Bad Movie Science

By: aamarpali Puri

The films we watch are usually full of scientific violations. Some of the common sense science mistakes make us feel frustrated or shocked. In continuation to the previous post here are some more movies showing worst violations of scientific knowledge.

  1. 1 Batman Returns (1992)

Revealing mistakes: The snow floats on water.

Factual errors: In the scene with the guided Batarang, if the weapon had enough inertia to knock out the previous targets, the poodle that jumped up to intercept it before hitting the “Marie Antionette” gang member would have just become part of the projectile.

  1. 12. Bats (1999)

Factual errors: Most fecal matter gives off methane, a flammable gas. Emmett lights a flare in the middle of the guano pit, which would normally set off the methane, yet nothing happens.

Factual errors: Jumper cables connected to a chain link fence will short out as soon as the power is turned on. It will not electrify the fence.

Factual errors: All of the biology of bats as described in the film is incorrect as well, of course.

  1. 13. Bicentennial Man (1999)

Plot holes: There are several apparent violations of various of the three laws of robotics, some of which can be resolved by careful reasoning, some of which cannot. All the violations serve the drama and only bother you if you think about them too much. So don’t.

Factual errors: Some of the continents on the world map in the council chamber are in the wrong positions, notably South America (which is rotated significantly) and Australia (which is directly below India). This may have been an attempt to illustrate continental drift, however, these continents would not have moved that significantly in only 200 years.

  1. 14. Blade (1998)

Factual errors: EDTA (ethylenediaminetetracetate), the anticoagulant Blade uses in the glass darts, is not blue. The powdered form is white and produces a clear, colorless solution.

Factual errors: During the subway tunnel fight, the subway train takes over 60 seconds to pass by Blade and Quinn. If the train is traveling at 30 mph, then the train would have to be a half-mile long, or 66 train cars at 40 feet per car. A standard subway train is 8 or 10 cars long.

  1. 15. Blood Diamond (2006)

Factual errors: While running through Freetown, Danny and Simon are being fired at by AK-47s, M2s and a host of other weapons. The bullets are seen ricocheting off the cars. 7.62mm and .50 cal bullets would be punching holes in the thin metal of cars and shattering glass.

  1. 16. Brave heart (1995)

Revealing mistakes: When William Wallace rides into Mornay’s bed chamber on the horse and falls into the water, you can see how the horse floats, it being a wooden horse.

  1. 17. Broken Arrow (1996)

Factual errors: Obvious physics problems with the momentum of the bomb that impales Deakins.

Factual errors: The shock wave is much too slow, moving at only a few miles per hour.

Factual errors: A hammer thrown by hand at someone’s head does not carry enough momentum to throw him backwards with his entire body lifting well off the floor.

Factual errors: An underground nuclear explosion would not cause an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). EMP occurs when the pressure wave from a high-altitude blast forces molecules in the upper atmosphere previously charged with electricity to discharge it.

Factual errors: The UH-1H (Huey) helicopter that shoots at Hale and Terry is designed to crash and not explode. The tail rotors would not have sparked when bouncing off the rocks, they would have shattered.

Factual errors: The episode where the traitor pretends to be incapacitated by radiation from the “exposed core” of the B-83 nuke is pure fiction. The whole point of refining the material for a plutonium/uranium core is to get rid of isotopes that radiate; otherwise the bomb would not function. Nukes radiate so little that you can’t even find one with a geiger counter.

Continuity: The helicopter shown on the train is facing towards the engine when the cover is taken off, and later is shown facing the caboose of the train.

Factual errors: When Mathis’ character uncouples the rail car this would have in reality caused an emergency brake application on both parts of the train. The cars and engine would have immediately started full brake application, as would the section that Slater was on. Neither section would have free rolled as they did. Mathis’ character would have had to close the air valves on both cars prior to uncoupling them.

Factual errors: Hale remarks after the nuclear bomb detonates that they are safe because no radiation escaped. In truth, that is false. The detonation of the bomb in the mine produced a visible fireball, which means that the blast was not contained.

Factual errors: In the chase scene, Capt Hale throws a Jerry can of fuel on the pursuing HMMWV as a Molotov cocktail. Military HMMWV run on diesel and diesel fuel in not volatile enough to fuel a Molotov cocktail. Only civilian hummers run on gasoline.

Factual errors: SPOILER: When the Park Ranger shoots the campers, the bullet holes get splattered by blood. Actually the other side of the tent would get splattered with blood.

  1. 18. A Bug’s Life (1998)

Factual errors: The sun is sufficiently far away that moving the outline of the bird a few feet higher in the air wouldn’t appreciably alter the size of the shadow it casts.

Factual errors: When Flick goes to the bar to try to hire some warrior bugs, he watches a mosquito order a “Bloody Mary – O+”. The mosquito clearly is a male, while in reality only female mosquitoes drink blood.

Factual errors: While most of the other insect characters have the correct number of legs, Flik and the rest of the ants only have four limbs.

  1. 19. The Cave (2005)

Factual errors: The dive crew says they are using rebreathers as dive gear. Rebreathers do not produce bubbles, but most of the underwater shots show the team making bubbles.

Factual errors: First off most Cave divers do not use wetsuits, they use drysuits. Secondly underwater caver explorers never move into unexplored territory without running a navigation line so they can find a way back or out. Several scenes show the explorers using their HID (High Intensity discharge) dive lights out of the water. HID lights use the surrounding water as a coolant and thus cannot be used for long periods of time above water as they would heat up too much and croak.

Factual errors: When asked if he is okay, one of the scuba divers gives the thumbs up signal while underwater. In scuba diving, thumbs up means ascend to the surface.

Factual errors: The characters seem to have completely normal uninhibited conversations under water despite having a mouthpiece fully inserted into their mouths.

Factual errors: Since a cave is a closed environment, you never use flares or any similar burning device inside a cave because it will fill it with smoke. That’s a basic caving rule.

  1. 20. Casper (1995)

Factual errors: When Dr. Harvey rolls down the stairs, he gets wrapped in the carpet on the stairs. When he gets to the bottom of the stairs he keeps rolling, and the carpet unrolls itself onto the floor. He is going in the wrong direction for that to happen.


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