Film Ways Dying In Real Life Is Different From Death In Movies And TV  

Jacob Shelton
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As a society we are surrounded by death, and not just because our bodies are a ticking clock, waiting to keel over at an unknown moment. In just about every film and TV show, someone perishes in one way or another. But the way it's portrayed in movies and how it actually happens are completely different animals. Film and television have to be entertaining, and they need to hit us in the feels. Portraying a palpable passing is rarely perfect, and it’s usually very messy IRL. That’s just one of the ways the media gets it wrong. It’s almost like the entertainment industry has an aversion to making anyone look gross, even when they’re dying.

One of the movie-magic fails is making everything look way too easy. There was a time when everyone was getting their heads nixed in '90s thrillers, and there’s no way that removing someone's head is as simple as chopping up a carrot. Aside from the ease with which people expire in film and on television, there’s an entire world of realistic deaths that the entertainment industry either refuses to get right or is ignorant of. If you’ve wondered about what it’s actually like to hang someone or be set on fire, then prepare to have all of your weird questions answered. Next time you’re watching a movie and somebody bites the dust, remember, it’s nothing like the real thing. 

Getting Your Throat Slashed Is... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Ways Dying In Real Life Is Different From Death In Movies And TV
Photo:  Scream (1996) /Dimension Films/Fair Use

We've seen this in a million movies, but the effect is always the same: a quick flick of the wrist and the neck opens up, pouring out a tasteful amount of blood. But how does this fatality trope work in real life? Getting your throat slashed severs the trachea, which keeps you from screaming. It also severs the carotid artery preventing new, oxygenated blood from reaching the brain.

Lastly, it severs the jugular vein, allowing blood to easily flow from the brain. The whole operation takes much longer than it does in the movies because the heart keeps beating, so more blood keeps pumping, possibly causing the spray-effect. 

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This is something that audiences never see in movies, and probably for good reason - not to mention the MPAA rating system. When someone expires, the muscles that are constantly tensing up around the bowels stop doing their job, and the elimination process occurs. 

So every time you see, say, Sean Bean die on screen (AKA almost every Sean Bean movie), just remember that IRL, he'd be leaving behind an awful, albeit natural, mess. 

Getting Disemboweld Is Super G... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Ways Dying In Real Life Is Different From Death In Movies And TV
Photo:  Braveheart (1995) /Paramount Pictures/Fair Use

When a person gets disemboweled in film, it's usually a fast slit and a quick depiction of organs leaving the body cavity. This is probably for reasons both cinematic and budgetary because traditionally, disembowelment tends to be something that takes a long time. In films like Braveheart or Begotten, it's an apparently simple task - and one which the cameras don't linger on.

In reality, however, the process of evisceration is neither quick nor painless. The method was used as a form of torture until at least the '60s in Vietnam to frighten civilian peasants at a local level into cooperating with the Viet Cong. 

Burning Takes Forever is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Ways Dying In Real Life Is Different From Death In Movies And TV
Photo:  A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)/New Line Cinema/Fair Use

People meet their end via burning in movies all the time. The Wicker Man, The Omen III, half of the Friday the 13th movies, and at least one in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise feature someone going up in flames. It seems like a quick and easy thing to do, but in real life, burning is complicated.

Unless someone is subdued or unconscious, it's unlikely they'd allow any kind of accelerant to be poured on the body - as bodies are not that combustible as is. Even when the movie characters are set ablaze, they would actually start choking because the fire is consuming all of the oxygen around them. The fire would also have to be much larger to cause a sudden demise. Historically in such large-scale burnings, unscathed prisoners passed from carbon monoxide poisoning, not the fire.