Lock Picking In The Movies: Is It Accurate?

So, you’re heading to the cinema to enjoy a Friday night flick. You get your ticket, buy a $500 bucket of popcorn, and find a seat right in the center of the screen. Things are going great. Then, halfway through the movie your fun night is smashed to pieces when you notice something unforgivable on screen: an inaccurate depiction of lock picking!

Okay, so maybe an inaccurate depiction of lock picking isn’t enough to ruin your night. For the professional locksmiths here at Fort McMurray Locksmith, however, it can at least be a little jarring. We all have our things that annoy us when movies and TV shows give mistaken portrayals. Nurses are annoyed with nursing shows, lawyers are exasperated with law films, and scientists can’t stand how movies describe science. As locksmiths, we take serious notice when lock picking is on the big screen! So, we thought we’d take the opportunity in today’s blog to analyze some famous depictions of lock picking in film and ask the ever-important question: is this movie accurate?


Marvel movies have completely taken over the cinematic landscape over the past decade. So, we would be remiss if we didn’t find an example of lock picking from these superhero flicks. Luckily, Marvel has tried its hand at the heist film — and there’s no genre where you’ll find more lock picking than heist films.

In the 2015 film Ant-Man, the titular character played by Paul Rudd is a seasoned heist man. There’s a scene where he breaks into a safe using all sorts of handy-dandy tricks. He uses mattresses and liquid nitrogen and charisma to crack an uncrackable safe. Ultimately, it’s the freezing temperatures that allow him to get inside the safe (where he finds his super suit). Accurate? Not especially. Cool? Very.

Ocean’s 11 (and 12 and 13 and 8)

Speaking of heist films, there’s probably none more iconic than the Ocean’s films. The only thing these movies are more famous for is the endless list of big-name movie stars. From Clooney to Pitt to Roberts to Bullock, these movies have more star power than Sagittarius A. And they also have more than their fair share of lock picking. The first film (the remake, not the original) centers around a massive heist that requires an entire team of people to break into a safe.

The Ocean’s films rank high on the list of more fantastical lock picking. They use all sorts of made-up technology to pull off their heists. You don’t exactly see them utilizing their locksmith kits.

Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey, Jr. had his chance to show his locksmith skills when he portrayed the famous 19th century detective in Sherlock Holmes. Rather than trying to crack a safe as in the two above examples, Holmes is going for an easier target by lock picking a door in this scene. This movie is set in the 1800s, so it’s fitting that Holmes has an old-school version of a locksmith kit. This scene lightly pokes fun at the tendency in movies to just stick two things into a lock and wiggle it around. For most of movie history, this is all it takes to pick a lock. Do enough wiggling and voilà — you’re clear to enter. 

Here, Holmes takes two metal pieces and starts wiggling them around in the lock. As he’s struggling to have his voilà moment, Watson simply kicks the door in. Though an effective move, it’s not one that we recommend here at Fort McMurray Locksmith.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Rewinding the clock to the early ’90s, we actually have a more realistic example of lock picking in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The protagonist played by Linda Hamilton uses her lock picking skills to escape restraints and break out of a locked hospital room. The techniques she uses are realistic and ultimately quite useful for saving the world from killer cyborgs from the future.

Now, it’s probably not all that common to use lock picking for the sake of cyborg defense. More typically, you’ll need locksmith services because you’ve found yourself locked out of your home or vehicle. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see a depiction of lock picking that doesn’t leave us yelling at the screen.

Television Shows

Lock picking depictions aren’t just for the big screen. You’ll find plenty of examples on television as well. Two worth mentioning are from Mr. Robot and MacGyver. Though these shows were made a few decades apart, they both took some steps to have somewhat realistic lock picking. One area where these shows (and lock picking on film in general) really drops the ball (or drops the long and short pick) comes in the speed. 

Even when lock picking involves some degree of accuracy, it still tends to happen in roughly two seconds. Lock picking in the real world takes a lot of skill and expertise, or else you risk damaging your lock or door. There are risks that come along with locksmithing, and it’s not something that you can typically pull off in the blink of an eye. It’s good for the pacing of the story — it’s bad for lock picking verisimilitude. 

Locksmith in Fort McMurray

Lock picking takes skill and patience. It’s something that needs to be learned over time. If you find yourself in need of a locksmith, don’t take the big screen as a how-to guide and try to break into them yourself. Reach out to the experts at Fort McMurray Locksmith. We might not be as exciting as a Marvel movie, but we’ll get the job done quickly and efficiently. Contact us 24/7 for the best locksmithing in the real world.