Outrunning impending doom is obviously a great way to build tension in a movie. It happens all the time. Heroes outrun explosions in action movies all the time, right? But sometimes the filmmakers take it too far. They put their characters in situations where they simply don’t have enough of a head start or whatever they have chasing them would easily overtake them. Below are seven of the most outrageous examples, and perhaps it’s not a coincidence that they’re all sci-fi movies. But none of these characters have Superman or Flash-like speed abilities. These are the examples where the audience isn’t just watching credibility get strained, they’re seeing it broken and pissed on.
1. The Happening (2008)
There’s a lot to hate about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. The bizarrely stiff acting, which had to be intentional but does not work. The strange story that (SPOILERS) says trees have become mad at humanity and suddenly evolve to be able to make us instantly suicidal. But for the purposes of this article, how about having Mark Whalberg outrun the wind. Yup. Towards the end of the film, Marky Mark puts together what’s happening and realizes they have to outrun the wind so that they don’t go crazy.
The average person can run 6 mph to complete a 10-minute mile. And these characters are average. Teachers. Kids. Businessmen. The average wind speed in Harrisburg, PA which is the rough area the characters are in is 8 to 9 mph. And that isn’t even counting gusts. Plus, of course, you can’t even SEE wind. But they outrun it.
The only video I could find online to show this scene is a RiffTrax sample. But if you skip to just before the 2-minute mark, you can see the scene play out.
2. Jaws 4: The Revenge (1987)
I said in my opening that these were all sci-fi films. But Jaws 4? What’s sci-fi about a shark. Well, if it were Jaws 1 through 3, I’d agree with you. But in Jaws 4: The Revenge, Ellen Brody has a psychic connection with the great white shark and knows when it attacks someone. While on Amity Island at home, she’s somehow able to KNOW that her son Sean is attacked and eaten by the shark. Then she and her other son, Michael, go to the Bahamas and the shark follows them and travels the distance in a day or two. That’s sci-fi or complete bullshit. Take your pick.
Regardless, there’s a scene where the shark targets Michael, a marine biologist who studies sea slugs. Michael is in a one-man sub that the shark attacks and Michael decides he’s better off swimming for it. He swims to a sunken ship and eventually escapes the shark by using his scuba air tank as propulsion to get to the surface extra fast. But we’re ignoring the time where he swims from the sub to the ship.
At best, with all that gear, Michael would be able to move at about 3.5 mph. A great white shark is capable of moving fast enough to completely jump out of the ocean. For a 5,000 lb. animal, that’s no small feat. They can move at least 25 mph. More than fast enough to catch Michael if that’s the shark’s goal (it is).
3. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Outrunning the wind in The Happening must have been tough, but at least they could see the grass moving to let them know it’s time to run. In The Day After Tomorrow, Jake Gyllenhaal and friends need to outrun… the temperature. Yeah, even though the whole world has had an apocalyptic upheaval in the weather, very suddenly, there’s a scene where Jake and friends outrun the freezing cold.
I don’t know where to begin measuring this one. Suffice it to say, even though the cold manages to freeze the Empire State Building in minutes, it somehow is stopped when the heroes run into a room and shut a door. If an entire city decides to freeze, there’s really no hope to outrun such an event. But they do. See for yourself!
4. Dante’s Peak (1997)
Well, here’s one we can measure a lot more easily, but that just makes it seem that much more implausible to me. In Dante’s Peak, a big volcano explodes. Pierce Brosnan has driven up the mountain to help the Mayor evacuate her two kids. While leaving the cabin, a pyroclastic lava flow eats right through the house and they all have to run down the mountain to escape the lava. The lava politely avoids them just long enough for them to jump in a boat at the lake by the house.
Admittedly, it’s a very short run. But here’s the thing. We saw the lava eat right into the house while they were there. Lava flows at 120 mph! You need more than 30 seconds of a head start for that shit. You need half a day. Here’s a few seconds of the folks running from the lava and right into the lake which has turned into acid. The lava, again politely, opts to just sort of go away.
5. Predator (1987)
Speaking of head starts, if you’re going to argue against any of these, you’d probably say the characters had a head start which somehow allowed them to narrowly escape disaster. Well, you’d need a pretty hefty head start to outrun a nuclear explosion. But in Predator, Arnold Schwarzenneger kind of opts to stare at the alien for a while instead.
After Arnold beats the alien monster, the titular Predator thinks he’s got the last laugh when he activates the self-destruct on his armor. And I gotta say, it’s a creepy laugh. But Arnold watches the numbers tick away and decides to run for it only in the last few seconds. And then the entire jungle seems to explode.
In Predator 2, the cops mention the blast could take out 300 city blocks. That’s definitely on the level of a small tactical nuke. So to escape the blast itself, to say nothing of the shockwave and debris, you’d have to get a minimum of 150 city blocks away. He runs this in seconds. We’ll have to assume some of the running was cut, but even so? It just does not add up. But please, watch for yourself. The only clip I could find of the footage has someone dubbing in a sillier laugh for the Predator, but you can still see about how far Arnold runs, if not the devastation that follows. (You can find it right here.)
6. The Mummy Returns (2001)
As fast as Arnold ran, apparently Brendan Fraser can beat him. Because he outruns the fucking sun. In The Mummy Returns, Fraser’s character Rick O’Connell has a son Alex that puts a cursed bracelet on. He now has seven days to get to a pyramid in a mystical oasis or when the sun touches him, he’ll die. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s close but not quite there when the sun starts to rise.
Rick grabs Alex and runs from the jungle to the pyramid as the sun creeps over the mountains behind them. And for some unknown reason, the shadows of the mountain chase them instead of receding like they should. Anyway, it’s a visual to give us an idea that Rick is running away from the sunlight, so just go with it.
Let’s work this one out together! The Earth is about 25,000 miles all the way around. There are 24 hours in a day. I’ll skip the boring math and let you know that Rick runs at about 1,040 mph. Pretty impressive, but hey, I hear you get a boost of adrenaline when your kids are in danger. Here’s video of the scene by someone else who was annoyed by it, but more because the shadow moved the wrong way.
7. Blade II (2002)
Outrunning the sun? Pfft, Wesley Snipes’ vampire sidekicks run faster than the speed of light in Blade 2. The reapers (vampires that are tougher than other vampires) are closing in on them, so Blade uses a UV-light grenade. The light even follows Blade’s pals around the curve of a tunnel, so eventually they decide to dive underwater where light stops working. Enjoy! (Check it out here.)