Hollywood's Laws of Life, Physics and Everything Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Hollywood's Laws of Life, Physics and Everything

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Hollywood is a place on Earth, and one would be tempted to assume that the movies coming from there would reflect common physics and truths of life. However, if reality was what Hollywood directors want to make us believe, then the following would be facts.

Lighting and the Set

  • One match can light up an entire room, even a large cavern.

  • When it is night, it seems that the curtains are never closed as there is always light shining through, or the Moon is permanently full and bright.

  • Houses don't have smoke detectors.

  • The keys are hidden under the door mat or in a flower pot.

  • Every school apparently has its door wide open all night long, unless you are about to be murdered, at which point every outside door will be locked.

  • Every taxi is a Checker1., despite the fact that they've mostly been retired

  • The strongest fortress can be penetrated by crawling through the ventilation ducts - which are wide enough to accommodate the hero.

Weather and Outside in General

  • When it rains, it pours. It never drizzles, and there is no such thing as a brief shower with sunny spells.

  • Nobody ever gets sunburnt (except for comedy effect).

  • Fog is so impenetrable that it is impossible to see further than your nose, and yet they still drive on the roads.

  • The wind is always audible, even if it is a light breeze.

  • Even if the scene is set in a tropical paradise, it always snows on Christmas Eve.

  • Brutal murders only occur when its raining.

  • Creepy places like graveyards always have smoke wafting around the gravestones. Therefore, one may deduce that all the undead creatures residing there must have either died of lung cancer due to smoking, or were previous smokers.

  • When huge castles, ancient cities, or a hostile army is shown from a high viewpoint, the complete atmospheric aerosol has spontaneously settled.

  • At night, you can see every single star in the entire Universe. However, the skies never contain constellations that can be seen from Earth.

Casting and the Plot

  • Unknown actors will stay unknown because they are going to be killed.

  • Ugly people, old people and fat people do not exist, except where they are required to be evil, wise or doomed, respectively. When people in wheelchairs are featured, there is a 99% probability that they are the villain.

  • Whenever mothers with prams are shown, you can be sure that they'll soon be in serious trouble.

  • When a mother is dragging her child away from a massive catastrophe that is about to happen, the child drops their toy and runs back for it, and is saved by the hero/bad guy in the nick of time.

  • Asking for 'a beer' is fully sufficient. The bartender instinctively knows which brand and size you want and whether you prefer it in a bottle or from draft.

  • Any vital plan will never seem to be working first time round, but will appear to fail and then end up succeeding.

  • The last person to be rescued from a burning or collapsing building is a small child. The child is not rescued by the mother, who fled earlier and is frantically waiting outside.

  • The hero has unresolved issues with his father. The heroine apparently has been bred in a test tube, having no apparent parentage at all and existing only in relation to the hero.

  • Everyone always says what they want to say, then stops. Nobody ever interrupts anyone else, and cacophonous rows where you can't tell anything anyone is saying never happen.

  • Policemen are only ever completely untouchable and beyond any suggestions of corruption whatsoever, or rotten to the core and the head of a huge organised crime syndicate, with no in-between.

  • If you are escaping from a maniac, the only escape route will be up a flight of stairs, usually a fire escape.

  • No matter how big the impending catastrophe is (eg, nuclear bombs, alien death-rays, meteors/comets destroying Earth, etc), some clever engineers can knock together a counter-gadget within a couple of hours.

  • Real computer geeks are maladjusted and wear glasses, they are below the age of 20 and a hero is well-advised to keep one with them in order to bypass security circuits. That is, unless the geek is female, in which case she is the heroine, has gorgeous looks and an IQ of 250, and has skills equivalent to multiple-faculty PhDs.

Computers and Other High-Tech Equipment

  • Computer passwords can easily be guessed and it takes no more than three minutes to find them by just trying.

  • When chatting via computers, they slow down to a speed of some 50Hz, so characters appear on the screen one after the other and are accompanied by 'did-did-did-did-...' sounds.

  • When downloading something from a computer, the line showing how far the download has gone always moves at a steady rate.

  • Spilling liquids on a keyboard will make the screen and hard-drive fizz with sparks - keyboards are where all the memory is kept, apparently.

  • When a computer breaks, the monitor blows up and not the hard drive.

  • The operating system is never Windows or an Apple Macintosh. Even if it's Windows, it never shows a blue screen. If both systems are used, then the good guys have a Mac and bad guys use PCs.

  • When something is loading up, it does it immediately. The display always uses a huge font.

  • When there is an error in a program when you have broken into a top-secret government building, the alarm lights automatically switch on and a group of security guards walk in, even if the problem is as puny as 'Cannot download [.....] as there is not enough memory to do this. Please close some programs and try again.'

  • Computers never have virus-scanners on them. Viruses are always of the 'Trojan horse' kind and will let you know that they just eaten all your data.

  • All video game music is simply bleeps and bloops, even if the game they are showing has actual orchestral music in real life.

  • All games on any system are played with a Nintendo Entertainment System controller. An example: in Charlie's Angels, some kids are seen playing Final Fantasy 7 with the music from Pac Man and controllers from the NES plugged into their Playstation. Just goes to show that the movie industry realises that not many adults would recognise a video game without the retro appendages... At least not at the time of Charlie's Angels.

  • When people type they never make a typo.

  • When searching the web, the hero(ine) never gets bombarded with adverts or diverted to porn sites.

  • There's no spam in the in-box. All it contains is the important email.

  • The evil person never emails the hero - he always phones him up or writes cryptic letters to him.

  • When digital images are magnified, their resolution increases and more and more details are revealed.

  • Nobody ever programs a video recorder.

Aircraft, Ships and Helicopters

  • You can easily talk to people from inside a helicopter without using PA equipment.

  • You can never hear a helicopter until it comes into view. If half the field of vision is obscured by a cliff, then there is silence until the helicopter suddenly appears.

  • They never check for ice crystals on the wings of the plane.

  • They never do a pre-flight check.

  • Cars/ships/planes that are supposed to be destroyed are made of extremely explosive steel. Planes that are forced to crash-land because they've run out of fuel are especially susceptible of turning into a sea of flames.

  • Helicopters are controlled by a single joystick, leaving one hand free to fire a squad support weapon out of the window. No helicopter requires the pilot to operate the collective lever with their other hand.

  • Impending helicopter crashes are indicated by short pauses of the engine noise.

Martial Arts

  • All martial arts sequences go on at least 150% longer than they would in real life, mainly because the truest martial art is knowing when it's a good time to leave.

  • Swords survive an enormous amount of pounding, regardless of the disparity in sizes between the hero and the opponent's blades.

  • No matter how many villains are engaged in a fight with the hero, they always wait in a row until it's their time to get whacked2.

  • Aesthetic value for the observer is a key objective of a fight. Therefore messy cartoon-like clouds of human limbs entangled in a fight are to be avoided.

  • Tae Kwon Do is easy to do on four inch heels.

Gunfights and War

  • Small arms have magazines of 30 rounds, 40 rounds, or whatever amount of ammunition is required.

  • Don't worry if the good guy runs out of ammo - the cavalry has been hiding around the corner for just this opportunity.

  • They always aim just beside the person when they could easily wham them one in the head.

  • There are no ricochets3.

  • Whenever a bad guy is shooting at the hero while the hero is driving away, the bullet will shatter the back windscreen and stop. The bullet never continues on its way through the front windscreen.

  • All fully automatic weapons are served by the same sound effect: a .30 Browning machine gun.

  • Bullets either inflict minor damage or instant death without much suffering.

  • Professional enemy marksmen fail to hit anything other than the dirt around their target - it makes the hero look cooler when he runs away. On the other side, layabout amateur heroic gunslingers armed with a home-customised pistol in each hand are able to shoot half a dozen separate moving targets at a hundred yards while at a dead run, or possibly while somersaulting.

  • Elevators always have a panel you can lift out so you can climb on top before the doors open and the bad guys shoot up the cabin.

  • A laser beam has a typical length of one metre, a thick glow of an always visible colour, a velocity of approximately 200km/h, a momentum that can blast away a car, and dissolves into yellow sparkles no matter what it hits. Laser generating devices produce a squeaky sound.

  • The sonic speed is infinite: the noise of an exploding shell can be heard simultaneously with the flash of light.

  • Machine guns never have a blow back, but the hit enemy is always pulled backwards by the impact. However, if a character is standing in front of a balcony and is shot in the chest, he falls forwards and the momentum of the bullet was presumably absorbed.

  • Gunnery doesn't heat up when used excessively. Pistols can be stuck down the front of ones trousers without detrimental effect... Try that one in real life and sing in a different key!

  • Pets will always survive.

  • Policemen don't need to fill out paperwork when they have been using their guns.

  • Night vision goggles can be used with weapons that have no muzzle flash suppression.

  • During WWII, the Germans drove post-war US Army Tanks.

  • Nobody goes deaf when a heavy artillery piece is fired right beneath their ears. Likewise, after a fire fight in a house or an underground garage, the hero and the villain can still hear a pin drop.

  • US Army helmets are bolted to the head. There's no need to fasten the chin strap to keep them from falling off4.


  • All bombs tick and there's always a small illuminated display showing time left before they go bang. They all go off with a huge bang, even in the vacuum of Outer Space.

  • Bombs can only be safely defused in the last ten seconds of the countdown. The timer is always accurate and the bomb never goes off prematurely or some time later than 00:00, even if it was built by the most hideous villain.

  • They can be disarmed by cutting a single wire. The only question is, the red one or the blue one?

  • When leaping from a cliff or tall building to escape a bomb, the hero never trips up on the safety railing.

  • Heroes can survive a blast of any magnitude just by throwing themselves on the floor as the bomb goes off.

  • Dynamite sticks can be treated like grenades although they'd rather break up, as they were made of compressed impregnated sawdust.


  • Police cars always topple over when crashing.

  • Crashed cars inevitably explode. Diesel-driven trucks are not excepted.

  • There's always a free parking spot available right before the main door of a house.

  • Nobody ever takes out the key and locks the doors. Unattended and unlocked cars never get stolen.

  • The hero's car never gets towed away from a no-parking spot.

  • Regardless of the conditions a car is driven through, the windscreen remains clean.

  • Garages are fully equipped with everything and never have to order spare parts from the manufacturer.

  • Heroes can always cross busy roads by rolling over the bonnet of a speeding car.

  • The car never stalls in the middle of cruising down a road.

  • A high-speed car chase never involves cyclists.

  • You can't have a chase scene without going past the same dark green 1967 Volkswagen six times.

  • Every car has at least one hub cap that will fly off during a turn.

  • Even cars that obviously have automatic transmissions will have a gear-shifting sound effect.

  • When someone tries to push you off the road and into a canyon, hitting the brakes is not an option.

Monsters, the Undead, Genetic Mutations and Aliens

  • When a zombie/vampire/Frankenstein's monster rises from a table from lying down, they do it without any help from their elbows at all.

  • The creature is uneducated and without culture, but it always breaks into a house via the door.

  • People who rise from the grave as zombies tend to have died in the 17th Century, and still have flesh hanging off them, despite the fact that bodies begin to decompose after a week or so.

  • Zombies always have their eyeballs completely intact and untouched by decomposition.

  • Insects like ants and spiders make noises when attacking.

  • For giant insects and Japanese monsters, the gravitational constant is twice as big, at least when they jump.

  • Aliens are either madly-carnivorous eight-foot tall reptilious monstrosities with a countless number of limbs, or they're bipedal humanoid beings that only differ from humans in their facial features. However advanced their survival skills, they pretty much never speak.

  • Planets are always homogenously inhabited by one race, which have one government, one culture, one religion, etc. (Unless that one race, culture, etc, is being subjugated by one other evil empire)

  • Genetic mutations tend to be the fault of the French from nuclear testing.


  • Bad guys die instantly, whereas good guys always survive long enough to impart vital information.

  • You know the hero is going to die when he shows around pictures of his kids before going out on a mission. The same will happen when he tells that it's his last mission before retiring or has made arrangements for after getting back.

  • Police officers and detectives are assigned their toughest case on their last day on the job or under threat of suspension, with a time limit of 48 hours. This helps, and they always manage to solve the case in time. They never gloat and do a pelvis-thrusting victory dance at their superior.

  • Within an hour of being beaten to a pulp in any fight, the hero's wounds will have healed to the point that a mere sticking plaster will suffice. No matter how many times he is beaten up, shot, thrown off a cliff, etc, he will not get really seriously injured until the last five minutes of the film.

  • Not counting James Bond and Lara Croft, heroes come from the USA. Period.

  • The hero, regardless of training and experience, always lives in a house with too much glass, no security system and a bunch of trees for the evil guys to hide in.

  • Heroes never sweat, fart, have bad breath or smelly feet. Nor do they acquire venereal diseases.

Evil Overlords/Overladies

  • Evil people either wear black and have black hair or are blond and speak with a German accent, and are either camp and cool or power-crazed and vindictive.

  • Evil people tend to have an English accent - slightly posh perhaps, but not very much. They can be of other nationalities as well, but posh, well-brought-up-background English is the norm.

  • You can be sure it's the bad guy when he drives a big German car.

  • Evil people always gloat sadistically over the hero/heroine. After capturing the hero, they will talk his ear off.

  • If the evil genius has a hideous engine of destruction, he will be killed by it, or by falling into its workings.

  • They always die by falling when fighting over any of the following:

    1. A rickety bridge in an undiscovered area in Brazil
    2. A walkway over a vat of bubbling acid (alkali would also work, but it doesn't sound as good as acid)
    3. The precipice of a cliff 10,000ft above sea level
    4. Stepping stones over a river of molten lava.


  • Telephone numbers of important people are never busy and they are always sitting beside the phone and waiting for the ring tone.

  • Glass exerts an irresistible magneto-gravitational attraction towards everything. Thus, if there is a large enough sheet of glass, something will hit it.

  • All telephone numbers start with 5555.

  • All the bad/important/heroic things happen in the USA: Independence Day, Godzilla, etc...

  • In hospital dramas, accidents never happen - they're always acts of fate to punish impatient mothers, cheating husbands or wayward sons. No-one ever has anything bad happen to them without there being a strong moral implication attached. For this reason, the British medical drama Casualty is often renamed Causality.

  • Up to exactly ten minutes of radioactive exposure is totally harmless; any further second would be lethal.

  • Electric equipment is not protected by fuses. If any part blows up, the rest follows in a chain reaction.

Further Reading

More Hollywood Reality on the Web

Other Movie Related Entries at h2g2

1The Checker, most notably the Marathon, is the cliché taxi that is found in many movies. It is a bulbous, 1950s-ish looking thing that was manufactured until 1982. Most of them, with the exception of limousine services, were retired in the late 1980s because they were plumb-worn out, but they live on in the movies!2The same applies to aircraft fighting sequences. Ever tried to dog-fight more than two fighters in a simulator? Forget it, unless your plane is at least two generations ahead.3Or, alternatively, they make up 10% of the air.4Actually, soldiers were told not to fasten their chin straps as a concussive blast will knock off the helmet - if the strap is fastened, it would break the GI's neck. Historical fact.5However, this is on purpose so that no-one can molest the unsuspecting owner of a number - 555-numbers are not assigned.

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