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7 Ridiculous Movies that are Actually Grounded in Reality

It’s no secret that our friends in Hollywood enjoy taking liberties with reality— a massive ice age could never engulf New York overnight, time machines would never take the form of hot tubs, giant robots from space would find way cooler friends than Shia LeBeouf, etc. Still, sometimes audiences are too skeptical. There are certain flicks that you likely have scoffed at for being too ludicrous to ever happen in real life but have a surprising amount of accuracy. For instance…

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1. Volcano (1997)

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A giant volcano opening up beneath the city of angels and almost destroying it in just a matter of days? The disaster movie critics called “a hell-lava time” (commence eye rolling) does ignore a lot of facts, but it still has a more believable plot than you’d think. Aside from the fact that California is on a giant fault line and is totally going to ditch the contiguous U.S. for the ocean someday, giant volcanoes can— and have— appeared out of nowhere in just hours. Mexico’s Paricutin is the best example. And for those who mocked Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche’s methods of cooling and steering the lava, it turns out that humans have been able to do just that on multiple occasions.

2. Jaws (1975)

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Yes, sharks do sometimes attack humans, and Jaws indeed frightened many viewers away from the beach. But the real scary part is what happened in real-life to help inspire the movie (or at least, the book it is based on). The Jersey Shore shark attacks in July of 1916 resulted in the deaths of four people and the injuries of seven others. The summer of horror began when two people were killed offshore by sharks (possibly the same one) at quiet beach resort towns along the Jersey coastline, in scenarios undoubtedly more similar to those seen in Jaws. But the most alarming attacks of all took place in Matawan, New Jersey, where the shark swam through the Raritan Bay and up the freakin’ creek— you know, to purposely destroy once and for all the illusion of safety one associates with a calm, freshwater creek— and killed two people, one of them a kid. But because it decided it hadn’t yet been enough of a murderous douche by that point, the shark then ate the leg off a 12-year-old boy an hour later as it swam back downstream toward the sea.

Like in the movie, some stubborn officials and scientists deemphasized the attacks and said sharks did not attack humans without reason. But the facts weakened their claims, and an all-out manhunt— er, sharkhunt— took off. A large shark suspected to be the one with a craving for humans was eventually caught and killed, but suffice to say, it was not exploded (locals did, however, throw dynamite into the water in hopes of doing just that). And because the townspeople thought it would be fun to get some extra revenge in, they made a profit off of the shark's corpse by displaying it to over 3,000 people for the reasonable fee of 10 cents. Jaws is still technically a fictional story, but you’re probably not going to think “Hey cool, a shark! I’ll bet it won’t bother me if I stay in the water!” the next time you see a fin.

3. 50 First Dates (2004)

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If you've seen this movie enough, you may remember that Drew Barrymore’s character is said to have “Goldfield’s Syndrome”. But in reality, this condition does not exist. What does exist, however, is anterograde amnesia, where sufferers are unable to store new memories after an incident, although like Barrymore’s character, they usually have no problem remembering events prior. It's therefor a bit of a mystery as to why this disorder was not the one mentioned in the film (maybe screenwriter George Wing thought “Goldfield’s Syndrome” sounded more friendly). Interestingly, there are different levels of it, with some so severe that they lose new memories in less than a minute. So yes; people like the character “10-second Tom” exist as well.

4. Ghostbusters (1984)

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If you enjoy dumbing yourself down with reality television as much as the rest of us, then you’re probably acquainted with Ghost Hunters on SyFy. For the uninitiated, this is a show about real-life “ghostbusters”, though they take the much more sophisticated approach of walking around in the dark with flashlights whispering, “Did you hear that?” rather than actually capturing and imprisoning the paranormal pests. And surprisingly, a lot of people do hire these guys for this very job.

But the cultural "masterpiece" that is Ghost Hunters is nothing compared to Dan Aykroyd’s actual family history with investigating spirits and other “psychic phenomena”. And remember that super-awkward part of Ghostbusters where a ghost crawled into bed with Aykroyd's "Ray" and you suddenly didn’t feel like a kid anymore? Totally based on a time when a ghost allegedly did get into bed with Dan Aykroyd. And the horrifyingly sadistic yet hilarious experiment Billy Murray's "Dr. Venkman" carries out in the beginning of the film? Also based on a real thing (a somewhat disturbing study called the "Milgram experiement"), as pointed out by Harold Ramis in the DVD commentary.

5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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Freddy Krueger may be fictional, but “nightmare death syndrome” could very well be a real thing. In 1981, it was reported that 18 healthy Laotian refugees mysteriously had passed away in their sleep, from what many suspected was the strange condition. Even more frightening, it happened again and again throughout the next several years. While this syndrome isn’t believed to be a direct result of a burned-up hipster (the vintage fedora and striped shirt were fashionable; the claws were ironic), the CDC has acknowledged nightmares as a possible cause of death.

6. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

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Some say it’s the worst Indiana Jones movie ever made, while others insist it’s the best (just kidding). But depending on how many archaeologist-professors you know that have states for names, you may not know that the fourth Indy installment may actually just be among the most accurate (Temple of Doom, you’re not even close). Turns out crystal skulls are entirely real, entirely mysterious, and they’ve even been speculated to have alien origins. In fact, an archaeologist in Belize even attempted to sue the filmmakers, claiming that the crystal skull was stolen from local ruins and used without permission as a model for the film's skull "replicas" (unfortunately, there was no report on whether he repeatedly shouted "It belongs in a museum!")

That said, there's still no real evidence to support the idea of surviving an atomic explosion by hiding in a refrigerator (don't try it, kiddos). If anything, "nuking the fridge" should become known as the cinematic equivalent of TV's "jumping the shark".

7. Teeth (2007)

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In this charming coming-of-age tale, a young woman bites off the manhood (and in one case, fingers) of various men... with her vagina. Now, a movie about a girl with a set of teeth in her nether regions is bound to be one of the most ridiculous plots ever crafted, right? Turns out the story is nothing new-- an old legend shared by many cultures worldwide. But unfortunately for every man everywhere, the condition "vagina dentata" is not entirely a product of mythology, thanks to a rare kind of tumor that can grow fun things like teeth and hair. The good news though is that there are so far no reports of it actually "biting" anything.

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