Editorials,  Movies/Entertainment

What Is Your ‘Unbelievable’ Threshold For a Film?

In nearly every film ever made and recorded in the Halls of Cinema (that’s not a real place but wouldn’t be cool if it was?) there is at least one element of story that is completely unbelievable. I’m not even talking about giant robots, super powers or things of that nature, no I’m talking about the grounded/real life un-believe-ablilty. Things like running head shots, non-fatal car crashes and hell, even love stories.

I’m sure if you were to take any part of any story line out of the movie and set it on its own in the real world, the end result would probably be bland, awkward and even stupid.

Considering the above, should the question be asked, “Why, if its not real and we don’t believe it, does it seem passable and forgivable in movies?“, the answer should be a no brainer.  Simple fact is that things in real life aren’t exciting enough to play out on screen without some alterations, fabrications and enhancements. In the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero (which was in itself written to satirize the unrealistic elements in films) here’s a brief look at the unbelievable and creative ways Arnold takes out baddies:

Now the fact that people have thoughts/opinions and likes/dislikes means that what one person looks for in film is bound to be different from the next. Some people like certain genres, others enjoy the action or star power in a movie, others may just enjoy the film as entertainment or a distraction as a whole. Either way, movies mean different things to each of us. But do you, as fans, look to be entertained (checking your brain at the door or forgiving the films’ unbelievable nature/elements) or do you search for the realism of film?

In my opinion, simple, legendary films like The Third Man, Casablanca, Rashamon had a sense that you were right there and it was happening around you because it was so grounded. Basically, aside from being out of our present time, it still felt very real. Mainly because of the way people spoke and acted seemed like the ways the general public would react in the same situation – not the way a script made someone react. Movies today seem to have the characters relate to one another and their environment in ways that are obviously not instinctive or natural.

Perfect example, this scene in Hitch:

What is that point where she’ll be completely put off by his advances and most likely never talk to him again? In the film world he can pursue her to the point most women would label him an obsessive stalker, yet he tries just enough that she falls in love with him…or is simply won over by how pitiful he’s become. In the real world it’d be bland, awkward and even stupid, and she may press charges or file for a restraining order.

So that’s my brief thoughts on the matter. Call me weird but I can believe a story about cyborgs from the year 2029, or one about a group of kids who battle time traveling monsters from Transylvania, but I do have a problems with the unrealistic content in nearly all rom-coms. So I’ll ask you at home. What is simply unbelievable or “too much” for you all and what elements would take you out of the movie if you saw it on screen??


  • rtm

    Funny, I often think rom-coms are hugely unrealistic, too. Sure, there are some action scenes that defy physics, logic, etc., but in the name of fun, why not? The A-Team is full of those. But when it comes to human relationships, I think I’m more critical. Anyway, one action scene that definitely falls into the ‘unbelievable’ category is the scene in The Transporter, but it’s one I’d watch over and over again (hence it’s in my Top 20: http://wp.me/pxXPC-6O) so no, I won’t take it out when I see it, no matter how ridiculous it is 🙂 There are plenty in The Ghost Rider that were beyond my threshold, but then again ‘too much’ seems to be Nic Cage’s specialty.

    • MarcC

      Hahaha…good call on the Nic Cage there Ruth! Also, The Transporter does push me to the edge of calling BS, but that’s Luc Besson’s specialty. It’s also the best (and most believable) of the series.

      BTW, your link doesn’t work…

        • MarcC

          No I think a Luc and Nic flick would be too over the top. It’d be so crazy most people wouldn’t be able to stand the over-the-top-edness. It’d make Face/Off look like a chess match between 2 old guys:P

  • Steve

    I’ve always been willing to let a lot of stuff go when it comes to suspension of disbelief at the movies. BUT – if they try to set up some kind of “belief system” in a movie where you’re supposed to accept certain things in the story as truth, well you can’t go messing around with them after the fact. That’s cheating! I can’t think of an example off the top of my head… I mean, I don’t mind breaking the laws of physics here and there, but you can’t have one rule of physics for your hero and one for the bad guy.

    • MarcC

      Totally agree Steve. Don’t bore me and the audience with they why. Just say, “this is how it is” and proceed with the story…like The Matrix:P

      • coffeegod

        One of my favorite moments in current film history was the complete lack of background on the Joker (Heath Ledger). He just was. No explaination. It was brilliant. Why should we know everything?

        • Doc

          Any comic book/graphic novel that’s turned into a flick has dozens of characters with no background, they’re just assuming that the character will be written strongly enough and the actor will be able to pull it off without the endless background fill. Don’t get me wrong, I think TDK and Heath Ledger were perfect in any regard, it just happens that once the main cahracter is introduced, the other characters (ie ‘the bad guys’) get the short end of it.

    • BryanW

      Steve, you hit on an excellent point. The real issue at hand here is the difference between realistic and believable. Realism has to do with whether or not the events in the film would likely happen in the real world. If we required all films to be realistic, we would rule out a great majority of them based on their premise alone. In fact, we would struggle to accept any film that did not strictly follow actual events.

      Believability grants a lot more freedom. Instead of having to represent the world at it is, films are allowed to operate by any rules it likes, so long as it follows them. This prevents us from dismissing the Matrix, Star Wars, and any superhero movie based solely on its subject.

      At the same time, the believability test places limits on films that appear to be realistic. Romantic comedies, for example, can take place in a world that we are able to identify with because we live in those circumstances. However, while this may be realistic, characters may act in a way that is completely unacceptable to a viewer’s logical processes. Is it possible that there was a Pearl-Harbor-like love triangle during World War II? Yes! That makes the film realistic to some degree (especially given the reality of the events that provide the backdrop). However, I found the characters to be completely unbelievable in so many areas.

      So to answer the question, I am willing to accept a film that contains no realism whatsoever. However, make an unbelievable movie and count me out. The film has to create a world in which it can logically exist. That world can look and feel any way the creator wants.

    • Fairportfan

      Forget physics: a classic “Wait a minute!” moment for me is in “Vertigo” – and even Hitchcock himself admitted it’s a cheat – when she disappears tracelessly from the hotel, even though Hitchcock has set it up so that she couldn’t possibly leave without being observed.

      In action films, blatantly ignoring the laws of physics (before the water comes rushing into view in the tunnel in “Die Hard 3” there should have been a *hell* of a breeze pushed ahead of it) or ballistics (picking on the “Die Hard” franchise again – there’s no way to fire both blanks and live ammo in the same automatic weapon merely by swapping magazines).

      A few other common instances of films ignoring Real Life:

      Burning cars do not (except under very specific and unlikely circumstances) explode.

      There’s no way a sniper rifle could be dis-assembled and re-assembled and remain accurate.

      Jet engines that ingest large objects (say, John Amos size) do not simply spit chunks of bloody flesh out the back; it you’re *very* luck, they just stop dead. If not, they’re likely to explode.

      Computers Just Don’t Work That Way. (“What way?” you ask. “Any way Hollywood *shows*,” i reply.)

      (Many others, as well – almost anything involving ships and/or the Navy, say. But listing them is too flinkin’ exhausting.)

  • Lauren

    Hitch is definitely one that comes to mind along with any other rom com. Generally speaking I get sick of the protagonists impossibly surviving deathly accidents. I recently watched Vantage Point, and when Dennis Quaid gets sandwiched by a semi and a cement wall then walks out clean? Yeah, a little much.

    • MarcC

      I remember that part actually…quite the call for an audible “BS” for sure:) Thanks for stopping by Lauren, welcome to Go,See,Talk!

  • T Talbot

    In ‘The Core’ – not the best film ever made, I grant you, I was have no trouble suspending my disbelief (Actually, I had to lower it on 30ft of rope down a well).
    Then they got stuck in some giant geode thing and THEY GOT OUT OF THE SHIP AND WALKED AROUND! And then it turns out they could have sat there for 20 minutes and everybody would have been fine anyway. Ugh.

    • MarcC

      Excellent example T!! Totally agree with you there. Yeah, why don’t we just have a smoke break and an espresso while we’re here. Whatever:P Thanks for the comment!

    • Apathygrrl

      “The Core”, a.k.a. “Every Geologist’s Worst Nightmare”.
      Actually, for The Core, I couldn’t get beyond the simple fact that it’s impossible to travel to the centre of the earth. Hell, I learned in elementary school that their stupid ship would never have even made it through the massive layer of molten magma, let alone get anywhere near the core. My suspension of disbelief didn’t even make it through the trailer.
      Same sort of thing happened when watching Deep Blue Sea. I was willing to accept the plot until they showed the shark swimming backwards. Then one of the characters says “I didn’t know sharks could swim backwards” and whatsherface Saffron Burrows says “They can’t.” What the hell?? Why was that scene even in the movie? I didn’t make any sense! First of all, it doesn’t matter how much genetic engineering you do to a shark, it is physically impossible for a shark to swim backwards. As a biology student, that royally pissed me off. Second, why did they comment on the fact that it can’t after watching it do just that??
      I don’t like when a movie that tries hard to base itself in science and reality, and then turn around and make a mockery of that science in some giant blunder that even a 5th grader knows is impossible.
      On the other hand, I love fantasy and Sci-Fi movies, and don’t usually have a problem immersing myself in them.

  • geewits

    I’m with you on the rom-com thing. Ashley Judd’s character doing her old high school cheer in her tiny panties for Hugh Jackman’s character in Someone Like You was ridiculous and really took me out of the movie. Although I guess if I were a guy I wouldn’t have minded.

    • MarcC

      Never saw that one but yup, being a guy I wouldn’t have minded:P But also being a guy that has never happened to me:( So yeah, we can put an “unbelievable” stamp on that scene.

  • J. Warner

    I personally don’t agree with the assumption that every movie automatically has or must have at least one completely unbelievable, illogic or ludicrous element to it. I do think there are films that manage to be more or less as realistic as any art form can be (I mean, even documentaries aren’t 100% “realistic” technically in that there is no score or editing in one’s life… unless you are pulling an Anne Heche circa 1998/1999).

    Also, there are many times in reality or one’s life that can be just as unbelievable, illogic or ludicrous as any movie — sometimes even more so.

    Just my little ol’ opinion, anyway.

  • rtm

    Woot woot, you’re on IMDb again. Congrats Marc, this post is a HIT for sure! Looks like you’re spreading the hits around as I put a link on this comment, so thanks for that! 🙂

  • larry

    i always hate
    the sniper …who hasn’t missed a shot in 20 years…having our unsuspecting hero lined up for the kill…and the hero not getting killed

    but when i go to movies, i expect the movie to set up it’s parameters…and stick with it.
    and i don’t see many rom-coms

  • J0hnP

    for me the most absurd movie moment that i can remember recently is from Alvin & the chipmunks. when Dave pulled a set of prescription glasses off a toy Santa for Simon. I can suspend disbelief for talking rodents, but asking me to suspend disbelief for corrective lenses for a toy is a bit too far.

    • MarcC

      Hahahahaha, I actually remember that part and when I saw it, I felt the same exact way. It really made me take out the BS card on that one:P

  • M C Gibson

    There I am, working my socks off trying to believe everything they’re throwing at us, and some character says, “omg this isn’t a movie!” or anything along those lines. At that moment, I give up.

  • tim

    Of all the things that ever happen in 007 movies, I have to say, the one thing that I had a problem believing was in The World is Not Enough. I just couldn’t believe that Denise Richards was a nuclear scienctist.

    • MarcC

      Good call Tim! There was a fine line in the series to begin with…but she tripped right over it:P FAIL

  • solidus

    Robocop 2. Robocop gets taken apart by Tom Noonan’s cult leader/drugdealer/terrorist whatever ( I’m sure the filmmakers don’t know either) with a jackhammer and other power tools in the second act. Towards the finally, Robocop and Robot with Tom Noonan’s brain take a plunge off a corprete skyscrapper and or Detroit civics center ( I’m sure the filmmakers don’t know either) and both emerge from the crator and debris ready to fight again. That’s the one that most stands out even in genre entertainment for me.

    • MarcC

      Kind of like Peter and the Giant Chicken continually going at in any number of their across town battles:) Awesome example Solidus. Thanks for the comment!

  • Lloyd

    Trying to determine the degree of reality in a film seems an impossible task. All films are inherently unrealistic. Film is only a representation of what is real. It attempts to show real events, which is what filmmakers have been trying to do since the Lumière Brother’s “The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station.” Some would consider this real or realistic, but is it really? It seems to be a realistic or conceivable that a train would arrive at a train station, but it’s representation on film, the train coming at the audience is not actually accruing. When the train reaches the edge of the screen it does not continue into the audience. It is not really happening.

    The assumption that films can actual show something realistically has been the ultimate task for almost any filmmaker. Each type of film attempts to recreate something real, whether the film be a documentary or a science-fiction film or whether the filmmaker is conscious of this decision or not. In their attempts the recreate the “real,” these filmmakers simply create something that connects with the audience, something that seems so real that you, the audience, have and emotional response. But because you respond to this representation as if it were real, does that actually make it real? Or does that make your response fake?

    The argument that films like “Last Action Hero,” “Hitch,” or any other romantic comedy are more or less real or realistic than films like “The Third Man,” “Casablanca,” or “Rashamon” seems to be inconsequential. The latter of the films may connect better emotionally with audiences than with films like the former, but that doesn’t make them any more or less real or realistic. “Last Action Hero” consciously alienates the audience from the film to show that film is not real. “Hitch” tries to connect with the emotions of audience by creating a film that seems melodramatic or overly sensitive, while creating a situation that may or may not actually be conceivable in reality.

    The same goes for “The Third Man,” “Casablanca,” or “Rashamon.” They all touch on aspects that connect with the audiences emotions but are not more real than the others. They simply appeal better to the emotions to the audience than “Hitch” for example. “The Third Man” is a film noir that uses expressive lighting to garner an emotional response, but do you actually see these extreme shadows in real life to show your emotions? “Rashamon” tells a story from three different points of view, but does the event actually happen three different times? The film is structured so that you can see a certain person’s point-of-view, and you, the audience, can make an emotional connection with one of the characters. “Casablanca” uses many different actors from many different nationalities to plan many different nationalities. Claude Rains, who is English, plays a Frenchman, and Ingrid Bergman who is Swedish, plays a German. These two are not in reality from the country that the film says they are, but they are playing these characters to draw an emotional response from the audience. The audience connects with the stars. They are familiar with these actors and actresses, and they respond to that.

    The reality of film is something that is theorized about a great deal in film criticism and in films, but it is very difficult to define what is real and what isn’t. However, saying one film is any less real that another because it is a better or more highly regarded film is simply not the case.

    • MarcC

      Wow Lloyd, fantastic response! Well structured and thanks for elaborating on everyone of my points.

      While you’re right, you can never identify every element in film and identify its “degree of reality”, this was just an off the cuff collection of generalities. You can knit pick films all day (I especially like your break downs of the 3 classic films I chose) but I was trying to go for a broader approach. I wanted to call attention to some of the films where, to me, the unrealistic elements felt like a poke in the eye. Whether or anyone else agree with me is fine. Film is an art form, some rules are followed, some are ignored and others are rewritten. I appreciate films as an escape, and if I do want realism, I’ll take my wife and dogs to the park and film them running around…of course that wouldn’t make for a very compelling movie though:P

      • Lloyd

        My point is that regardless of how “unrealistic” any certain element in a film seems, it should be taken in context. Film in general attempts to recreate real events, but ends up essentially creating it’s own plane of reality. Whether or not certain elements in films seem more or less “real” than other elements in the film is not important. The film in it’s entirety creates its own rules. Compared to our “reality” certain elements don’t seem very logical, but they happen in the film and they happen for a reason. In a following comment someone mentions that in “The Hills Have Eyes” (2006) that “NO government agency has EVER been able to stop these mutant psychos EVER?!” Firstly, as it is made evident in the film, that the government is not only unaware of the mutants, but it is the cause of them. Furthermore, the governments ignorance of these mutants is a reality in the film that is essential for the message of the film. Directed by the Alexandre Aja, who is French, the film criticises the American governments ignorance to the rest of the world. According to the film, the American goverment is reckless. The set off nuclear bombs, which lead to the deforamation of these people. They push these people out of there homes. They disturb the natural habitat, the environment. The American goverment does what it wants, with no regard for anyone else. My point being that the “unrealistic” or “unbelievable” absence of the government is, in fact, an important element to the film, and unrealistic elements in films should not be dismissed as distracting or “unureal” but as a clue to the meaning of the film.

        In the case of “Hitch,” where you touch on an good point, that “What is that point where she’ll be completely put off by his advances and most likely never talk to him again?” This would more than likely happen in “reality,” but within the film, Hitch’s pursuit of Sara is important to show the changes the he has gone throuhg as a character. But the fact that the film had to return to such a cliched scene shows the problem with contemporary American Cinema, that films like “Hitch” must resort to a technique that has been used in every romantic comedy since “Say Anything” and beyond. The industry is too worried about making money and less worried about making interesting, intellegent, and origional films that say something important. Take for example your local cinemaplex, there are more films that are remakes, sequals or based on previous works than there are films consisting of origional ideas.

        My appologies for ranting a little.

        And on another serious note about film reality, wouldn’t the video of your wife and dogs in the park be compelling to you? And is it necessarily real once it’s recorded onto video, or does it take a new meaning?

  • Geoff

    It’s not specific to one movie but I find the ‘knockout’ blow to be really unbelievable and it’s in a ton of movies and not just over the top action films but serious dramas/crime stories too. You know, the good guy walks in unawares on the bad guy, and the bad guy hits in him in the back of the head with the butt of his gun (once) and it’s enough to knock him out cold. Then good guy wakes up later, unharmed (possibly tied up or with a headache).

    In real life ‘good guy’ doesn’t wake up and instead slowly dies due to the Subdural hematoma he just received as blood pools in his brain cavaity. Even a slight blow to head can be fatal within hours, even if everything seems ok (witness Liam Neeson’s wife’s unfortunate death, she was fine and tlaking etc for several hours).

    • MarcC

      Or how about if the guy isn’t knocked out with one hit…then you have a barrage of hits needed to render the character unconscious. A funny example of that are the characters from Lock Stock trying to knock out the traffic warden.

      Nice one Geoff…or should I call you Dr. Geoff:P

  • Ed D.

    My threshold was crossed during ‘Avatar’, when James Cameron tried to say the movie was based on real science and scientific theory, knowing that REAL science says otherwise. You can only disbelieve so much but you can’t say your movie is scientifically possible and then have science turn around and debunk it all.

    However, in the case of ‘Avatar’, saying anything against it will get you crucified or accused of evils against Mother Nature. And here I thought the hippy movement was over.

    (( http://tinyurl.com/flawed-avatar-science ))

    Same thing in ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ remake (which I love). Are they really expecting us to believe that NO government agency has EVER been able to stop these mutant psychos EVER?!

    But their threshold was just a tad bit smaller than ‘Avatar’ and therefore more readily acceptable.

    • MarcC

      Well the same goes for the government not being able to stop zombies, aliens and the like. If they can quell said insurrection, then the movie would be about 10 minutes. “Hey Chief, there’s a problem down town“…”Send in the troops, then we can get lunch on the way back to the base” – Roll Credits –

      But I see what you mean. Also, as far as Avatar, one problem I had was how quickly they thought Sam’s character could slide into the work of his brother without being the years of training required for the operation. Another thing, how exactly was Jake’s brother killed? They made it seem like it was a mugging that went wrong. But think about it. What kind of unsavory places would someone with a PhD be frequenting when all of his other colleagues looked like they never left the lab? Of course you can get away with a lot in a movie like Avatar, especially if the characters are nothing more than a collection of millions of beautifully rendered CG pixels:)

      • Neil

        When you mentioned the ‘years of training involved’, that reminded me of an exchange that occurred in the making of the film ‘Armageddon’ (according to the imdb):
        Regarding the film’s premise, Ben Affleck asked director Michael Bay, “Wouldn’t it be easier for NASA to train astronauts how to drill rather than training drillers to be astronauts?” Bay told Affleck to shut up.

  • Noz4atu

    I think I did a great job in suspending my disbelief for most of Avatar because it was set in a fantasy world. But when the reason for moving the Na’vi from their tree was explained as (I’m paraphrasing, not quoting) Underneath is the richest deposit of Unobtanium FOR 200 MILES!
    Seriously, this is a company that has crossed the galaxy to get there, and they can’t go another 200 miles to avoid conflict? A small detail that ripped me from the movie that could have been avoided by simply saying it was the last deposit on the planet…done!

    • MarcC

      Totally!! Why not just drill far away then tunnel right up under it. Take a cue from There Will Be Blood….”DRAINAGE, you stupid boy. DRAINAGE!!!! Basically, if they did it right, it’d be the same concept. “I drink your milkshake”…End of story and industrialism/consumerism win again:P

  • Rollo Tomasi

    The most unbelievable scene in cinematic history must be the ending of Superbad, when Emma Stone’s character says “Even though I’m the popular girl who has had no problems speaking to guys and generally fitting in with society before, the way you got drunk and broke my nose, and the fact you’ve been honest enough to say you wanted to get me drunk and take advantage of/rape me, has made me realise I loved you all along and was just too awkward to do anything about it. Let’s ride off into the sunset together.” Not only is it unlikely, it’s downright worrying.

    • MarcC

      Just another blatant example of a movie written by guys, for guys. But hell, I still love that movie. Even if they also feature some of the most unrealistic and unprofessional police officers to ever grace the screen:P

    • TomFool

      I generally accept unrealistic situations more often in comedy than other movies because comedy often depends upon an exaggerate or heightened reality or situations that wouldn’t occur in everyday life. I accept the cops in Superbad for example as I accept that that someone wouldn’t face poisoning after drinking laundry detergent because it is funny. Maybe the trick to accepting unbelievable situations is if they are justified by being funny or just awesome.

    • Doc

      hey, if Pierce Brosnan can drive a truck over lava and het nary a scratch, let alone have his SUV melt, I think Jonah Hill can get laid!

  • Gezza

    The Da Vinci Code for me.

    If you want me to believe Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child – Fine, I will go with it.

    If you want me to believe that their child has been hunted down through the ages by the Catholic church – Fine, I will go with it.

    If you want me to believe that this child was protected by a mysterious group which included Da Vinci and Newton – Fine, I will go with it.

    But if you want me to believe that the Louvre, one of the world’s greatest and most visited museums is so poor that it can not afford a web cam for security. Nah.

  • Mr. Chris

    Audiences can only suspend their disbelief so long as they have someplace to hang it up. Unfortunately, in recent years, the public coat-rack has been covered in facts and criticisms. As a result, what normally blew our minds 20-30 years ago ends up being discarded as bad film-making by today’s standards (i.e. the Indiana Jones movies.)

    In other words, the smarter we get, the harder it is to enjoy most films, the harder traditional directors have to try to impress us.

    But it also begs the other question: why is this threshold for unbelievability even here for some people? I do my best thinking during unrealistic movies because the errors give me a lot to think about. But then there’s other people who treat a cliched rom-com like an injection of cyanide, while others just shrug it off and say “yeah, that could probably happen.”

    It gets the point where I wonder if a movie really is bad, or if everyone’s just projecting their own issues onto the screen.

    • MarcC

      I really like your opening statement! But I don’t think we’re getting smarter, I think we are just taking in a lot more of the movie than we did as kids. Films aren’t just viewed at face value as they were seeing them when we were younger. I do think you’re right, we are in some ways (like you say) projecting our issues on screen.

      Funny thing though – films are starting to look more and more realistic (as far as effects go) but there are still wild, zany, off the wall unrealistic elements and plot devices still running all over movies we love:P I don’t think that’ll ever change because people go to movies to escape reality right?

    • James

      I was about to write something lengthy and no-doubt melodramatic until I saw your post about people “projecting their own issues” lol – big agreement here.

      My father, who’s military, has a big problem with poor realism when it comes to military procedure, especially when the hero wouldn’t have screwed up if he’d followed existing training or protocol. He’s the only guy I know who considers Jack Bauer grossly incompetent.

      I on the other hand, who actually have spent the last of my money to fly 700 miles on a moments notice to try and save a relationship with the girl I loved (seems to be more or less the third act of every rom-com ever) don’t take it very well when rom-coms remind me that they’re the kind of movies that originally convinced me that kind of hopeless romanticism might actually work. Not that I’m bitter or anything…

      • MarcC

        Ohh ouch, James. I think those type of movies are like undergoing hypnosis. You find yourself thinking so many times…”hmm that might just work”. But the reality is that it doesn’t. Everyone listen to James, proof positive that rom-coms are filled with vapid lies. Sorry you had to take the bullet for all of us to learn the lesson:(

      • Cass

        My husband, who is military, and I have major disbelief issues with “military”-based movies. Our most recent frustration was with The A-TEAM. We could handle the explosions and plot twists and poor dialogue, but when Jessica Biel, as a Captain, walked into a General’s tent and started barking at him without so much as a “Sir” — I turned to my husband and said, “Ok, I’m done.”

        What galls us is that former military members often work as advisors on these films. Aren’t they being paid to give the film realism?

  • Lee

    Like the author of this article, the “believability factor” is one of my tests in deciding which movies are my favorites. That is why my all-time Scariest Movie Ever is “Absence of Malice.”

    It is all-too-possible for careless media to destroy a life for the sake of a good story, but without a Wilford Brimley to ride in and provide a neat, well-wrapped happy ending.

  • JulieBeth

    I have no problem accepting things out of the ordinary in rom-coms, action flicks, sci-fi, or anything. Things that wouldn’t ordinarily happen are fine in movies because they are movies.

    But the thing that drives me absolutely insane (and I can’t tell you why) is when time lines don’t match up. Watching Friends last night (not a movie, granted) and on the episode where Ross and Rachel break up, Rachel says she’s coming over at 8:30am. And I’m sure she stayed for a little bit before leaving. After that, Ross runs all around town trying to cover up what he did, and that’s after he talked to Joey and Chandler for a while. That would take several hours. Later that same day when R&R are arguing and the other four are in Monica’s bedroom, Phoebe makes a call into work asking for someone to take her 9 o clock appt. I doubt she has a massage client at 9pm and there’s no way it could have been at 9am with everything that happened that day. THAT DRIVES ME INSANE!

    As far out there as some things are on that show, and other shows/movies, time line mix ups are my biggest pet peeve.

  • TheQuietMan

    I don’t think the issue is ‘realism’, per se, as much as whether or not the movie violates some unstated rule that it has, purposefully or unpurposefully, set up. Breaking that rule breaks the suspension of disbelief the viewer has agreed to. We can watch a movie about people with superpowers and let it go, but if the hero halfway through the movie began to talk to the camera/audience, it would become ‘unbelievable’ because a rule has been broken. We might be watching a comedy, though, where the main character constantly talks to the camera and it wouldn’t bother us at all. If he suddenly flew into the sky, though, we would be bothered because a rule was broken. Each film has its own set, and I’m willing to accept that these rules might even vary from person to person.

    Several years ago, “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist” were released around the same time and both films were period pieces about magicians. Personally, I loved the first and hated the second, even though, ostensibly, the second was more ‘realistic’. My dislike (disregarding issues of performance, direction, and storytelling) was tied somewhat to the fact that the ‘magic tricks’ in “The Illusionist” were not something someone could actually do, since “special effects” were used. [SPOILER ALERT] If those ‘magic tricks’ were actually supernatural, as you are led to believe, then this would not be a problem. But at the end of the movie you are told they are not supernatural. The movie at that point became ‘unbelievable’ for me. Contrast that with “The Prestige” where real “magic tricks” are placed alongside supernatural elements which are “unrealistic” but do not break any rules of the movie (though some might disagree).

    What these “rules” are and how they are formed may have a very subjective answer, but is at the root of the question asked in this article.

  • wenamedthedogindiana

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull- Honestly, they managed to make the whole alien angle believable to me (albeit a stretch), but Mutt’s amazing vine-swinging show? What was that? Took me right out of the movie.

    • MarcC

      120% agree with you there…but I’ll take it a step back. Having Mutt in there at all took me out way before the monkeys.

      I think the whole movie tested not only the fans’ patience but their willingness to accept this as an Indian Jones film. Someone once commented “how can you not buy aliens as a plot device but instead believe in Indian cults and wrath of God elements?”. True, but aliens aren’t what Indy is about. Archeology and beliefs (magic or not) from civilizations past, not the future. Also if aliens do exist in the film, doesn’t that negate the films’ belief in God and his power?

      • neozen

        “Archeology and beliefs (magic or not) from civilizations past” *is* what Crystal Skull was about. I hear many theories going around that a lot of the so-called “gods” of the past (even today’s christian god) could’ve in fact been primitive man’s impression of advanced beings who visited them from other planets. Plus, I don’t see how the mere existence of aliens negates the existence of a god. I guess it would depend on your own personal belief or definition of god and creation.

        That said, I, like many other fans, still had a problem with Crystal Skull. And for me, I think it had to do with how the mystery was revealed, particularly during the climax of the film. In each of the previous films, the mystical elements demonstrated their power in such a way that was still somewhat ambiguous as to its true source or cause. God himself did not come out of the heavens to wipe out the Nazis, but the ark did show that it possessed some kind of otherwordly power. Likewise, Kali and Shiva did not manifest themselves when they were called, yet a supernatural presence was evident. And the same went for Last Crusade. In Crystal Skull, we are *shown* the alien being, and its spaceship comes whirring out of the ground. That ruined the mystery for me, and thus the believability. Its as if there’s this unstated rule in the Indiana Jones mythos that whatever culture is being referenced, events can occur that implicate the possibility of the particular culture’s belief system without overtly stating it as literal truth. This makes sense, too, since Indy always seems to approach each adventure with a certain amount of skepticism, despite having witnessed marvelous things before. If they had just had something supernatural happen at the end when the skull was returned, without actually showing the alien being and the spaceship, I would have loved the movie (minus the Mutt swinging through the vine scene).

        I mean, if God actually came down–a bearded man in glowing-white robes with clouds thundering and billowing around him–to have a chat with Indy after wiping out the Nazis, I would’ve had a problem with Raiders as well.

        • MarcC

          I whole heartedly agree with you on this. Even though the ark melted the Nazis it showed you God’s power, not God. Something like that works so much better because you’re seeing OZ and not “the man behind the curtain”. It remains effective because of the mysticism behind something greater and inferred.

          Also love that you bring up Indy’s trademark skepticism/sarcasm. My personal favorite: “What’s this?” “Ark of the covenant”. “You sure?” “Pretty sure”.
          Thanks for the comment Neozen!

  • Gregory

    I will never forget seeing Spider-Man 3 a few years ago. Right at the opening after the venom symbiote sludges its way out and starts to crawl around I hear my friend from two seats down say “Ok this lost me.” He sat there for the rest of the movie completely uninterested.

  • Jack Williams

    My unbelievability threshold, I think, is when filmmakers try and cram too much ridiculous fantasy bullshit into one movie for it to be believable. For example, I’ll accept a movie about an alien invasion, or telekinesis, or time-travel; what I can’t accept is a movie about an alien invasion, telekinesis, AND time-travel, if you see my point. I think a good example of this was the recent J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” movie, where it begins in a futuristic sci-fi universe, which I can accept, but then halfway through the story the writers randomly dump time-travel into the story, at which point I lost interest (of course, I was already teetering when they introduced Budweiser ads into a “Star Trek” movie).

    Another example was “Forrest Gump,” where I could buy it if it was just a Vietnam war movie, where the guy becomes a shrimp boat captain afterwards, but then they throw ridiculous stuff like the guy rescuing 20 of his army buddies, meeting all sorts of historical figures like Abbie Hoffman, ratting out G. Gordon Liddy, running across the country several times, becoming a multi-millionaire, becoming a football star, all of this while being mentally retarded, and still nobody recognizes him when he talks to them on the bench. Of course, on the other hand, there are movies like “Contact” which are impossible to believe because of all the scientific and logical inaccuracies (like being able to decode a spaceship blueprint written over thousands of 3D pages in an alien language in a matter of weeks, and build the ship in less than a year using resources which can all be found on Earth), or “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull,” where Indy survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge, then to top it off is completely unaffected by the radiation.

    • MarcC

      OK, I see what you mean, and I kind of agree with you. Just how much would be too much is just what I asked and you gave it to me. All the elements are like a house of cards. You try to cram one more thing in there and it all falls apart. Personally I love the movie and I was so caught up in the special effects, the time travel didn’t really bother me…I think I was distracted by lens flares:P

    • Brian

      Don’t forget that Indy didn’t even have a scratch after being tossed around in said fridge for something like a 100 yards or more. ha ha

    • Neil

      With reference to your comment about ‘Forrest Gump’ – this is an interesting point that is true in many movies of this type. In real life, heroic actions and amazing experiences tend to be more evenly rationed out, but in films they have to be all done by one person, the hero! (due to constraints of time in setting up of multiple characters etc.) To a certain extent, this is also true in literature.

  • Brian

    I can suspend my unbelievable threshold for most movies when it pertains fantasy or fiction. But “Wanted” kind of pissed me off. Visually it looked great, but to say that the physics of bullets can be changed simply by twisting the gun while firing, or that a bullet would have enough inertia to fly in a circle through four different heads is just too much.

  • Cass

    Juno. Almost every line of dialogue sounded like it was written by a middle-aged woman instead of natural discourse between teens.

    Speaking of teens, I’ll be kind and not mention the Vampire Saga That Shall Not Be Named. I could provide pages of eye roll-worthy moments, none of which sparkle. That is the least of the films’ problems.

    • JasKaren

      I love Juno, I agree some of the dialogue sounds like “it was written by a middle-aged woman” but most of it is how teens talk and it is aimed at a wider audience than just teens, still I quote it all the time 😛

      Agree with that vampire saga, too many faults to comment on.

  • Leon

    Too Kill a Mocking Bird. Can’t think of anything that can’t happen or itsn’t plausable.

  • mary wolff

    What I find the most difficult to believe is a movie where the outcome of a situation is dependant on a character doing something totally out of character. I am not speaking of a coward suddenly finding courage or a professed hero acting cowardly but rather an action that in real life would be neither believed or accepted. A prime example is Mr Phelps in the first Mission Impossible. I know they used that scenario to surprise and shock people. Well it certainly worked for me as a person who had watched and enjoyed the TV series as a child. In fact it worked so well for me that I have never watched another Mission Impossible movie in that series. That switch in character to me would be like having James Kirk in the new Star Trek sell out his crew for a few cool millions.

  • Damian

    Any Judd Apatow movie (nerd/geek/shlump gets the princess) is
    unbelievable. That aside, one of the worst movies I saw last year was Inglorious Basterds, starting with the spelling of the title. I could accept Hitler being killed in a movie theater. I could even accept that Rip Van Winkle-long scene in the beer cellar, where half of Berlin stopped by the spies’ table. But when the Nazi Commandant effortlessly makes a deal with the Americans and betrays the entire point of his character…
    check, please!

  • JasKaren

    Could not agree more with the unbelievable-ness of some rom-coms.

    I find fantasy films can test my “believable threshold” and its usually the ones for kids (I’m sure the kids enjoy it but I find some films very hard to watch). Journey To The Centre Of The Earth – I could not stop questioning it, no way is any of that in the Earth’s Core, one of many reasons is there is no light, so nothing can survive and the same for Ice Age 3: The Meltdown

    Also something I have always wondered is some films it takes a lot more for characters to die. Sometimes a single bullet can kill them, other times it takes rounds of firing.

  • Pef

    hello movie fans

    my great “unbelievable” moment came few days ago as i watching a indie flick named Pioneer one.
    so , i was going to suspend disbelief and accept that USSR had put people on Mars 30 years ago when this NSA agent comes in the room and starts bragging that she speaks 47 languages.
    that broke my mood so totally i had to take a 5 min break and try to imagine the script was a typo victim and it should have said 4 to 7 languages.

  • Phil Adendron

    Two things drive me crazy.
    First is wire-fighting. OK in a fantasy film like The Matrix where the laws of physics are flexible, but not in a real word environment. Thankfully this was only a passing fad and I don’t see it much anynore.
    Second is the off the wall military/law enfoecement jargon in most action films. I spent 8 years in the Army and I never heard of any of those phrases the soldiers in Transformers were saying.

  • Mil Sepic

    Unbelievable? Any movie where the President of the US and the leaders of the world act in a rational manner to save citizens (even some), their country, or the world – Prime example is 2012. The leaders would have had a G20 type meeting and decide that they can’t do anything until the major corporations see that there is a financial advantage to doing it. Gotta keep those shareholders happy.
    Any movie like Wall Street WW Economic Meltdown, that one about a collapse where all the finances of the world are destroyed by incompetent CEOs who then get bonuses for doing it and fake the government into bailing them out because they’re “too big to fail”.
    Oh, sorry; that last one might be an actual event, it’s just hard to believe without 3D.

  • Sara

    Titanic- They both could have fit on that door. After one try they gave up. I can forgive a lot, but that was too much for me.

  • Neil

    There are so many scenes in film which most moviegoers don’t see as implausible at the moment of viewing, but would seem so upon reflection. One example (for me) is in the movie Alien, when the creature bursts out of the man’s stomach as a baby, and just a few minutes later is about two metres tall (without eating anything in the interval)! It’s probably the shocking manner of the creature’s entrance that causes viewers to suspend rational thought.

    Another example is in The Matrix, when Morpheus explains the reason for man’s enslavement following the war: turning them into a source of energy for the machines (which he symbolises by holding up a battery). This raises the question of why the machines didn’t simply make the more logical (and efficient) choice of using batteries instead.

    Some implausibilities become apparent even at the time of filming. A good example is Jaws, where author Peter Benchley was present on set during filming. Regarding the ending, he thought Steven Spielberg’s idea of shooting and blowing up the compressed air tank in the shark’s mouth was horrible. In fact he protested so much that he was thrown off the set!
    An episode of the series ‘Mythbusters’ devoted to the movie later showed that shooting at a gas cylinder does not, in fact, cause it to blow up – it just whizzes round a bit.