Every movie has an obligatory mistake, like where a character’s sunglasses miraculously appear and disappear over the course of five or six shots. Most of these are harmless, amusing artifacts of the fact that sometimes a split second cut encompasses several days of shooting, not to mention the Hollywood-customary three (3) puerile star breakdowns and the mutilation of several unfortunate set techs who happened to get in Christian Bale or Russel Crowe’s line of sight. Movie making is an imprecise process, and some times things fall through the cracks — sometimes there’s crew or a boom mic in the shot. But some of these gaffes are so hilariously unforgivable that they deserve extra-special mention.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (The Terrifying(ly harmless) Cobra)
When Indiana Jones falls into the pit filled with snakes he oh-so-conveniently mentioned he was terrified of, he comes face to face with a King Cobra. To 80s children who grew up watching this and Star Wars on a loop, this is about as scary as it gets (except for the Jabba’s palace musical number in the Special Edition). Unfortunately, all of these kids grew up to be insufferable nerds who nitpick movies as a form of masturbation. They all began to notice that you can see both the reflection of the Cobra and Indy’s torch in the glass separating them. The necessity of putting the protagonist face to face with the most instantly recognizable poisonous snake in the world in a pit otherwise filled with harmless boas and rubber imitations is pretty obvious. Why a glass barrier and not the one of millions of tricks a filmmaker could use is less understandable. Why not a forced perspective? Why not a green screen? Why not a fake snake? Why not a de-venomed cobra? Why not a fat, plastic Karen Allen from 2008?
Independence Day (Vanishing/Reappearing Missiles)
In the epic final battle of this movie, the entire survival of humanity ends up coming down to the number of missiles each F-18 has. Why they decided to use F-18s with relatively tiny air-to-air AMRAAM missiles instead of a fleet of B-52’s packed to the gills is a question that will haunt precisely three sad, sad people. Unfortunately, the point that the entire final scene and the survival of humanity rested on, was one Roland Emmerich was too lazy to put in to the exterior visuals. Like a strange pantomime where the audience is supposed to believe what’s being said and not what they see, several shots of the F-18s show us planes fully-loaded with missiles. If only Randy Quaid’s character had known this he would not have had to sacrifice himself and the rest of us would not have had to pretend we felt bad about Randy Quaid dying.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (“Floating” Candles)
In a movie packed with special effects, made in 2001, with a stellar cast and presumably a hefty budget, how in the hell do the strings holding up the floating candles in the dining hall make it past the editors? This is a Photoshop job a 16-year-old who “like, really wants to go into graphic design, man” could do. Give a 6-year-old a brown crayon and tell him to “color in the lines” and you’d get a less noticeable effect here. Though based on the quality of their CGI troll that appears later in the movie, it’s clear that the animation department for this movie was some kind of outreach program for the mentally handicapped.
Airplane! (Okay so this doesn’t really count)
Famous for pushing boundaries and its borderline surrealistic humor, Airplane holds a dubious position in American cinema of being the really, really intelligent and clever progenitor of lazy cinematic train wrecks like Scary Movies 1-4. Not only did this movie mock dozens of its contemporaries, but it also mocked their lazy mistakes. The story goes that while filming, the crew of Airplane! wanted to have the interior shots of the plane be of a modern jet plane, while exterior shots would be of an older propeller-driven plane. Studio execs, in an incredibly rare example of giving the audience way too much credit, thought this would be “too confusing” to the viewers–most of whom, let’s be honest, wouldn’t notice or care. So exterior shots were changed to a modern jet plane, but as a final waggling middle finger, the sound of the prop plane was preserved, leaving what experts have now famously termed “possibly one of the most disgustingly esoteric jokes in history”.
The Matrix (Magical Regenerating Lobby)
In what is perhaps one of the most iconic and testicle-shrinkingly intense scenes in recent cinematic history, Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss blow the ever loving shit out of a marble-lined lobby and the unfortunate SWAT team that happened to be there at the time. The camera even pauses for a moment to allow us to observe the pure, destructive bliss that remains behind. Then they drop a bomb which explodes in a now almost completely untouched lobby. Several incredibly lazy theories have been posited to explain away this mistake, the most popular of which is that the Matrix is a computer program, so instantly repairing the lobby would not have been a problem. This is a stupid theory for stupid people and ranks right up there with the most lazy “a wizard did it” theories out there. On top of that, the lobby is utterly destroyed before the bomb, but when the bomb goes off, a small pile of debris can be seen, which begs the question why would a computer program with the ability to rewrite itself only do a half-assed job? Do it’s minions charge by the byte and bullet hole now?
Scream (The Conveniently Slow Police)
It’s a long, played out trope that the police only show up in horror movies immediately after the “bad guy” is dead, never before (unless they are immediately killed by the bad guy). In the final scene of Scream, it’s explicitly mentioned that it is close to midnight when the killer starts precipitously lowering the characters’ blood pressures in a most medieval fashion. About 15 minutes later, the killers are dead, and the movie cuts to the police, news, ambulances etc… arriving and cleaning up the scene as the sun peeks over the horizon. Wait what, you mean that the police arrived at dawn? Some 6 hours after midnight? Assuming this is summer and not set in Barrow, Alaska (which seems fair since they had Internet connections in 1996), that means it took the police around six hours to arrive. Some argue that clearly this is just set far after the point where the police arrived, and they are now just collecting evidence and statements. Why then do we see the killers’ stabbing victims just then being loaded in to an ambulance? Either these are some incredibly slow or laughably irresponsible police. Or it’s just yet another Wes Craven movie with a tenuous grip on reality.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Death Stars Are All We Got)
Put on your inch-thick horn-rimmed glasses and please ensure that your pocket protectors are in the upright and locked position, cause it’s about to get extremely nerdy in here. At the end of Episode III, we clearly see a Death Star in the beginning stages of construction. The same Death Star that (by the best calculations) just finished completion no less than 20-25 years later in Episode IV. Two years later, in Return of the Jedi, the empire has already almost completed and even larger, deadlier Death Star. Now, we can all understand the need to put Death Stars in your movie, they’re pretty bad-ass looking, they’re intimidating, and it reminds everyone of a much, much better movie. But when it subsequently destroys the timeline of later movies (not that Lucas has shown any compunction against ruining the later movies), showing a little restraint, in place of the shoddy carelessness, is advised. Also as a pre-emptive defense, don’t start with the whole “they were building two Death Stars at the same time they just made absolutely no reference to the second one until it became convenient for the plot”.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Impossible Rooms/Impossible Obsession)
The guilty pleasure of 80s children everywhere, the Transformers series should be casually observed and never taken too seriously. Unfortunately, this is the 21st century, and people will spend hours poring over pictures of cats. Along those lines, in the beginning of the sequel, Sam (not spelling out his last name) drops a piece of the Allspark, which burns a hole in his floor and falls into the kitchen, setting various appliances into attack mode. Did you ever notice that based on the lay out of the house, this is impossible? No? Congratulations, you deserve to keep living! Fortunately no one really ever bothered to…
Oh…well one image isn’t that–
Back To the Future (The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1955)
Take a look at this iconic car chase from The French Connection, filmed in 1970. Now count the number of handicap ramps you see on the curbs of New York City. The film is speedy, but you’ll catch one, maybe two. This is because handicap ramps didn’t really catch on in cities until 1970, and weren’t legally required nationally until the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Which leads one to wonder why, in 1950s small-town America in Back to the Future, they appear on nearly every corner. This is a common mistake that appears in many movies made after the 70s, but set in a previous era. Usually it’s forgivable, but when the entire goddamn premise of your movie is a focus on the idiosyncrasies of a previous decade, would it kill you to put in a foam curb?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (HEY CAN YOU TELL THIS TOOK MULTIPLE SHOTS)
Another all-too-common mistake is allowing artifacts of previous shots to creep in to the final version of a movie. In Dead Man’s Chest, we see the multiple tracks in the sand where characters trod out previous shots on otherwise pristine beaches. It’s one thing for Keira Knightley’s heir part to shift from shot to shot, but allowing something like this to make it in to the final version is like forgetting to take off a wig from the previous scene where she was impersonating a man (though with Keira Knightley, it’s kind of hard to tell when she’s not trying to impersonate a man).
Face Off (The Giant Blood-Filled Pimple)
Near the end of the movie Face-Off, John Travolta (who is actually the terrorist Nicholas Cage) shoots an unsuspecting FBI agent in the head. Instead of doing that strange, mystical thing known in cinema as “a cut”, John Woo decided to film this scene in one shot. As a result, we have this, a character with a giant bulge on his forehead that the make-up artists made a titanic â€” but inevitably failed â€” effort to conceal. Even worse, John Woo had this character deliver a line with this monstrosity glued to his forehead. The audience is therefore left with a sort of moley moley mole syndrome that detracts from what could have been a shocking and brutal scene.
Jurassic Park (Oh 1994)
Back in a more innocent age when we all were not intimately acquainted with what video playback software looked like, Jurassic Park tried to pull a quick one on us with this. While this film is rife with outdated computer references and strange, unnecessary 3D Linux interfaces, this Quicktime movie slaps any modern viewer in the face with its obviousness. This is a “I made this movie for $5,000 in my basement”-level fuck up that only sneaked past because most people at the time still owned dedicated VCR tape rewinders.
Top Gun (Flats and Heels)
One of Hollywood’s worst-kept secrets is that some super stars are embarrassingly short. The average man (5’10”) would tower over action hero Tom Cruise (5’7″) for example. In fact even marginally tall actresses often come to his height, which is one of those things that you wouldn’t think looks really bad until you see it on screen. There is no single more emasculating shot than a female lead towering over her male counterpart. Add to this the fact that most women wear at least 2-3 inch heels in movies, and that the average female height is around 5’4″, and you wonder how Tom Cruise is in movies at all. Usually through a combination of subtle forced perspective shots, and having Tom Cruise stand on a stack of phone books. When Kelly McGillis is first introduced in Top Gun, however, the movie very obviously shifts her between heels when she’s not next to Tom Cruise, then to flats when she is.
Die Another Day (Halle Berry is Magical)
Die Another Day follows the adventures of Pierce Brosnan reprising his role as James Bond, this time teaming up with Halle Berry as Jinx — a magical time-traveling being from the future. Oh, you missed that last part about time traveling? How else do you explain the fact that she comes walking out of the ocean (in a painfully obvious homage to Dr. No) and then is instantly dry in the next shot? Or the fact that she is cut along the torso by the villain, yet in the next scene is back to her impeccably flawless skin? How else other than her epic bosom’s ability to distort time and space would you explain such phenomenon?
Ocean’s Eleven (Inexplicably Shifting Bags)
There’s a type of movie continuity error that is pulled off with such style and panache, that you’ll never notice it until someone points it out to you. Ocean’s Eleven is perhaps the perfect example of this. In the final scene: The “money” is carried out of the vault in marked bags and loaded in to a truck. The “SWAT” team storms the vault and arrests the thieves. It later turns out that the original “money” was instead a decoy, and the fake SWAT team made off with the real money. Now ask yourself this question: if the characters barely had enough room to smuggle in a small Chinese man, how in the hell did they manage to get in several duffel bags worth of hooker advertisements? You can watch this movie a million times without noticing this error, which even the director has admitted there’s no explanation for, but honestly at a certain point you need to give credit where credit is due. Movies exist in a fantasy world that is only tenuously linked with reality. If you don’t notice the mistakes, who cares if they’re actually there? It just goes to show that, in Hollywood, it doesn’t matter if you shovel mismatched bullshit, as long as you shovel the right kind of bullshit.