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Improbable Cover

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The rule of Improbable Cover states: Explosions in movies can't see you if you sidestep behind a wall or jump behind a table.

Of course, as the Mythbusters showed, this can be Truth in Television. The shockwave produced by explosions is one of their most dangerous elements as it can cause significant internal damage. Even a flimsy barrier can potentially blunt the shockwave's power enough to avoid outright fatal injuries. At the same time there is no guarantee that the barrier will do enough or prevent death due to flames and shrapnel.

Sister trope of Concealment Equals Cover. Also see Bulletproof Human Shield. Contrast Outrun the Fireball.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Barefoot Gen, Gen survives the detonation of the nuclear bomb simply because there was a wall between him and it. The people around him were not so lucky. Even more terrifying because it actually happened....

  • In Double Team, the heroes hide behind a coke machine and survive despite roaring walls of flame on either side. Possibly a moment of genre-savvy.
  • Independence Day: Jasmine, her son and the dog hiding in a maintenance room inside the tunnel could be plausible... if not for the door that remains open with a wall of fire running through and somehow not entering the room.
  • Predator and Predator 2. In the first film, Dutch lives through a small nuclear explosion at close range because he ducked behind some cover. In the second film Lieutenant Harrigan survives the exhaust blast of a Predator ship taking off by doing the same thing.
  • In Hot Fuzz a massive explosion that takes out a whole building is survived by the people inside it. They do this by hiding behind some old sofas. This is "explained" in the extras.
  • The Day After Tomorrow: They outrun an oncoming ice storm, and escape it by closing a door.
  • In the Die Hard, series, this happens multiple times.
    • In the first film, McClane builds a homemade bomb and tosses it down an elevator shaft. When it goes off, a blast of fire shoots upward toward him. He survives by stepping to the side of the door.
  • Subverted, in Tremors 2: Aftershocks, when Earl tosses a bomb in an attempt to kill the Shriekers, it lands in the bed of a truck packed with explosives. When the others hide behind a nearby building, Burt shouts at them to "Keep running!". They look at Earl, who replies "Burt knows his bombs". After quite a bit more running, they find a ditch, which, combined with the distance, provides sufficient cover. In the subsequent explosion, the aforementioned building is indeed blasted to bits along with the rest of the base.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indy survives a nuke by hiding in a refrigerator. The (explicitly labeled) lead lining excuses him not getting radiation poisoning, but not how he survived the fridge getting thrown a considerable distance by the shockwave.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first season finale of The Walking Dead, Dale and Andrea survive the explosion of the CDC by flattening themselves against a pile of sandbags.
  • In the Castle two-parter "Tick, Tick, Tick..." and "Boom!", Beckett survives her apartment being blown up by diving into her bathtub just as the bomb went off. More justified in this case since her tub is one of those old cast iron jobs.
  • Tokumei Sentai Go Busters: Ryuji uses a table in #1 to block a bullet attack from the Monster of the Week. Said monster has an arm that can cut through a car with no effort.
  • Wonder Woman: In "Mind Stealers from Outer Space", the aliens demolish the building that Wonder Woman and Andros are inside of. The next scene, they're climbing out of the rubble with bonus points for the dirt forcefield clearly in display.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect:
    • True of most "heavy" weapons, including rocket launchers, anti-materiel rifles, and grenades: all of them are stopped by the flimsiest of cover. However, in Mass Effect 3, enemies have learned to throw grenades behind your cover — and you can return the favor by grabbing a heavy sniper rifle and sniping enemies through cover.
    • In Mass Effect 3, one mission involves traversing the maintenance tunnels along side an enormous spaceship-sized railgun. Each time it fires, an intense electric shockwave pulses down the tunnel. Luckily you can avoid all damage kneeling behind anything waist-high, when in reality just touching anything metallic (i.e. everything there) would be enough to kill you.
  • The AI of Half-Life 2 takes a page from The Ravenous Blugbatter Beast of Traal; if you can't see it, it can't see you. This means a paint can counts as cover.

    Real Life 
  • Real bombs shockwaves are tricky things. Running down a side street won't save you if you are still within the danger area - the shockwave spreads out along any route offering least resistance. However when IRA terrorists bombed Manchester City centre, a traditional red telephone box suffered no damage apart from a cracked pane of glass, despite being well inside the cordon, and more extensive damage being wrought around it.
  • 1920s bon vivant Harry Crosby was an ambulance driver during WWI. On the way to the front, his ambulance was hit by a German shell and blown to small pieces. Crosby was completely unscratched. It's likely it messed his head up, though.
  • Footage of a journalist in the September 11 attacks ducking behind a car to shield himself from the smoke and rubble.