Things Movies Almost Always Get Wrong

What things do you frequently see in movies that would be very unlikely to happen in real life, but are there simply because the writers don’t know any better, rather than because they wanted them there?

So I don’t mean spaceships, or police stations where all the women cops look like models, or stuff like that. Those were obviously put there intentionally.

I mean things like this: in almost every adventure movie where somebody falls off of something and is hanging over space, they end up hanging on by one hand for an extended period of time while they are flailing around trying to get back onto the bridge or the ledge or whatever.

Next time you go past a playground, go over to the jungle gym, grab an overhead bar with one hand, and see how long you can suspend your weight from it. Unless you’re unusually strong or light, I’ll bet it’s only a few seconds. Hanging from a flat surface like a ledge would be even harder than hanging from a bar, where you can wrap your fingers around it.

And I would defy anyone not starring in Cirque du Soleil to hang by one hand from a slender vertical rope for even two seconds. Your grip just isn’t strong enough.

Your turn.

Most movie characters just shrug off bullet wounds like they were paintball pellets- one jarring thing are the protagonists who get shot in a shoulder and then keep on using their arms with perfect dexterity.

I worked as a desk clerk for years when I was in high school. Several things drive me nuts in a TV & movies set in hotels:

When somebody walks up to a front desk and says “What room is Joe Jenkins in?” and the clerk says “Room 232- up the stairs and to the left”- this is a major no-no (in fact a firing offense) in most hotels. Unless the person has explicitly said “If a Mr. Jones comes by and asks for me you can give him my room number” and even then you should get I.D. and even then many hotels would have you CYA by directing them to the house phone and connecting them to the room.

Likewise, nobody actually signs a book register anymore. Even in small towns and even in the few remaining Mom’n’Pop motels in all but the cheapest hotels or perhaps a couple of B&Bs run by 90 year olds it’s all computerized.

There are so many sitcoms get set in an old hotel a family or group of friends runs; Golden Palace, Whoopi, The Jamie Foxx Show, Newhart, Suite Life of Zach & Cody, etc… (There was a planned spinoff of Who’s the Boss in which Mona would have run a hotel with her brother but several things killed it.) While I realize they’re not going for realism, they usually get almost everything wrong, most especially the number of employees it takes to run a hotel. On Newhart for example: the real B&B they use for the exterior shots has about a dozen employees rather than the two owners and two employees on the show, and a large hotel is going to have several times that. Also you NEVER leave a front desk unattended for more than a moment.

Similar to the thing about hanging from one arm:

If you’re falling you just grab something (even with one hand) and stop yourself - even if you’ve fallen 200 feet - you’ll be OK and your arm will not even be severely wrenched.

If you’re falling anything that arrests your fall before you hit the ground (no matter how suddenly or violently it stops you) will save you.

Kookaburra sound effects in the jungle.

All computers make beeping noises. All of them.

Ferrets. They do not sound like that.

A random one off the top of my head:

All animals always have to make “animal” sounds. Like if a cow appears, it has to have added grunting and moo sound effects no matter what. Dogs, cats, pigs, etc… even if they appear on-screen doing nothing but standing around, they have to have the appropriate sound effects added. And it feel so weird and obviously fake if you’ve actually spent time around any of these animals.

Also, people launching in impromptu perfectly coordinated dance steps? Not possible. Believe me, I’ve tried.

An actress or model gets discovered, and days later, her magazine cover is on the stands, her TV debut is on the air, or she’s on a movie set. Nothing has to go through legal, there’s no lead time in magazines or TV, and movies get cast the night before filming starts.

And the only mice are white labrats; any chemical compound is (unlike the rats) brightly colored.

I assume that the speed and ease with which gals with enough paint on for the cover of Homes and Gardens run their magical tests are “for ease of storytelling” and not because the writers actually believe their own story.

People usually taking turns to talk.

I love X-rays in medical shows. There’s always a melange of films of random body parts hung up in random orientations on light boxes, a technology that no longer really exists anymore.

Loon calls in the desert.
No self-respecting loon would be found anywhere near a desert.

People firing guns in enclosed spaces – like rooms, or cul-de-sacs, or alleys – and then have no problem hearing.

Having once worked as an Electronics Technician, I was always amused by whenever something breaks, the boss/Captain Kirk says “How long to fix it, Scotty?”. Scotty replies “30 minutes, Cap’n”. One Commanding Officer once tried this with me and someone more experienced and he said “To fix it? Maybe 10 minutes Finding what the problem is the tricky part. That could be 30 minutes to six hours”. The officer walked away in a huff and I think it took us two hours.

One national writer, perhaps the late James Brady, wrote a book on his Korean war experiences. He said Hollywood movies inevitably have the same cast of characters in military platoons: the wise guy who buckles at discipline, the rich kid trying to prove himself, the ladies man, the card shark, the wide-eyed farm boy from Kansas, the poor Southerner, the kid from Brooklyn who loves the Dodgers. Brady said his outfit didn’t have any of those.

A lot of movies from the 1950s inevitably have computers with huge banks of different colored lights (“Desk Set”, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”).

The episode of TNG with Scotty in it referred, in a way to this, by Scotty getting irritated by LeForge saying exactly how long he expected a repair to take. Scotty’s opinion was along the lines of “if you tell them exactly how long it is going to take how do you expect them to think you perform miracles?”

One reason a lot of those computers look alike is that they actually reused the same section of what was once an actual computer for many different movies. There was a website about it, which I cannot now find.
Aha! Here it is. I didn’t realize that it was a portion of SAGE!:

http://ripsaw.cac.psu.edu/~mloewen/Q7/

Looking over that site, I see that ABC News brought in a portion of that computer (the part which had been used as set dressing on Lost in Space) and put it behind the reporters on election night in 1996 (!!!) As if it were a real piece of equipment used in predicting the outcome, or something. That seems particularly dishonest for a news program.

http://ripsaw.cac.psu.edu/~mloewen/Q7/scifi/Election/

Actors never know the correct way to hold musical instruments. This is true when they are pretending to perform and when just carrying them around.

Musical instrument repairmen would be rich if real musicians were as clumsy.

In television programs especially, people who write books always have them in their hands by the time the episode ends. In reality, it can take up to two years for a book to go through the entire process.

Similarly, every television appearance is done live to ensure that a hilarious mishap will be broadcast to the nation without any way of stopping it.