Jack Bauer/Arnold Schwartzenegger/et al. Neck Snap Maneuver

You know the one I’m talking about. They kind of wrap one arm around the forehead, and put the other hand on the chin or something, and give the victim’s head a sudden twist, and he is instantly dead. I’ve seen it a million times, but I’m not exactly certain of the details about where the hands go. Often done from behind, but I don’t know if that matters.

As easy as it looks, or Hollywood B.S.? I think Jack somehow did it with his legs this past season; I suspect that one might be a little trickier. I don’t know how he could get enough grip with his calves.

Also, while we’re at it, how about the chop to the back of the neck/shoulders rendering the victim instantly unconscious? I suspect a great deal of Hollywood embellishment here, but is it even remotely possible? By what physiological mechanism does this blow result in a loss of consciousness?

Can’t speak to the neck break, but a good shot to the side of the neck (think Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein bolts) will almost always result in stunning and disorientation, and if it’s done hard enough, it will black someone out for 10-15 seconds. Long enough to let you do what needs to be done, which is restraint if you’re a cop and run like hell if you’re not. The specific pressure point is called the brachial plexus origin.

A hard shot to the back of the neck can cause damage to the spinal cord and we specifically do not teach that in Taekwondo as a self-defense option unless you are in a deadly force scenario.

Sorry if this is off topic, but I suspect the reason you’ve seen this “a million times” is that it’s pretty easy for one actor to safely perform this on another. Simply have the neck snappee twist their neck suddenly and pretend to die. The neck snapper just puts their hands on the snappee but doesn’t apply any force at all.

Ahnold performed the leg one too in Total Recall. In the same quick scene he did a one-handed neck lock one one baddie, then lifted him off the ground to break his neck, then seconds later stood above another downed baddie and pushed his foot on his neck and broke it too. All with over-the-top neck-breaking sound effects, usually mimicked by me while while watching it.

(That movie had great over-the-top squibs too - everytime someone was shot it looked like gooey red brain blobs were bluging out of the bullet holes).

On a related note, there’s a trick where you say you’re going to crack someone’s neck like a chiropractor. (And by that I mean like a chiropractor would do, not like somone killing a chiropractor.) You stand behind them, have them twist their neck a bit, and you break a Tic-Tac box in one of your hands. It scares the hell out of people.

Dude, that is so wrong…


When I was shown that by a teacher, he just freaked us out by pretending he’d cracked the neck, witha loud noise. He didn’t have the person drop dead. I’m not sure the student even knew in advance that it would be a trick.

In case you missed this post from a recent thread, it has a link to a video of a real life brachial plexus shot. The guy is totally down for the count, and would be essentially the same thing as the neck chop from behind, but he’s not totally unconscious like they tend to be in the movies for an extended period of time. I suppose if you did it with the butt of a gun you might be able to render someone unconscious for longer than a few seconds, but I don’t know.

[junior mod hat] A similar post happened a while ago and got locked down. Actually describing how to kill someone is against the rules, donchaknow? [/junior mod hat]

That said, the way the vertebrae are designed makes it very difficult to twist someone’s head enough to break the neck. This is also why you see it in movies a lot, because stunt people can have their neck torqued like that and not be at risk of accidentally breaking their neck.


Compare hanging.

British executions used the long drop method. To break a man’s neck killing him instantly requires a force of 1260 foot pounds (1710 joules). Much less will result in strangulation and a slow painful death. This is achieved by dropping a fully grown man several feet, adjusted according to the weight and height of the individual.

Well, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to do the same in a movement of a few inches but it seems unlikely to me.

That’s fine, I’m not asking anybody for a step-by-step howto. Just to be clear, I’m not asking if it’s possible so I can go out and do it to somebody, I’m just wondering how realistic it is, considering how often it is used in movies/TV.

I’m pretty sure it’s B.S., I guess I’m just wondering how stinky.

I’ve seen Jack Bauer kill dozens of people this way, (apparently) instantly, (almost) silently, and I always think to myself “is it really so easy?”.

However, please don’t think that I believe everything I see on 24. Far from it.

Tomcat, please refrain from using fake mod tags, even if meant in jest.


General Questions Moderator

I think the whole deal with Arnold is to demonstrate how darned strong he is. Then everyone else decided it was some sort of martial arts trick, so they started having little guys do it.

I want to see them have someone about the size of Owen Wilson try it on the Rock, or Vin Disal, or someone, and have him smirk at them and then kick their ass.

For a real life version, you need either lots of strength, or lots of leverage. And throw in complete surprise.


That’s a no-no now? OK, sorry.

I have nothing to add except that when I saw the subject line, I knew exactly what the post would be about, and I immediately thought of

(Spoilers for S2 Buffy, even though EVERYBODY’S had a chance to see it by now.)

Angelus killing Jenny Calendar

Or the way I’ve seen it done, by cutting out a possibly uncooperative middleman: it’s less frightening, but still pretty danged effective, to have one of those little flat uncooked pasta noodles clenched in your jaw as you make broad gestures and take hold of your own head and twist and bite down.

Sickening crack ensues.