It's hard to make a perfect movie. For one thing, that can mean many different things. Movies can be universally acclaimed, divisive, or reviled, and none of these things necessary make the film perfect. At a more basic level, a film can be measured by the competence of its production. This comes from editing, shot selection, and the avoidance of mistakes. It's harder than it sounds. Movies contain a huge number of shots, and there are tons of people working on sets everyday.
Mistakes do happen, and they can happen in even the best of films. Sometimes, filmmakers get so focused on the stories they're telling that they forget about the little details. Those who watch these films notice these details, though, and then they point them out to others. These goofs can be minor, a simple glitch in continuity. Others can be passing references to scenes that never actually took place. Making a movie is incredibly difficult work and perfection is almost impossible. Still, some mistakes are more obvious than others. Some are way easier to point out. Here are 15 of the most notorious mistakes from movies you may love.
Braveheart is a movie of epic proportions. It won Best Picture in 1995, and for good reason. It tells the story of William Wallace’s revolt against King Edward I during the 13th century. It’s easy to see how much effort must have been expended on the film’s climactic battle sequence. Unfortunately, the crew’s hard work may have been a little more present onscreen than anyone anticipated.
When the English charge on Wallace’s Scottish forces during the battle, a white car can be seen behind the legs of the oncoming cavalry. It’s only there for the briefest of moments, but it sort of breaks the film’s period illusion. Braveheart had other minor goofs as well, including a man with a baseball cap who is clearly a member of the crew walking into the frame.
Mel Gibson, who directed and starred in the film, may have set a bad example for his crew. He worked behind the camera and in front of it, and he inspired the members of his crew to do the same.
14 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry had a rough time in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He lost his godfather, Dumbledore wouldn’t talk to him, and he had a pretty horrible Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in Dolores Umbridge. On top of all of that, he was also getting peeks inside Voldemort’s head, ones that often came to him as troubling dreams.
During one key sequence in which Harry has a vision of the Department of Mysteries, he seems to be sweating through his short-sleeved crew neck T-shirt. After a short time, he’s startled a wake by a vision of Voldemort’s face. When Harry sits up, he has a button-up henley shirt on, one that would appear later in the film after Harry faces another vision.
It’s true of course that Harry Potter lives in a magical world filled with all sorts of unbelievable things. Still, we don’t remember ever hearing about a spell that allows the user to instantly change out of sweat-soaked tees.
13 Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction is about as beloved as movies get, and yet it too falls victim to a simple continuity error. What's worse, the mistake comes during everyone’s favorite scene, the one in which Jules first unloads his diatribe, scripture and all, on an unwitting Brett. After the scene, we discover that there’s another man, yet unseen, hiding in the bathroom of the small apartment with a gun.
By some miracle, this surprise assailant shoots at Jules and Vincent and misses, despite unloading his revolver at point blank range. What’s strange is that, even before he unloads, there are already bullet holes in the wall behind him. This moment is a transformative one for Jules, who decides that his life being spared was an act of divine intervention.
The whole thing becomes a little harder to buy when you realize that if Jules had looked behind him before any guns were fired, he would have found that there were already holes in that wall. Maybe the revolver was firing blanks?
12 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Jack Sparrow has saved the day! As Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl comes to a close and Sparrow prepares to sale off with The Pearl and his hearty crew. Unfortunately, this crew was not limited to his loyal deckhands. A member of the crew snuck into the shot, wearing a cowboy hat no less.
Of course, the real tragedy of these movies is that they made more than one. Even so, this cowboy could not have been more inappropriate for a film set before the Wild West was even a thing. Pirates of the Caribbean is a colonial tale, and it’s one that introduced audiences to a new kind of pirate. Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow was a sillier kind of swashbuckling hero. He told jokes, and developed into the central figure in what became an increasingly insane franchise.
Who knows? Maybe this cowboy was supposed to be there. After all, the sequels did prominently feature a man with a tentacle beard. It’s hard to say what was meant to be featured, and what wasn’t.
11 Teen Wolf
Before it became a hit MTV show, Teen Wolf was just your average coming of age tale. The story of Scott Howard’s discovery of his more wolfish traits was a perfect parable for the pains of adolescence. As the movie came to a close at the end of a high school basketball game, a particularly excited extra decided to stand up in the bleachers. Unfortunately, this extra neglected to ensure that her pants were buttoned before rising.
This means that, with incredible haste, she was forced to cover up her undergarments with a sweater. Michael J. Fox may have been the star of this movie, but, for the briefest of moments, focus was abruptly pulled away from him. Instead, we got a glimpse at an unplanned flashing. Fortunately, the extra’s face was cut out of the shot, and we only saw her from the waist down. Otherwise, she may have been infamous to this day.
10 Reservoir Dogs
It seems Quentin Tarantino doesn’t really care about continuity. The guy has more important things to worry about, like what exactly Madonna’s biggest hit might mean, as discussed in the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs. The film looks at the aftermath of a heist gone wrong, one which ultimately leads to the imprisonment of a cop. While working on the film, it appears Tarantino got so focused on the systematic torture of this cop that he left continuity at the door.
Various shots of the cop reveal that he is handcuffed from both the front and back. The point of handcuffs is to keep the handcuffed individual from moving their hands, so either these handcuffs are highly ineffective, or Tarantino forgot to handcuff the cop the same way in every take.
Since handcuffs with this particular defect aren’t really a thing, the second option seems more likely. Tarantino loves tightly written dialogue, but he’s far less interested in perfect editing. Just ask the cop.
9 The Goonies
The Goonies is a classic coming of age story. It’s a film close to many people’s hearts, and one that most people remember fondly. For the most part, that fondness is earned. Still, that doesn’t mean the movie’s perfect. There were several sequences cut out of the theatrical release, which happens to most films. There’s a reason we have deleted scenes. Typically, though, it’s good to remember that deleted scenes shouldn’t actually be mentioned in the finished film.
After the adventure is over and Data is speaking to reporters, he says that “the octopus was very scary.” This may baffle some viewers for one simple reason - there was no octopus in the movie. The octopus’s shining moment, when Stef and Mouth run into him after leaving One-eyed Willy’s ship, was cut from the final film. In spite of this, it still gets a shout-out from Data. Even if audiences didn’t get to see it, Data did.
8 Gone With the Wind
A period-piece of epic proportions, Gone With the Wind chronicles one Southern woman’s struggles as she deals with the outbreak of the Civil War, and with her own love life. A film of this magnitude (it’s almost four hours long) requires incredible scale, and that’s not even considering the fact that it was made in the the 1930s, a much more technically limited era.
Even so, Gone With the Wind was still set almost eighty years before the time of its filming, with the advent of electricity coming after The Civil War. So, when one of the lamps inside Tara, the massive plantation where most of the film takes place, is pulled from its resting place and a cord becomes visible, the illusion that the film is set in the 1860s starts to fade a little.
The film’s period inconsistencies may not be its biggest problem, but they're worth pointing out. Even so, you have to have some sympathy for the filmmakers. When you’re making a film like Gone With the Wind, it’s got to be tempting to take a few shortcuts.
7 North by Northwest
Alfred Hitchcock is known for the control he exercised throughout the film making process. Every decision he made was intentional, and each and every one of them contributed to his status as a legendary director. Still, even legends make mistakes. During one key sequence in North by Northwest when Roger Thornhill is shot by his one-time lover and current enemy near Mount Rushmore, one child in the background covers his ears before any gunfire rings out.
It’s later revealed that the gun was firing blanks, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the little boy who just wants undamaged ear drums. North by Northwest is still revered as a classic today, one that set the template for hundreds of thrillers to come. The goofs here don’t hurt the film. If anything, they remind people it exists and give people a reason to check it out. After all, how else will you see where James Bond really started?
6 It’s a Wonderful Life
Even widely beloved classics make a mistake every now and then. After George Bailey has gone through an enormous ordeal in It’s a Wonderful Life and realizes that his greatest contributions were to those he loves, he returns home to be greeted by a crowd of people who love him. He finds the family he thought he’d lost, and the friends that can now remember who he is.
This joyful moment is what the film has been building towards since its opening moment, but it’s not quite perfect. During this celebration, a wreath very suddenly appears on George’s arm. It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic, so a wreath is absolutely appropriate. The problem is, we never see George put the wreath on his arm, and it is only there in some of the shots at the movie’s end.
George really had a wonderful life, but even he can’t explain where in the world that wreath came from.
5 The Usual Suspects
Some movies really benefit from a re-watch. The Usual Suspects is certainly one of those movies, with an infamous twist we won’t spoil here. There are other things a re-watch might do, though. Even as it clarifies the plot, it will also reveal one of the movies biggest mistakes. When we see a plane land from both the front and the back, we come to discover that the plane has four engines from the front, and only two in the back.
This is striking mostly because of the absurd number of questions it poses. Did they use two separate planes? Did they use different stock footage? It doesn't seem like it would be all that difficult to get the same plane for both shots, but perhaps it was a function of a tight production schedule, budget, or some other restraint. Still, it's easily overlooked in favor of the many clues that are scattered throughout the film, ones that will help you unravel the shocking twist that comes at the film's conclusion. Though the planes are inconsistent, the rest of the film is fairly tightly scripted.
4 The Avengers
Considering the scale of the project, The Avengers is a surprisingly light on goofs. Still, when a project gets as large and unwieldy as this, it’s understandably difficult to keep every mistake out of the final film. The climactic Battle in New York was especially daunting, so it’s no surprise that the goofs emerged here.
When Captain America is fighting against Loki and the Chitauri, his suit is damaged when he is cut along the stomach in the chaos. Later, when we check in with the Captain, his suit has been fixed. This was the early days of The Avengers, when Captain America’s suit was a little less durable than its later iterations. The cloth was clearly damaged, and so when it’s repaired later on, it’s not hard to spot. Still, when The Avengers attempts to stage a battle of this size, a mistake or two is understandable. Joss Whedon may be a God to some nerds, but he’s not an actual God.
3 The Empire Strikes Back
It’s easy to get distracted by Harrison Ford’s performance in The Empire Strikes Back. The man has swagger to spare, and his performance as Han Solo is among the most iconic in film history. The famously improvised line “I know,” the one he utters right before he is frozen in carbonite, might be Han’s defining moment. Watching, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the sheer charisma and brilliance of this moment, and of what it means for the characters involved.
If you take a step back, though, you may notice something strange. For most of the scene, Han is without his iconic jacket. When the camera cuts to close-ups of his face, though, the jacket is clearly visible around his neck. I can’t blame him; frozen carbonite is probably pretty cold.
Still, a mistake is a mistake, even if it is contained within one of the most iconic moments in film history. Harrison Ford, we love you, but you have to decide whether or not you want to wear that jacket.
2 Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Sequels can be tricky projects, but James Cameron is known for putting his own spin on previously established universes. When he came to the Terminator franchise for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, he managed to enrich the series while making a completely unique film. There are plenty of tense action sequences in Terminator 2, including one in which the T-1000 drives a truck off a bridge.
As the truck flies of the bridge, we see the windshield pop off, but mere seconds later, the windshield is back in the frame of the truck. It’s a simple continuity error, but it’s not the only error the film makes. When the T-1000 punches his way through the windshield of a helicopter to get inside, the hole disappears as soon as he does so.
Cameron may have made an excellent film, but it’s incredibly difficult to make an error free one, especially when there are so many windshields to consider.
1 The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy are three films some consider to be the standard-bearer for all superhero movies. Many believe The Dark Knight Rises to be the weakest in the trilogy, and while it certainly has its merits, it’s hard to deny the problems.
Heath Ledger’s untimely passing forced him to make edits to the script, and it felt at times like Nolan wasn’t being as careful as he usually is. That view may be best crystallized into a single moment, in which a headline for the Gotham Times reads “Police Suspect ‘Cat’ Burglar in Jewel Hiest.” In case you were wondering, yes, that last word should be spelled "heist."
The paper made it into the final film, and its presence could suggest a certain level of nonchalance with regard to the conclusion of his famous trilogy. On the other hand, mistakes happen. Maybe Nolan honestly thought that was how you spell heist.