It’s no secret that the hosts of "MythBusters" are two very different people. While Adam Savage choked up during the series finale and has spoken with a sort of nostalgic reverence about his time on the show, Design News got a very different vibe when they interviewed Jamie Hyneman. "There’s enough episodes of ‘MythBusters’ that you could watch it for a couple of weeks," he said. "After 14 years, the material did start to thin out. We figured it was time to throw in the towel."
It’s not entirely surprising, then, to learn that finding Hyneman’s legitimate, honest thoughts about what his favorite moments and fondest memories are is, well, it’s easier said than done. But that’s all right — it just means throwing a little "MythBusters"-style creativity out there and seeing what happens. What is out there are the moments when he spearheaded projects that made a real-world difference, times when his fellow "MythBusters" would reminisce about seeing actual joy on his face, and when those same colleagues gave him legit props for designing and building something truly incredible. Oh, and there is the rare time that Hyneman mentions being sort of fond of a particular experiment or myth. So let’s take all of those best moments, wrap them up, and start a countdown of Jamie Hyneman’s best of the best.
11. Jet-Assisted Chevy
When it came time for "MythBusters" to finally wrap things up, it was pretty telling that Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman did their interviews with Entertainment Weekly separately. But they did get something surprising out of Hyneman, and it happened when they asked him what his favorite memory of the show was. He replied that for him, the high points were getting to do the weird stuff that they otherwise would have had the chance to do: "It goes back to when we were doing the first rocket car, and I was piloting this car in the desert from a helicopter. … It was like a kid’s dream. There have been a lot of moments like that over the years."
The segment that he was talking about went all the way back to the pilot episode when they were exploring the late-1990s-era, email-forward-esque story about whether or not it was possible to attach jet engines to a Chevy Impala and what would happen if — and when — things went horribly wrong. While going up in a helicopter and remotely driving a very real car is undeniably awesome, there are still so many other things that they’ve done that were much cooler.
10. Blind Driving
Jamie Hyneman is famously deadpan when it comes to most of his time on-screen, and that means that when he breaks his own character, it’s a moment that sticks with his colleagues. So, this Jamie Hyneman best comes courtesy of Adam Savage, who told the story around several items being auctioned off to benefit Grant Imahara’s STEAM Foundation.
Let’s start with the myth: Savage and Hyneman were testing the story that a blind person driving with directions from a sighted person was a better driver than someone who was drunk. First, they found that, yes, the blind person they recruited to help them test the story was, in fact, a much better driver than either a blindfolded Savage or a blindfolded Hyneman because they were simply responding to directions without thinking about any extra information. Then, for the filming, Hyneman volunteered to be the drunk person from the myth. After requesting a bottle of Maker’s Mark, Savage reported he said, "You guys mind if I get drunk in the gutter? I think that’s kind of funny." So that’s precisely what he did: "It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen," Savage reported. As entertaining as it was to see Hyneman kick back and enjoy himself a bit on camera, it still feels just a little cringe to find drinking in a gutter so hilarious. Perhaps it hasn’t aged well, but there are better Hyneman moments out there.
9. Torpedo Tastic
Since Jamie Hyneman isn’t exactly the type to take an overexcited look at his own achievements, picking out his best moments can really only be done with a little help from his colleagues. This one comes from "MythBusters" co-host Adam Savage and one of his "Ask Adam Savage" segments on his YouTube channel.
When someone asked whether or not anything they did on "MythBusters" resulted in real-world changes to products or procedures, Savage gave Hyneman full props for coming up with a process that completely overhauled a whole industry. If that’s not cool, what is? The Season 9 episode "Torpedo Tastic" involved trying to build a rocket-powered torpedo from 13th-century Syria. The device was shaped like a clamshell, and while Savage tried to create a form by hammering away at a sheet of metal, Hyneman devised a way to sandwich that metal between two pieces of steel. The pieces had a hole cut in the center, and then water pressure was used to bend another piece in the shape of that clamshell.
What did this change? Savage said that when the episode aired, it happened to be seen by a company that made miniature steel drums. Until that episode, they had been made by hand with much the same process that Savage was using. That all changed with Hyneman, and inadvertently streamlining a whole industry? That gets him some serious cool points.
8. Snowplow Split
The myth that a car could be split in half by a snowplow is the sort of thing that admittedly sounds pretty unbelievable … but for those who live in particularly snowy climates, it’s easy to see how this one might keep you up at night. The "MythBusters" team took this one on more than once — it was one of the fan favorites that showed up again in Season 7.
When NPR spoke with Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman about their trip to the White House for a myth they were doing with the help of President Barack Obama, they were asked about the cars destroyed on the show. As Savage joked that they were "about 10 percent of Craigslist’s used car traffic," Hyneman spoke a little bit about the most surprising incident where they destroyed a car and got serious hate for it. That was, of course, the snowplow split myth: "That involved an AMC Eagle that we used. And who knew? But there is an AMC Eagle Fan Club out there that collects these and was extremely upset."
While it’s too bad that serious collectors needed to see one of their beloved cars fall into the oh-so-destructive hands of the "MythBusters," it was absolutely worth it to give so many people a little bit of peace of mind. Still, out of respect for those AMC Eagle collectors, this sits comfortably in the middle of our ranking.
7. Square Wheels
When it comes to great inventions that changed the course of history, the wheel is definitely up there. It might seem like one of those things that definitely doesn’t need reinventing, but what was "MythBusters" about, aside from doing fascinating things that didn’t really need to be done, per se? They took on the idea of square wheels in a Season 10 episode, and when Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman spoke with the Toronto Star in conjunction with their live stage show, Hyneman spoke about how it was one of their most popular myths, and one of his favorites. "It’s the kind of playful interaction with physics and gadgets you get that I love. It can lead you to places you wouldn’t get to in any other way," he explained.
The idea was that if you went fast enough, square wheels would kind of start to blur and give as smooth a ride as round ones. That doesn’t happen — it’s all kind of all right up until 20 mph, then there’s something best described as a catastrophic failure — but Hyneman notes that he also likes this one because of the possibility of a practical use. "Is there some situation where square wheels would be better than round wheels?" he asked. "Sure! … A square wheel’s corners are going to bite and propel you forward. The square wheel could be superior on snow or mud or sand."
And that’s exactly the kind of result we all watch "MythBusters" to see.
6. Wrecking Ball
When it comes to this best moment from "MythBuster" Jamie Hyneman, it’s his co-host Adam Savage who gave him some serious props … literally (via Tested). In Season 9, they attempted to determine the legitimacy of a viral video that showed full-size wrecking balls used to recreate a Newton’s cradle. The small, desk-size versions are pretty common, but the large ones? Not so much.
They built several Newton’s cradles of varying sizes first in order to work out any potential kinks before they were dealing with the real thing. Savage described them: "There’s actually a bit of wonderful Jamie brilliance to the tuning of this." After showing how difficult it is to get everything so precisely aligned that the cradle actually works, Savage showed how Hyneman modified the framework and the strings to make aligning the metal balls effortless. Instead of hanging the balls from multiple strings, everything was connected. Simple, effective, and brilliant. "Making this all one string, that’s exactly the kind of problem-solving that Jamie would bring to something like this that was really awesome," Savage said.
And again, that’s exactly what made "MythBusters" so great. It wasn’t just about the myths or the outcomes — it was seeing the process, learning the ins and outs, and watching some wildly impressive problem-solving in basically real-time.
5. Confederate Steam Gun
Testing modern-day urban legends and stories is absolutely fine, but testing some historical myths is the stuff that we really want to see — and that’s why the "Confederate Steam Gun" episode is up here at the top.
Jamie Hyneman was talking to the AV Club when the topic of most dangerous experiments came up. Hyneman — and Adam Savage — agreed that the most unpredictable and most hair-raising were the ones dealing with not just straightforward explosives but also various forms of pressure. Savage explained: "The most recent one I think that we were both really suitably and respectfully terrified of was the steam-powered machine gun. … while the sound was just lovely, both Jamie and I are laughing and standing behind every barrier we can get behind while it shot." Hyneman went on to say that while experiments with explosives came with a bomb squad on set, pressure was totally different. "It sort of sneaks up on you because there’s a lot of potential for death sitting right there."
And that? That makes the fact that they built a working, steam-powered machine gun based on an old myth from the Confederacy and the Civil War just that much more impressive.
4. Spy Car
It’s impossible to watch one of any number of spy movies without wondering if those gadgets would really work as they do on-screen, and the fact that this one’s not just a widely-depicted myth but also one that almost everyone has probably wondered about at some time is why it comes in so high in our ranking.
Season 9’s segment on spy cars sees Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage outfitting cars with destructive gadgets that would be the sort of thing that James Bond might use if he was on a budget, including a pipe affixed to the wheels. It was Adam Savage who spoke about just how much fun this one was to film, reminiscing on a segment of "Ask Adam Savage." They were basically playing bumper cars with real cars, a ton of safety equipment, and spy gear — what isn’t to love? And love it, they did — even the notoriously stoic Hyneman. "We smashed into each other, we separated, and we both looked at each other, and I swear, on the Hyneman’s face, I saw, like, just unparalleled joy," Savage said. "Unparalleled joy! I’ve seen it a few times on that man’s face."
At the end of the day, that’s what "MythBusters" science should be about: Sure, it’ll teach audiences something, get viewers interested in the sciences, but the bottom line? It had to be fun. And if Hyneman thinks it’s fun, it must be!
3. The Tree Cannon
"MythBusters" did a lot of scary-looking stuff, and while it’s obvious that safety would have been top priority, were there ever any brown trousers moments? Absolutely, and according to what Jamie Hyneman told OnMilwaukee, there was one segment in the 1st season that brought it home very, very quickly just how dangerous some of their experiments were.
They were reconstructing a tree cannon from Hungary’s distant past, and yes, Hyneman says they were working with a professional pyrotechnics expert when they did it. He told them that he was going to be standing what was presumably a safe distance away — 250 feet — so the "MythBusters" opted for an even safer 350 feet … or, so they thought. "The thing went off, and every piece of that tree cannon — which was chunks of wood maybe 80 pounds, give or take — flew over our heads," he said. "That was kind of a wake up call, and that kind of thing has never happened again."
There are plenty of cool myths, hold-your-breath explosions, and massive builds, which is why this one sneaks into the top three. It’s impossible to tell whether or not this wake-up call changed their course from a potentially disastrous one, but that’s all right — some things shouldn’t have to be learned the hard way, and Hyneman thanked the tree cannon for that.
2. Lead Balloon
The idea of a lead balloon is a decently old one: According to the Science History Institute, it goes back to a comment made in a 1924 comic strip called "Mom ‘n Pop." It’s been widely used to describe something that is guaranteed to fail, but that’s precisely the kind of absolute that scientists love to challenge. "MythBusters" took on the challenge of getting a lead balloon to fly in Season 6, and according to what Jamie Hyneman told Time in 2010, it remained one of his favorite episodes and experiments. "I love that it didn’t include any explosives. … But it was such a clear celebration of process," he said. "And after all this time, more than when we started, I think the process is just so much fun.
And that’s precisely what makes this segment so great: It’s a pretty perfect demonstration of a well-thought-out scientific process, done not to be flashy or attention-grabbing but simply for the sake of questioning something that might seem like a given on the surface. Of course, in the end, it was much more complicated than it seemed at first glance. It’s a reminder that science doesn’t have to be loud to be fascinating, and a lot of times, it’s the quiet stuff that’s most interesting. This episode is a brilliant reminder of that, and it’s really no wonder why it’s a long-time favorite of both Savage and Hyneman.
1. The 22,000-foot-fall
There are some days where everything just seems like an uphill battle. Everyone’s been there, and when they decided to do this myth? It’s not entirely surprising that Jamie Hyneman told OnMilwaukee that it was the most challenging, most difficult thing they ever did on the show. Let’s take a minute to recognize Hyneman’s most difficult "best" as our favorite.
The Season 4 episode’s story was based on World War II, and it basically said that a guy falling from a height of around 22,000 feet was saved when an explosion was detonated beneath him. The force of the blast countered the force of his fall, and it all turned out all right. Not only is that a shockingly difficult thing to test, but Hyneman says that nothing went right during the process, either. It was so hot that the dummy they were using in lieu of an actual human being — Buster — melted, and even the balloons became impossible to work with. In short? This myth has it all: A fascinating origin story, an ambitious build, a seemingly never-ending stream of problems, perseverance, and a super satisfying conclusion. In other words, everything that made "MythBusters" a great show in the first place.