Blogs on Film Uncategorized

Money is Small and Light in the Movies

Time Table - Lobby card

I recommend Mark Stevens’ excellent 1956 film noir Timetable. There’s a funny movie trope during the robbery scene portrayed above. After the robber blows the safe, he steals “$500,000 in small bills”. The money is contained in two small satchels each about the size of a woman’s purse, which he almost daintily lifts and then tosses into his suitcase.

In real life, a piece of US currency is .0043 inches thick and weighs about a gram. If we assume the average “small bill” in 1956 is a $10 note and that the bills are all perfectly pressed flat with no wrinkles, the stack of bills should have been 17.92 FEET high and would have weighed just over 110 pounds!

But in the movies, money is small and light. Countless caper films (e.g., Heat) feature people nimbly running around with zillions of dollars in their small, lightweight satchels.

Someday I hope to see a film that undoes this trope, for example by having a kidnapper not be strong enough to lift the suitcase with the ransom in it, or having a car axle bend under the weight of the multi-billion dollar haul in the back seat.