6 Absurd Movie Plots You Won't Believe Are Based on Reality
We spend so much time here debunking silly things we see in fiction that it's easy to forget how truly ridiculous real life is in comparison. Even the silliest, most implausible characters or plots from action movies have come true. Not often, mind you, but they do happen. We're talking about things like ...
Badass Adventurer Scientists
Indiana Jones movies, The Mummy movies, The Da Vinci Code movies, those Nicholas Cage movies that basically rip off The Da Vinci Code -- they all feature ridiculous but popular characters: university professors who throw away their mortarboards and "research" history by punching it right in the goddamn face. Truly, being an academic is one incredible Nazi-fighting adventure after another.
"Before you start killing everyone, would you mind fact-checking my thesis on Ancient Egyptian religion?"
Nobody believes it's really like this, or at least we hope not. Otherwise you'll get your archaeology degree and cry yourself to sleep for the remainder of your boring life.
But It Has Happened ...
Meet Roy Chapman Andrews, the rumored real-life inspiration for Indiana Jones, who divided his time between searching for fossils and gun-fighting with Mongolian bandits.
"I try to carry at least one thing that could impale a Nazi at all times."
Beginning his career sweeping the floors of the American Natural History Museum in New York, Andrews eventually worked his way up to director of the museum and became an accomplished hunter of dinosaur fossils, even where those fossils were guarded by gun-toting brigands. After all, they belong in a museum. One anecdote tells of the time Andrews battled a 20-foot-long python, ultimately shooting it in the head and watching its dying body writhe and flail in the underbrush. Apparently he didn't think much of snakes, either.
"You're my next hat."
There's now an award named after Andrews, given every year to people who continue his legacy of giving zero fucks in their quest for scientific kickassery. Winners include Lonnie and Ellen Mosely-Thompson, who explore "the most inhospitable places on the planet" in hot air balloons and on yaks, and once dragged a bunch of ice cores across the Gobi Desert simply because that seemed like something that couldn't be done. Then you have Mark Moffett, adventurer entomologist, who apparently once fought off Colombian drug lords with a blowgun.
And discovered this thing. We'd probably go another round with the Colombians.
Over-the-Top Supervillain Lairs
Where superheroes have their Fortresses of Solitude and Batcaves, so too do supervillains need vastly implausible lairs just to show how evil they are. Think of the giant submersible in The Spy Who Loved Me or Blofeld's volcano lair. There's nothing particularly scary, after all, about a villain who goes home every night to a rented apartment in Brooklyn. Surely, though, such extravagances don't translate very well to the real world, as most of today's villains are too busy running banks into the ground to bother installing giant shark tanks into their houses.
This thing can liquidate five small businesses an hour.
But It Has Happened ...
Probably the closest things we've ever had to genuine comic book villains are the guys we were fighting in World War II -- and yes, there were lairs. In fact, we've already shown you what Mussolini's National Fascist Party headquarters looked like.
"We are the good guys, right? Because that giant face is sorta giving me doubts."
But Hitler, too, had an evil fortress -- the Wolfsschanze ("Wolf's Lair"), which was a castle in Germany obscured by trees and reinforced by a frankly stupid amount of cement. After the Third Reich fell, it took over eight tons of TNT to destroy it, and 10 years to uncover all the 54,000 land mines planted around it. Hitler also had a Sonderzug (translated rather unfortunately as "Special Train") that was equipped with two anti-aircraft guns and four cannon batteries. Have you ever seen a train shoot down an aircraft? Hitler wanted to make that happen.
So yeah, the man had exactly one good idea in his entire life.
But you don't need to search back through history. Even today there exists a man with a strange foreign accent, living out of reach of the law, who uses his vast technology to bring world governments to their knees. We're talking about Julian Assange, and he works here:
"The shark tank gets installed next week, so for now we've got a huge box of starving cats."
That's not a scene from one of the early Bond movies. That's the Pionen data center in Sweden, a high-tech server farm inside a former Cold War bunker that provides data storage for websites that nobody else wants to have on their servers, including WikiLeaks. Although Assange's dangerous stash of leaked documents don't require much server space, he was kicked out of so many Web hosts that he eventually had to move it to a building that looks like it houses a giant moon-destroying laser cannon.
Critical Computer Systems Protected by Ridiculously Easy Passwords
In the movies, when our hero needs to crack the password in the villain's lair, he or she usually succeeds within the first three tries or so -- more often than not, it's the name of the villain's beloved daughter or dead wife, or the name of an object that's sitting there next to the computer. Movie logic therefore suggests that we have no ability to memorize the name of anything that isn't always in our direct line of sight.
But It Has Happened...
We've mentioned before how most people don't heed those warnings from the IT department about complex passwords because our stupid brains can't handle memorizing too many random sequences of symbols. But this degree of password slackness must be limited to Gmail and Amazon accounts, right? You could never hack into something really important, like a government facility, just by guessing some common phrases.
Well, as 4chan's militant wing Anonymous discovered, the Syrian government, for one, has a disturbing propensity for obvious passwords. Anonymous found that a large amount of Syria's sensitive information could be unlocked by using the password "12345," or if it's really top secret, "123456." But we probably don't have much to lose by giving control of Syria over to Anonymous. It's not like they have nuclear weapons or anything.
And really, who wouldn't trust that face?
Actually, talking about nuclear weapons ... it turns out that through most of the Cold War, America's Strategic Air Command, the military division responsible for launching nuclear weapons and thus causing or preventing the apocalypse, kept all their weapon codes set to "00000000," because they were afraid a more complicated code would interfere with launch. Nobody wants to delay the end of the world just because someone can't remember their password.
It's the Caps Lock key that will ultimately save us.
That's right: During a time in history when we almost destroyed the world every five minutes or so, the only thing between us and nuclear Armageddon was the default code on your bike lock.
Underground Sewer Communities
Sewers don't seem to work the same way in the movies as they do in real life. For one thing, if the characters go down there for whatever reason, no matter what kind of movie you're watching, you can just about bet that they're going to run into sewer people. It happened in Demolition Man, Batman Returns and of course dozens of horror movies (what, you forgot about C.H.U.D.?).
Please tell us how.
Whether it's a community of mole people, martial-arts-trained turtles or a penguin-themed supervillain, secret cities often just spring up inside movie sewers as though they're the hottest real estate in town, and nobody from the surface world suspects a thing. Of course, in the real world nobody really wants to live in a poop-filled flood channel. Even a homeless shelter would have to be preferable, or a nice park bench.
But It Has Happened ...
Meet Steven and Kathryn, poster-couple for the Las Vegas Flood Tunnels, a sewer designed to insulate the prostitution capital of the United States from floods, but which is also currently providing shelter for as many as 700 people.
Something tells us these filthy sewers smell better than any dorm room we've ever been in.
And these aren't just cardboard-box shanties. Sewer dwellers like Steven and Kathryn have their own bed, wardrobe and bookshelves, and even a small kitchen. All things considered, their home looks more comfortable than ours, except for the way they have to keep everything up on crates due to the floor being a river of sewage.
In the spring there's a rat rowing race.
Many of the Vegas mole people make their money from "credit hustling," trawling casinos for money that drunk people have left behind. But not everyone is unemployed -- in fact, at least one of them has a full-time job on the surface world. He's probably their president.
And it's not just Las Vegas. East Coast sewer people are represented by "The Tunnel" in New York City, where the most permanent resident has lived for more than 20 years. In the documentary Dark Days, you can see them debate whose house is nicer, set up barbershops and cultivate small gardens. No word on how many of them are skin-eating mutants.
"It all depends on whether or not we can get a Wi-Fi signal."
Villains Talking Themselves into Defeat
This trope seems so lazy that we're embarrassed to see it appear in the movies. And yet it does, time and time again, like a turd that just won't flush. For some reason, bad guys in the movies have a lot of trouble keeping their mouths shut, even when they otherwise have no reason to worry about getting caught.
We've seen it in RoboCop, Mission: Impossible II, Minority Report, Monsters, Inc. and hundreds of other movies featuring brilliant crooks whose only real mistake was letting the hero tape their elaborate confession and then publicly broadcast it. We like to think that we would be smarter than that as long as we're smart enough not to eat glue.
"Of course I'm the bad guy. I'm ugly as fuck!"
But It Has Happened ...
Apparently, criminals are foiled all the time when they commit a crime and then forget to not tell everybody. More often than not, it's Facebook or some other social networking site that provides the temptation to confess. Apparently, people still consider the Internet to be some kind of "international waters" style of lawless wasteland, and anything you say or do there doesn't count.
Ask Heather Tucci, who pleaded "not guilty" to vehicular manslaughter and then admitted the crash was her fault in a MySpace post. Then there's Robert Powell, who posted a picture of murder victim Joseph Duprey on his MySpace with the words "Rest in Peace" -- hours before the death was reported to police.
But perhaps the best example is 18-year-old Eric Dykstra, who was involved in a drive-by shooting that injured a young girl. Brilliantly, his first port of call was to brag on Facebook about being "a free man after shooting up a house." It's unlikely that he has a long career of successful supervillainy ahead of him.
"Someone obviously hacked into my Facebook. My password is dr1veby4life."
Impractical Animal-Themed Weaponry
One thing we've learned from comic book heroes is that once you decide to become a caped crusader, you have to pick an animal and run with it. Batman can't just have a bat on his logo; he also needs a boomerang shaped like a bat.
Of course, here in the real world where people are more practical, we judge our weapons based on what works, rather than whether or not they make us look like some fierce animal.
Otherwise we'd all be dressed like honey badgers.
But It Has Happened ...
A lot of comics geeks and cosplayers will be happy to learn that many of our favorite superheroes have precedents. Ninja precedents.
In a bygone era, the ninjas of old used a weapon called tekko-kagi. Or, as you know them, wolverine claws. Typically made from horseshoes, the tekko-kagi were strapped to the wrists to use as defense against sword attacks and, presumably, enemies with a psychic control over magnetism.
The best defense is looking cool.
But that's not all -- what many don't realize is that there were female ninjas, too, known as kunoichi, and they were for all intents and purposes a bunch of Catwomen who used a weapon known as neko-te, the same kind of steel finger-claws that Batman's nemesis uses.
"Kunoichi" translates to "people who track litter on the carpet."
As of yet, we can't find any evidence of batarangs in Japanese feudal history, but if we do, you will be the first to know.
J. F. Sargent blogs and tweets, and is the managing editor of PCulpa.com.
For more implausible events that came true, check out 6 Insane Prison Escapes That Actually Happened and 9 Absurd Movie Premises That Actually Happened.
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