Real Life Archery vs. The Movies

Real Life Archery vs. The Movies

Nov 13th 2019

Watching movies that portray the skills of archery is exhilarating and exciting. These are movies with a lot of action and adventure — ideal for anyone who enjoys the good guy winning and the bad guy losing. Unfortunately, archery in film isn’t quite as realistic as filmmakers would like you to believe. For a comparison of real-life archery versus film archery, here’s our breakdown of bow shooting techniques and gear from three prevalent films of recent years.

Marvel’s Avengers Series (2012-2019)

jeremy renner hawkeye archer in film

While the movie splits its attention between a number of main characters, Hawkeye does have a significant amount of screentime. His whole character revolves around his real-life archery skills with a recurve bow, but his costume, form, and skills are pretty lacking.

Costume

The archery in this film shows Hawkeye with two arm guards. There is absolutely no reason for this unless the filmmakers just decided it looked super cool or he’s experiencing pain from shooting incorrectly. Most experienced real-life archers may not use any arm guards at all.

Form

man shooting a recurve bow

One of the reasons for the armguard malfunction could be Renner’s bad form throughout the film. He holds his arm at a 45° angle when he’s supposed to be holding it completely vertical — opening up a path for the string to snap back and hit him.

Hawkeye’s grip is also completely wrong when compared to real-life archery. Instead of gripping his bow lightly with his palm at a slight angle and wrist bones pointing towards the center of the bow, he’s got his fingers wrapped all the way around the grip with his wrist angled off to the side. This results in bad aim and more bowstrings snapping back into his arm.

The last big foul-up is that instead of holding the bowstring with his pointer and middle fingers, he mainly uses his index which makes his shots inconsistent and out of control. His draw elbow is also high and forward — putting downward pressure on the bowstring and forcing his arms and shoulders to do all the work.

Skills

While shooting around corners and falling off buildings is not in a typical archer’s skill set, it does look pretty good in the film. Sadly, any beginner who comes in to train, expecting to learn these cool moves, will be disappointed. And while real life hunting may require moments of agility in the woods, parkouring from a large tree or mountain with your compound bow is no easy task, nor is it realistic.

War of the Arrows (2011)

real life korean master archer

The War of the Arrows is a Korean movie with some amazing archery throughout the film. Since the Korean name also translates to Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon, we expected great things from the movie — and it did not disappoint.

Costume

There’s the use of both a composite recurve bow and a heavyweight recurve longbow of Mongolian style in the film, as well as a billet in some scenes. Since the movie is set in the 1600s, all of the bows and arrows are simple and made of wood with feather fletching. One scene even shows the main character making arrows before an attack. All the archers in the film are either wearing full armor (with vambraces to act as arm guards) or have arm guards made of wrapping a piece of cloth around one arm.

Form

The actors working on this film seem to have had extensive training with these style of bows and arrows. Elbows and wrists are held correctly and the actors are drawing with the strength in their backs instead of their arms. There are a few close-ups where you see an actor gripping the bow too tightly or using his index finger and thumb to shoot. While modern Western bows don’t typically use the index finger and thumb, this was the standard for shooting the Gakung bows depicted in this real-life archery film.

Skills

There are a few techniques that really stand out throughout the archery in the film including a curving shot, torquing the string at full draw, and shooting a massive double kill arrow. These are possible in real-life archery!

While, the curving shot is a bit of an exaggeration, it does work reliably at a short distance. Trying to curve for a shot that’s too far away will end up with the arrow autocorrecting its course. There are also scenes where characters torque the string on their bows to add extra power to a shot. It’s also not impossible to shoot through two people at once. Some bows are designed with enough power to shoot through elk and even rhino skin.

The Hunger Games (2012-2015)

hunger games emblem prop

The Hunger Games was responsible for a lot of renewed interest in the sport of archery and it filled up ranges around the country with people who wanted to be just like Katniss. Overall, the archery in this film does a good job of showing the bow as an effective weapon and Lawrence has good form throughout the film.

Costume

Most of the time, Katniss Everdeen is wearing long sleeves throughout the movie which means she doesn’t need an arm guard. There are a few moments where she bares her arms, but her form and skills seem to be high enough that she has no fear of smacking her arm with the bow. The bows she uses are supposed to be either ultra futuristic or homemade, so the fictional setting precludes a comparison to real-life archery.

Form

The only major issue with the depiction of real-life archery in this film is the training style. Lawrence was trained by an Olympic athlete and it shows in her style. Instead of anchoring at her mouth (which she does sometimes), she frequently anchors under her chin which is best when you have a sight on your bow. She also stands very upright while shooting instead of curving her neck and upper body forward which is how instinctive shooters generally stand. The form is good, it’s the style choice that’s wrong. There is also one scene where she puts her finger over the top of the arrow — which is a big no-no.

Skills

While there aren’t a lot of trick shots in the movie, Katniss’s aim and quick shooting skills are achievable in the real world with ample dedication and practice.

Archery at 60X Custom Strings

real life competition archery referee

At 60X Custom Strings, we make it our business to know everything modern archers need to keep their skills sharp and their bows primed. Learn more about our team and browse our blog often to find new posts about what’s going on in the real-life world of archery.