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Hollywood Magnetism
Exeter: Place your hands above the rails. They're magnetized.
Mike: And if your hands were metal that would mean something.

In Real Life, the strength of a magnet's pull decreases over distance, much like radio waves, sound, and (for astronomical distances) gravity. This is frequently forgotten in fiction; not only are magnets selective in what they attract, they're also selective in how they attract it: They have effectively unlimited range, and can attract metal with the same force from any distance. Also of note is that this trope tends to treat all metallic objects as though they were ferromagnetic. In reality, many commonly used metals such as aluminum and gold are not ferromagnetic and do not react appreciably to magnetic fields. Another thing to note is that objects under a magnetic pull tend to close in on the magnet at a constant rate of speed, rather than accelerating over time as they move.

In video games, applications of magnetism are functionally similar to Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belts.

In comedic works, the Rule of Funny will often take precedence.

Subset of Artistic License - Physics and Sister Trope to Selective Magnetism. See also Magnetism Manipulation.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • One Piece may have an aversion in the person of Eustace Kidd, who has magnetism powers; the main way he uses them is magnetizing multiple objects together in chains (like you can do at home with paper clips) to give himself Combat Tentacles. It's played straight when he uses his power to wrest guns from peoples hands.
  • Played for Rule of Funny and cartoon physics in the Lupin III (Red Jacket) episode "Vault Assault".
  • In NEEDLESS, Solva's Needless ability is "Magnetic World," which can be used to attract or repel objects and people alike.
  • In Berserk, Guts is able to grasp his BFS with his prosthetic hand thanks to magnets. It would take an industrial-strength electromagnet to lift that thing.

Comic Books
  • In the British newspaper comic The Perishers, there's a strip where Wellington is demonstrating a magnet to Marlon, and he turns it backward so it will repel things. In reality, magnets will only repel other magnets, and only when their like poles are facing each other.
    • Magnets will repel diamagnets, but it's not nearly as strong as what you'd expect, and they're repelled regardless of which way the magnet faces.
  • Archie Comics once had a story in which Archie acquired a very large magnet, which he carried in the back seat of his car. As he and Jughead traveled, the magnet attracted anything and everything that was made of metal.

Film
  • Top Secret!: Dr. Flammond develops the Polaris magnetic mine. Instead of being attracted to ships and blowing them up like a regular magnetic mine, it's so powerful it drags ships to itself from hundreds of miles away.
  • Parodied in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where Eddie uses a large toon magnet to try and wrest a sword off Judge Doom's hands, the magnetic force depicted as lightning bolts that literally grab the sword and pull it.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, when Indy needed to find the location of a magnetic crate, he threw gunpowder in the air and watched which way it moved. Later on, this trope is lampshaded when an object attracts gold coins.
  • In the 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth film, the pole at center of the earth rips away Hans's gold tooth and Carla's wedding ring, which Sir Oliver takes the time to point was also gold.
  • In the 2011 low-budget disaster flick Metal Tornado, the titular magnetic vortex seems to obey some real world magnetic physics while disobeying the majority. While the strength of its pull does seem to decrease with distance, its extreme effect on aluminum and lack of any noticeable effect on buildings (which usually have ferromagnetic components holding them together) is both fascinating and bewildering.

Live-Action TV
  • The Mythbusters proved that magnets can't deflect a bullet, as in Live and Let Die.
    • Or rather, they can, but only with a large amount of supermagnets, nothing like the wristwatch-sized magnet in the movie, and custom-made steel bullets. And even then it only caused the bullet to ricochet off the magnets, continuing its general direction.
  • On Get Smart Sigfried used a giant magnet to pull the entire Seventh Fleet to his island.
  • In the Look Around You episode "Sulfur", they test to see whether sulfur has any magnetic properties. So they use a sheet of paper to "shield" the sulfur from the magnet until everything is in place.
  • Mostly averted by the magnet used in The Caper in Breaking Bad. Walt points out that the frame of his glasses and his wedding ring are aluminium and gold, respectively, and the crew have to add a second row of batteries to get enough amperage to get through the wall of the evidence room.

Video Games
  • The Magnetic Gloves in the Game Boy Color The Legend of Zelda Oracle games. All objects which you can attract towards you/pull yourself towards are not only magnets, but monopolar magnets (the gloves switch between a north and south magnetic charge so you can push and pull). Nothing else is affected by them.
    • The gimmick for the Goron Mines in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess revolves around using the Iron Boots to walk around on areas of magnetic ore in the walls. That's plausible enough. What's not is that fact that in some places the ore emits some kind of superstrong column of magnetism that will pull you onto the wall if you fall into the beam with the boots on.
      • Well, plausible until you realize that even if you don't have them equipped, you still have to be carrying them, and would be subject the exact same attraction. It's the same thing with earlier games and having the boots allow you to sink in water and walk on the bottom, but once you take them off, you're magically lighter.
      • Either that or Link's Bag of Holding is magnetically-shielded when closed, preventing the magnetic field from entering and attracting the boots while stored. Makes about as much sense as the fact that he can jump or even walk straight with those boots in his inventory, at least. Now that I think about it, maybe it's a literal Pocket Dimension?
  • In Mega Man 3, Magnet Man is able to pull Mega Man in towards himself whenever he activates his magnetic field. It'll pull Mega Man in at the same speed regardless of your location on the screen.
  • Justified in Mega Man Battle Network 2. As this takes place in the cyber world, where the rules of physics are constructed of data and are therefore artificial. There's a chip called MagLine which pulls you to the panel(s). If the panels are in the lower row, the staying in the upper row will prevent it from dragging you to that panel and visa-versa.
    • Also, the Battle Chip of Magnetman EXE uses his North-South Tackle, and will not work if there is no room to summon South.
  • In Plants vs. Zombies is a magnetic mushroom. Even more mind-boggling, it can be equipped so that instead of ferrous items, it collects silver and gold coins.
  • In Poppit Sprint on Pogo, the Magnet power-up causes like-coloured balloons to stick together.
  • The magnets in Teslagrad don't work anything like the way they do in real life. They seem to exert a constant pull out to an arbitrary distance, at which point it immediately drops to zero, for one. Then again, a literal wizard is involved...

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: One prank Bart pulls involves two pieces of metal in the bottom of Principal Skinner's shoes and a pair of horseshoe magnets under the stage, which Bart manipulates to make Skinner do a wild dance. In reality, the magnetic field wouldn't be strong enough to pass through that much wood.
  • In the Classic Disney Short "Donald and Pluto", Donald Duck is a plumber who uses a magnet to retrieve his tools from atop a ladder. Pluto ends up accidentally swallowing the magnet, and spends the rest of the cartoon dealing with the various objects that are mysteriously following him around.
  • Wile E. Coyote got bitten by this once. In his attempt to catch Bugs Bunny with an iron carrot, his super-magnet ended up attracting all sorts of metal junk instead, including the Eiffel Tower, an ocean liner and finally a ballistic missile, which blew him to kingdom come.
  • Another Looney Tunes short, "Bugsy and Mugsy", culminates with Bugs putting roller skates on a tied-up Mugsy, then using a magnet under the floor to move Mugsy around...and slam him repeatedly into Rocky. This, of course, won't work for the same reasons The Simpsons example above won't work.
  • In still another Looney Tunes short, "Zipping Along", Wile E. Coyote tries to capture the Road Runner by mixing bird seed with small balls, so that when the bird eats the seeds, he eats the steel balls as well. The coyote then brings out a huge magnet to bring in the Road Runner, only to get an already-lit-canister of TNT instead. Oh, Crap.
  • In the Superman (1940s) episode "The Magnetic Telescope", the title device is used to drag comets in space down to Earth.
  • In the 1974 Super Friends episode "The Shamon U", a Mad Scientist draws a gold-bearing space cloud near the Earth with a "special gold-attracting magnet", then creates small asteroids of gold out of the dust and draws them to Earth using the same magnet.
  • In the pilot episode of Phineas and Ferb, Dr. Doofenshmirtz builds a magnet so strong it even attracts aluminum, a metal not normally known to react to magnetism.
  • In The Mighty Hercules episode The Magnetic Stone, Daedalus is caught by Hercules, using an iron pot, which flies at Daedalus while the villain is holding the magnetic stone.
  • In the Tom and Jerry episode The Framed Cat, Jerry gets Tom to swallow a magnet and then drills a screw into Spike the bulldog's bone, so the bone flies at Tom from clear across the yard to make it look as if Tom's trying to steal it.
  • Andy Panda has Mr. Panda somehow swallow a magnet, then have to avoid first an anvil, then several red-hot horseshoes that then keep following him in response.
  • The Tick: "A fish magnet?!"
  • Kim Possible: One of Dr. Drakken's plans to take over the world was to build a giant magnet with which to pull all the continents together.


Breaking BadJustForFun/Tropes Examined by the Myth BustersHypno Fool
Hollywood DensityArtistic License PhysicsHoming Lasers

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