5 Ways Movies Say You Can Die That Science Says Are Wrong

5 Ways Movies Say You Can Die That Science Says Are Wrong

Whenever a character in a movie gets stabbed with a sword, tossed in a flaming pit, or garroted with a live cobra, we all know what to expect. We, as an audience, are jaded. We've seen it all before; we can practically tie a snake-noose in our sleep. But that doesn't mean the reality looks anything like the movies. For example ...

You Can't Sink In Lava

New Line Cinema

Falling into lava is the worst way to go: It's all the most awful parts of drowning and burning mashed together like the devil's slash fiction. But in reality, it wouldn't be anything like that. Surprisingly, lava is really fucking hot. We're looking at temperatures ranging from 1,295 degrees F to 2,282 degrees F when it first breaks the surface. A bed of lava is a giant liquid crematorium that is unlikely to gulp you down, if only because you'll burn to death first.

But even if you cannonballed into a volcano wearing a heat-suit -- because fuck cancer, you're going out awesome -- you still wouldn't drown in it. Lava is over three times heavier and denser than water, with at least 100,000 times the viscosity. It's borderline impossible for a human being to sink in it. You wouldn't dramatically sink like Arnold at the end of T2 -- you'd just shatter and burn up so quickly you wouldn't have time to give a thumbs-up, much less the elaborate double bird you've been practicing.

Suffocating Someone Takes Forever

The Weinstein Company

Suffocating a person is a lengthy, arduous process. It's the "doing your taxes" of murder. The point where the movies tend to call it a kill -- right as the victim goes limp -- is only just the start. In reality, going all noodly only indicates that the victim has passed out, and if the killer stops suffocating the victim then, they're in for a surprise: The body automatically restarts breathing as a reflex.

United Artists

"Yeah, I'm really having no trouble at all breathing around this pillow, chief."

This restart period varies on a case-by-case basis, but it takes the body roughly 15 seconds to use up the oxygen in the blood. After that, the clock starts ticking: A minute without breathing destroys some of your brain cells. Three minutes and you likely have serious brain damage. After 10 to 15 minutes, you're generally fucked -- unless you're one of the rare cases that survive after 40 to 60 minutes without breathing. Unless the killer has brought a sandwich and a book to read, they're better off flicking the victim to death.

Sharks Don't Really Want To Eat People

Universal Pictures

Although sharks may seem like malevolent kill machines, they're actually super shy and mostly just confused about us, a creepy alien species from the great waterless void above. Sharks almost never actively go after humans. In fact, the most common cause for shark attacks is people provoking the shark. They'll try to pet or otherwise interact with them, because we guess they haven't seen Jaws enough times. It's probably on TBS right now, guys. Check it out.

Universal Pictures

And if you still want to pet a shark, you're gonna need a bigger brain.

"But Cracked," you inquire, "if that's true, how come there were 98 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2015 alone?" Well, first of all, only six of those were actually fatal, while most resulted in only moderate injuries. Even the fatal attacks aren't the "torn to bits until the sea is red" variety -- they're mostly from a single bite wound, not an orgy of thrashing violence.

Universal Pictures

"Honestly, I got most of these scars from stumbling around drunk ..."

Large sharks like great whites are curious animals, and they use their teeth much like humans use their hands. They've been known to tentatively bite boats, buoys, paddleboards, and anything else they might find interesting, an investigative close-to-the-surface behavior that's also the reason behind the famous fin-above-the-water shtick. So when sharks do "attack" humans, it's almost always because of these quick, investigative chomps. Once they realize we're disgusting, chewy monkeys instead of sexy lady sharks in disguise, they usually flee.

5 Ways Movies Say You Can Die That Science Says Are Wrong

Grenades Don't Mean Instant Death


There are hundreds of grenade models of varying lethality, but in movies, the term "hand grenade" almost exclusively refers to this guy:

Warner Bros.

Except in Michael Bay movies, where they're called "screenplays."

That's a fragmentation grenade, and they're far from the hand-held Death Star that Hollywood shows us. The anatomy of a frag grenade is simple: an explosive core wrapped in brittle material. When the core goes off, it will fling said material in every direction. At a close distance, they're fatal. However, their main use is simply to cause mayhem by hurling fragments far beyond the killing radius. This ability to wound the enemy creates a strategic advantage: Suddenly having to take care of a wounded soldier or two burdens the uninjured a whole lot more than blowing said soldiers to smithereens would.

Universal Pictures

"If the explosion kills the supporting guy in Act 1, you don't lose the badass fight scene
in Act 3, because they're stuck carrying his ass." -Hollywood Chekhov

Incidentally, you also shouldn't listen to pop culture when it comes to surviving a grenade attack. Gonna pick it up and throw it back at the enemy? Good luck, Johnny No-Fingers: The fuse gives you three to five seconds, at least two of which were spent while the grenade was traveling from the hands of the enemy to you. Running won't do much, as the blast radius is 30 to 35 feet, and you're not that fast. Don't try covering it with a helmet or sticking it inside a container like, say, a fridge. The grenade is supposed to explode in a way that spreads shrapnel, and you've just given it more ammo.

It's Nearly Impossible To Drown In Quicksand

Columbia Pictures

In spite of what Hollywood shows you, quicksand is not nature's Sarlacc. In fact, unless you dive in face first, it's unlikely to kill you at all. Like lava, quicksand is far denser than the human body, so while it might pull you in waist-deep, there's no way for it to suck you in all the way. Researchers have found it strangely difficult to recruit volunteers for their "Hey, try to drown in this quicksand" experiments, but the classic movie-style sinking scenario has been simulated by throwing beads with the same density as the human body in facsimile quicksand. They never dipped more than halfway, and actually resurfaced on their own after a while.

So, if you ever find yourself stuck in quicksand for reasons we generously assume are not related to raiding ancient temples, here's what to do: Resist the urge to try to yank yourself free. If you try pulling yourself up, you will fail, and the sand's strong downward pull means any potential rescuers attempting to tug you out are more likely to tear you in half than save your life.


Which makes this scene even stupider than before.

If you don't want to just hang out and play some Kim Kardashian: Hollywood on your iPhone until the sand particles settle naturally, researchers advise that you ... wiggle your legs around. No, seriously. Wiggling about creates a space where water can flow and make the quicksand around you looser. Do this slowly and progressively, and eventually the earth will vomit you forth like the indigestible idiot that you are.

20th Century Fox

"This isn't working. Our only chance is to sex our way out."
"... You planned this, didn't you?"

Katelyn tries a lot of things -- some fail, some are more successful. Check out a few of her successes on her website.

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For more ways Hollywood has lead you astray, check out 6 Deadly Injuries You Think You'd Survive (Thanks to Movies) and 6 Myths About Crime You Believe Thanks To Hollywood.

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