Good news: Movie deaths are predictable and can be avoided by observing a few dozen simple rules.
1. Unless you’re in a Cohen brothers film, movie deaths are generally gratuitous and therefore occur onscreen. If you sense impending doom, get off screen immediately and you should be fine.
2. If you suspect your death may be imminent, blurt out, “I have vital information you need to survive” to everyone within earshot. It’s not necessary to actually possess vital information, as this tactic is only designed to buy you time. Please note, it only works if you’ve been taken captive. If you’re facing down a giant tidal wave or a feral zombie horde, not so much.
3. If you find yourself peering bug-eyed down a dark hallway or into a cave, creepy house, or warehouse, especially one with an echo, do not, under any circumstances call out “Hello? Is anybody there?” This is code for “Come get me, I’m standing right here.”
4. If, for some reason, you do call out “Hello? Is anybody there?” without thinking, don’t give in to the urge to venture into said darkness. This is like bellowing, “Tell you what, why don’t I just come to you and get this over with?”
5. If you’re home alone and ominous music begins to play, don’t answer the phone. Or order pizza. Or shrug your shoulders when you notice curtains billowing in a gentle breeze coming through an open window.
6. If you find yourself in an ensemble movie, grandstand immediately. Lesser characters tend to get killed off first.
7. If you’re getting on in years, beware: You may be used as a sacrificial lamb. The idea is if they kill you off, your death will evoke a tragic ethos without having to kill off the hero. How to avoid this fate: Make sure you don’t live a good, full life, which would render you “ready to go.” On the other hand, don’t do anything particularly heinous as a youth which would prompt you to sacrifice yourself for some kind of poetic redemption later in life.
8. If you ever step on slimy goo or feel a generous dollop of slimy goo splatter anywhere on your body, there is a ridiculously deadly alien lurking somewhere in the rafters above you. Do not pause to ponder what the icky stuff is or where it came from. You have four seconds to react. Run, Forrest. Run.
9. If you’re thinking about backstabbing a good guy or becoming a traitor, forget about it. The most grisly deaths are reserved for traitors, and people will enjoy epic high fives when you eventually get what’s coming to you.
10. Never allow yourself to bump into Bruce Willis, especially when he’s unshaven and wearing a white muscle shirt.
11. If at all possible, avoid living in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C, Paris, London, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Rome, Chicago, or Tokyo. In that order. It’s a proven fact that these cities have been destroyed more often in movies than any others. Maybe combined.
12. It may sound obvious, but practice running without tripping. Many a movie death could have been avoided with minimal agility.
13. Never start a gunfight with a hero. He possesses the uncanny ability to shoot five baddies dead before they realize what’s going on. Even if you manage to get a shot off, you’ll only graze his shoulder and cause him to mutter, “Naw, I’m good. It’s just a scratch.”
14. If you’re an evil madman, rest assured that they need you to survive until the climax of the movie. At this point, as we learned in Spider Man 3, all you have to do is shed some crocodile tears, apologize with a pained expression on your face, and mention your estranged children. Confronted with this situation, many a hero will let you go free.
15. If you are in a zombie movie, get out of Dodge immediately. The government will likely nuke the town within 72 hours.
16. That said, running beyond that point is probably useless because the zombie plague will sweep the entire earth anyway. Once you escape the nuke in your particular town or city, it’s best to give in and join the other team as soon as possible. When a mob of zombies has you cornered in any kind of building, simply let them bite your hand while trying to stave them off (be careful to hide the wound from your friends if they have guns or shovels). If that doesn’t sit well with you, you can always pretend to be a zombie and stumble among the creeps like they did in Shaun of the Dead. Don’t ask me what to do after that. If you find yourself in a zombie TV show, don’t hang out with any groups that have a boy named Carl in them.
17. In case of a global disaster, don’t panic. Simply locate the secret arks being prepared by government elites and then slip in through a vent or pipe around the back. The ark will be strong enough to survive the destruction of the earth but can be easily breached by popping off an outer panel. Just remember to replace the panel when you’re safely inside and you’re all good.
18. Background music is your friend. If the tone of the soundtrack shifts, be ready for a change in action. When the musical score seems to be spiraling toward a climax, this is bad. Solution? Do absolutely nothing and the music will have nothing to accompany. It should ease back down into the safe zone within seconds.
19. Do not attempt a fight with a hero who knows martial arts. If they strike a good blow, the director may opt for a triple-take (replaying the hit from two additional angles before allowing the fight to continue). Translation: Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
20. Avoid filming or being filmed by your friends on a cheap camcorder deep in the woods. If someone must film you, make sure they have a steady hand. Shaky footage = freaky outcome. Evil seems to be attracted to amateur moviemaking.
21. Pay careful attention to geologists, physicists, and advisors of any kind who’s dire warnings are spurned by Presidents and heads of state. A disaster is imminent, and you can get a head start on survival if you act immediately.
22. Discover which director you’re working with. If it’s J.J. Abrams, the audience will at least care when you die because his stories are character driven. If it’s Michael Bay, don’t worry too much. He blows stuff up but his heroes never expire and you get to work with good-looking people. If it’s John Woo, you’ll need to learn how to fire dual pistols while diving sideways past doves scattering in slow motion. If it’s George Lucas, walk off the set or you may never find work in Hollywood again.
23. Don’t remove cool artifacts from ancient burial sites, no matter how shiny they are—especially when curses, mummies, nazis, golden chests, or booby traps are involved.
24. If you apply these rules and manage to survive until the closing credits, congratulations—you’re safe for the moment and will likely be offered a sequel in several years’ time (unless you get greedy and ask for too much money or find yourself aboard the Titanic without being the heroine).
25. Ignore rules 1-24 and take Jesus seriously. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take courage! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And then, as someone once said, “Love God, rock hard, drink milk.”