5 Absurd Action Movie Scenes That Happened in Real Life
We would probably react to danger on an action movie scale by locking ourselves in the toilet and peeing our pants until we passed out from dehydration. Which would be weird, what with the toilet being right there and all. But this isn't about us and our weak, childlike bladders. This is about some very real people who found themselves faced with extraordinary circumstances -- and reacted by ramping a flaming police car into those circumstances while muttering cool one-liners.
Bank Robbers Lead Massive Police Chase, Then Shoot Down a Helicopter
In 1980, five heavily armed men decided to rob a bank in Norco, California. Between them, the robbers came equipped with several automatic rifles, a few shotguns, various homemade bombs and devices, a massive cache of bullets, and, presumably, a Technodrome. The cops surrounding the bank were greeted with a massive hail of bullets, while the robbers used the cover to escape. But as they were speeding away, Officer Glyn Bolatsky dealt a fatal headshot to their getaway driver, sending their van careening into a light pole. Hopefully, somebody had the good sense to stand directly in front of the vehicle, so that they could dramatically leap out of the way at the last second.
"Hey, watch this."
The four surviving robbers leapt out of the van and sprayed bullets at Bolasky's car (he was hit, but survived) before piling into another vehicle and escaping. The Norco Police Department then sent everyone except the meter maids up against the Quartet of Mayhem. An armada of police cars began a 25-mile car chase, only to be taken out one by one by the robbers' hellish barrage of gunfire and homemade bombs. A whopping 33 squad cars were damaged or disabled, and the robbers even managed to shoot down a fucking police helicopter. It made an emergency landing instead of dramatically exploding midair, but still, once you start downing helicopters, it isn't even an action movie anymore -- that's a mission rejected from GTA V for being too implausible.
Even the Blues Brothers found it to be a bit excessive.
The robbers pulled ahead of the smoldering remains of Norco's police department and set up an ambush, because at that point they had forgotten the difference between "bank robber" and "crazed John Woo movie villain." One officer was killed in the opening salvo, and it seemed that yet another police department was about to be overrun by four maniacs with assault rifles. Then D.J. McCarty, an off-duty cop who heard about the shootout and realized they'd long since abandoned reality and stepped into Lethal Weapon world, finally arrived with the department's sole assault rifle.
As the robbers advanced on the cops, McCarty sprayed a wall of bullets over the hood of his car, forcing the robbers to retreat. His aim was haphazard and he didn't even know how to fire the thing at first, but that didn't matter. Clearly, the robbers realized this was the part of the fight scene where the good guys are finished taking an impossible beating, and proceed to rally to victory. So the tides dutifully turned, the robbers lost their steam, and were flushed out within days. Three of the culprits were thrown in jail for life for killing one police officer, wounding eight, and temporarily replacing the airspace of Norco with hot lead.
As well as receiving a small fine for breaking a little-known city ordinance forbidding automatic arms fire during work hours.
The fourth died in one final shootout with the police, because every good action flick needs a dramatic showdown.
A Mossad Agent Stops Rocket-Wielding Terrorists With Only Seconds Left to Go
Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, had long been in the sights of Black September, the Palestinian militant group behind the 1972 Munich massacre. During her trip to see the Pope in 1973, they saw their chance: they'd take out her plane with surface-to-air missiles as it was landing. Mossad, the Israeli secret service, caught wind of the plot. But since Meir deemed the visit too important to cancel -- a little thing like impending death should never get in the way of meeting a guy with a seriously fancy hat -- they entered a frantic race to find her would-be assassins.
"Hey, are you hearing that weird feedback over the radio too?"
The day Meir was due to arrive, the terrorists had still not been found, and people were starting to get a little edgy. Mossad and Italian officials kept throwing more and more agents at the airport, until one team stumbled upon a van that was parked in a strange spot. A quick check of the car led to the two occupants instigating a short firefight, which ended with one dead PLO assassin and the discovery of a veritable arsenal of shoulder-mounted plane murder. Huzzah! Crisis averted!
Not quite. During interrogations, the wounded driver of the van revealed that his team was not working alone. Another PLO team was out there. They had no idea where it was. And Golda Meir's plane was less than an hour away.
"We could divert the plane, but that would require some other whole airport! And where would we find ... oh, right there."
A desperate search ensued, but they found nothing. Things were looking grim when one agent -- we'll call him Jock Bower -- spotted something strange about a food cart parked by the street: it had three stacks poking from its roof, but only one of them was smoking.
It wasn't much, but Jock Bower always trusts his gut. Like, seriously, he trusts the holy shit out of his gut. Armed solely with the knowledge that not all of the stacks on the food cart were currently smoking, he pulled a U-turn and rammed his vehicle full speed into the cart. The cart flipped over, pinning two of its five occupants underneath it and knocking the other three out cold.
"Shit, I wanted everyone awake when I started teabagging them ..."
A number of things should have happened at that point, all of them culminating in the death or injury of a bunch of food cart employees who just weren't using every grill that afternoon. But nope! Apparently we live inside an episode of 24 -- Mossad found missiles in the wreckage, arrested the occupants, and Golda Meir's plane landed safely. You're a loose cannon, Bower! But god damn if you don't get the job done.
A Real-Life Inception-Style Fistfight In a Flying Cargo Plane
On April 7, 1994, Captain David Sanders, First Officer Jim Tucker, and Flight Engineer Andy Peterson boarded FedEx Flight 705, unaware that their lives were about to turn into a Tom Cruise movie. The trio found their coworker, Auburn Calloway, already sitting in the plane, carrying a guitar case. Which was a little odd. But they assumed Auburn was jumpseating (the FedEx term for hitching a ride in one of the cargo planes) to guitar lessons or something, and took off as planned. A half hour later, Calloway opened his guitar case and took out a claw hammer, a sledge mallet, a knife, and a spear gun. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief; at least he didn't whip out an actual guitar and start playing folk songs. But still, a medley of torture weapons isn't the best surprise.
Nobody ever smuggles puppies onto a plane.
See, Calloway was facing termination from FedEx for falsifying his job application and flight records, so he decided to deal with his impeding shame by sneaking onto one of their cargo planes and killing its crew via injuries indistinguishable to those sustained in a plane crash. Then he would fly the plane into the Memphis FedEx superhub for some flaming revenge, and, if things went according to plan, earn a hefty life insurance payout for his family. It was a plan so insane it might have worked ... unless his coworkers suddenly turned into action heroes.
Which of course they did.
"I immediately regret this decision."
As Calloway entered the cockpit and started raining hammer blows, he found that Sanders, Peterson, and Tucker were of much sturdier stuff than he'd expected. Despite sustaining serious wounds, they fought back so fiercely that Calloway had to flee for his spear gun. Obviously, that didn't dissuade them: Peterson grabbed the gun and tackled him, with Sanders following suit soon after. But poor Jim Tucker was unable to partake in active fisticuffs due to a mild case of paralysis from the previous bout of hammer time. But that was apparently no excuse for lapsing into unconsciousness like a pansy; to keep the heavily-armed Calloway (who was also a martial arts expert, because we're clearly operating on Tony Jaa rules now) off balance and give his wounded comrades a fighting chance, Tucker threw the massive DC-10 plane into a barrel roll at 400 miles per hour. He followed this with a steep, potentially plane-breaking nosedive that turned the plane into a makeshift vomit comet.
Like Inception on fast-forward, Tucker's maneuvers not only tumbled everyone around -- they played merry hell with the G-forces on the plane, so everyone on board alternated between complete weightlessness and "Yo Mama" level heaviness.
Isaac Newton, foiler of those best laid plans.
And all along, the crew members and Calloway were still kicking each other's ass.
The actual play-by-play of the fight gets pretty muddy here, which tends to happen when you're flipping upside down through a crashing plane while dodging spear-guns. But we know what the rescue workers saw after Tucker finished Top Gunning his plane all over the sky and managed a rescue landing: Sanders and Peterson sitting on top of the disarmed and defeated Calloway, and every inch of the plane covered in blood.
"I'm sending The Wolf."
Despite receiving numerous life-threatening wounds, then bleeding out from said wounds while fighting an armed karate maniac in an environment that defied every law of physics, all of the men survived their ordeal.
Russians Escape the Taliban by Hijacking Their Own Plane
In 1995, a Russian cargo plane was delivering a shipment of weapons to Afghanistan. Unfortunately for its crew, the Taliban found out about this, and sent one of their fighter jets (yes, the Taliban used to have those, but then the economy, man). The jet forced the cargo plane down on a nearby airstrip, and the Taliban commandeered both the weapons and the crew. The Taliban held the Russians on a tight leash, moving them around to avoid capture while ping-ponging demands and negotiations with the Russian government and the occasional third party mediator. Unsurprisingly, these negotiations went nowhere. However, they did secure permission for the captives to perform maintenance on their airplane every two months so that they could still fly it once the whole pesky situation was over.
Upon receiving this news, the crew immediately started planning for the obligatory thrilling escape scene. For over a year, they slowly prepped their plane for takeoff instead of doing regular maintenance. One Friday, they decided to take their chance, as they were left with three guards instead of the usual six. The Russians overpowered the guards and fired up the engines, which alerted the rest of the Taliban. They tried to stop the plane by parking trucks on the runway, but the Russian jet took off in time, obviously just barely clearing the obstacles. Hopefully it clipped the Taliban leader in the head with the landing gear, for dramatic effect.
"In Soviet Russia, plane hijack-"
"SHUT THE FUCK UP, YURI."
A Taliban fighter jet and helicopter made a spirited attempt at chasing the cargo plane, but the Russians managed to get out of Afghan airspace by flying so low that radar couldn't pick them up. Yes, apparently that's a real practice, and not merely a cool thing to say in an airplane.
A Tense Hostage Situation, the SAS, and One Heroic Cop in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
On April 30th, 1980, six armed Iranian extremists stormed the Iranian embassy in London, secured the building, and took 26 people hostage. One uniformed police officer, Trevor Lock, managed to alert the police, who surrounded the building.
Here's what happened after that, in convenient video form:
Police started negotiations with terrorists in the most British way possible: they sent an unarmed man in a suit to knock on the front door of the embassy and calmly ask the terrorists if they would like a two-way telephone for negotiating. A further offer of tea and biscuits was, of course, implied. A negotiator got on the phone and again politely distracted some of the terrorists, while the Special Air Services prepared to retake the building somewhat more ... rudely. One SAS team rappelled from the roof to burst through second floor windows using sledgehammers, while another literally exploded through the doors of the embassy. An errant flashbang set the curtains on fire, and the entire building started to burn. So now we've got the SAS blowing up doors, ramming sledgehammers through second story windows, and battling terrorists in a smoke-filled building.
"Jerry, this is why we don't give you flashbangs in Call of Duty."
Pretty good setting for the final scene in a tense action movie. Now the only thing we need is a mild-mannered hero to dramatically tackle the terrorists' leader. Ah, but we ask too much ...
Or do we?
While the SAS were busy filling the air with awesome, Trevor Lock, the same policeman who had alerted the cops in the first place, tackled the terrorists' leader and ended the ensuing wrestling match by putting a hidden gun to his temple. Yes, that is almost exactly how the final standoff in Die Hard went down.
"Can you speak in a German accent for me? It's kind of a fantasy I've always had."
All in all, five terrorists died in the assault, and one was captured. Every hostage except for one (who was shot before the cavalry came) survived. The operation remains a set standard for hostage rescues, and one of the most breathtaking things ever seen on live TV. And as for Trevor Lock ...
Seen here, looking suspiciously like Nick Frost.
Apart from the understandable PSTD and probably a pending copyright lawsuit from 21st Century Fox, Trevor's doing all right.
For secret action heroes, check out 5 Unknown Schmucks Who Turned Into Superheroes in the Clutch. And then check out 21 Real Problems We'd Actually Want Superheroes to Solve.