The Opening Fight Scene of Watchmen

Analysis of the Opening Fight Scene in Watchmen

Well here we are, the final blog post of the class. When Dr. Fragile told us that we were going to have choose our own movie scene for the final project, my brain instantly jumped to this scene of Watchmen. What's better than analyzing how a 225 pound man gets thrown through a bullet-proof glass window, then falls 30 stories to his death?

Here is the scene:

Could this assassin have been strong enough to throw The Comedian through the plated glass window? First, I'm going to start off with the measurements. The Comedian is stated to be 225 pounds later on in the movie (roughly 102 kilograms). I estimated the time and displacement based off of what I observed in the scene, and got one second and 6 feet (1.829 meters) respectively. Since he started out at rest, I calculated that The Comedian's acceleration was 3.658 m/s^2. Finally by doing an impulse problem, I found that the force it would have taken just to throw The Comedian against the window was 3,730.752 N. Charles Choi, of, states that human ribs can only withstand 3,300 N (with a 25% chance of cracking). So forget about The Comedian being able to break the window, the assassin would have broken his wrists trying throw him across the room. In addition, tempered glass has a tensile strength of 69 MPa which is 69 million N/m^2. It is physically impossible for a human to throw another human fast enough to reach this. I guess that's why this is a comic book movie and not a documentary. 

Regardless of whether or not it was possible, The Comedian still got thrown out of his 30th floor apartment. How long would it have taken him to hit the sidewalk? How hard did he hit the sidewalk once he reached it? Once the Comedian was out of his window we can treat this like a free-fall problem. This means he would be accelerating at -9.8 m/s^2, which is the acceleration due to gravity on Earth. I assumed that each story in his building is 10 feet, which means that he is falling from about 91 meters above the sidewalk. Using one-dimensional kinematics I was able to find that The Comedian was falling at 42.233 m/s before he went splat. Continuing with another 1D kinematics equation, I calculated that it took him 4.309 seconds to fall. He was more than likely already unconscious from the trip he took through the bullet proof glass, and even if he wasn't, The Comedian hit the sidewalk with so much force that he would have died instantly. I treated the last second of his life as an impulse problem, the same as when he was sent flying out of the window. I used 0.1 seconds as my time, because the force would have only acted on him for the amount of time he was hitting the ground which was just an instant. By using an impulse problem I calculated that The Comedian hit the ground with a force of 43,067.46 N. This is enough to shatter all the bones in his body and destroy the concrete sidewalk underneath him.

Comic books are not known for their perfect underlying physics. I mean, there is a man with a Rorschach test face, and another character named Dr. Manhattan who was killed in a nuclear physics experiment then comes back as a god-like being made of blue UV light. That being said, this movie is very enjoyable and I believe should be watched by everyone (everyone who is old enough that is).


  1. You were a little dicey in explaining how the tensile strength of the glass factored in. Since the number you quote is a pressure (units of N/m^2), it can't be compared directly with a force (units of N). You needed to factor in an area of some sort.

    You might be interested to know that one of my Physics in Film class voted The Watchmen as the superhero movie we watched that semester.


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