Guns Portrayed on Screen

Table Of Contents

Main Description

Guns in movies are sexy. Actors are trained to wield them like professional law enforcement or soldiers unlike the real world where there aren't any requirements for proficiency. Every movie with guns, the actors make the guns look amazing and cool with specialized training and film editing.

Good guys never accidentally shoot innocent bystanders during shootouts nor do they get shot at by cops by mistake. Kids never play with guns laying around. There are never background checks when someone buys a gun and if some ordinary person in a movie suddenly wants to get an illegal gun, it is always possible without getting caught. Actors may feint suicide by gun in scenes but it rarely happens (unless they are coerced into doing so because they double crossed a criminal perhaps) unlike in real life. 

Good guys rarely get shot and killed when confronting a bad guy with a gun on screen, especially of course if it’s your lead actors.  They also don't just give up a wallet or run and call the police. If someone tries to mug you and you have a gun in the movies, you will usually always use it to thwart the bad guy. Good guys shooting handguns often have super accuracy while the bad guy will miss.

Whenever good guys do get shot by a gun, they usually always fully recover and just have a sling in their arm usually in time for the next scene later that day. They rarely bleed out, die because a vital organ was hit, get paralyzed, have extended hospital stays or have a negative long-term prognosis. Guns always help good guys thwart the bad guys.

The reason so many people laughed in the theater during Pulp Fiction when Vincent recklessly waved his gun and blew their captive's head off in a car was because it was so unexpected. In real-life, waving a gun carelessly can cause an accidental discharge and hurt someone – but almost never in a movie. In real life if someone was waving a gun around carelessly you’d be worried and react.

Conservative Trope Examples

  • We're the Millers (2013) | Women Bad at Using Guns
    Daughter Casey Mathis and mother Rose O'Reilly both panic when father David Clark disarms a drug dealer trying to kill them all. Scared Casey picks up the gun and treats it like a hot potato and passes it to Rose who is also over the top scared of the gun and also treats it like a hot potato until it accidentally goes off shooting the bad guy in the shoulder. It wounds him just enough for the son Kenny to save the day by knocking out the bad guy with a punch.
  • World War Z (2013) | Guns Needed for Survival
    Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) carries a handgun on his hip and uses a rifle with a scope and a homemade bayonet to protect himself and his family from virus-infected zombies.
  • Knight and Day (2010) | Women Bad at Using Guns
    Cameron Diaz is evading a kill squad with Tom Cruise who gives her a machine gun while he takes out some bad guys. When he returns, she mistakes him for a bad guy and shoots wildly and uncontrollably all over the place luckily managing to miss him.
    Staff Aside
    She does atone later shooting bad guys successfully from a motorcycle, but this scene was overly bad
  • The Book of Eli (2010) | Guns Needed for Survival
    Eli (Denzel Washington) travels everywhere with a short-barreled shotgun slung over his shoulder and a handgun on his side, which miraculously always seems to be enough even when he finds himself up against large groups of villains intent on killing him.
  • Zombieland (2009) | Guns Needed for Survival
    The four main characters all depend on an arsenal of different firearms to use against bloodthirsty zombies. They seemingly have every type of gun at their disposal, ranging from a variety of handguns and shotguns all the way up to machine guns.
  • I Am Legend (2007) | Guns Needed for Survival
    Robert Neville (Will Smith) relies on an AR-15 rifle to protect himself from zombies.
  • Lord of War (2005)
    The movie has you rooting for arms trafficker Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) over ATF agent Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke) working with Interpol. So when they exchange common arguments about guns, you are more biased to support Yuri's faulty pro gun arguments. Jack Valentine's argument against guns is depicted as overly altruistic and preachy whereas Yuri's responses use a more believable tone. Such as when he responds to Jack with, "I don't want people dead, Agent Valentine. I don't put a gun to anybody's head and make them shoot." And later, he makes the fallacious conservative argument that the world is a dangerous place and so that's why you need guns. He also later says, "How many car salesmen talk about their work? How many cigarette salesmen talk about their work? Both their products kill more people every year than mine, at least mime comes with a safety switch." And this line, "I sell people the means to defend themselves, that's all."
    Staff Aside
    Guns are displayed prominently throughout the movie, and it is a black comedy of sorts. But they don't make the gun dealer the bad guy -- he's the protagonist. Every time ATF agent Jack Valentine and Interpol gets close, you are hoping his plans to dupe them works. You are cheering for a gun dealer over Interpol. Which works in part because federal agents are often used as foils or antagonists in movies. And also, perhaps because Nicolas Cage has had so many spectacularly bad movies of late and everyone wants to root for the underdog.
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
    Walter (John Goodman) angrily yells "over the line!" at a bowler on an opposing team who he claims made a foul. The opposing player doesn't agree and asks The Dude to "mark it an eight," but things escalate quickly and Walter pulls out his gun and says "you mark that an eight and you're entering a world of pain." He continues to escalate things while the other player shockingly watches Walter waive his gun back and forth until he points the gun directly at the players head, cocks it, and forces him to "mark it zero!"
    Staff Aside
    Many of us may laugh at this scene when we watch it, but just think how scary it would be in real life if someone we were bowling against disagrees with us and threatens to shoot us in the face unless we change our score.
  • Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) | Women Bad at Using Guns
    Debbie (Minnie Driver) is hiding in the bathtub with her father while her hitman love interest played by John Cusack defends them from assassins, and when he checks in on her she hands him the gun he gave her and tells him to "make this work" and he releases the safety and gives the gun back to her.
  • True Lies (1994) | Women Bad at Using Guns
    During an escape from the terrorists, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) has trouble operating an Uzi machine gun and yells out in panic as she clumsily drops it down the stairs. The gun continues to shoot while bouncing down the stairs though and magically kills several bad guys.
  • A Christmas Story (1983)
    The only thing Ralphie wants for Christmas is an “official Red Ryder carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time."