Actions Movies

10 Things Action Movies Always Get Wrong

October 3, 20237 Mins Read

As filmmaking remains largely dependent on movie magic, there are still plenty of things action movies always get wrong. To be fair, it would be very difficult to craft a completely scientifically accurate action movie that also caters to the tastes of modern and mainstream audiences. Though filmmakers have the best interests of viewers in mind when coming up with dazzling action sequences, this has led to misconceptions about how certain scientific mechanics actually work in the real world.

Undoubtedly, action has greatly contributed to the science myths and movie mistakes that are still prevalent in entertainment today. Because of the need to push the genre’s boundaries and keep audiences interested, action movies feature elements that border on science fiction in terms of plausibility. From the way guns and bullets work and how explosions should look, to how human bodies respond to the stresses of fast-paced action, the things that action movies always get wrong are typically also the most visually entertaining aspects of these films.

10 Guns And Bullets Can’t Blow People Away

Wesley Snipes' Blade with a gun

Although the impact of a gunshot can be powerful, bullets don’t have enough mass and force to blow people away, which is why they go through flesh instead. It’s more common for individuals to collapse or stumble rather than being dramatically thrown. While extremely high-caliber bullets from sniper rifles could exert a noticeable pushing force on both the target and the shooter, the target is more likely to be dismembered than thrown off their feet. Yet, from director John Woo’s formative Hong Kong and Hollywood films to the Blade and John Wick movies, the action genre has always shown people getting knocked off their feet from gunshots.

9 Silencers Aren’t Silent At All

Keanu Reeves as John Wick uses a silenced pistol amid a crowd in John Wick Chapter 3 Parabellum.

Depending on the caliber and overall design of a pistol, the decibel levels of a gunshot can run anywhere between 140 dB to 180 dB. For context, the average car horn is around 110 dB. As even the most advanced silencers can only reduce noise by 35 dB, this means that a silenced gunshot is actually as loud as a car horn. In fact, the firearms industry prefers to refer to silencers as suppressors, which is a more scientific term for what they actually do. Calling them suppressors also helps combat the myth of silent gunshots – as perpetuated by the Bond, John Wick, and Hitman movies.


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8 Cars And Even C-4 Don’t Explode Easily

A Car explodes and flips over in Fast X

In fairness to the notoriously over-the-top Fast and Furious franchise, it rarely features a car exploding for no reason. However, nearly the rest of the entire action genre features this common mistake. In reality, even shooting a bullet directly into a car’s gas tank doesn’t guarantee that it will explode. Gasoline is actually quite a stable fuel, which is why they’re used in engines all over the world. C-4 is even more stable, and won’t explode from a gunshot, open flame, or being smashed on the ground. A small shockwave is required for C-4 to actually explode. It’s only in the movies where cars and C-4 are especially volatile.

7 Most Explosions Look Unimpressive

Tom Hardy running from an explosion in Mad Max: Fury Road

The most epic explosion scenes in movies such as V for Vendetta, Mad Max, and Speed all feature engineered fireballs by cinematic pyrotechnicians. This is because actually destructive shockwaves that can destroy buildings and throw people only have a brief visual effect. After the split-second fireball of a real explosion, only its effects on the surrounding matter and debris remains visible. For a more impressive explosion, professional pyrotechnicians not only use concussive explosives but also place gasoline in the direction of where the shot is being filmed. The lingering fireballs and smokestacks that audiences love are typically just burning gasoline that’s ignited with the actual explosives.

6 Biometric Security Can’t Scan Dead Body Parts

Simon Phoenix holding a dismembered eye in Demolition Man.

Unfortunately, the infamous scene where Demolition Man‘s Simon Phoenix uses a disembodied eye to get through biometric security is impossible – even in the far future. Biometric scanners are trained to respond to life signals – mainly the small electrical charge running through living bodies – whether they are operated through scanning eyes or fingerprints. In the future, Simon’s eye trick would be even more implausible, as biometric security is only getting better. Moreover, body parts rot pretty quickly, especially soft tissues like eyeballs. As any dismembered body part would have zero electrical charge, they can’t be used to fool biometric security systems, especially in advanced or futuristic settings.


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5 It’s Not That Easy To Kill/Incapacitate A Person

The Bride looking at the injured Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol. 1.

All too often, action movies have shown people instantly dying or getting incapacitated from single gun shot wounds or melee blows. However, the human body actually doesn’t give up that easily. A non-lethal gunshot wound would be enough to shock a person, but they would recover quickly to suffer the pain or rejoin the action. This doesn’t typically happen in the movies because the camera needs to focus on the action. In rare cases, however, the pain suffered by downed combatants does make for great storytelling. This can be seen in Kill Bill after The Bride defeats the Crazy 88 gang – one of the best movie sword fights ever.

4 Knocking Out A Person Isn’t Harmless

Ben Affleck's Batman fighting in Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice warehouse scene

Too many crime and action movies feature people getting knocked out and then later appearing unharmed. The Dark Knight of Gotham, Batman, has made a career out of harmlessly knocking out and incapacitating criminals in order to spare their lives. However, there’s really no way to knock out a person without risking permanent injury or brain damage. While the movies are right about a well-placed blow to the temple or the back of the head resulting in a knockout, this is enough to physically damage the brain as it moves inside the skull. As the long history of sports and fight research can attest to, concussions can be deadly.


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3 Knife Throwing Is Extremely Difficult

The Bride fights Vernita Green in Kill Bill

Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Kill Bill, and The Matrix are just some of the movies that feature knife throwers very easily finding their targets. However, the reality is that this is difficult enough to do without distractions, and would be nearly impossible in these movies’ high-pressure situations. From the weight of the knife and how it spins to the exact amount of force needed and the wielder’s familiarity with the weapon, mastering knife throwing with accuracy takes years. This is why the Japanese created shurikens, which are surrounded by contact points instead of just one. This is also why militaries don’t really train knife-throwing.

2 Bulletproof Vests Are Bullet Resistant At Best

Keanu Reeves in John Wick Chapter 4 in his traditional suit

Out of the many unrealistic things about the John Wick movies, it is John’s bulletproof suit that makes the least sense. The suit wouldn’t be as light as it is if it had the bullet-stopping capacity seen in the films. In the real world, even the most advanced bulletproof vests are still thickly layered, rated for specific calibers, and are considered vulnerable after getting shot once or twice. Bullet-resistant fibers literally tear at the contact point after stopping a supersonic bullet in its tracks, which greatly compromises the bullet-stopping power of the rest of the vest. There are also various types of bullets designed to penetrate bulletproof armors.

1 More Characters Should Be Deaf, Concussed, Injured, And Tired

Chris Hemsworth holding a pistol and looking focused in Extraction.

At the pace of the fights in movies like Extraction and Nobody, more action movie characters should’ve already gone deaf, suffered concussions or injuries, or become too tired to continue. It’s not that easy to kill a human being, but the body is also quite fragile. This is why indoor shooting ranges require earmuffs, and why most modern martial arts dojos and gyms rarely train full-contact sparring. However, whether they are heroes or villains – action movie characters typically display superhuman constitution, which is the really only way they can consistently avoid getting severely injured or having to take a breather.

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