We've come to accept, as an audience, that there's going to be inaccurate science in movies. Movies aren't nerds, after all, so why waste time on believable computer hacking when John McClane has some 'splodin to do? However, we do expect a little more from science fiction. It's got "science" right in the name! But if anything, some of the worst science in sci-fi movies stands head and shoulders above the rest of cinema.
From Robinson Crusoe On Mars to Prometheus, there are myriad sci-fi movies with terrible science. After only cursory examination, even the most "scientifically accurate" sci-fi movies have massive problems when you compare them to reality. And thanks to new scientific breakthroughs, films that seemed completely in line with scientific facts when they were released were later revealed to be utterly ludicrous.
The list covers the bad science in science fiction movies you see over and over again. Explosive decompression, sound in space, and the proper use of bombs are just some of the things science fiction movies seemingly refuse to get right. Let's find out the rest.
What Happens In The Movie: Indiana Jones is stuck in a nuclear testing site. To survive the bomb going off, Indy hides in a lead-lined fridge. It’s sent flying thousands of feet from the force of the blast, and Indy walks out unscathed.
Why It’s Ridiculous: If we assume, for just one second, that an old lead-lined fridge would save him from the radiation (which it definitely wouldn’t, especially the second he got out), the sheer force of the explosion would have broken every bone in Indy’s body. And that’s assuming the fridge stood up to the blast at all.
What Should Have Happened: Indy should have been liquefied inside that fridge. If there was enough of the fridge left over, at least he would already be in a convenient coffin.
Initial Release: 2008
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
#96 on The Best Movies for Tweens
What Happens In The Movie: George Clooney makes the ultimate sacrifice by cutting himself free of the tether to Sandra Bullock when he starts to drift away.
Why It’s Ridiculous: That’s not how physics works. The fact that he was attached to someone holding onto a solid object meant that he would have stopped drifting. In fact, he could have been pulled back easily. No sacrifice required.
What Should Have Happened: The hero should have just yanked the tether and saved Clooney’s life. The two would have been able to work together to get back to Earth, and we would have been saved from one of the most annoying dream sequences in modern cinema.
Initial Release: 2013
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
What Happens In The Movie: Any time someone goes out in the surface of Mars without a space suit, they expand like they’re about to blow up. Many other movies are guilty of this trick.
Why It’s Ridiculous: Explosive decompression is a myth. As is the myth that you’ll instantly freeze in a vacuum (or low atmosphere) out in space. You get about 15-30 seconds of consciousness (depending on if you were smart enough to exhale) to freak out about your impending death while the oxygen in your blood is sucked out through your lungs. The pressure difference gives you case of the bends so bad, your lungs rupture. Your exposed tissues get what is essentially horrific sunburn as all the water in your skin begins to spontaneously evaporate.
What Should Have Happened: As people were exposed to the surface of Mars, they would get frostbite around their nose, eyes, and mouth, and begin the symptoms of hypoxia within the first few minutes. At that point, their brain and heart would still technically be working, so they'd have about 90 seconds for someone to save them. After that, their blood pressure would drop so low that the blood would literally begin to boil. After that, it would be game over.
Initial Release: 1990
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
#6 on The Best Movies of 1990
What Happens In The Movie: After a war between humans and machines left the skies perpetually cloudy, machines grow humans to use as batteries.
Why It’s Ridiculous: Humans really don’t produce that much heat and electricity. In fact, it would be far more costly to create the conditions and nourishment required to keep the humans alive.
What Should Have Happened: The machines should have invested in nuclear power, hydroelectric power, and wind. Who knows? With some time and ingenuity they could have created sustainable fusion, instead of wasting all their processing power on rendering Hugo Weaving's face over and over.
Initial Release: 1999
Directed by: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski