13 On-Screen Survival Lessons That Will Get You Killed

Blockbuster characters manage to survive in any situation: mortal wounds, weather conditions, and lack of vital skills notwithstanding.

WeGoRo has collected the 13 most common movie clichés that don’t work in real life. Don’t try to reproduce them on your own — the characters only stayed alive thanks to the director’s imagination.

13. Wear cotton clothes.

Cause of death: Hypothermia.

Why: If you want to stay alive, don’t wear cotton clothes, no matter what the season is. Cotton absorbs 27 times its weight in water. It also takes a very long time to dry, and wet clothes lose heat 25 times faster than dry clothes. Getting caught in the rain or sweating will be enough to freeze.

What you really should do: If you’re going hiking, take clothes made of polyester, nylon, or wool.

12. Throw away your phone if it doesn’t pick up a signal.

Cause of death: Can be anything...wild animals, thirst, hunger, hypothermia.

Why: Suppose you got lost and didn’t have enough signal to make a call. A movie character will toss the phone away dramatically — and will be very wrong to do so. Your phone is not useless: even if you can’t call, it still pings nearby phone network towers and makes a digital map of your route so that rescuers can trace your location.

What you really should do: Don’t toss your phone under the influence of emotions. To conserve the battery, turn it off every half an hour.

11. Get down on the ground during a thunderstorm.

Cause of death: A stroke of lightning.

Why: Wet soil is an excellent electricity conductor, so you’ll only increase the chances of the lightning hitting you. To stay alive, you should minimize your contact with the ground.

What you really should do: The safest place for shelter is inside a building. If there are no buildings around, squat down, and make sure you’re not the highest object in the area.

10. Jump from a speeding car.

Cause of death: Injuries.

Why: Imagine you’ve been kidnapped, and you decide to reproduce that eye-catching action movie scene. Even if the offenders placed you next to an unlocked door, you’d wring your neck trying to impress them with this feat. This will either lead to your death or you’ll be paralyzed, and the kidnappers will take you to their destination without any hassle.

If you still want to jump:

  • Don’t pull the emergency brake. This will make the car slide and can lead to a crash. It’s safer to jump at a turn when the speed of the car is lower.
  • Open the door as wide as possible, and make sure there are no obstacles like rocks or road signs ahead.
  • Jump at an angle perpendicular to the car’s movement, and ball yourself up to minimize the risk of snagging on something and breaking your limbs.

Do not even try to repeat this unless you are a professional stunt person.

9. Find directions using moss on trees.

Cause of death: Anything after you get lost.

Why: The experience accumulated by humankind says that moss grows on the north side of trees. This rule is only true for the Northern Hemisphere, and even then it doesn’t always work. Moss and lichen like shade and humidity. A lot of factors in nature can create shade and high humidity, so moss can grow in all directions.

What you really should do: If you don’t have a compass, use a watch. Hold your watch up in front of you, and let the hour hand point at the sun. Cut the angle between the hour hand and 12 o’clock in half. That way is south, and the opposite direction is north.

8. Eat snow to quench thirst.

Cause of death: Dehydration.

Why: Snow has a low density. You’ll have to eat several buckets of it to get a glass of water. Your throat and teeth won’t bear that, you won’t slake your thirst, and, to make matters worse, you’ll get sick. Snow is also hard to use as a thirst quencher because it’s pure (like distilled water) and doesn’t contain any mineral salts.

What you really should do: If there is no other source of water, you should melt some ice (it’s preferable to snow) first, and only then drink it.

7. You can outrun a wild animal.

Cause of death: The animal.

Why: Any wild animal is faster and stronger than a human. If you don’t have weapons, the beast will most likely win. You should know the habits of animals that live in the area you are visiting.

If you encounter:

  • A moose — Moose are easy to avoid because they make a lot of noise. You will only need to go off its path. If the animal is aggressive, climb a tree or any other high object.
  • A boar — Boars usually try to get away upon noticing humans. The main thing is not to touch young piglets: their mothers are very dangerous. If the animal is running in your direction, you can save yourself on any elevated object. Boars also can’t stand noise.
  • A bear — If you see a bear, don’t approach it. Try to carefully get away from that place. If a brown or grizzly bear charges, do not run away. Stay calm, lie face down with your hands clasped behind your neck, and shout for help. Don’t shoot at the bear — you will only make it angry. If a black bear charges, try to escape or fight back.
  • A wolf — Wolves hunt at night and shun people. If you still become an object of lupine interest, don’t try to run. Walk away without turning your back so as not to provoke an attack, and start talking (but not shouting) loudly. Move until you walk up to the nearest tree. Wolves will not climb it.

6. Raw meat can treat a black eye.

Cause of death: Infection.

Why: Raw meat is not to be applied to your eyes because it can cause an infection. This can prove fatal if you are out in the wilderness with no disinfectants or antibiotics at hand.

What you really should do: Apply ice packs for 15-20 minutes once every hour during the first 24 hours after the injury. To avoid local freezing, wrap the ice in cloth.

5. You can start a fire in a cave.

Cause of death: Being buried under the collapsed cave.

Why: Warmth will cause the rock to expand, which can lead to the cave falling in.

What you really should do: Start fires outdoors.

4. You can’t let someone with a head injury fall asleep.

Cause of death: Death is not inevitable (that depends on how grave the injury is), but sleep deprivation will certainly weaken the person.

Why: There is an erroneous opinion that if a concussed person falls asleep, they’ll sink into a coma and won’t wake up again. Light concussions pass by soon enough, and sleep will only help the patient to bounce back. If there are more concerning symptoms, such as an increasing headache, nausea, or loss of orientation, the injured person should be taken to the hospital as soon as possible.

What you really should do: If they want to sleep, let them sleep.

3. If you are lost, you should get moving immediately.

Cause of death: Anything.

Why: Rescuers will be looking for you at the place where your trace was seen last. If you move along an unknown route, there is a risk of you getting even more lost and never being found.

What you really should do: Don’t stray away. Wait for a search party. Leave your place only when extremely necessary, and go back when possible.

2. You can outrun a tornado.

Cause of death: If not the tornado itself, then flying debris will finish you off.

Why: In movies, you can often see characters admiring this natural phenomenon, seemingly in no hurry. But if it was all for real, they would probably have been killed by a billboard or a roof flying by.

What you really should do: Close all the doors, windows, and ventilation holes. Take the most necessary things (water, a flashlight, medicines, documents), and take shelter in the basement or an interior room on the first floor with as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

1. Warning signs are negligible.

Cause of death: There are lots of options.

Why: If you see a warning sign in the woods, there are serious reasons for it, and you don’t want to find out what they are. Most horror films begin with someone violating a prohibitive sign — perhaps they have some real-life basis?

What you really should do: Be a law-abiding citizen, and find another place for recreation.