Sometimes really creative people build fictional guns into existence just for the big screen and they go on to be iconic. Other times, those prop guns built just for movies — often using real guns as their base — are just plain dumb. The goofiness of them washes over most people who see them, but for folks who know guns, they just cannot be ignored.
We thought it might be fun to compile some of the worst offenders into one article, and that is just what we have here. So read on and see if you agree!
Invasion U.S.A. (1985)
Well, if a little is good, more is better, right? This one has semi-auto grenade launchers and rocket launchers. I imagine the conversation behind the scenes of this Chuck Norris classic went something like this:
“Ok, so the rocket launchers and grenade launchers are going to be pyrotechnics. I just rigged up some tubes to look sort of like them and we can just set off as many charges through them as we want.”
“Wonderful. So, what do the dummy rockets and grenades look like?”
“… dummy rockets and grenades?”
“Yeah, we have to see the bad guys reloading these things and they have to be carrying all the rockets and grenades around as they shoot them, right?”
“I mean, I guess so. But nobody told me to make any, so there aren’t any.”
“Then I guess we’ll just hope nobody notices.”
And I assume that’s how the weird semi-auto not-M203 grenade launchers with P.38 frames glued to them came to be mounted to various M16s in this movie and why the goofy rocket launcher the bad guys use is what it is.
I find it hilarious that this same movie also includes actual M203 grenade launchers and an M72 LAW rocket launcher, which Norris hilariously fires from the hip.
However, the scene where the bad guys show up in a painfully stereotypical American suburb of the 80’s, all decorated to the nines for Christmas, and just start blowing up houses full of families with their silly rocket launcher is kind of shocking, even today, and it really makes you want to see them get Chuck Norris’d.
Planet Terror (2017)
Okay, first, I understand the tone of this movie and how over the top it is supposed to be. I get the grindhouse flavor that Rodriguez was going for, though I think Tarantino’s Death Proof was a better effort.
My gripe isn’t with the concept of Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) using an M16A2 as a prosthetic leg, which is kind of cool and totally on point for a movie like this. I can even get over the idea that she somehow attached a socket to her freshly cleaved stump that attaches to a buffer tube with nothing more than an Ace bandage. Fine. But how the heck does she fire the thing?
From what we see in the movie, the gun is apparently connected to her nervous system or something, because she seems to fire it via her own free will and nothing else. They couldn’t even come up with some kind of trigger mechanism for her to use? She just points her machine gun leg and it fires, and seemingly never needs to be reloaded (but that’s a common movie gun sin, though I’d love to see how Cherry would put a fresh mag in her leg gun).
She can also apparently choose whether to fire the rifle or the M203 grenade launcher mounted under the barrel. I mean … we’re looking at the M203’s trigger, seeing it not get pulled, as the grenade launcher just … fires.
Flesh-eating zombies roaming the world as the result of a bioweapon set loose by a group of sinister soldiers led by Bruce Willis? I accept that. Cherry’s magically firing leg gun? Nope, not buying it.
Oh, by the way, does anyone remember that Cherry upgrades her leg to a minigun in the movie’s little post apocalypse coda? She totally does, with nary an ammo belt to be seen.
The Fifth Element (1997)
A lot of people really like this movie and I understand why, theoretically. It does a lot of world building in a short period of time, and that futuristic world is unique and has a jaunty sense of humor that keeps the whole movie fairly light and entertaining.
Most of the sci-fi weaponry is pretty cool too, but the gun that gets the most attention in this flick just bugs me on deep level. The Zorg ZF-1 pod weapon system is sort of interesting when Jean-Baptiste Emanual Zorg starts explaining its features, and it quickly veers into the absurd, which is okay for this movie, but objectively, makes the ZF-1 feel pretty silly.
The base weapon is actually pretty cool: a machine gun with a “replay button” that uses the first shot as a locked-on target for follow-up shots with guided bullets that will all hit the same mark. Neat. But then, the list of features goes on to include a rocket launcher, an arrow launcher, net launcher, a flamethrower, a Dr. Freeze type ice gun thing.
It does that thing that sci-fi movies sometimes do — it combines all these functions into an absurdly small package that, despite whatever technological advances there are in this world, just inherently doesn’t make sense, simply in terms of size and space. Something in the brain just knows you can’t fit 3,000 rounds, fuel and propellant for a flame thrower, ice gun, and all that other stuff into a little handheld pod, sci-fi or no.
When it fired as a machine gun, it was an AK74U with a big shell on it firing blanks. In every other scene, it was an inert prop that only performed the one function it needed to for the shot.
Judge Dredd (1995) & Dredd (2012)
While the idea of a pistol that can fire multiple types of very effective ammunition that can be selected at will without actually changing magazines or anything is pretty cool, it’s also kind of absurd when you’re not talking about a sci-fi blaster of some kind.
In the Sylvester Stallone adaptation of the dystopian Judge Dredd comics, the standard sidearm of Street Judges is called The Lawgiver, a handgun that fires an array of projectiles, including grenades, yet it never seems to need to be reloaded and can pack that wide variety of ammunition into a gun the size of an M9 pistol with a shell on it, which is exactly what it is.
However, it seems to fire conventional ammunition, as in projectiles. It’s not an energy weapon, so that means the ammo has to take up some kind of physical space. Plus, the thing is voice controlled, like it is in the comics, because everyone knows what you want to be doing in the middle of a firefight is screaming at your gun to get it to work.
The version of the Lawgiver seen in the unrelated Dredd (2012) with Karl Urban was a little better in that it seemed more practical and was given some size so its functions are a little more plausible, but it’s still dumb and a perfect example of something that is completely and readily acceptable on the page but doesn’t translate well into live action.
Escape from New York (1981)
I almost gave this one a pass because it’s a certified cult classic that actually gets better with age, and it was made on a shoestring budget, but I just have to call out Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) and his mall ninja looking arsenal that he’s outfitted with to rescue the president from the depths of Manhattan, which has been converted into an island prison in this particular dystopian future. To be fair, Snake didn’t get to choose his weapons, he was issued them.
We get a panning shot of all his gear laid out on a table before he sets off on his mission. His main firearm is a MAC-10 submachine gun. This was during the era when Hollywood portrayed MAC-10s, UZIs and TEC-9s to be as common as handguns, as accurate as rifles, and basically the cutting edge of gun technology.
In this case, Snake’s is fitted with a scope … which, since the bolt charging handle is on top of a MAC-10, is hilariously mounted to the gigantic suppressors that the gun also comes with. Just the fact that it’s the kind of old school riflescope you’d expect to find today mounted on grandpop’s old deer gun makes it kind of funny, but putting on a stockless gun and mounting it to the suppressor is just hilarious, just like the gigantic leg holster he carries it in.
Snake is also issued an oddly diminutive revolver as a secondary weapon which, you guessed it, has a scope mounted on it. I will give the movie props though — they came up with a really simple and effective way to make slab-sided M16s look futuristic by removing the triangular handguard and replacing it with a narrow plastic sleeve just big enough to cover the barrel and gas tube.
So there you have it, my list of the top 5 dumbest movie guns of all time. As you can tell, I am a child of the 80’s, so my choices are slanted a bit toward that era. Do you agree with the ones I picked? Is there one maybe that I missed? Let us know by visiting the forum linked below and posting your comments!
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