A few weeks ago, I responded to a query on the Question and Answer site called Quora. The question was this:
“What is something unrealistic that you often see in movies
that annoys the hell out of you?”
My husband and I go to the movies frequently—or we did when the theaters were open and life was normal. Plus, television offers a lot of movies: old ones, new ones and many made specifically for streaming services. Over the years, we have seen quite a few things that are completely unrealistic—and very annoying.
My List of 20 Annoying Movie Scenes
In answering the question, I provided a list of 20 annoying movie scenes, things that jump off the screen at us. My answer mys have touched a nerve because it has gotten over 2,000 Upvotes on Quora and more than 140 comments.
- People who order drinks in bars, get served, take a sip and walk out without paying. Try that in a bar or cocktail lounge and see how far out the door you get.
- People who get up abruptly and leave restaurants without paying or calculating a tip for the server.
- Driving without looking ahead for a really long time. The director probably tells them to look at the camera on the side of the car but this has the opposite effect of holding my attention. Instead, I’m holding my breath and awaiting a crash—or a thud. I can’t concentrate on the dialogue and it totally distracts from the scene.
- Anyone can break another person’s neck with a quick twist. In reality, it takes a lot more knowledge and strength. (My chiropractor told me. I have no personal knowledge.)
Ignoring the Food
- A couple has a meal but no one ever tastes the food. This is because they do so many takes that the actors could not possible eat that much food. I would be happier with fewer, more realistic takes. Eat the food, already..
- Characters escape from an explosion but can still hear just fine, have no ringing in their ears, and can think quite clearly.
- In historical movies, married women wear their hair down and uncovered. In reality, married women wore their hair up and always covered.
- In historical movies, people call one another by their first names. (Jamestown, I’m looking at you.) In reality, people were quite formal until the 1950s and 60s and married women sometimes called their husbands Mr. [Name].
- In historical movies, female characters run around wearing tight leather pants and bustiers. In reality, cross dressing was strictly forbidden (dressing counter to your sex) and women would never show their legs and ass that way.
- In historical movies, black characters mingle with white people but never hear a racial slur, are treated the same as everyone else, and have no problem getting through the day. It’s politically correct but historically unlikely.
Down But Not Out
- Characters who get shot but heroically leave their hospital bed, or the ground, or a chair, and proceed to run around energetically, even fighting the villain as if nothing is wrong. When you are wounded, your body shuts down to conserve energy that it needs for healing. You get very tired. You sleep. You do not fight anyone.
- Women who weigh about 100 pounds soaking wet fighting hand-to-hand with men and taking them down with a punch. When a man punches them, they come back and keep fighting. Most men can take down a woman with one full-strength punch. She doesn’t get back up.
- Characters of both sexes who knock back shots of whiskey without blinking an eye, coughing, choking, or catching their breath. I get it; the stuff they’re drinking is iced tea or apple juice. But most people don’t react that way. to a shot of whisky.
- Mothers who cook a full, three-course breakfast for their children before school. The kids, as other commenters have noted, then take two bites and rush out the door. But not many mothers have the time to cook that kind of meal first thing in the morning. Usually, that’s a pretty hectic time and most moms are lucky to get a bowl of cereal on the table. Besides, why put out a diner breakfast when you know the kids won’t eat it?
- Female characters never have to deal with menstrual periods. No timing, no worries, no making sure you have supplies, no rushing to the bathroom, no leaking through, nothing. Only in Hollywood.
- Characters get killed, vehicles are trashed, windows are broken, collateral is damaged, but no consequences occur. I’m thinking of the recent Spenser Confidential in which Mark Wahlberg steals a big rig, crashes it through a group of villains, hits people, scrapes and dents the truck and walks away. No mention is ever made of charging him with grand theft auto, manslaughter, vehicular homicide, etc. No biggie.
- Characters who get beaten up but show no evidence of it in the next scene. No cuts, scrapes, bruises, fight bites on their knuckles, black eyes, or swollen lips.
- Villains who always miss the hero, despite being trained in marksmanship, but the hero takes them down without a problem.
- No one. Ever. Looks. Up. Really. The hero could hide from almost any threat just by climbing something but he/she never does.
- Characters don’t communicate what they know. Instead they want to make sure first. And then they get killed so the knowledge dies with them.
Fellow Quorans began to reply immediately. Whether they agreed or disagreed depended on the item. For example, many dismissed the first two Items on the list as simple time savers the director used to keep the story moving. Fair enough. It still surprises me, though, when characters treat food and liquor as freebies.
I got strong disagreement on Item #13, about people tossing back a shot as though it were iced tea. Bartenders and other responded that they had seen many regular drinkers do this. I don’t really consume hard liquor or go to bars, so I’m more than willing to take their word for it.
One woman disagreed strongly with the items that dealt with historical inaccuracies. She warned me not to paint all of history with a broad brush because cultural norms change. Fair enough.
Still, I find it jarring when a male character in a 17th century greets a woman he has never met before by her first name—a 20th century American informality. Or wen a movie acts as if racism never happened in the past. Also, when female characters wear male clothing, which was often outlawed even here in the U.S.
Yes, cultural norms change but, generally speaking, people did not act or speak then the way they do today. Those constitute anachronisms.
Two of the items, though, generated more comments than any of the others:
Look at the Road!
Item #3: This is the big one that sits right at the top of annoying movie scenes. More people reacted to this item than to anything else. It annoys EVERYONE. Directors should know that audiences notice when someone who is supposed to be driving takes his/her eyes off the road for more than, like, three seconds. Yes, the director wants the driver to look at his passenger and, thus, the camera. While a driver might get away with this on a long, straight highway through the desert, though, it just wouldn’t happen in a city—and I have seen more than one show where this happens in New York City or Washington D.C. traffic.
Having a driver look away from the road for an extended period of time tells me that the characters are not really in a car, which distracts me from the scene. It doesn’t matter how good the special effects are, I know the characters are on a set. Then, I start getting tense.
“Look at the road. Look at the Road!! LOOKATHEROAD!!” I am, of course, supposed to be listening to the dialog or following a complicated plot point or hearing who the real villain is. Instead, I’m hyperventilating and shouting, “There’s a truck coming. A car just pulled out. There’s a kid in the road. LOOK OUT!” At the very least, this kind of scene counterproductive. At best, it tells me the director doesn’t understand the impact of the scene on his audience. At all.
Taste the Food!
Item #5: Many commenters noted the ridiculousness of this scene, probably because we can all identify with it. For working parents, making breakfast is a big deal. To go through all that effort and then have your family turn their backs on it affronts us.
One woman said: “Gets me every time. Buffet style breakfast but dad says ‘I’ll grab some toast at the office.’ Who walks away from an omelet and pancakes?” A follow-on comment added that, in her experience, no one had ever made toast at work, although I suppose this is feasible if your company has a cafeteria. But still, who would prefer cafeteria toast to a home-cooked breakfast? And why do the characters all seem oblivious to the insult their behavior offers?
I know that the writer is just trying to keep the plot moving. So why have the cook make breakfast in the first place?
Look Up! Climb Up!
Item #19 is true: no one ever looks up. They can be running from the mob, the cops or a pack of howling zombies but they will run straight ahead only to be caught or stymied when they could easily go up a ladder, scale a wall, or climb a tree. The other night I saw this happen when the characters were standing right in front of a ladder.
Now, I always think about going up, probably because I liked to climb trees as a kid. In The Maze Runner, for example, I couldn’t understand why none of the boys thought to climb the vines on the maze wall and look down from the top instead of going inside. Granted, some of those monsters could climb, but the boys would have had better odds and been able to see where they were going.
Quoran Mary Gentle explained it:
“#19 This is actually a Thing; they have to teach you to look up if you join e.g. the military. We’re a savannah animal (is how I heard it) and used to threats coming at us from left, right, front, and rear. Not much from above.
When I played various live role play games, I proved this to my heart’s content — if you climb up above head level, the majority of people don’t look up at you, no matter that they KNOW a game “threat” is somewhere close. Movies are truer to life than you’d think, here.”
Thanks, Mary. Now I understand.
Other Comments on Annoying Movie Scenes
A few other comments made me chuckle. On Item #4, a man suggested that I go to a different chiropractor. But you don’t have to be a killer to understand the spine and how it works. That’s what chiropractors do.
And I got arguments about Item Item #11, from people who have been in fights, usually military or law enforcement but not always. They said that adrenaline can keep you going so that you don’t even feel the wound until someone points it out. Like in the 1987 movie Predator, where Poncho tells Jesse Ventura’s character, Blaine, “You’re bleeding, man.” Blaine replies, “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
That works during the action. But later, when the injured man is lying in the hospital, hooked up to monitors and with tubes running into his arms, it’s just unrealistic that he can pull out the tubes (somehow these never include a catheter) and leap from the bed to return to action. The adrenaline is long gone by then and his body would be in full recovery mode, which usually means weak as a kitten.
Changes to the List
So that’s the current list of annoying movie scenes. Given the responses, I’m going to modify it a bit on Quora—take out the items where I was wrong and add some new ones. Given Hollywood’s propensity for action at all costs and lack of attention to accuracy, there will always be things that annoy us.