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Hollywood Skydiving

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"Hey, kids, it's Trivia Time! with Demolition D+!'' First Question: How much prior knowledge is needed to operate a parachute for your first time in mid-air while jumping off the very tippy-top of an exploding building without landing and breaking your legs?! MORE THAN THIS FUCKIN' GUY!
Oh, and then I'm expected to believe that Socially-Awkward Sandy here can do it while holding someone bridal style? Okayyyyyyyy..."''
Demolition D+ on Future Diary

Parachuting is a precise science in real life. There is only a small window on any given jump to deploy one's parachute; too soon, and you could risk breaking a leg or veering too far from the drop zone; open too late, and you might not have enough time to cut away and deploy your reserve should the main canopy malfunction at such a low altitude.

Hollywood ignores this. In the movies, as long as you deploy your parachute before you hit the ground, you are A-OK. Doesn't matter when you pull it, or if you're carrying heavy baggage, or if you're upside down, or if the parachute is tangled. Parachute injuries simply don't exist. (At least unless it would be dramatic.)

The terminal velocity of a free falling human being is 52 m/s (170 ft/s), corresponding to a 1000 m (3000 ft) fall in 20 seconds. The usual jump altitude is 4000 m (13,000 ft, in US 12,500 ft), giving one minute of free fall before the safe altitude for deploying the parachute.

Note that in Real Life the parachute pack contains two parachutes: the main which is to be deployed in the ordinary manner, and a reserve which is to be deployed if the main chute fails. Some packs have automatic mechanisms which automatically deploy the reserve chute if the main fails to open before reaching 1000 ft altitude. Such automatic activation devices are mandatory in several countries.

Note also that Real Life modern parachute rigs do not have rip cords for deploying the parachute. The parachute is deployed by pulling out a small auxiliary parachute called the pilot chute and throwing it into the slipstream. The pilot chute pulls the rig open, deploying the main parachute. The handle for deploying the pilot chute is usually located at the right side bottom of the rig. [The metal handle on the left side of the harness is the reserve chute deployment handle.]

Also note that in Real Life, first-time skydivers are always accompanied by either an experienced trainer who will be literally strapped to the newbie's back, or two trainers who will monitor the newbie and assist him/her on radio, or their chute will be opened automatically when they jump out of the plane by means of a static line. Acknowledgement of this is slowly making its way through to the writers/producers of Hollywood, but there are still plenty of times when the only training a newbie gets is being pushed out the door... usually because the plane is exploding/has zombies on-board/is being shot at. Maybe all at once.

This trope's prevalence can probably be traced to Rule of Perception. Real life HALO (High-Altitude, Low-Opening) jumps are basically this trope. And they're risky.

See also Useful Notes: Skydiving for more realistic approach on this trope.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • A Certain Magical Index: Motoharu has proper skydiving training, but Touma does not. Motoharu just shoves Touma out of a plane without his permission. Touma completely panics and tumbles helplessly through the air while trying desperately to find the ripcord. When he finally manages to pull it, not only does the parachute get tangled around his neck, he was only a few feet above water. He gets knocked unconscious from the impact and would have drowned if Itsuwa wasn't around (though he doesn't break any bones).
  • Averted in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: During one early episode the apparently-indestructible Heero Yuy jumps from a skyscraper and, owing to his conviction that "life is cheap, especially mine", doesn't deploy his parachute until a certain girl screams his name. By that time it's too late - he deploys it, it does nothing at all, he hits a cliff face and breaks his leg right in two. He later sets it, with his bare hands and no anesthetic, while rolling around on the floor.
  • Subverted in the Banned Episode "The Legend of Dratini" from Pokémon: The Original Series. Team Rocket attempts to jump from a sign not to far from the ground with a parachute that James deploys... and promptly fall flat on their faces.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • James Bond:
    • In Moonraker Jaws fails to deploy his main chute, diving in free fall into a circus tent, and somehow surviving by falling onto a trapeze safety net. In Real Life he could have simply deployed his reserve chute when the main chute failed.
      • In the Moonraker novelisation, Bond does his jump (including wresting a parachute from someone in mid-air) based on only a conversation he had with a British army parachute team.
    • Averted in Tomorrow Never Dies, as the HALO jump (High Altitude, Low Opening) is an actual military practice, and we see Bond given a detailed safety briefing by an army parachutist.
    • In Quantum of Solace, James Bond and Camille not only deploy one parachute for the both of them, but they do so two feet off the ground and while rolling through the air, a move which would be certain to kill them both in real life. Of course they land perfectly unharmed.
  • Point Break (1991):
    • Johnny's only training is "pull the cord". In real life he would have deployed his reserve chute had he done so. The deployment grip of the main parachute is usually at the right bottom side of the pack.
    • In the escape scene, Bodhi tells the pilot to rise to 4000 ft so Bodhi and Roach could jump safely. Johnny jumps almost ten seconds after Bodhi has jumped.
      • Such low altitude openings are called hop and pop in the Real Life. They are extremely risky as one needs to deploy his chute almost immediately after exit.
    • It could just be bad editing but in the first jump Johnny and Bodhi seem to only open their chutes about 50 feet off the surface of the water. This is way below any safety limits.
    • In the Real Life recreational skydivers attempt to avoid landing deliberately on water as it is dangerous due to risk of getting tangled with either canopy or suspension lines.
    • It is NOT possible to hold a conversation mid-air in free fall without radio headsets because of the noise of the slipstream.
    • They have a total of 3 minutes 30 seconds of freefall time. In the Real Life this would correspond on jumping off 10,500 m altitude, which is impossible without extra oxygen and warm clothes.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie: The Power Rangers went sky diving in the first scene of the Non-Serial Movie. Bulk and Skull ended up on the same parachute and off target, landing in a building site (the one where Ivan Ooze was dug up). Could've been worse - they were about to jump without their parachutes, but Kimberly stopped them with a "I think you guys forgot these.".
  • Averted in The Skydivers: one diver waits too long before deploying his chute, and goes splat. Landing at unsurvivable speed is called bouncing in skydiving slang.
    • This is why automatic activation devices, such as Cypres, are mandatory in several countries. The automatic activation device deploys the reserve chute automatically if the main is not deployed at given altitude, usually at 300 m or 1000 ft.
  • In the Get Smart movie, Max jumps (accidentally) without his parachute. Agent 99 jumps shortly after (it's got to be at least a minute or so), with one, catches up with him and grabs him, manages to do all kinds of stunts involving an enemy agent, and manages a perfect landing anyway. With Max.
    • Of course, the bad guy gets his chute cut up by 99 and survives his landing anyway, so they weren't really trying to be realistic here.
  • Averted in Star Trek (2009) movie. During the low orbit drop on the drilling platform, Olsen, the Red Shirt, deploys his chute way too close to the drilling platform. He bounces off the platform and his chute gets pulled into the drilling laser, causing him to be vaporized when he is drawn into the laser as well. Meanwhile, Kirk and Sulu nearly get turned into parachute pizza themselves, and they actually timed it correctly.
  • At the beginning of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget is ordered to jump out the door without a trainer, and deploys her parachute a little too late. She ends up landing in a vat of pig excrement.
  • Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen: Averted. Galloway does not wait till the last second to pull the ripcord. He doesn't even wait until he's out of the plane. To be fair, Major Lennox tricked him into doing that.
    Major Lennox: Not yet you dumbass!
  • Subverted in The Bucket List, in which the two main characters, both elderly men, go skydiving for the first time. Both are performing tandem jumps (each man accompanied by an instructor), although there is a bit of dialogue during the free fall, which the MythBusters proved impossible (see the Point Break example above).
    • Dialogue during the free fall is possible during a tandem jump as the jumpers are attached on each other, but even then the slipstream makes it extremely difficult.
  • The opening action scene of Charlie's Angels (2000).
  • Played straight in Eraser. Ahnold jumps out after his chute, catches up with it, puts it on, and pulls the cord. Apparently, all that falling didn't change his altitude, though, as the plane turns around, chases him, and destroys his primary chute.
    • Moments later, this gets complicated. Points for his having and using a reserve chute, which gets tangled by his aerial stunts. On the negative side, he untangles it about ten to twenty feet above the ground. He is hurt by impact, which is at least somewhat realistic, but after a joke is fine in the next scene he appears in.
  • Congo has an expedition parachute into the region from a plane that is (1) flying on autopilot, and (2) actively taking antiaircraft fire. Despite the fact that at least three team members have never parachuted before and a fourth is carrying a gorilla, there are no injuries (apart from the gorilla scratching the team member carrying her) and the team is able to immediately retrieve its equipment bundles.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service both averts this and plays it straight. First, when Eggsy and Roxy are jumping from a plane and the former doesn't have a parachute, the two hold onto each other and in the end both suffer minor injuries. When Roxy falls helplessly out of space in the climax of the movie, she ultimately ends up completely unscathed. Then again she didn't have Eggsy pulling her down and opened the parachute higher off the ground.
  • The Wild Geese. The mercenaries parachute from a Hercules commercial cargo plane a good deal more professionally than a group of Old Soldiers with a few weeks refresher training should, landing without so much as a sprained ankle.

  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man 3: The title character gets thirteen people falling to their deaths to join hands so he can save them as a group. Filmed using a professional skydriving crew, of course.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger: The good Captain jumps out of a plane into enemy territory with zero training and not much advice. Thankfully, he's a Super-Soldier. This was also accurate for the time period; British Special Operations were having so many accidents during parachute training that they reached the point where it was actually safer to just throw them right into the fire.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Not Going Out, the gang participate in a charity skydiving event. None have any experience or training but are expected to jump solo wearing "parachutes" that lack leg straps.

  • Subverted in US Army Airborne troops' squaddie song Blood on the Risers where the young trooper carefully checks everything except his static line, which would deploy the main parachute automatically. He then deploys the reserve chute in bad free falling position, resulting it not opening but tangling on his limbs, with fatal results.

  • Williams Electronics' No Fear: Dangerous Sports invokes this in the dialog for the "Air Challenge":
    Skydiver: "Wait a minute! I've never done this before! How do I do it? Where's the rip cord? I wanna go back!"
    Skull: "Shut up and JUMP!"

    Video Games 
  • Averted in CT Special Forces for all the games. There are skydiving stages where you infiltrate enemy bases via parachute, and moments like these requires you to position you character onscreen with the cursor in correspondance with two gauges onscreen (one horizontal, one vertical). You'll need to hit the jump button as your character hits a red marker on both gauges to trigger the parachute successfully - miss the mark, you lose a life and need to restart the level.
  • Saints Row franchise:
    • Saints Row 2 lets you pop the chute 2 cm from the ground and it immediately opens and you're okay. Then again you can also parachute out of a helicopter on top of another one without ill effects, while your original helicopter plummets out of the sky because your character apparently turned off the engine on his/her way out. And while you CAN jump out of a business jet, in Real Life you are about 99% likely to smack into the wing and fall screaming to the ground without an opportunity to open your chute.
    • Played for Laughs in the opening sequence of Saints Row: The Third, which involves a long-running firefight in freefall against a bunch of thugs, jumping in and out of various aircraft, dodging fuselage, etc. Oh, and your backpack has an infinite number of parachutes so that you can freefall for a while, deploy your chute, cut your chute, freefall some more, and then deploy another chute, as many times as you like without so much as a Hand Wave to explain it. Word of God has it that the developers didn't bother to implement a programming flag to keep track of whether you'd already deployed your chute when the sequence was in testing, and when it came time to implement one, they asked themselves, "Would limiting you to one main chute and one backup make the game more fun?" and then decided that realism could go hang.
  • The opening scene of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has Jack arrive at the site via HALO jump (i.e, plane's about 3-12 miles up, he falls at 150 MPH, he doesn't pull the cord until he's about a mile up; according to the Metal Gear universe this is "the world's first HALO jump"), but since he's a Green Beret, member of the FOX Unit, and all-around pretty cool character as well, it's OK.
  • Mario Party DS: In the minigame Parachutin' Gallery, the players are falling hundreds of meters onto the ground after standing on the top of a huge overgrown beanstalk. As they fall, they can steer freely to attempt to pass through color-coded tiles within floating grounds to earn points (in each case, the required tile is shown in the game's top screen). Near the end of the minigame, they deploy leaves to reduce speed, though they're clearly still several meters above the ground.
  • All of the Battlefield games except for the first Bad Company game feature a Magical Parachute that comes standard in every footsoldier's backpack. It's deployable anytime while airborne and slows you to a safe speed instantly, resulting in silly (but very useful) scenarios like using a parachute to safely jump off a tall building, or to bail from a jet, free fall for a minute, and deploy the parachute just before hitting the ground. Oh, and you can use it as many times as you need to without all that obnoxious repacking.
  • Averted in Wii Sports Resort. In the "Air Sports" skydiving game, the player jumps out of an airplane and has three minutes to link up with other divers for photographs. The chute opens automatically with ample time to spare, avoiding the trope. Except for the fact that a three minute free fall would require about 35,000 feet of altitude, which would only be accomplished through the use of high altitude HALO gear, and the chutes opened rather low, in reality, that altitude would only be a few seconds from the ground. Also, and automatic opening from an AAD is truth in television, but no one would ever actually rely on it.
  • The "ribbon parachute" from MDK might count. It works like a charm no matter if you're jumping off a six-foot ledge or from orbit.
  • In Spelunky, the parachute item will automatically deploy after falling for a certain amount of time, and will save you from being hurt even if you are inches from hitting the ground.
  • In Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara performs a BASE jump to enter an abandoned military base in Kazahkstan. As part of a interactive cutscene/quick-time-event, the player has to press a key at precisely the right moment as indicated by the screen and by Mission Control yelling in your ear, in order to deploy the chute. If Lara deploys the chute too late, she falls and dies.
  • Just Cause, particularly the second game, is pretty much full on Hollywood Skydiving. Opening up your parachute too high in the air causes no damage to your health bar when you land, even if you lean forward to fall towards it as fast as the parachute will let you. The extent of your troubles for opening it too low is a brief moment of Rico smacking down hard on the ground in a ragdoll state and remarking about how much it hurt when he gets back up, but no health loss results from this either. Even if said ragdoll state results in him smacking into walls or trees at high speed. If that weren't enough, Rico has an infinite amount of parachutes available to deploy at any time, meaning you can skydive out of a plane and release as many parachutes as you want before you land on the ground. You can also use your grapple hook to propel yourself forward while you have your parachute activated, sort of like a makeshift parasail. And to top it all off you essentially don't even need the parachute because Rico can use his grapple hook to pull himself to the ground to negate all the fall damage. Let me repeat that, you can negate fall damage from terminal velocity by falling slightly faster.
  • World of Warcraft parachutes (the player-deployed kind, not the automatic ones that the game sometimes provides) are a bizarre case. They work instantly, so you can fall as far as you wish, deploy your flexweave underlay half a second before you hit, and suffer no damage. However, they only last a short time, so deploying too early can find your parachute expiring while you're still far off the ground.
    • WoW also has a case similar to Just Cause above, where a Druid in bear form can activate their charge ability just before they hit the ground to negate the damage of falling from any height.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Mostly averted in Pilotwings; the game tells you when to deploy your parachute (usually well after having jumped from the plane in order to navigate through a section of rings) and if you do it too late, you'll crash (and lose all your points). Even if you don't crash, it's very easy to have a sub-optimal landing.

  • Least I Could Do has a proper tandem jump for Rayne's first jump, but he somehow breaks free of the harness and falls out while trying to snatch his instructor's hat. His instructors manages to catch to him mid-air and strap him back in before opening the parachute.

    Western Animation 
  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends: Spidey lounges on top of the Kingpin's parachute. For comedy purposes, we suppose, since every iteration of Spider-Man ever can make parachutes out of webbing.
  • The "jump whenever" part of the trope is averted and lampshaded in the first part of the second season finale of Archer; Archer spends a good two minutes monologuing before jumping and ends up miles away from his drop point. You can see a light in the background go from red (no go) to green (go) and back again before he jumps, and the pilot quickly calls in and asks why the door was left open for so long.
    Pilot: Wait a second, did he just jump now?
    Other agent: Yep.


Video Example(s):


Birth of Sky

The "Birth of Sky" heist from Payday 2 (in collaboration with Point Break) begins with the players skydiving out of a plane. Not only does nobody involved in this situation know where they will be landing, but apparently the heisters can also open parachutes without using their arms???

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / HollywoodSkydiving

Media sources: