We only ask one thing of movies: to take our minds off our dull, everyday lives with preposterous scenes of reality getting double-teamed by imagination and his good friend special effects. It’s a simple enough request which Hollywood still managed to fuck up by giving us films that, sure, look totally insane and wonderfully unrealistic, but which have actually happened in real life … sort of.
#8. A Rogue CIA Operative Went Full Skyfall And Became An International Terrorist
In Skyfall, Javier Bardem adds another notch to his Crazies With Crazy Hair belt in his portrayal of Raoul Silva, an ex-MI6 agent-turned-terrorist and prime example of why spy agencies should be more careful about vetting the guys they plan to turn into living weapons.
Luis Posada Carriles is a “militant” Cuban exile and highly trained CIA field agent who was kicked out of the CIA in 1976 for essentially hating Fidel Castro too much. Yep, even by the standards of 1970s CIA, Posada was going a tad overboard with his hatred of all things even vaguely communist, which sadly culminated in him blowing up a Cubana Airlines flight, together with its 73 passengers, just because it carried Cuba’s national fencing team.
“Hey, those swords could have taken someone’s eye out!”
Venezuela imprisoned Posada over the bombing … until he broke out of prison in 1985 while awaiting trial, only to become a mercenary arms trafficker for the U.S. during the Iran-Contra scandal. Oh, and to further drive the whole “real-life Bond villain” image home, Posada was once shot in the face by an assassin, and survived.
The U.S. finally accused the man of being a terrorist after he personally admitted to a deadly string of terrorist bombings against foreign tourists in Cuba. This was of course after the Bush administration most likely secured him a presidential pardon in Panama, where he was serving time for trying to blow up Fidel Castro. Posada eventually landed in Texas where authorities tried to get his homicidal and illegal ass deported. However Posada got asylum because the countries that offered to take him in (Cuba and Venezuela) would most likely torture him to death.
“What did I do?! Oh … right, the international terrorism thing.”
Posada was also tried in the United States for perjury, but got acquitted and is now a free man living in — all together now — Florida.
#7. A Homicide Detective Once Investigated A Murder He Himself Committed
In Shutter Island, Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t win an Oscar for portraying a law enforcement officer who investigates a disappearance only to discover that the victim is dead, and that he himself committed the crime before his sick brain blocked out that cheerful memory.
In the late 19th century, Parisian detective Robert Ledru was called in to investigate the 1887 fatal shooting of beachgoer Andre Monet. Fortunately for Ledru, he had a mountain of evidence to work with: shell casings, sock prints showing that the killer was missing a big toe, and … some of Ledru’s personal police files lying around the scene?
Even stranger was this note they found inside.
The detective realized that he also owned the same type of gun used in the murder, had no big toe, and woke up that morning with wet and sandy socks. The facts quickly started to add up to a giant arrow with “Le Culprit” written on it and pointing straight at Ledru, despite him having no memory of committing the crime. But as he thought more about it, the more sense it started to make.
Which is the main difference between his story and Shutter Island.
See, Ledru had syphilis which caused him to sleepwalk and, by the looks of it, sleep-murder tourists at the beach. He shared his theory with the rest of the police, but they didn’t buy it until an experiment proved that if you put a revolver near a sleeping Ledru, he’s going to get up and start sleep-firing it (fortunately they used blanks for the test.) This proved that Ledru’s crime was one of 68 recorded instances of homicidal sleepwalking, for which Ledru was sentenced to a mental institution where he presumably discovered that the whole thing was part of his therapy, and that he was never really a detective to begin with.
#6. Deranged Nazi Scientists Successfully Bioengineered A Murderous Super-Species
If you need some unholy scientific experiment gone wrong in your movie, blame Nazi scientists. That’s where Captain America’s nemesis Hydra came from, as well as the horrors in a whole bunch of B movies.
This was followed by Doomtrooper II: Reich Back At Ya!
In video games you can gun down genetically engineered Nazi monstrosities in Wolfenstein. Holy crap, the real Nazis weren’t bad enough, so we had to invent this whole ridiculous “genetic mad science” program for them?
Two German brothers, Heinz and Lutz Heck, were such big fans of European bovine history that they wanted to de-extinct aurochs, the granddaddies of modern domestic cows. The Hecks’ plan was to use selective breeding to backwards-evolve modern cattle until they got a designer breed of auroch doppelgangers.
Hold on, does this mean we could de-evolve an ostrich into a T. rex?
These new creatures weren’t genetically aurochs, but they looked and acted just like the real thing, which is to say they were incredibly aggressive and tried to kill everyone around them without provocation. In light of that, it probably won’t surprise you that the Heck bros were super into Hitler, whose government also sponsored these experiments.
The Nazis carted these bloodthirsty supercows off to a few farms where most of them were incinerated in Allied bombings. Still, some of the faux aurochs delivered to zoos survived, and you can actually buy their descendants today, if you don’t mind owning a few-ton resurrected hell-beast that constantly thinks about using its 2.5-foot-long horns to give you a prostate exam.
We challenge you to find a picture of an auroch where it doesn’t look pissed off.
#5. American Pioneers Faced Off Against An Apocalyptic Insect Swarm
Another common staple of terrible horror/sci-fi movies is an unstoppable insect swarm that appears out of nowhere and fucks shit up. Of course, in most cases (from Starship Troopers to Eight Legged Freaks) the creepy crawlies have to be made huge because what kind of damage can regular-sized bugs do, even if there are a lot of them?
Between 1874 and 1875, a swarm of Rocky Mountain locusts attacked huge areas of the United States with a force of trillions of flying grasshoppers that covered an area of nearly 200,000 square miles.
That’s a million million of these bastards. You may want to go change your underwear right now.
Basically, imagine a flying, 27-ton engine of death the size of California moving through the United States and eating everything in its path: leaves, grass, wool, paint, wooden farm equipment, etc. What’s even scarier is that the swarm just popped out of the blue, which is actually a really bad metaphor because the swarm was so large that it blacked out the goddamn sun for several hours in some areas.
Like this, but somehow far, far worse.
The pioneers tried to defend themselves any way they could, including with homemade horse-drawn flamethrowers. Sadly, improvised weaponry and action-erections didn’t do the trick, and soon there was catastrophic crop damage, massive starvation, and 6-foot mountains of locust corpses piling up in places. However, the swarm was eventually defeated after settlers unwittingly plowed over the locusts’ nesting grounds, meaning that the U.S. was once actually saved thanks to environmental destruction. You were saying, hippies?
#4. Huang Yu Jumped Out Of An Out-Of-Control Airplane After A Midair Shootout
In Passenger 57, skycop Wesley Snipes gets into a shootout with some terrorists aboard an airplane, but finding himself outnumbered, he jumps out of the craft just before it lands. Of course, in typical Hollywood fashion, he then regroups, defeats the bad guys, and goes on to commit tax evasion.
In 1948, the Miss Macao flying boat crashed in the South China Sea, killing its entire staff and passengers, save for one: a Chinese fellow named Huang Yu, who was found floating in the water, seemingly without any memory of what happened.
Man, even The Bourne Identity ripped this off?
In reality, Yu was actually one of the guys who crashed the fucking plane. It turns out that Yu and three of his buddies planned to pull off the world’s very first skyjacking, and ransom off the millionaires aboard the plane. However, when the douchebag quartet whipped out their guns, the rich passengers started trying to subdue them and a raging gun battle soon erupted.
An errant shot instantly killed the pilot, who slumped over the controls, putting the plane in a fatal nosedive. However, Yu managed to open an emergency exit and jump into the ocean right before the crash. As if the asshole couldn’t win even harder, Yu was ultimately acquitted because Macau, Hong Kong, and China could not decide who should try him for the then-nonexistent crime of skymurder.
Passenger 57 thankfully replaced that anti-climax with even more sky-murder.
#3. “Lawn Chair Larry” Flew With A Bunch Of Balloons Strapped To Himself 27 Years Before Up
“We also have talking dogs and giant birds coming right up, so stick around!”
OK, you’ll never actually get enough balloons to lift a whole house into the atmosphere. If you want to pull a stunt like this in the real world, you need to think smaller … even if that actually involves way more danger.
On July 2, 1982, Larry Walters became famous after he attached 42 weather balloons filled with helium to a garden-variety lawn chair, and took off into the wild blue yonder in his improbable contraption. This wasn’t a publicity stunt or anything — Walters was just some random dude who really wanted to soar through the sky but felt that flying lessons would cut too much into his “being a suicidal lunatic” time.
“Boy, this was easy. I can’t believe people made such a big deal about the Wright brothers.”
Walters’ plan was to lazily float up to about 30 feet, enjoy the view, and eventually land by shooting out the balloons with a BB gun. But due to a slight miscalculation, he used too many balloons and shot up to 16,000 feet (about three miles high). This put him in the direct path of passenger jets, two of which actually reported seeing a flying man on a chair while the control tower presumably penciled them in for a drug test.
“Yeah, right, Kevin. Last week it was a gremlin, and today it’s a guy in a chair.”
Larry eventually shot out several balloons and landed 90 minutes later by crashing into some power lines and causing a blackout. He was then immediately arrested on the basis of “You are … umm … look, we don’t know what this is, but there’s no way that whatever you just did is legal.”
#2. Corkey Fornof’s Insane Emergency Landing Was Directly Copied By A Bond Movie
In the opening scene from Octopussy, James Bond is flying a BD-5J microjet when his fuel warning light comes on. Bond then puts the plane down on a stretch of highway, parks at a gas station, and asks the stunned attendant to “Fill her up, please” because, believe it or not, there was a time when James Bond was allowed to have a sense of humor about him.
Professional Hollywood stunt pilot Corkey Fornof was flying a BD-5J microjet one day when his fuel warning light came on and he had to put the plane down on a stretch of highway. Fornof’s itty-bitty plane fortunately fit in a traffic lane, so he just coasted past astonished motorists, and switched lanes until he got off the highway and onto an access road.
Hey, a crash landing is no excuse to ignore traffic laws.
Fornof merrily careened through town until he slowed down and parked at a gas station, thoroughly confusing the attendant there. The similarities between that and Octopussy are no coincidence. Not only was the sequence explicitly based on Fornof’s real-life experience, but Fornof himself was the actual stunt pilot flying the BD-5J in Octopussy, meaning that, technically speaking, the most hilariously named James Bond movie is basically also a dramatized documentary.
#1. A Meteor Infects An Entire Town With A Mysterious Andromeda Strain-Like Illness
In the 1971 sci-fi classic The Andromeda Strain, a micrometeorite carrying an alien organism travels down to Earth on one of our satellites, where it immediately infects and kills a town full of people.
“Clearly, we need to build a giant wall around Earth” — President Trump.
The residents of a small Peruvian town near Lake Titicaca (which we are not ashamed to admit still sounds just as hilarious as when we were 12) were stunned when a goddamn meteor crashed nearby causing a massive explosion. The locals decided to walk on over to the mystery blast to check it out, which is basically how every sci-fi horror movie starts, and that’s pretty much what happened next as everyone who visited the crater started complaining of strange headaches and nausea.
Meanwhile, Hollywood was already working on The Andromeda Strain II — This Time It’s Peru-sonal.
In any movie, around now is when the real threat would emerge. The sick die and then come back to life! The virus was in reality just an advance attack by a UFO invasion’s landing party! The meteor contained a blob! You probably know that’s not how it played out, or else you’d have probably heard about it on the news by now.
A bunch of smart guys were called in to investigate and discovered that, in reality, the meteor had just hit a natural deposit of arsenic, throwing a bunch of vaporized death-dirt into the air, which was how everyone got sick. Or in other words: The illness was coming from inside our planet!