5 Crazy Movie Moments That Are Scientifically Accurate
We may have mentioned this once or twice before, but movies are mostly bullshit. With characters dodging bullets, riding fridges through nuclear explosions, or setting fire to their genitals in order to save the world, movies are full of stuff that could never, ever happen in real life. But sometimes, whether the filmmakers intend it or not, seemingly impossible moments actually turn out to be scientifically sound. Like how ...
Oddjob's Razor Hat Would Cause You Serious Damage
The James Bond franchise is full of unrealistic things -- invisible cars, women who kill with their thighs, Roger Moore, etc. One of the most iconic Bond henchmen, Goldfinger's Oddjob, has a particularly ridiculous weapon: a razor-edged bowler hat which he tosses like a Frisbee. It can cut the head off a statue.
It's fun, but utter nonsense. Right?
Tony Swatton, a blacksmith who has made weapons for over 200 feature films, has a YouTube series in which he builds weapons from popular culture and tests them out. He tackled Oddjob's infamous bowler hat in the episode below, and it ... worked disturbingly well.
It turns out that having a layer of steel hammered to an edge inside the rim of the hat will absolutely ruin anything it hits. In the video, we see that the edge is sharp enough to take out a line of wine glasses ...
... and heavy enough to smash through a car window without even slowing down. What about a statue? OK fine, Mythbusters showed that it could not in fact decapitate a solid stone statue. However, if the statue is made from bonded marble, then it works exactly like in the iconic scene. Maybe we owe Roger Moore an apology ...
But that'll be a cold day in hell.
The Magical Bending Arrow In Brave Is Totally Accurate
In Pixar's Brave, Scottish princess Merida wins an archery contest with a final shot that not only hits the bullseye, but also splits an arrow that's already in there. We see the arrow fly in slow motion, wiggling from side to side like a drunken mom on a wedding dance floor.
That's not real, right?
That scene is an accurate portrayal of something called the archer's paradox -- that is, when an archer has to hit something on the other side of the bow. To get around this, the arrow must flex away from the target, then back toward it again, just as it does for Merida.
As for accuracy, the (real) guy in that clip is so good with a longbow that he shot a goddamn pill out of the air. And splitting an arrow with another arrow? It's been done so often that it's practically boring. Just take a look around YouTube if you don't believe us. (Please believe us.)
Moana's "Wayfinding" Was Even More Impressive In Real Life
Moana's characters include a giant singing crab, a sentient tattoo, and a chubby The Rock. At one point, our titular Disney non-princess learns how to sail ("wayfind") with some help from demigod Maui (demigod Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). He teaches her how to hold her hand in the air to "measure the stars," and how you can " where you are by knowing where you've been."
So this is clearly some magical mumbo-jumbo the screenwriters made up to add symbolism to the story, right?
When Maui raises his hand like that, what he's doing is measuring a particular altitude. For example, the North Star ("Polaris" to its friends) lies close to the North Pole, so this tells you your northerly latitude. Like this:
In the movie, we see Moana do this after her training, and it's spot on. If you can read the stars (or check the internet for an article written by someone who can read the stars), then you know that the star above her index finger has an altitude of 21 degrees. Given that the movie takes place about 2,000 years ago near Samoa, the position of Orion indicates they are travelling exactly due east:
That's only one constellation, though. The ancient Polynesians were able to map the stars so well that they had old-timey compasses. There's even more to Polynesian wayfinding than the brief montage we see in Moana (it also took into account bird patterns, types of fish, the shapes of the clouds, etc.), but still, this is impressively accurate for a Disney cartoon. That's because Disney created the Oceanic Story Trust -- a group of Polynesian academics, archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, historians, tattoo masters, navigators, fishermen, elders, and artists -- to make the story as authentic as possible, ensuring that there was not a single detail in the movie that was insensitive to any of the many varied peoples of the Polynesian islands. Until the marketing department stepped in, anyway.
The Bolt Gun From No Country For Old Men Has Been Used In Real Murders
No Country For Old Men gave us one of cinema's most terrifying monsters and hairdos. Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh was basically a cross between the Terminator and MacGyver. He carries around some type of innocuous-looking air tank device which he uses to blow a hole in some guy's forehead.
Why would a murderer use such a cumbersome weapon to kill someone? It'd require the victim to politely stand still and let you press a metal tube to a vital part of their body so you can butcher them at your convenience. It makes for a cool scene, but it's not realistic. Right?
Chigurh's favorite weapon is a captive bolt pistol, which fires a bolt that then retracts back into the gun through the magic of springs. It's made to stun cattle before slaughter, but has also been used in murders of the non-animal variety. Here's a lovely story about a Facebook friend turned stalker who "executed" a mother in front of her daughters with the same kind of cattle gun as Chigurh. And this rancher who bolt-pistol'd a friend, then himself. And this slaughterhouse worker who pierced his colleague's brain after being taunted. Here's a case report of a murder in Germany wherein a jealous husband killed his sleeping wife with a captive bolt pistol. That's from 1991, so it's highly unlikely that the killer was inspired by a 2007 movie based on a 2005 book.
Point is, it's been done in real life. A lot. And even if the killer has to be close to you for it to work, well ... if your significant other comes home with an air tank and you ain't planning a scuba diving trip in the near future, maybe watch them carefully.
The Toilet Bomb Rescue From Lethal Weapon 2 Would Work Even Better In Reality
The toilet bomb scene is all anyone remembers from Lethal Weapon 2, and with good reason. Somebody has attached a pressure-sensitive bomb to Detective Murtaugh's toilet, so he's in the extremely humiliating position of dealing with the bomb squad with his pants around his ankles. The squad comes up with a plan: They delay the explosion by pouring liquid nitrogen onto the detonator, giving him and loyal partner Riggs enough time to throw themselves into Murtaugh's cast iron bathtub and survive the explosion. All after flushing, we assume. Otherwise that's a very dirty bomb.
The Science: Once again, the Mythbusters did a thorough test of the situation. First off, they spoke to a doctor about what happens when you sit on the toilet for over ten hours, like Murtaugh in the movie. As anyone who's ever been to Arby's knows, being on the can for that long causes pain and maybe even nerve damage. So Murtaugh's legs would have been pretty damn numb by the time he has to leap into the tub. They attempted to replicate that state:
Once Jamie's legs and butt had been sufficiently numbed, the guys timed how long it would take him to leap from the toilet into the bath:
About two seconds, it turns out. So the real questions is this: How much time would the liquid nitrogen give them? If it delays the detonation by at least two seconds, then Riggs and Murtaugh would be fine (as long as they don't mind a persistent ringing in their ears for the rest of their lives). The recreation worked way better than anyone had any reason to expect. When the liquid nitrogen was poured over both the charge and the battery powering the trigger, the bomb would not detonate at all until the entire rig had warmed up to ambient temperature, about 15 minutes later. Which means that Shane Black's bullshit movie technique for delaying a bomb blast is more effective in real life. So the movies got it wrong again.
Psh, typical Hollywood
When Matt Cowan is not writing for Cracked, he's trying to get his sci-fi/fantasy short stories published online ... or watching Disney movies with his daughter.
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For more ways Hollywood actually got things right, check out 5 Unrealistic Movie Cliches That Are Scientifically Accurate and 17 Startlingly Accurate Details In Movies And TV Shows.
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