more person who needs rescuing, right?

20th Century Fox
"Please ... save me from the script."

The Real-Life Badass Who Put It to Shame:

Jim Sherman was relaxing in his home when he got a call that his elderly neighbor's house was on fire, and she was trapped inside. Now, Jim wasn't the type of person who was content to merely call 9-1-1 and stand around watching the place burn -- he was a man of action. Also, he wouldn't have gotten much out of the "watching it burn" part, because Jim Sherman is fucking blind.

Ljupco/iStock/Getty Images
"But I do have elephantine testicles, and God is nothing if not even-handed."

Jim decided to try and save his trapped neighbor, who also happened to be blind. While it might seem like having two blind households in a single neighborhood puts the entire community at serious risk, Jim Sherman was about to prove all of that shit wrong.

Jim walked out his front door and found a chain-link fence. He then shimmied along the fence so he could figure out where the hell he was going. He eventually found the sidewalk, and then used that and his walking stick to find his way to his neighbor's burning house, though we have to believe at a certain point the house would be impossible to miss, blindness notwithstanding.

Bill Wechter/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"I can't see, but it sure feels like something is on goddamned fire."

When Jim finally reached the door, he "heard crackling, smelled smoke, and felt intense heat." He burst in anyway. He then tapped around the blazing inferno with his cane until he found his trapped neighbor, which thankfully didn't take more than a few moments. He led his neighbor and all of her pets to safety before calling the fire department, then went to go fight Bullseye atop a skyscraper.

Prisoners Rescue a Bunch of People From a Plane Crash

Milos Bicanski/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Action Movie Cliche:

Con Air features hardened criminals conquering an oversized prison transport plane, which is totally a thing that exists, and crashing it into the Las Vegas strip for maximum 1990s CGI excitement.

Touchstone Pictures
Pictured here.

Hundreds of people are (presumably) injured, and the convicts escape in the chaos, only to be immediately dispatched in an escalating series of improbable events which culminate in John Malkovich getting launched headlong into a pile driver.

Touchstone Pictures
The improbability budget of this film is impossible to calculate.

Still, at least one point of Con Air is undeniably accurate -- if a plane crash resulted in the freeing of several prisoners, they would waste absolutely no time escaping in the confusion, and offer zero assistance to the injured victims.

The Real-Life Badasses Who Put It to Shame:

In 1957, Northeast Airlines Flight 823 didn't gain enough altitude after taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City and hit some trees. The plane's fuel tanks detonated, and it skidded a quarter of a mile across the snow into Rikers Island. One-fifth of the passengers were killed in the crash, so we hope they cashed in their frequent flier miles beforehand. Those things don't get grandfathered to your family.

Plane Crash Info
"Folks, the captain has turned on the 'fasten seatbelt' sign."

Rikers Island, as you may know, is the site of one of the most infamous jails in the United States. The plane pancaked down right in the middle of a tree nursery, which is apparently something that jails have (this has been a journey of discovery). As its name suggests, Rikers is an island, which meant that emergency crews were experiencing significant delays in reaching the crash site. So instead of trained rescue personnel, dozens of injured passengers had to be pulled out of the flaming wreckage by prison guards and -- wait for it -- actual convicts.

Duane Prokop/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"This gets me out of toilet duty."

Bear in mind, this airliner didn't just crash -- it fucking exploded. The scene confronting the prisoners as they scrambled to the wreck was one of overwhelming devastation. The entire plane was on fire, and dozens of injured and disoriented people were haphazardly staggering out of the destruction. It was like the Omaha Beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan.

Again, rather than piling together in a scalable human mountain to climb over the walls to freedom during the confusion, several of the prisoners ran right up to the blazing wreck, grabbed the injured people, and dragged them to safety. Miraculously, the entire crew and most of the passengers survived, largely because so many inmates decided to help rather than wait for a bunch of 1950s paramedics to ride the ferry over from Queens (a bridge between the island and the rest of the city proper wasn't constructed until 1966).

Thankfully, jails in the '50s had their own soundtrack for this exact situation.

The prisoners' actions caught the eye of the governor, who teamed up with the New York City parole board to start dealing out paroles and pardons like those AOL subscription discs you used to get in the mail. All told, 41 prisoners were immediately released, and another 16 had their sentences reduced, as thanks for their selflessness. Though to be fair, it's not like they had much else to do that day.

Continue Reading Below

Two Parents Single-Handedly Rescue Their Children From ISIS.

AFP/Getty Images

The Action Movie Cliche:

In Taken and its relentless sequels, Liam Neeson punch-murders the almighty fuck out of every heavily-accented person responsible for stealing his daughter. When the authorities are unable and/or unwilling to do anything to help, he takes matters into his own hands and rescues his family with sheer will.

20th Century Fox
He could be getting back the lawnmower that his neighbor borrowed and we'd still watch it.

The Real-Life Badasses Who Put It to Shame:

For reasons that can probably never be explained, a number of (largely teenage) westerners have abandoned their lives of guiltless privilege to go off and join ISIS, which is a terror group that is so evil that the United States, Iran, Bashar Al-Assad's government, anti-American Iraqi militant groups, Hezbollah, and freaking Al-Qaeda are all fighting them.

Needless to say, a lot of these new recruits subsequently realized that signing up for ISIS was a really horrible idea once they got there. Unfortunately, there is no voluntary "out" in the Islamic State, as one Dutch teenager recently learned.

"Ugh, this is my dumbest act of rebellion."

Aicha, the teenager in question, was a war bride trapped in Raqqa, which is the capital of the Islamic State. Aicha decided she wanted to go home, but she figured that simply telling a bunch of extremists "I changed my mind, you guys" probably wouldn't have worked out. Instead, she did what most of us would have done -- she told her mom, who was still living back in Dutchlandia (or whatever country Dutch people come from).

Pavlo Maydikov/iStock/Getty Images
The one where Hollish people live.

Her mother, Monique, went to the police, but the Dutch constabulary isn't exactly Seal Team Six. Not only did they tell Monique that there was absolutely nothing they could do to help her daughter, but they went a step further and told Monique that she would be prosecuted for aiding terrorists if she tried to help Aicha in any way (Aicha being a member of ISIS and all).

Monique promptly announced "Damn that" and proceeded to put every parent ever to shame. She set up a rendezvous with her daughter via Facebook, flew to Turkey, got caught and deported, then flew back to Turkey to sneak across the Syrian border disguised in a burqa. Sufficiently incognito, she went to Raqqa, rescued Aicha, and then went back to Turkey, where they were apprehended by Turkish border guards who deported them back to the Netherlands. Dutch authorities have decided not to lock Aicha up for the rest of her natural life, presumably because they're afraid of what Monique would do if they did.

"My next rescue is going to be my shoe from your ass."

She isn't the only parent who turned into a one-person intercontinental rescue force -- a Belgian man named Dimitri Bontinck recently went to Syria to rescue his 18-year-old son from the ranks of ISIS, because 18 is a year of terrible decisions. Despite being taken hostage himself, Dimitri managed to drag his son back home to Belgium, at which point he promptly went back out did the same exact same thing three more times for other people's children.

A Guitarist Saves Everyone On a Doomed Cruise Ship

Louise Gubb / special to Dateline NBC

The Action Movie Cliche:

In the movie Titanic, the hubris-powered titular turbo ship blunders into a goddamned iceberg and sinks to the bottom of the frozen Atlantic. The ship's orchestra, virtually powerless to do anything to help, nobly stands on the rapidly disappearing deck to play their instruments and keep everyone calm, despite the fact that turning one of those upright basses into a flotation device would have probably been a better investment of their last precious moments in this universe. Meanwhile, the captain saves as many people as he can before accepting his duty to go down with the ship.

Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox
You'd think more people would notice that part of the job description when submitting their application.

The Real-Life Badasses Who Put It to Shame:

When the Greek cruise ship Oceanos began to sink off the coast of South Africa in 1994, water quickly flooded the generators and plunged the ship into darkness, just like in Titanic. Surely, the passengers of the Oceanos could depend on their Captain, Yiannis Avranas, to heroically shepherd as many people as he could to safety, making sure he was the very last person to climb aboard a lifeboat.

ICV Blog
"Captain, I can't find my mommy--"

Haha, nope. The entire senior crew of the Oceanos immediately fled the ship in nearly-empty lifeboats -- without telling any of the passengers, or notifying rescue personnel that the ship was sinking. Captain Avranas himself tried to flee in a lifeboat three different times, before eventually wandering off to hide beneath a stairwell for the duration of the sinking (again, without ever telling a soul that the ship was in danger).

After a good long while, Moss Hills, Oceanos' on-board guitarist, got annoyed. He felt like the ship was sinking and no one was telling him, so he ditched his guitar and went below deck to discover the Indian Ocean hanging out in the hallway. Recognizing this as a serious issue, he ran to the ship's bridge to report it, only to find it totally abandoned. There were charts and things haphazardly laying around, like in some kind of post-apocalyptic movie.

trekandshoot/iStock/Getty Images
There was a TV in the corner showing static, but that was a coincidence.

Considering there were exactly zero officers or experienced sailors aboard the ship at this point, Hills essentially appointed himself captain of the Oceanos. He got on the radio and put out an SOS to a nearby ship, which started asking tons of technical questions about the situation on board. Taking Hill's lack of maritime knowledge as a sign that they were the victims of an elaborate prank, they asked for Hill's rank, to which he responded "guitarist."

Moss Hills
"With fantastic hair. Make sure whatever you're writing down says that."

Unfortunately, that ship wasn't close enough to render any assistance, and at this point the situation was becoming pretty dire. You see, the Oceanos was tilting heavily to one side:

That tipsy feeling you have is not the cocktail you just downed ...

That meant that one half of the ship's lifeboats were immediately unusable, the drop to the ocean being too far to safely deploy them. Coupled with the fact that the crew of the Oceanos had already used the other half of the lifeboats to evacuate themselves, this meant that there was nothing left to get the several hundred people still on board to safety.

Helicopters were dispatched to the ailing ship, but it would be hours before they arrived. In the meantime, Hills kept everyone calm by playing Beatles songs while the ship's magician, Robert Boltman, manned the radio, effectively making this the wackiest crew in the history of boating. When helicopters finally showed up nearly four hours later, the Oceanos was close to Poseidon Adventuring itself completely upside down.

"We have to sacrifice someone, and you look the most like Gene Hackman."

At this point, Captain Avranas finally emerged from his hiding place to heroically strong-arm his way past a line of women and children to get to the helicopters' rescue harnesses first (that is not a joke). Oceanos's tilt was so bad that people eventually had to tie themselves to the railings of the ship so that they wouldn't fall off. Hills, deciding to make practical use of being fastened to the railing, began jumping around the slanted deck like Tom Cruise in a Mission: Impossible movie, securing passengers into their harnesses to be lifted to safety. Hills himself was airlifted out moments before the ship went down.

ABC News
"Haha, I was almost in that!"

After the ordeal, a Greek Board of Inquiry found Captain Avranas guilty of negligence. And no, the punishment wasn't getting shoved back into the goddamned boat.

Follow Zachary Frey at Cracked here.

For more more people who channeled their inner Bruce Willis, check out 6 Nobodies Who Turned Into Superheroes without Warning and 5 Unknown Schmucks Who Turned Into Superheroes in the Clutch.

Are you on reddit? Check it: We are too! Click on over to our best of Cracked subreddit.

To turn on reply notifications, click here


Load Comments