Hollywood Myths, Cracked: 4 Thing Movies Get Wrong About Survival Skills
Movies give us the opportunity to fantasize and imagine how we’d totally MacGyver our way out of any situation. “Silly character runs up the stairs in a horror movie? Please, I’ll roundhouse kick Ghostface’s butt before diving straight through a window like a cartoon coyote!” Or, “Look at that numbnuts drinking salt water in the middle of the ocean — I will sip on my own sweat before boiling my urine with the power of a thousand suns!”
We humans are a creative bunch (and super cocky), but while it’s true that we can come up with all kinds of wild ideas to help us survive life-threatening situations, it doesn’t mean those ideas would actually work in practice. Sometimes, the movies will present some of these bonkers ideas like they're actually good and well. Sometimes, these movies couldn’t be more wrong.
So, You Have Found Yourself Lost In The Wilderness
From The Revenant to The Grey to that movie where a guy voluntarily ventures into the wild to escape
responsibility a capitalistic society or whatever, cinema has enjoyed many a wilderness survival outing that relishes in its inherent drama and high stakes. You know, what with nature constantly looking for ways to kill us.
Shelter is going to be a top priority, to both protect you from the harsh outdoors climate and the many predators roaming around just waiting for a dumb human to cross their path. In that movie where Leonardo DiCaprio sleeps inside a horse, we at one point see him camp under a tiny little shelter next to a cold river … with a wooded forest clearly present in the background where he’d have way better protection against the chill.
And speaking of fishing, good luck trying to fashion a weapon or some sort of hunting spear without an actual blade fastened at the top. At least they got Leo to fish using his hands, because honestly, that’s your best bet. Unless, of course, Lady Luck gifts you with a rock that was born to also be a knife.
Of course, there’s the added danger of eating practically anything out in the great outdoors and not getting poisoned and die a slow and agonizing death (see the Supertramp movie), and may the odds be ever in your favor when encountering an animal who likes a meaty dinner, because …
So, You Have Come Face To Face With A Wild Animal
Let’s address the “playing dead to prevent getting snacked on” survival technique that’s been done many times over. This type of strategy will only work if the animal you encounter is non-aggressive. Which, if you think about it, kind of makes it a dramatic move on your part, since you can just as well stand still and wait for the passive animal to move along.
In general, movies will sometimes go out of their way to portray wild animals as, well, being wild, and so thirsty for blood that they’ll straight-up stalk a person. Most animals want absolutely nothing to do with humans (fair), and in the case of a stalking predator, it’s likely that the animal is completely starved and in desperate need of food, which is you. In that case, you better get the heck out of Dodge, and fast.
For the most part, the best advice when faced with a threatening animal is to make loud noises and, in the event of actually being attacked, always go for the eyes. Shark movies illustrate the latter part best, with many attacked victims jabbing almost anything into those black sockets. Bears, on the other hand? Well, we guess you’d have to get past that terrifying snout first.
So, You Need To Escape A Raging Fire
First off, yikes. That is not a situation anyone would willingly want to find themselves in. Fires are nature’s Final Boss events as they are super powerful, super deadly, and extremely difficult to combat. Even house fires are no joke, and every year an average of 2,620 people succumb to these deadly infernos in the U.S. alone. The majority of these deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, not CG-licking flames as the movies love showing us.
In real life, there’s way more smoke than flames in most fires, and it’s the smoke that gets people. So when movies show us images like this …
… you can bet that in reality, that background will be largely filled with gray smoke. Not so pretty to look at, but when you know the dangers of smoke inhalation, all the more scarier. The problem comes in when we see characters running through a burning house, a little scared but totally fine, to grab their child or chihuahua or copy of their favorite comic book before managing to escape the charring chamber of death in the nick of time.
It’s the stuff of fantasies, really, because what they should be doing is cover their noses and mouths, drop to their knees and crawl along the floor where they can — smoke rises up, meaning the cleanest air you’ll find in a fire is close to the ground — and when they’ve finally managed to escape, stay the hell out.
But no, everyone wants to be a hero (or secretly a firefighter). It’s just so much more dramatic.
So, You Have Found Yourself In The Midst Of A Zombie Apocalypse
Okay, the chances of this happening isn’t any great cause for concern (touch wood), but since our movie catalogs are flooded with these types of survival movies, let’s look at the scenario. The world has gone to stank thanks to some virus that kills people and then reanimates them as mumbling ghouls who feed on brains because we are an incredibly imaginative species. Zombie lore states that this virus will spread, well, like most viruses on this here planet, causing streets to empty out in weeks, cities to fall within months, and the human population to dwindle quite significantly. Yeah, we know, it sounds eerily familiar.
According to a Berkeley neuroscientist, your best bet at surviving a horde of brain eaters with no real brainpower themselves is to hunker down and bunker up — much like we recently experienced with a certain virus outbreak. And since these ravaged undead hordes have poor memories and serious motor impairments, it’ll be safe to just wait it out in a location where you’ll at least have some protection. It’s one (of many) reasons why Night of the Living Dead remains one of the best zombie movies to date, as those folks initially illustrated that hiding away is totally your best bet. It’s who you hide with that might end up being the problem.
If you need to venture outside for reasons like food or sunlight, the best is to plan a route where you can hide if spotted — since zombies almost immediately forget about you if you’re not in their line of sight — or at least find a way to travel along or on top of structures where their poor physical abilities would render them unable to get to you. In real life, a zombie apocalypse would be way more boring (but traumatizing, sure) than the movies show it. Much like riding out the COVID outbreak was for most folks.
While modern movies have ramped up the action and excitement by giving us super-strength and super-fast zombies, in reality it just wouldn’t play out like that. Unless, of course, the virus somehow carries some sci-fi formula that leaves a person half-zombified, half-Terminator. Good luck and Godspeed, then. And maybe still remember to double-tap.
Thumbnail: 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures