Movie Rules of Thumb

These are rules for every day living that I’ve come up with based on things I’ve seen in movies. . . .

1. Always shoot zombies through the head – never waste ammo on body shots.

Source:Night of the Living Dead and every zombie movie since then.

Lesson: Don’t waste your time doing things you know aren’t going to matter. Consequently, if you try something you think is going to work, and it doesn’t work, believe the evidence. Try something else.

Rule 1 obviously applies to just about every zombie movie. It also applies to a lot of other movies. If you don’t have a silver bullet, don’t even shoot at a werewolf. The same thing goes for vampires, if you don’t have a wooden stake, although I have to admit, I have paid zero attention to Twighlight and other recent vampire movies and TV shows, so I can’t say whether this still applies.

Rule 1 has lots of applications in Real Life as well. Because of Rule 1, I don’t use sarcasm with the TSA agent at the airport. I always go ahead and give my dog his treat when I let him in. I don’t argue about visiting my mother-in-law. I tip the bellman at the hotel.

Self-defense lesson: Never shoot someone to wound, or fire a warning shot, or shoot to get their attention. If you pull your gun, be prepared to shoot until the threat stops. That means shooting center of mass, with follow up shots to other areas as appropriate.

And yes, that might be a head shot.

2. If you find an ancient book of the dead, never read it out loud.

Source: just about every mummy movie made. The example below is from The Mummy.

Lesson: when you know something you’re going to do will have a bad consequence, don’t do it. This especially applies to things that have always resulted in bad results. Remember how Einstein defined insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Don’t be insane.

If you want to see this rule violated the most, go to just about any gun forum and look for the members with the least number of posts. It also seems like forum trolls have whole libraries of Books of the Dead.


Debating .45ACP versus 9mm.

Giving in to terrorist demands

Asking which is better training for the real world – USPSA or IDPA

Asking what would be the best handgun to carry in bear country

On a New York subway, asking “Mets or Yankees?”

For me, asking my son “So, when are you going to cut the grass?”

3. A man has got to know his limitations.

Source: Magnum Force

Lesson: pretty self-explanatory. Every person needs to know their limitations. Either you will find them out through life experience or training or self-examination, or you will have your limitations demonstrated to you, perhaps fatally.

This was the first Rule that came full blown from just one line in a movie. Harry Callahan used it to mock the bad cop Briggs, who had once used the line to try to tell Harry that he was outmatched.

This rule has many applications. For instance, there are physical limits to how much activity we can endure, or how well we can shoot, or how much money we can spend. There are also limits to what we are willing to do, for a number of reasons. There are moral limits to what a person is willing to do, too.

For me, this means I have to train so I know what I’m capable of doing physically. Many people think that when the time comes, they will “rise to the occasion.” But experience shows that we will actually regress to our level of training. So we must always be advancing our ability through training and practice.

It also means I need to have well thought out rules of engagement, that lay out what I will do in certain situations. No one should wait until an encounter to decide how they will act. This is especially true of self defense situations.

4. Never take your shoes off at a Christmas party, or when there are terrorists in the building.

Source: Die Hard, my favorite Christmas movie.

Lesson: it’s never really okay to let your guard down. I covered this once before in my post about awareness. Always maintain a state of alertness, whether things seem normal or not.

The Rule started out as “Never take your shoes off when there are terrorists in the building.” But this implies that we can know when there are terrorists in the building, or a mugger around the corner. So I added the innocent phrase “at a Christmas party.”

Always be alert. Always be in Condition Yellow. Can we ever relax, then? Yes, but with caution and alertness. If John McClain had kept his shoes in his hand, ready to put back on, things would be have gone differently. Not for Hans Gruber, but for John McClain.

Yippee kiyay, Mister Falcon.

5. Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.

Source: Cool Hand Luke.

6. Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while you could miss it.

Source: Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

7. When someone asks you if you are a god, answer “yes.”

Source: Ghostbusters

8. Dyin’ ain’t much of a living.

Source: Outlaw Josey Wales

9. Always know where your towel is.

Source: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

10. Take off your high heels when you run.

Source: just about every horror movie made.

11. Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

Source: Outlaw Josey Wales

12. Never use a digital countdown to set off any device. If this is absolutely unavoidable, set it to activate when the counter reaches an arbitrary number.

Source: Every James Bond or terrorist bomb movie.

13. If you’re going to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.

Source: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

14. Stay off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Source: just about every monster movie set in New York, most recently Cloverfield and I Am Legend.

15. If you build a park or lab for genetic mutants, use doorknobs that are round or require thumbs.

Source: Jurassic Park.

16. When you open the secret safe, if there’s a gun in there, take it. There’s a reason.

Source: just about every movie with a secret safe.

17. You got hair on your peaches, or what? Nut up or shut up.

Source: Talladega Nights: the Legend of Ricky Bobby

18. There are NO half hour missions.

Source: Black Hawk Down. Both the book by Mark Bowden and the film by Tony Scott tell the story of the US Army mission to try to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu in 1993. A lot of the soldiers on this mission got in trouble because they assumed the mission, taking place in the middle of the day, surrounded by his cronies, would take a half hour, in and out. Most took no provisions, no canteens, and minimal ammunition, because the plan said the mission would be too short for them to need it, and they would be back soon. Instead, things went terribly wrong, and the mission lasted all day and all night. 19 Americans died.

Lesson: There is no ten minute jaunt to the convenience store for milk. There is no half hour walk around the block. There is no quick run through the drive-through for dinner. Because in all those situations, things can and do happen that can turn that quick trip into a long nightmare, and you need to be prepared.

This means dress for the long term mission. When I make a run to the ice cream store, I take off my sandals and tee shirt and put on running shoes and a shirt that can conceal the handgun that I always take with me. When I run or walk at 5 AM, I carry a Glock 19 in my fanny pack along with my ID and Georgia Weapons License, and a tactical flashlight in my left pocket.

It means I fight my wife to get her to bring her ID and cell phone when we go to pick our son up at a friend’s house, since if we ever got into a wreck and she needed to be treated at the hospital, it would be a great thing if they knew who she was and who to call.

If you’re one of those who hops in the car and goes (and believe me, I was that way once) then I hope you will reconsider that, and think about a worst case scenario as part of your planning. Because no one gives the Medal of Honor to crime victims.

19. If you discover some being frozen in the Arctic ice, do not thaw it.

Source: The Thing. (Sorry, Steve Rogers, it’s just not worth the risk that you’re some face sucking alien.)

20.  Leave the gun, take the cannoli. 

Source: The Godfather.

21. If you go in a house and hear a ghostly voice saying “Get Out!”, do so and don’t come back.

Source: Amityville Horror

22. If your computer has a camera, cover it. It can read your lips.

Source: 2001 a Space Odyssey

23.  Always take your gun to the bathroom.

Source: Pulp Fiction.

Just ask Vincent Vega.

6 thoughts on “Movie Rules of Thumb

  1. Pingback: New Movie Rule of Thumb | Fill Yer Hands

  2. I have one: If you go in a house and hear a ghostly voice saying “Get Out!”, do so and don’t come back.
    Amityville Horror

    If you computer has a camera, cover it. It can rad lips.


  3. Pingback: Movie Rule of Thumb 23 – Fill Yer Hands

  4. Historian

    Another Tremors favorite- “Running is not a plan! Running is what you do when a plan fails!” Corollary- *Have a plan.* Even a mediocre plan is better than no plan, and in an emergency it is difficult to come up with a plan. This applies broadly to all kinds of potential emergencies, not just tactical drills. How many folks reading this have in-date fire extinguishers and fire exit ladders, and have trained to use them?


Leave a Reply to Tom Lindsay Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s