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Hollywood Magnetism

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

Works of fiction frequently portray the effects of magnetism in a way that is inconsistent with Real Life. This can be because the writer did not do the research or because the "different" magnetism is a plot device. In video games, magnetism can be functionally equivalent to Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belts. In comedic works, magnetism can be required by the Rule of Funny.

There are several ways that magnetism in a work can differ from magnetism in Real Life:

  • The work portrays the force of magnetism as independent of distance, whereas in Real Life the magnetic force decreases sharply with distance.
  • The work portrays the force of magnetism as acting on all metallic objects, whereas in Real Life only ferromagnetic materials (such as iron, nickel, and cobalt) are attracted by or can become magnets.note 
  • The work portrays an object being attracted by magnetism as having a constant speed, whereas in Real Life a force causes an object's speed to change according to Newton's Second Law.
  • The work portrays only the object and not the magnet being pulled, whereas in Real Life the magnet would be pulled toward the object just as hard as the object is pulled toward the magnet (Newton's Third Law).
  • The work portrays the magnet pulling in only one object at a time, whereas in Real Life the magnet would pull all objects at the same time (consistent with the preceding rules).

Subset of Artistic License – Physics. Often overlaps with Selective Magnetism and sometimes Magnetism Manipulation, but there are distinct differences:

  • Magnetism Manipulation occurs when a character in the work can choose how magnetism works and this is set forth explicitly as a special ability.
  • Hollywood Magnetism occurs when the work clearly portrays magnetism differently than Real Life.
  • Selective Magnetism occurs when the force of magnetism is inconsistently portrayed even within the universe of the work.
Please make sure that your example of magnetism as used in fiction goes to the right trope.


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    Anime & 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 people's hands.
  • Played for Rule of Funny and cartoon physics in the Lupin III: Part II 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 even lift that thing, never mind hold onto it as he swings it around with the force of a cannon shot.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Mariah's Stand, Bastet, is actually pretty realistic for the most part—the pull is stronger the closer two objects are, any and all magnetic materials within range are pulled at the same time, not all metals are affected, and the magnetic field pulls everything instead of just arbitrary objects—with three exceptions:
    • A car is pulled down the street and onto Avdol, even though Avdol wasn't being pulled toward the car.
    • The magnetic field on Joseph and Avdol persists even after Avdol engulfs himself and Joseph with the flames of Magician's Red. Magnetic fields begin to deteriorate when exposed to temperatures above 176*F (80*C).
    • She cuts some powerlines so they'll fly toward Joseph and electrocute him. Powerlines are made of copper and alumimum, neither of which is magnetic (the electricity running in them does generate a magnetic field, but it's a small one and it still wouldn't work that way).

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics once had a story in which Archie acquires a very large magnet, which he carries in the back seat of his car. As he and Jughead travel, the magnet attracts anything and everything that is made of metal.
  • Kid Colt: The parts of Dr. Danger's shtick that weren't archived through Ventriloquism were done through the use of magnets (or, as one commentator put it, "you know, those really powerful magnets you can only find in comic books"). The effects he achieves would be impossible with 21st century technology, let alone 19th.
  • In a Legion of Super-Heroes story pastiching Golden Age comics, and with suitably depowered characters and rubber science, Cosmic Boy doesn't have innate Magnetism Manipulation, but just a series of magnets strapped to his arms. However, these magnets are his own invention that can attract things other than metal; he has a "wood magnet", a "brick magnet" and so on.
  • Often happens in Mortadelo y Filemón. Examples include them using a big magnet, so a plane will crash... but instead blowing off an airliner's engine that crushes them, a device by Profesor Bacterio, that repels metal -up to submarines-, or as a punishment tying a magnet to Profesor Bacterio and having him attempting to escape of a nuclear bomb attracted by it.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1:
    • (Earth-Two) In a possible future that Diana views through the "Magic Sphere", Paula von Gunther creates very round electric planes substitutes which are somehow kept aloft and propelled by magnetism, and are easily brought down by electric disturbances.
    • (Earth-One) Dr. Polaris uses his magnetic suit to disable electronics, divert and manipulate vehicles containing metal and fly.
  • X-Men: Magneto's powers originally just allowed him to move magnetic metals, but they've long since grown to being something more along the lines of being able to telekinetically control all metals and metaloids. He's still called the Master of Magnetism, though. His daughter, Polaris, has the same thing going with her powers.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.
  • The Sunday 3 September 1989 strip of Scott Adams' Dilbert has Dogbert's animal magnetism suddenly Reverse Polarity, which causes the household cutlery to leap from the drawers at him. Of course, Dilbert, being the Butt-Monkey, ends up with a Knife Outline.

    Films — Animation 
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, the cartoon magnets used by Photo Finish are strong enough to lift Rarity (and her heavy dress) from the floor, or rip off her sleeves, but don't have any effect on other metal objects on the stage.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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. Also justified, as being a toon prop (and literally a Hollywood magnet) it follows the laws of toon physics, so it acts exactly as you think it should or would, except (or especially) if the outcome would be funny.
  • 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. Given that the strength of a magnetic field is inversely proportional to the square of the distance and the fact that it could visibly attract small items from the other side of a large warehouse, said crate, once placed in a truck with a metal bed, should have become permanently attached to the truck, but it can be removed later. Later on, this trope is lampshaded when an object attracts gold coins.
  • In Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), 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.
  • Mom and Dad Save the World has Emperor Tod Spengo kidnap Dick and Marge via the Magno-Beam, a giant U-Magnet that sends their car on a one-way space journey. At the end of the film, it's used to put them back on Earth again.
  • The villain of the Hong Kong martial arts film, The Postman Fights Back, is a Ninja whose arsenal of weapons includes a magnet which he uses to absorb projectile weapons, catching a dart shot at him and using it to remotely pull back his dropped dagger. It later proves to be his own undoing - while trying to ambush the hero, the titular postman managed to locate the villain and anticipate his attack using a compass.
  • In Up the Chastity Belt, Lurkalot uses a giant horseshoe magnet to strip Sir Grumbel of his weapons and armour during their trial by combat.
  • In the 1979 Disney comedy Unidentified Flying Oddball (aka A Spaceman in King Arthur's Court), Sir Mordred is hunting down our hero Tom Trimble, who as a 20th Century astronaut doesn't know anything about sword fighting, so with the help of Mordred's page he magnetises Mordred's sword by striking it with a hammer. Hilarity Ensues as more and more metal objects get stuck to the sword every time Mordred swings it (when he tries to get another knight to pull them off, the knight's gauntlets get stuck to it as well). In the final battle Tom knocks out Mordred's army by activating the magnetic fields on his spacecraft, unfortunately stripping off his own armor in the process (fortunately Mordred is pulled into the field too, just when he's about to chop Tom in half).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad: A large electromagnet is used to destroy a police evidence room from the outside. Due to the inverse-square law, this is not possible. While adding more electric current to the magnet will make it stronger, it does not increase the range at which is effective. Mythbusters Jr. tested this with a scale mock-up of the scene and found that the magnet would have no effect. The reason why the magnet can be used to pick up cars is because it is placed close enough to exert its force. Note how in this same scene, none of the nearby vehicles are moved despite being a few feet away.
  • The Goodies had the horseshoe-magnet gag while fighting Ye Black Knight in the King Arthur episode.
  • 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. Max pulls the magnet out of position by accident using a magnetic belt buckle - a normal strength one he got from a clothing store.
  • 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. It's then portrayed correctly in that the magnetism affects everything on the other side of the wall and not just the target, and that the magnet itself is pulled towards the wall; but a MythBusters spinoff still proved the show got one thing wrong: magnetic force drops with distance, with the maximum range being about two feet. Only items that are next to the wall to begin with would be affected.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Magnetic Gloves in the Game Boy Color The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games. Most 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). The only thing that's attracted to both north and south charges are Hiploop masks, but only if the monster is in a direct line and facing Link.
    • 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 the 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 (and thanks to a Good Bad Bug, it's possible that you don't even need to wear the boots on the magnetic surfaces, letting you walk at normal speed and silently).
    • The Magnesis rune in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild only ever affects the single object you aim it at and never nearby objects.
  • 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 there is a magnetic mushroom. This mushroom is also only capable of sucking in one metal object at a time. Even more mind-bogglingly, it can be upgraded to the Gold Magnet which collects coins (made of silver and gold) and diamonds, instead of metal objects.
  • 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...
  • Several bosses in World of Warcraft have magnetism-related abilities. One example is Siegecrafter Blackfuse, who will periodically drop electromagnets on the raid that inexorably pull players across the stage. One can understand how plate and mail wearers would be affected, but why the cloth and leather-wearers?
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: One of the Soviet Super Science's abilities is the Magnetic Satellite, which pulls vehicles into orbit, never to be seen again... unless the player invested in the Orbital Drop power as well (which dumps a space probe/satellite/space station), in which case they're thrown back to earth for ridiculous damage.
  • In Glider PRO, one "Slumberland" room has a picture of a magnet on the wall which sucks the glider in (using Vent Physics). Realistically, magnetism should have no effect on a folded sheet of paper.

    Web Comics 
  • The Beast in Girl Genius is able to magnetically influence non-ferrous metals like gold. The characters explicitly comment about the seeming impossibility of this. Then again, it is a Heterodyne contraption, and the Heterodynes were never really hindered by minor details like the laws of physics.

    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.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • 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 short, "Bugsy and Mugsy", culminates with Bugs putting roller skates on Mugsy, then using a magnet under the floor to move Mugsy around...and slam him repeatedly into Rocky. This, of course, wouldn'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 cartoon "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.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In the pilot episode, Dr. Doofenshmirtz builds a magnet so strong it even attracts aluminum, a metal not normally known to react to magnetism.
    • Lampshaded in the movie, where Carl gives Perry a similarly powerful wrist magnet. After it attracts his glasses, he points out that they are aluminum, making the magnet that much more impressive. Later, Perry uses the magnet to attract a key which appears to be either copper or gold (but it was never explicitly stated) while having no effect on the metal robot holding the key.
  • 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. It worked, AND they didn't reverse it at the end of the episode. Kim used the fact that the Atlantic Ocean no longer exists to go to school in Europe without having to travel too far.
  • All Hail King Julien: Julien feeds everyone bars that turn out to be made with magnets. Every lemur in the kingdom being full of magnets causes them to get stuck to each other, attracting a bunch of metal in addition, and then inexplicably getting the entire magnetic mess pulled toward the moon. Resident scientist even lampshades that this shouldn't be scientifically possible.