Top Ten Miraculous Fictional Head Injuries

Top Ten Miraculous Fictional Head Injuries

Fiction is full of miracles caused by hitting people on the head. Reality is still catching up.

Doc Brown's Miraculous Head Injury

#10. Doc Brown, Back to the Future

Back To The Future WeekWe’ve seen a lot of discussion this week as to whether Marty McFly’s time travel was a good or a bad thing, the degree to which it was plausible, or what it might mean, and how it might work. Much seems obscured or inconsistent. There is plenty about the Flux Capacitor and its attendant DeLorean that is exotic and mysterious.

What is not exotic or mysterious is the method of its conception. Whilst changing a light bulb in the bathroom, Dr. Emmett Brown fell and struck his head upon the toilet. And then he saw it. The Flux Capacitor. Time travel.

A brilliant step forward in human progress, all made possible by what a great thing it seems to be to hit somebody on the head.

What nine other head injuries could possibly confer greater benefit to an individual or to humanity?

Head injuries are often wonderful things in the world of fiction, so there are a lot of choices. But the real top 9 are after the jump…

#9. Isaac Newton, Apocrypha

Isaac Newton is one of my favorite apple-related semifictional characters — right up there with William Tell, Will Hunting and Johnny Appleseed. I love the story about how an apple fell on his head and he discovered gravity. That’s solid folk fantasy right there.

His discovery of gravity did not lead anyone to do anything as crazy as forcing his father’s rival to drive into a pile of manure or making out with his mom (though Isaac’s persistent mercury poisoning and attendant real-life madness probably did something similar), but it did lead to all sorts of marvelous innovations, from vacuum tubes full of feathers and tennis balls falling at the same rate to the Atari game Gravitar — which without gravity would have only been a lame version of Asteroids, as opposed to a really really hard, lame version of Asteroids.

The next time reverse gravity forces you to crash your spaceship into an invisible landscape (if that’s what the kids are calling it these days), thank the fictional apple that fell from the fictional tree onto Isaac Newton’s semifictional head, birthing the theory of universal gravitation, Athena-like (no, that doesn’t make the countdown, but good guess!), into the world.

11 Comments on “Top Ten Miraculous Fictional Head Injuries”

  1. Ryan #

    The most miraculous thing about Leonard’s injury in Memento is that he is able to remember that he has amnesia. How is it that his head injury stops him from forming new memories, but the doctors were able to inform him of his condition? I haven’t been able to watch the movie since I noticed that inconsistency.
    I think that there’s actually a chapter in the Sacks book that deals with anterograde amnesia. The man with the affliction, when confronted with his reality, becomes horrified for ten or fifteen minutes, then slips back into the time ten or fifteen years in the past just before he developed the brain damage. Great read, btw.


  2. fenzel #

    Yeah, Leonard talks about this discrepancy at some point in _Memento_ – about if his condition is what he tends to think it is, he shouldn’t be able to remember the actual accident, and how therefore it might not be brain damage – he might just have psychological blocks. A software rather than a hardware problem, as it were.

    If that’s true, it potentially changes a lot of the moral implications of what Leonard has done over the course of the movie. But it’s left a bit open-ended.


  3. Gab #

    Oh snap.

    I just remembered _50 First Dates_. Similar memory loss to _Memento_. Imagine being a woman and waking up with no idea why you’re clearly multiple months pregnant…


  4. fenzel #

    If I wake up being a woman, do I have to like _Moulin Rouge_?

    Because that would be a dealbreaker.


  5. Lanthanide #

    I remember Guy Pearce from The Adventures of Prascilla! Queen of the Desert.


  6. Amy #

    It wasn’t Naruto that caused Gaara’s ego death and subsequent alliance with the light side of the force…it was that toad Gamabunta. I think he secretes a hallucinogenic substance from his glands. Gaara embraced his shadow side (Shukaku) and went on to become the Hero. Yep. That’s what happened. Or should have anyway. Most people I know who have experienced head trauma end up worse for the wear. But the toad juice on the other hand…


  7. fenzel #


    Not _To Wong Fu: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar_?

    It’s so weird that that kind of movie also has a movie pair – like you’ve got Armageddon and Deep Impact, Volcano and Dante’s Peak, Valkyrie and Defiance, and a whole bunch of action stars in drag.


    I frickin’ love Gamabunta. All fictional characters should get to drink sake with the giant toad boss of the Yakuza.


  8. Ingrid #

    Very entertaining!!


  9. Ambelina #

    Is this about serious head injuries or just when people bump their heads? Because if it is non seriuos injuries, the scene in Stir of Echoes where Kevin Bacon’s wife goes into the basement to check if the water heater is lit then gets up and bangs her head on…something above her, that really got me i felt it.


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