The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life


Action movies have always been in an arms race to outdo each other. Stunts and effects get bigger, louder, and stupider. There's no time for realism when they're too busy showing us Vin Diesel ramping a car over a train while both are simultaneously exploding. But sometimes, real life does in fact resemble a Michael Bay movie, only minus the giant robots (usually). That's why in the real world we've seen ...

Ski-Racing an Avalanche for Fun

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

This is one of those scenes too stupid for a James Bond movie: Our hero is skiing or boarding down a mountain when an avalanche thunders behind him, and he races ahead of it before he can be crushed under a thousand tons of snow. What was too ridiculous for Bond was not too ridiculous for Vin Diesel in xXx, however:

Or Call of Duty: Black Ops:

Or the animated feature Hoodwinked!

Yes, it's so ridiculous a stunt that two of our three examples were a cartoon and a video game. And the other one was Vin Diesel.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

Who, in a St. Elsewhere twist, turned out to be playing a video game.

The Reality:

Matthias Giraud and Stefan Laude are both experienced skiers used to zooming around on mountaintops. But their love of skiing was lacking one thing: enough danger. That's right: They actively looked for an avalanche to race. After finally finding one, they both strapped on their cameras and got down to the business of defying death:

At the start of the video, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Then at around the 1:15 mark, Giraud jumps off a cliff and deploys a parachute. Only then do they turn the camera around for the big reveal: There was a monster avalanche chasing them the whole way down.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

"You hear something?"

If that giant snow debris field strikes you as being dangerously close, you're not dreaming. The avalanche actually beat Giraud to the edge, meaning he was mere seconds away from being buried under the crushing weight of tons of snow. Snow that he purposefully wanted chasing him down the slopes, just for the adrenaline rush. Note the lack of CGI on that shit.

An Aerial Battle in a Canyon

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

It's easy to call BS on everything that happens in Independence Day. The moment we saw Jeff Goldblum hack an alien mothership with a 1995-era laptop, we knew they weren't exactly going for realism. But there is one scene even sillier than that.

hIN 4ltin tows Wha

In what universe would Bill Pullman be elected president? Really.

In the first battle between the alien fighters and the U.S. Air Force, every U.S. fighter is destroyed except for Will Smith's because he does something no pilot should ever do: He takes the duel down into a canyon. With the alien ship chasing him, he goes dodging around rock formations with inches to spare, until the alien ship crashes. Needless to say, taking a real aircraft into that situation would be a fiery death sentence, even if no one was pursuing you.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

Also, in the real world, that dog would be extra well-done.

The Reality:

On November 13, 1966, Israeli Air Force pilot Ran Ronen was flying a mission with three others to intercept hostile Syrian aircraft that were firing on Israeli troops. When they arrived, however, they found eight Syrian Hawker Hunter fighters. Not giving a damn about being outnumbered 2-1, they promptly engaged in a majestic ballet of gunfire and aerial maneuvering.

The two sides proved so well-matched that after several minutes, neither had shot anyone down. The other three Israeli pilots bugged out, but Ronen wasn't done yet. He quickly singled out a Hunter, piloted by Muwaffaq Salti, and, yes, pursued him into a freaking canyon.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

"This will be great practice for our attack on the Death Star."

The Syrian pilots had been trained by the Royal Air Force, and Salti proved more than a match for Ronen as the two zoomed through the canyon, skillfully dodging walls and hills while still trying to kill each other.

Eventually Salti made a grave error when he pulled too far off of a crest, and Ronen managed to shoot him down. Oh, and he did it without crashing his own aircraft, making him a bit more badass than Will Smith.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life
Moskowitz Prize

"Yeah, it probably would have been easier if I hadn't been texting."

A Couple of Pirates Stealing a Huge Ship With Some Elaborate Ruse

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow finds himself lacking a ship after his first one comically springs a leak. Following a prideful entrance riding his mast into the harbor, Sparrow sets his sights on a small but fast British warship called the HMS Interceptor.

Recruiting the help of a strangely well-groomed blacksmith, he succeeds in stealing the warship. How? By duping the dock authorities in an elaborate scheme that involves pretending to steal another ship, then swinging over to the HMS Interceptor while everyone else is searching the first ship for the elusive Captain Jack Sparrow.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

"We'll pull the old rely-on-the-antagonists-being-blithering-idiots trick!"

It's the sort of thing that works in these Bugs Bunny-esque movies where every bad guy is a naive buffoon. Stealing a real vessel worth millions of dollars with one or two guys takes a little more than wacky misdirection and pirate shenanigans.

The Reality:

Unless you're Max Hardberger, that is. And we're not talking about one incident of stealing a single ship via flamboyant deception. Hardberger, a former high school history teacher, has made his career stealing ships. Not just little dinky yachts, but full-size gigantic freighters.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

"Captain, pirates have boarded the bow! They'll be here any day!"

Throughout his super-pirate career, Hardberger has stolen around a dozen ships from ports around the world for his clients. See, shipping companies have problems with foreign nations using legal loopholes or forged documents to trap their ships in their ports. Companies thus turn to Hardberger (since he is the only person in the world insane enough for this profession) to steal back their ships for them. And the schemes Hardberger uses are as crazy as they come.

Like the time in Haiti when he hired a voodoo priest to scare the guards, paying the guy $100 to threaten them with a curse if they called for help while he and his men stole the boat. Another time in Greece, he simply waited until a holiday and made sure several cases of liquor were sent to the coast guard office overlooking the port. When he sailed away, no one was in any condition to stop him.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

"OK, girls, who wants to play 'Thar she blows?'"

He has never failed to get a ship. Not even when warships were hunting him down. How did he best a warship? By sailing into the middle of storm so they couldn't see him on radar.

Hardberger is still working today as a sort of one-man A-Team up for hire by anyone who needs their ship back. So if you have a ship currently held illegally by another nation and you are reading this article, you're welcome.

Max Hardberger via Time

He's also available for striking awesome poses in front of large ships.

Speaking of laughably stupid maritime stunts ...

Ramming an Enemy Ship Out of Desperation (and Winning)


This happens often enough in movies that it has its own TV Tropes page. If you're in a wounded warship, either on the sea, below the sea, or in outer space, your last resort is always just to crash your ass crazily into the enemy vessel. It's one of those heroic and spectacular acts of self-sacrifice that's perfect for the big screen and nowhere else.

If you like old-timey war movies, you can see this at the climax of The Enemy Below, a 1957 Academy Award-winning film about a battle between a U.S. Navy ship and a German U-boat, which culminates in the American ship ramming the sub in desperation (and winning the battle, as the good guys get rescued shortly after). In The Abyss, they acted this out with a couple of mini-submarines.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

It's like Bullitt on Valium.

When you take the ships into outer space, this happens seemingly once per movie -- the Star Trek reboot featured two ship-on-ship rammings, and there was another in Star Trek: Nemesis. It also happened in Prometheus, which would probably be considered a spoiler if it hadn't been shown in the trailer.

The Reality:

... is much, much crazier than anything you've seen in a movie.

The USS Borie, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Charles Hutchins, was an aging destroyer dating back to the World War I era. Yet she still found herself in frontline service during World War II participating in the Battle of the Atlantic, also known as the world's most elaborate game of "depth charge slalom" ever seen.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

"Hah, miss! All you did was blow out our eardrums."

On November 1, 1943, the Borie and her crew found themselves facing off against the German U-boat U-405. Hutchins casually ordered some depth charges dropped on top of it, forcing U-405 to the surface. And that's when the fun began. It turned out U-405 was a special type of U-boat that happened to have a whole mess of surface guns on it as well. It was well-enough armed that when it reached the surface, rather than try to make a run for it, it decided to duke it out with the American destroyer, toe to toe.

For an hour, the two ships fired salvo after salvo, shot after shot, and insult after insult. After both ships were good and damaged, Hutchins decided to take things to the next level by giving the order most of us can only dream about: "GIVE ME RAMMING SPEED!" The USS Borie slammed into U-405 at 25 knots, slicing through the submarine ... and causing the two vessels to become stuck together like conjoined twins.


"Well? What is ze plan now, dummkopf?"

With both crews close enough to spit on each other, the ridiculousness of the battle was upped about 30 notches. Both captains decided to continue fighting, and since the ship's guns couldn't angle downward far enough to hit the submarine, the Borie's crew grabbed anything and everything they could and just lobbed them at the German crew, who responded in kind.

For ten minutes, the two crews flung empty shells, knives, and flares back and forth. Eventually the two ships were separated again, whereupon both sank, with the Americans getting rescued shortly after. Which we guess makes them the winners?

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

But it still didn't stop them from telling everyone in the bar how it was a total blowout.

We'll stop there, but remember when we said that this happens so often in fiction that TV Tropes has a whole list of them? Well, ship ramming has happened so often in real life that Wikipedia has a whole list of those, too.

Rafe and Danny's Ridiculous Heroics in Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

OK, wait a minute. After we made fun of Michael Bay in the article's intro, it's going to turn out that a particularly ridiculous scene from a Michael Bay movie actually happened?

Yes. And it happened almost exactly as it was portrayed.

In Pearl Harbor, Danny and Rafe spend the night of December 6 at a bar getting drunk and then passing out early in the morning. The next day, they are awakened by what they think are U.S. Navy drills, but are actually the sounds of incoming Japanese aircraft bombing the hell out of the harbor. Quickly realizing what's going on, they make a call and order two aircraft loaded up.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

"Get up! We need to protect Kate Beckinsale's amazing rack!"

They then jump into their car and race toward the airfield at full speed, being shot at by Japanese planes the whole way because, hey, it's a Michael Bay movie. Once at the field, they rapidly take off (without permission) as the airfield is attacked around them. Once in the air, they proceed to kick some serious ass, shooting down Japanese aircraft left and right, before landing.

It has all of the classic elements of a Michael Bay masculine fantasy: heroism while grossly defying authority, ridiculous badassery in the face of overwhelming odds, all while battling a hangover from a night of manly drinking with the dudes. Hell, he probably just copied the scene from Bad Boys or The Rock.

The Reality:

That whole story is true, almost verbatim. Except in real life, their names were George Welch and Kenneth Taylor.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

"Rock Paper Scissors, best out of three. Loser gets played by Ben Affleck."

After spending the night of December 6 getting drunk and having fun, the two men passed out early in the morning. The next day, they were awakened by the sounds of what they thought were U.S. Navy drills, but turned out to be Japanese aircraft swooping in and destroying everything in sight.

Quickly realizing that they didn't want to sit there and do nothing, they called the small, relatively unknown Haleiwa Fighter Strip and ordered two aircraft readied for a fight.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

"Yeah, two planes, ammo, fuel, and ... what? Who else would be calling?!"

The two then hopped into a car and sped all the way to the airfield. And they were totally shot at by the Japanese planes, just like in the movie.

Once they arrived at the airfield, they jumped into their aircraft and took off, without permission. From there they proceeded to take on any Japanese planes they happened across, despite being outnumbered a mind-blowing 175 to 1.

The 5 Most Badass Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life

And the AI was on "brutal."

After shooting down a few Japanese, the two landed back at Wheeler Airfield to re-arm, where they were ordered not to take off again because their superiors feared that it was a suicide mission. However, when the second wave of Japanese fighters came in, their superiors ran for cover. While Welch and Taylor took off by driving through the grass. Just like in the damn movie.

At the end of the day, the two had shot down between four and six Japanese planes before finally landing themselves back on the ground, where they were promptly yelled at for not doing anything by an officer who was completely unaware of what they had just done.

So there you have it. When we said even Michael Bay can't outdo reality, we fucking meant it.

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For more instances of real life outdoing Hollywood, check out 6 Insane Prison Escapes That Actually Happened and 7 Real World Heists That Put 'Ocean's 11' to Shame.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 7 Hilarious Ways Badass Movie Lines Got Ruined by TV Censors.

And stop by LinkSTORM to learn how to supe up your explosives to be like Michael Bay's.

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