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Inaccurate physics in movies ...

Displaying poll results.
Usually enhances my escapist enjoyment.
  4555 votes / 15%
Usually annoys, but mildly (eye-rolling).
  17406 votes / 60%
Usually drives me bonkers (seat-punching).
  4454 votes / 15%
I've never seen movies with inaccurate physics!
  2189 votes / 7%
28604 total votes.
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  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
  • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
  • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
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Inaccurate physics in movies ...

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  • Does TV count? (Score:2, Informative)

    by gfreeman (456642)

    NCIS [] argh!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by LoRdTAW (99712)

      NCIS is a terrible show. I hate the characters more than anything else, never mind the physics.

      • by Macgrrl (762836)

        I actually really enjoy it, but have to employ sufficent suspension of disbelief and treat it as total fantasy. When I first started watching it I couldn't believe they had a forensics team of one person, when shows like CSI already concatenate forensic specialties and test runtimes to the extreme to keep the number of character the audience has to relate to to a minimum.

        The thing I've noticed the most about NCIS, and also CSI Miami, is when other shows have an officer related shooting, there's investigatio

    • TV is by far the worst. Most of those shows almost border on Trecknobable with their abuse of science and technology. At least with movies it isn't a constant barrage (with the exception of Die Hard 4 and a few others) but anyone who is using a brain melt action flick as an authoritative source for science and technology deserves what ever they end up getting. Shows like Las Vegas, NCIS, CSI probably make things worse as people see these things constantly so they believe that computers can zoom in an enhanc
      • My favourite was a CSI episode where they had analysed the blood splatter to determine the type of weapon that was used. They came up with a peculiar shaped knife (I'm not sure how that'd be possible but I'll let that part slide.) Then they 'enhanced' the image and zoomed in, to be able to read the inscription on the handle.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Madness! Everyone knows you need to zoom in, THEN enhance!

      • Re:Does TV count? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cusco (717999) <> on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:22PM (#37520946)
        I work in the physical security industry, and we have customers asking us to do the impossible things that they see in CSI and Bones. It's gotten a little bit better in the last year or so with the publishing of a few articles in industry mags decrying the "CSI Effect", but it's still amazing to me some of the things that supposedly educated security managers see on TV and think are real.
        • by Macgrrl (762836)

          I've read a few articles talking about how it's making it harder to convict criminals in jury cases because they expect every case to have evidence as detailed and unequivocal as a CSI episode.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The inaccurate physics, enhances my escapist enjoyment of My Little Pony: Friendship is magic.

    • I was surprised and delighted that Dexter actually took a reasonably realistic approach to most things. Sure, there were some DNA tests that took less than 24 hours, but otherwise it's pretty damn solid. So far, anyway. I'm only on season 2 right now.

    • by antdude (79039)

      How is that related to physics? :P

    • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Monday September 26, 2011 @01:40PM (#37517682)
      I miss 1980's TV, where cars would fly off a cliff, then for no reason, explode in mid air.
      • by itsdapead (734413)

        I miss 1980's TV, where cars would fly off a cliff, then for no reason, explode in mid air.

        ...and if it was The A-Team you'd always, always see the passengers crawl unscathed out of the wreckage afterwards.

        Landmine goes off under your jeep? "Aahhh, that's gonna ache a bit tomorrow..."

      • by Baikala (564096)
        Yes.. as a kid I kind of used to rationalize that gasoline should be the most powerfull explosive known to mankind, capable of blowing up by itself if you agitate a container full of it fast enough. When I first lerned that you needed other componets (like oxigen) mixed in a precise proportiont o make gasoline violently explosive, well... I was already ruined. Lets say I like my TV & Movie's falling cars explosive.
    • by nmb3000 (741169)

      I'll see your NCIS and raise you a CSI. []

      The hacking thing was dumb and hurt to watch. CSI broke my brain.

      • by itsdapead (734413)

        What worries me about CSI, NCIS etc. is that they are disguised as "real life" shows, raising the risk that the general public (possibly including judges, politicians and policemen) might believe it... even the ones that might just about grasp that Star Trek and Doctor Who aren't real.

        (obligatory XKCD [] if nobody's already posted it)

        What worries me even more is that I'm pretty sure that the most scientifically accurate show is Futurama - or, at least, the most likely to hang a whacking great illuminated la

      • but have you ever made a GUI interface in Visual Basic to track the killer's IP?
  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Monday September 26, 2011 @12:31PM (#37516798)
    It makes me want to shoot the writers and have them fly backward 10 feet or so.
    • ...and then explode in a fireball as Nerdfest dives in slow motion yelling "nooooooo....." in Darth Vader's voice.
    • by cusco (717999)
      Was forced to watch some horrible 'Robin Hood' remake with Kevin Cosner not long ago (wife fell asleep with the remote). They shot people with frelling arrows , and they flew backwards. Was disgusted enough that I took the dogs for their walk early in order to miss as much of that travesty as possible.
  • by martas (1439879) on Monday September 26, 2011 @12:33PM (#37516814)
    What are we talking about here, FTL or bullets ricocheting 17 times off of wood surfaces to hit their intended target? The former is fine, certain limited assumptions can be made to make the story possible. The latter is just silly, and makes it hard to stay in the story.
    • I agree, if something is needed to make the story work it gets a pass on me. Even something as glaringly bad as The Core I could have let go if they had just gotten right the stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with the storyline.

      Ship that can get to the core... sure, it is "The Core" after all. Microwave radiation nonsense... why not, they have to make it exciting somehow. Nuclear fuel from the reactor boosting the power of the bombs... you couldn't think of anything better than that?. Ship generat

    • by gmuslera (3436) *
      Add time travel (in any way, even knowing the future), most superhuman powers, and computer intelligence to that list.
    • As a non-american, I love how badly ballistics/firearms physics are portrayed in movies (most of which are american, thus made in a country where anyone can have access to them and learn about them).

      Using the word "clip". Racking the action unnecessarily many times, for effect (and despite being loaded, nothing is ejected). Handguns with 30+ rounds in each mag (American History X is a particularly distinct example). "M16's" that fire continuously for several minutes. Shotguns that send people flying at c
  • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Monday September 26, 2011 @12:33PM (#37516818)
    But then I am a fan of the great Alan Smithee, and hold an annual Alan Smithee film festival. []
  • Are guaranteed to make it into a new Mythbusters Episode within 10-12 months.

    • Are guaranteed to make it into a new Mythbusters Episode within 10-12 months.

      Which I think is a total waste of a good show with talented people. Any idiot can write silly things in to a movie plot. I see no reason for Adam and Jamie to waste their time seeing if it's possible to actually do it.

      Many things people are citing as implausible were merely plot devices to make the story possible. In Star Trek, for example, warp drive was a postulate. It was assumed to be there, it worked, and it made stories involving interstellar travel possible. Star Trek wasn't about warp drive; it wa

      • by anyGould (1295481)

        Which I think is a total waste of a good show with talented people. Any idiot can write silly things in to a movie plot. I see no reason for Adam and Jamie to waste their time seeing if it's possible to actually do it.

        I think they could stand to do less movie myths, but I see the appeal - they're pretty easy (particularly for a room full of SFX vets), and they look good on camera (both the "reveal" and the humor of watching them try to rig something that's obviously unlikely). Sadly, I suspect the desire to inform the folks who *don't* understand movie physics is also a very real motivator.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Side note: I'm dismayed at the number of people who don't seem to understand that movies like 2012 and
        Apollo 18
        are works of fiction.

        Same crowd that doesn't understand most of the nightly news is a work of fiction?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sponge Bath (413667)

          Same crowd that doesn't understand most of the nightly news is a work of fiction?

          Turn off Fox and try the factual goodness of PBS.

      • The problem is that they busted almost all of the myths worth busting in the first couple of seasons.

      • by Marillion (33728)
        I'm all for a "One Miracle Rule." It's an idea from the James Kakalios book The Physics of Superheroes []. Allow for one (or two) "Miracles" and then everything else most be real. FTL? I'm okay with that. File that under plot device and make the rest sensible.
  • After a while all the gaffes just pass you by, just like all the exhortations to buy whatever wonder goop is being hawked this week. It's a bit like spilling mistooks on the 'net: very soon you realise there's nothing to be gained by pointing them out and you can't fix 'em all.

    What does bug me though, is the credulous individuals who see something on TV or in a film (films are worse: their bigger budgets and production values add authority and "reality") and assume that unless it's completely outrageous -

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Monday September 26, 2011 @12:46PM (#37516998)

    Inaccurate can mean a lot of things.
      For example in a science fiction/fantasy movie the plot is generally based around a premise that can't match up to any known conceptual frame work - yet I don't complain when I see time travel or teleportation or weapons that fire beams of light that travel at a slow enough speed that you can see them moving.
    On the other hand there are things like cars squealing their tyres on dirt roads that really make me cringe.
    But when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how accurate/realistic a plot device is as long as it is used consistently and intelligently across the entire performance.
    But going off on a slight tangent, I find that SF authors who go out of their way to explain "why" their plot device works in the physical world write a lot less interesting stories (and as a result fill their stories up with mind numbing facts) than authors who effectively say "Object A behaves like this - deal with it" and never explain how the behaviour works, and just get on with telling a good yarn - As recent example for me, Robopocalypse falls into the latter category.

    • by necro81 (917438) on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:52PM (#37519990) Journal

      What does "inaccurate" mean?"

      Armageddon [].

    • ... I find that SF authors who go out of their way to explain "why" their plot device works in the physical world write a lot less interesting stories (and as a result fill their stories up with mind numbing facts) than authors who effectively say "Object A behaves like this - deal with it" and never explain how the behaviour works, and just get on with telling a good yarn

      Further Example: The Star Wars franchise was doing fine until Midichlorians were brought in to "explain" The Force.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fned (43219)



        Of this misconception.

        Midichlorians don't "explain the Force" any more than retinas explain QED.

        Midichlorians are a handy measurement, the sort of thing you'd expect in a scientifically advanced society that regularly interfaces with an important but poorly-understood phenomenon that is, in their universe, a very real and verifiable thing and not, in fact, paranormal at all.

  • If it's a cartoon or comic book adaptation, I'm a little more willing to accept comic book physics along with the comic book plot and characters.
    • by itsdapead (734413)

      If it's a cartoon or comic book adaptation, I'm a little more willing to accept comic book physics along with the comic book plot and characters.

      I should agree with you, but with one irrational exception:

      Gambit, from the X-Men.

      I can suspend disbelief for invisible people, force fields, laser eyes, indestructibility, magnetism and even the ability to generate thermodynamically unfeasible quantities of ice, so can anybody explain why I just can't accept the ability to project exploding playing cards as a comic-logic-feasible genetic mutation?

      Is it just me? Its like the writers wanted a gambler character who had uncanny card-playing powers and were

  • Define "inaccurate".

    I mean, you can't have cheesy giant monster movies without at least a few violations of physics, and those are generally great, stupid fun. Most car chases require overlooking how cars and suspension systems work, and superhero movies or fantasy films... well, those should be rather obvious. All that is quite excusable for the story and/or fun.

    But, when you have stuff like every damn thing equal to the size of or bigger than a toaster exploding into a giant fireball at the slightest pr

  • Almost every movie makes such enormous errors of fact, consistency, dialog, math, and so forth that something like someone stopping in the middle of a free-fall and not being wrenched by it is hardly noticeable.

  • by jockm (233372) on Monday September 26, 2011 @01:31PM (#37517568) Homepage

    Most movies are about a heightened sense of reality, as such they get all kinds of things wrong. I have yet to see any profession accurately portrayed. It is just part of the language of filmmaking. I just accept that. The point isn't if something is accurate or not, it is if it is believable in context.

    • That is a very good observation, and it is very old. This is from the poetics of Aristotle:

      "that which is credible but impossible, is preferable to that which is possible but incredible."

  • usually it just makes me laugh. With an MSci in physics anything that doesn't work is just blatant. Typically movies are full of unrealistic bits and it all ads up to help not take it too seriously. Turning action and adventure movies into comedies.
  • Most movies have inaccurate physics so it's actually the other way around: I don't really care when a movie has inaccurate physics but I always get excited when I see a rare gem with realistic physics like Battlestar Galactica or Children of Men.
  • by vlm (69642) on Monday September 26, 2011 @01:55PM (#37517848)

    How about an option "I don't watch movies anymore"

    I've seen them all. Nothing left but remakes of sequels of remakes of old movies / books / comic books / cartoons / TV shows. In the unlikely event I have 2 hours off, the last thing I want to do is watch the same old stuff...

    Is there anything worth seeing from Hollywood that isn't a remake or sequel or incredibly tired formula? Hollywood is kinda like McDonalds. They just keep punching out big macs like license plates. There do exist customers for that, and that's great for them, but I'm done with consuming that, and prefer a more "gourmet" use of my time.

    Its a pity, because I have a fat stack of cash, and I'd like to spend it to watch something cool. Unfortunately, there's nothing cool to watch.

    • by Kittenman (971447) on Monday September 26, 2011 @02:54PM (#37518674)

      Its a pity, because I have a fat stack of cash, and I'd like to spend it to watch something cool. Unfortunately, there's nothing cool to watch.

      My heart bleeds for you. Discover Black and white. Discover Foreign Film. (There's also foreign films in black and white). Discover silents. There's a whole century of this art form out there. Stop picking stuff from the "Latest releases" and head for the classics shelf, or the old fusty, cobwebbed ones down there in the basement.

      Alternatively, if you've spare cash I've a few suggestions involving your $$$ and my bank account.

    • by Abstrackt (609015) *

      None of these suggestions are Hollywood but they might be to your taste for exactly that reason. Russian Ark was shot in one 96 minute scene and has over 2,000 actors, definitely worth watching. Look for a Polish/Japanese film titled Avalon, it's a somewhat depressing dystopian future film but the minimal special effects and drab palette give it an interesting feel. And if you're after something less serious watch the Dutch film titled Everybody's Famous; a laid-off man tries to kidnap the country's most

      • Oh, man, Russian Ark...

        I almost had to use toothpicks for keeping my eyelids open. Not that the movie was bad from an aesthetic point of view, I mean, great idea and all, and nice that they pulled it off, but it was utterly boooooring. I don't regret watching it, but I wouldn't do it again. And I would certainly warn people before suggesting it to them, like "you should see this, there's this guy walking around talking in a museum while there are lots and lots of people dancing around him and the camera jus

    • Books? I've read them all.
      Always the same alphabet used to display some words on paper.
      Its a pity, because I have a fat stack of cash, and I'd like to spend it to read something cool. Unfortunately, there's nothing cool to read.

      Seriously though, if you're tired of Hollywood productions, here are some less-known but IMHO great movies.
      Bonus points for watching them in original language + subtitles: [] Filantropica [] Black Cat White Cat
      http://w []

  • Both these movies came out when I was working on my Thesis, which was about the impact hazard, so being something of an expert on the subject I knew I had to see these movies, and I knew I'd probably get annoyed by broken physics in both of them.

    Paradoxically however, I loved Armageddon way more than Deep Impact. Armageddon just threw out any notion of reality right at the start and instead distracted me with stupid stunts and amusing one liners. Deep Impact kept trying to get things right, and kept just mi

  • by Zcar (756484)
    In some movies complaining about physics inaccuracies is like complaining about the historical inaccuracies of 300.
  • Suspending disbelief comes very easy to me, movies are entertainment. Flaws in physics don't really matter to the storyline.
  • by DarthVain (724186) on Monday September 26, 2011 @03:36PM (#37519110)

    Ob. []

    If I see one more person mashing a keyboard of an MacBook to hack into the FBI in 5min, to re task a satellite, and have it zoom in to someone reading a newspaper, and enhancing the picture, so they can read some article, I am going to lose it.

    • I thought that was using a MacBook to create a virus that will upload to the alien mother ship and disable all of the other ships. Personally I like the Simpsons episode where Bart does some investigation into the biggest prankster in school history and he is sitting at the micro-film machine and say "Zoom in and Enhance" and Lisa pushes his head closer to the screen.
    • Ob. []

      There was one episode of CSI where a reality TV crew was making a "documentary" about CSI techniques and the dialog went something like this:

      Nick Stokes: Two pieces of duct tape, both have been swabbed for DNA and fingerprinted. Grissom wants you to compare adhesives. He's looking for a match.
      Hodges: Ok. That'll take a laser ablation test. That's good.
      Nick Stokes: Why's that good?
      Hodges: Well, laser ablation is both visual *and* dramatic.
      Nick Stokes: Are you looking for the video crew right now?

  • by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:15PM (#37519564)
    I voted usually drives me bonkers. My wife is an attorney and she gets equally disturbed by the crap shown on the court-related TV shows/movies like law and order etc. I think this is pretty well known that TV/Movies will twist things to try and make it more interesting. No one wants to watch things exactly as they would happen in real life, that would be too boring mostly.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can tolerate a little suspension of reality. It is, after all, a movie.

    The one thing that really bugs me, though, is the way mirrors always seem to work in the movies. Apparently in movies all mirrors are special mirrors which reflect things back in TWO DIRECTIONS. To the actor who's looking in the mirror. And also to us, the audience, through the camera.

    One of the cardinal rules of filmmaking is don't look at the camera. There are only two reasons an actor should look directly at the camera. Either the c

  • In a Physics lecture I was recently in, the professor literally went out of his way to play a clip of the bus jump [] in Speed, then point out how inaccurate it was (as an example of projectile motion).
  • you insensitive clod! (Are these types of posts still allowed?)
  • All physics in movies in accurate for the movie. It's simply that real life offers inaccurate physics from the movies point of view.

    In other words, if you are disturbed you are not immersing yourself enough.

  • My reaction ranges anywhere from don't care to "sheesh, that's stupid", depending on the movie. There's this little thing called suspension of disbelief, which I can often manage if the movie is good enough, but struggle with when it's not. If Rule of Cool [] or Rule of Funny [] is in play, then it's less likely to bother me. If it seems like they simply Did Not Do The Research [], then it can piss me off a bit. (But not a lot--it's not like my expectations were going to be high going in.)

    Warning, all links in th

    • by Macgrrl (762836)

      Warning, all links in this post lead to a site that may trap you for hours. Click at your own risk.

      Been there, done that, have the written warning for goofing off to prove it. (j/k) (a little)

  • Star Tech generations. When the blow up the a star, and the planet instantly leaves the orbit. In fact the planet wouldn't change its motion at all until the light and the change in gravitational potential (both at speed c) got to the planet. It annoyed me, because its a standard example in general relativity.


    Relativity [] Feed @ Feed Distiller []

    • by pclminion (145572)
      Seriously, THAT'S what annoys you about that scenario? What bugs me about the "disappearing star" is the part where a star, you knows, disappears. Suddenly a star's worth of mass-energy goes... where? Nowhere in particular?
      • by physburn (1095481)
        Yeah Seriously. They Blow up a star, using a plot device star blowing up bomb. Which I don't mind at all in fiction, SF wouldn't function without Uber gadgets. The point is the rest of the physics needn't be false as well. And since its one of those text book example, any SF film of Show that bothered to check its science would have got it right.
  • Do they have to be realistic? As long as the story works, it's okay. Maybe some slightly bizarre event can actually support the story better? If the movie is explicitly built around some real historical event, then it's another thing of course. But there's more to it than trying to every time "reach as realistic physics as possible".

    The ridiculous computer systems in movies is a similar topic. If the guy gets e-mail, just show an icon of an envelope and some text. The story does not really benefit from show

  • Movies are full of impossibly beautiful people in impossible (or at least highly improbable) situations, and who are generally shown in - or pursuing - ridiculously unlikely relationships. Why should I single out inaccurate physics as something to care or complain about?

  • Is this roadrunner explicitly taunting physics (I love this), or is this The Matrix producing electricity from brains because we don't have access to sunlight wreaking its evil spell on moviegoers rendered stupid and silly thereby (bad this), or the classic running in front of the blast wave front (seat-punchingly annoying), or the terminator pulling a door off its hinges toward him, rather than being slammed against the door when he pulls himself toward the door (sigh). Ah hell, bring it. With enough whis
  • It's not only the physics that are sometimes beyond belief. How about programming, income-making, interpersonal relationships,.... Yeah, especially the last one gets to me.
  • After viewing the (good) Moon [] movie, we had a discussion about it.
    Out of ten people having a scientific background, nobody (but one) noticed that all the machinery running on the Moon ground was pretty noisy - while they should run silently (no air/atmosphere capable of carrying sound).

    Inaccurate physics in movies is relative to the scientific level of the viewer. The majority of the viewers are not annoyed by inaccuracies, since they don't see them.
  • Imagine a movie consisting of news footage of the events of 911.

    How do you like those physics?
  • by concealment (2447304) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @10:40AM (#37526432) Homepage Journal

    I value the bad physics of movies because they serve as a healthy reminder that everything in movies is fake, nothing is real or realistic, and you should never view them as more than a child's scribblings of an interesting dream. They have no relevance to real life. Very few of the people watching them seem to understand this.

    While the bad physics (and worse computer science; "It's got a PCI bus," etc) of movies may be their most visible failing, they fail in other areas.

    1. The way people interact on a personal level in movies is just as wrong as the physics. People are not that dramatic, nor that prone to action, nor do they interact with a series of obvious symbolic gestures. Reality is far more complex and interesting, and less emotional.

    2. Every street scene in movies is wrong. Even the extras are staged, so that life in our modern world resembles an orderly, purposeful existence. Reality is far more random.

    3. Combat scenes make no sense. I'm no expert, but people in movies live through punches that would destroy your average person. Bullet wounds hurt more and are more dangerous than are portrayed in movies. Deaths are less clean and symbolic.

    4. Daily life is shown as convenient. People park their cars wherever they want, and don't lock them. No one ever has to run screaming from the room with an urgent taco digestion issue. Everyone has consistent energy all day long.

    I understand why movies are this way. They cut out the boring parts of life and make an entertainment product out of the rest. However, I think it's dangerous, especially for kids, to watch movies because they portray a completely unrealistic reality as a result of that process. It's good that Hollywood is incompetent enough with physics and computer science so I have easy talking points with my kids, so they won't be influenced by this misleading garbage.

This is now. Later is later.


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