Five Little Car Things That Happen All The Time In Movies That Drive Me Insane

Illustration for article titled Five Little Car Things That Happen All The Time In Movies That Drive Me Insane

If you’ve ever tried to ride out a nuclear blast hiding in a refrigerator, and found it’s less suited to that task than you were led to believe, you know what I’m about to tell you: movies aren’t real. As unreal as they are, they sure do work hard to seem real, which is probably why these certain car-related things bother me so much. In most realistic-seeming movies, cars generally behave as you expect, with the exception of these five things that never fail to drive me nuts.


The car-related things I’m going to list here, internet-style, are the sorts of things that have popped up in innumerable movies. I’m not just picking on one stupid film or franchise; this goes way deeper. Oh, and most of these show up in television, too, just to be fair.

Alright, let’s just dive in:

1. Pretty much any car has its keys left on the visor

This has been a staple in movies and television for decades, and I have no idea where it came from. The conceit is this: if you need to steal a car, you don’t need to know how to break into a car or hotwire it or beat someone up and take their keys, because in any given set of parked cars you’ll just walk up to one that’s open and has its keys just left on the driver’s sun visor.

This shows up all over the place, in all kinds of movies. Sure, it’s a convenient way to get a car to a character that didn’t have one, but it requires a wholesale rejection of how you know the world actually works.

Out of all the people and cars that you’ve known in your life, have you known anyone who keeps their keys in the visor when they park their car anywhere? Maybe, maybe you know one or two people out of every driver you know who does this. That’s still not the same as movies, where it’s like three out of four cars have keys left in their visors.


That shit just doesn’t happen.

2. People will exit a car, and leave the door open

Again, not a big thing, but something that happens all the time in television and movies, and almost never in the real world. Shutting a car door behind you is pretty much a muscle memory at this point; it feels weird not to do it.


Not in movies, though! People are always bolting out of cars and leaving the door just wide open and every goddamn time I forget about whatever the hell it was they were going to do and keep thinking close the damn door close it close it close it. Who does that?

3. Oh, and they leave the lights on, too

Seriously, what the hell is the matter with movie people? Do fictional universes have magic car batteries that nobody ever worries about? Aside from the occasional mistake, nearly everyone remembers to turn off their headlights when they exit a car.


But not in movies or TV; there, people are always getting out of their cars at night, leaving doors open and lights on.

They do it just to bother us, I bet.


4. Banging on a trunk lid or hood just makes it open

This isn’t a thing. Much like the keys-on-visor thing, this is done as a lazy writer’s expedient, with the hopes that everyone will just accept that physics and mechanics are just somehow different if your particular situation would make it really convenient for you to get into a given locked trunk.


If you have a trunk that opens with a half-ass little karate chop to the lid, you have a broken trunk. That’s not how the world works.

In movies where they do this, why do they even bother with locks at all?

5. Cars aren’t bombs you can drive to work

This one is so common that TVTropes has a name for it, Every Car Is A Pinto. Cars generally don’t turn into fireballs when they have any old accident, and even shooting a car, even right in the gas tank, won’t make it explode.


I’m sure there’s more of these, but these just felt like the most glaring to me. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. If you have other good ones, toss them in the comments and we can all talk about them derisively and laugh and not let any of the dorks sit at our Cool Kids Car Table.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:



That shit just doesn’t happen.

While I agree with the other 4 points of the article, I can’t agree with this one. That shit DOES happen. People do leave car keys in the visor. This is probably less common with passenger cars (where there is a personal attachment the the vehicle). But commercial/industrial equipment (trucks, tractors, excavators, etc.) do get the keys left in them for convenience— particularly in parts of the country that don’t have rampant theft problems.