Is It Really Possible to Break Someone’s Neck Using Only our Bare Hands, or is This a Hollywood Fantasy?

Juliano Righetto
2 min readJun 26, 2020

I am an actor, so I am very interested in knowing all kinds of details about my profession. One of the things that bother me most when watching action movies is the ease with which some characters “break the neck” of their enemies with a simple hands movement. That is not realistic, since if our necks were so fragile, most likely our species would not have reached these days... But I had access to a surgeon's testimony specialized in columns that, incidentally, is also a martial artist. And this is what he explained:

Can you break a neck using your own hands? Yes. What you can't do is count on the other person's willingness to let you break it. In addition to the bones, the person who is breaking the neck will also have to fight against muscles. If you try to break someone's neck, you can be sure: the person will make a force contrary to your movement. Would a muscular adult have any problems doing this with an osteoporotic older adult or a child? Probably not... But considering that most characters who have their necks broken in movies tend to have an athletic profile, you can be sure: the task would be far from easy. Is it entirely possible that the attacker can cause a muscle strain but break someone’s neck? Very unlikely...

Another critical detail badly portrayed in movies is that the “fatal blow” victims fall, unconscious, right after “having their neck broken.” Even if the blow was so violent that it broke the spine, this does not usually cause unconsciousness. The person would most likely be outraged and complaining about the intense pain in the neck but not fall on the floor as if it had become jelly.

We are much more resistant than films usually portray. Shots, for example, also rarely bring a person to the ground immediately. But this is the subject of another article…

It doesn’t look like it will end well… But it will. Source:
Juliano Righetto

“We are nearsighted because we are brief.” Actor, Screenwriter, Author, Top Writer 2019 and 2020 on Quora in Portuguese with more than 26 million views.