Death is pretty much the only certainty any of us have in life and the movie depictions of death are usually poignant or spectacular. However, they are also often just flat out inaccurate. Rather than go with realistic methods of death, many films contain unbelievable movie death scenes that viewers accept as possible because they have been shown so many times. These movie death myths have become tropes that are used throughout the industry but that no one questions. Like unbelievable dialogue, it all boils down to some bad and rather misinformed writing.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight for unbelievable ways characters die in the movies. The ways characters die in movies that are fake – be it scientifically or just logically – will probably only increase in bizarreness. But here, at least, you will find the truth of these death deceptions. Whether you truly believe liquid nitrogen will turn you into glass for the shattering or that a person could actually be cut straight in two with a razor-sharp string, its time to sort out the rational fears from the straight ludicrous ones. Thanks to a few experts who know real science from fake science, here’s a dose of reality about those movie deaths that may have looked cool but were just straight up #fakenews.
Having All Your Flesh Eaten By Piranhas
Piranhas might be the most feared fish outside of sharks in all of the Earth’s oceans and rivers. The widespread belief that they can strip anything in their path to the bone appears in movies all the time. Just like most other fish, though, piranhas will flee if a bigger creature comes near them, and this includes humans. They tend to only attack things that are smaller than them or are already dying, with the carnivorous fish being far less aggressive than the film industry has made them out to be.
Though certain highly specific factors can coalesce to create a dangerous situation involving piranhas, if left to their own devices and in their normal breeding patterns, they won’t be stripping any living humans to the bone anytime soon.
Getting Sliced By Sharp Wire
Most people will be familiar with the old movie trick of stringing up some wire across a road and tying it between two trees. The intended victim will then speed along in their car and either be decapitated or have another body part sliced off by the high tension of the wire. To be fair, industrial strength wires can cause horrible injuries and even death if they snap and hit someone, but any wire thin enough to be used effectively as a razor would not be strong enough to survive the impact.
Instead, the wire would just snap when the person hit it.
Getting Sucked Into Quicksand
Sinking in quicksand has become such a popular way for characters to die in movies that researchers have devoted plenty of time to studying its effects. According to films, anyone caught in quicksand is likely to die as they are slowly sucked into the sand as they struggle to escape. Although anyone falling into quicksand will sink initially, the density of the sand and water mixture will then cause the victim to float. Eventually, the water will settle back down and cause anything with a similar density to a human to slowly make its way back to the surface, stabilized but stuck.
Getting stuck, not sucked, in quicksand is much more likely and may lead to death by starvation.
Being Quickly Strangled To Death
Hollywood has long portrayed manual strangulation – someone choking another person to death with their hands – as a quick and easy method to kill a person. In real life, throttling a person is much more difficult than movies make it out to be. It is definitely not quick and can take up to five minutes for a person to die.
Meanwhile, a person being choked is likely to struggle violently as they panic and begin to lose consciousness, and they can almost fully recover in just a few seconds if they are able to break free.
Death By Gasoline And A Lit Cigarette
Obviously, this form of deathly destruction makes for some dramatic cinema. All one need do is douse any person they want dead in gasoline, drop a lit cigarette into the liquid petrol, and watch everything go up in flames. The only problem is that gasoline is not so easy to ignite. Although cigarettes burn at a hotter temperature than it takes for gasoline to ignite, it is extremely difficult to use a cigarette for this purpose.
Researchers have used a variety of different methods to see if a cigarette could light gasoline but failed in more than 2,000 attempts. They believe that the liquid either smothers the cigarette or reduces its temperature too much before it can ignite the gas. This doesn’t mean anyone gets a free pass to smoke at gas stations, though.
Blowing Up In A Car Shot By Guns
It might seem easy to blow up a car if you watch a lot of movies. Apparently, all it takes is shooting a few bullets at a vehicle’s gas tank, and a vehicle will quickly erupt into flames or explode spectacularly. Real life is a bit of a different story. Gas tanks in cars are specifically made to be as safe as possible. They have to be able to withstand strong impacts in case the vehicle is involved in a crash. There is also not very much oxygen inside a tank, certainly not enough to cause a rapid fire or explosion. Meanwhile, most bullets are simply not powerful enough to pierce the reinforced gas tank or ignite the fuel inside.
So, although any circumstance where you’re being chased by someone with guns isn’t ideal, no need to worry much about your escape car exploding.
Shattering When Liquid Nitrogen Freezes Your Body Into Ice
In the movies, liquid nitrogen is portrayed as some sort of magical substance that is capable of flash freezing anything it comes into contact with. While it can be used to shatter objects in real life, such as flowers or other small items, it is wildly impractical to kill someone with it as shown in films. Liquid nitrogen can reduce the temperature of skin very quickly but takes a very long time to significantlyreduce the internal temperature of a human.
Your Body Exploding In The Vacuum Of Space
If science fiction movies have taught us anything it is that space is a scary place. Finding oneself in space outside of the safety of a spaceship without a suit surely leads to an almost instant death as explosive decompression causes the human body to literally expand until it blows up. In reality, the human body wouldn’t explode in outer space. A person would almost certainly swell up, possibly to twice their normal size, as bodily fluids expand and begin to bubble.
But the skin is flexible enough to be able to take this extra strain, making a person bursting open almost impossible. In reality, lack of oxygen would render you unconscious within 15 seconds, and it would be the most likely cause of death.
Dying After A Powerful Palm Heel Strike To The Nose
Heroes in action films have the uncanny ability of swiftly (and cleanly) killing their enemies in hand-to-hand combat. One of these killer moves is the palm heel strike to the nose, a move where the hero forcefully thrusts their hand into their enemy’s face. Movie science says the nose bone is shoved so hard that it busts into the enemy’s brain, effectively killing them. In Con Air, this palm heel is the whole reason Cameron Poe (Nic Cage) is imprisoned.
This type of death is impossible for an obvious reason: our noses are nearly all cartilage, so there is no pointy bone waiting to pierce your brain upon impact. There is a tiny portion of bone at the top of your nose, but it still can’t kill you.
Even if a person were to get hit so hard that the tiny part of bone became dislodged, there is no way the bone could get to your brain – that’s the whole point of having a skull. Yes, a person could die from blunt force trauma or other indirect reasons after getting a nasty palm heel to the nose, but it won’t be in the form of a bone-induced lobotomy.
Death By A Bomb Shot By A Gun
According to the movies, an easy way to dispose of any would-be terrorist or bad guy with a bomb is just to shoot the explosive and watch it blow up. While it is certainly true that some bombs will ignite and explode if hit with a bullet, the vast majority will not. Most explosive devices are designed to be as robust as possible the majority of the time. The reasons for this are obvious; bomb designers don’t want the bomb to prematurely go off as this could cause unintentional harm or damage.
If you’re holding a bomb and someone’s shooting at you, you’ll probably die from a bullet, not an exploding bomb.
Sinking Into Lava
Another common death in sci-fi, fantasy, and disaster films is by an unfortunate fall into a volcano or other lava pit. This common depiction usually sees the victim sink slowly – and while weirdly cognizant – as the lava envelops their entire body. The only problem is that scientists know that lava has a very high density, which would almost certainly lead to most people simply floating on top of the material. Therefore it would not cause the instant death that hapless film viewers may assume.
Instead, the intense heat would cause a person to burst into flames and slowly burn to death.
Decapitation Like A Hot Knife Through Butter
Movies portray decapitation as a relatively easy action to complete, making it seem like our heads are barely hanging on to our bodies. In reality, chopping off someone’s head can be incredibly difficult. This is because human neck muscles are very strong and are reinforced with the spine.
You just have to look at history to see how messy decapitation could get. Executioners would often have to take several swings with a heavy sword or axe before they would be successful.