For a film to succeed with audiences, it must achieve one thing above all else. The viewer must believe what they’re watching to the point that they can sacrifice some realism and logic to be able to enjoy the experience.
This leaves everything up to the filmmaker, cast and crew to craft a vision that is credible enough so that audiences can enjoy watching it again and again. Hopefully lasting the test of time to become a cinematic classic.
This isn’t easy, obviously. Financial and critical success are never guarantees. Yet the maximum effort is (usually) made in hopes of success.
That being said, not even the best director and onscreen and behind-the-scenes talent are perfect. Every film, no matter how great, has it share of mistakes. And some continuity errors are far more noticeable than others.
Many of the most famous film mistakes are from some of the most acclaimed movies in history, while other bloopers are so memorable and hilarious they actually make subpar movies watchable. This list will cover both types of cinematic experiences.
One has to wonder how these errors ever made it into a finished film, but we’re all happy that they did, because they’re always fun to spot.
Without further ado, here are the 15 Worst Continuity Mistakes In Movie History.
15. The Lord of the Rings – A car in Middle-Earth
Director Peter Jackson used all his filmmaking ability and WETA’s CGI wizardry to take audiences into the bowels of Middle-earth for his Lord of the Rings trilogy. While it was it a masterful illusion overall, not even the notoriously perfectionist could emerge with a film that was completely error-free.
The gaffe in question takes place during a pivotal scene between Sam and Frodo, with Sam noting that the two Hobbits have traveled the furthest they’ve ever been from their home in their lives. Following this, we see the glint of a car, seen driving in the background of the shot.
Another Lord of the Rings continuity mistake worth noting occurs during the second half of The Return of the King, where Frodo Baggins’ newfound scar moves around to multiple facial locations with no explanation.
14. The Twilight Saga: New Moon – Moving Tattoo
We’re not even going to pretend the Twilight Saga films are a great movie series. Regardless it certainly has its fans who are willing to accept the five installments, warts and all. And bo,y are there a lot of warts.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon is practically a grab bag of mistakes, featuring a host of regrettable errors including visible mic wires, hairstyles that change from shot to shot, and vehicles that go from clean to dirty and clean again for no discernible reason. It’s a mess. One character’s nipples even change colors over the course of the movie.
Perhaps the most distracting error is the infamous magical moving tattoo. Yes, it’s true. Jacob (Taylor Lautner) sports a new tattoo that somehow migrates from the top of his shoulder to two inches lower later in the film.
13. American Sniper – The Robot Baby
American Sniper features an error so embarrassing it’s shocking that it made the final cut. But we’re glad it did because it’s hilarious.
In the scene, Chris Kyle (as played by Bradley Cooper) is seen bonding with his infant child. What should have been a touching moment is laughable because he’s clearly holding a plastic doll.
Cooper revealed his embarrassment in an appearance on Ellen, saying that “I made a joke I was like, as Chris [Kyle, his character]…I was like ‘I’ma save y’all a hundred thousands dollars and just start doing this [with the arm]’ ‘coz you know you have to CGI the hand movements.”
12. Spider-Man – Self-Repairing Windows
One of the most iconic scenes in Sam Raimi’s smash hit adaptation of Marvel Comics favorite web-slinger is the scene of Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker) kissing Mary Jane upside down in the rain. While the romantic chemistry between Tobey McGuire and Kirsten Dunst is palpable, there’s a major continuity goof that distracts from the moment.
You see, just prior to the couple’s lip lock, Spider-Man had saved Mary Jane from some attackers in an alleyway, chucking them through a set of windows in the process.
Yet during the kiss, we see the windows (shown behind Mary Jane) perfectly intact. Luckily, the film flies by at such a pleasant and engaging pace that we can forgive this error, but we’re still agitated about that dorky Green Goblin mask.
11. Pulp Fiction – Premature Bullet Holes
Quentin Tarantino is known for the non-linear narrative structure of his films. We’re used to it by now, but seeing his out-of-order storylines was truly pioneering in the early stages of his career. While his plot constructions are undeniably clever, telling a story out-of-order can make it challenging in regards to continuity. It can be more confusing from a production standpoint than traditionally linear films, which invariably leads to mistakes.
Take this early scene in Pulp Fiction, where Jules (Samuel Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) successfully dodge gunfire, for example – the proof being the bullet holes in the wall behind them. The problem is the bullet holes were already present in an earlier shot.
10. Gladiator – Gas-Powered Chariot
1999’s Gladiator saw a return to form for director Ridley Scott, resulting in a film that brought the sword and sandal genre back to Hollywood. It was thrilling, violent and moving, with Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix giving some of the best performances of their careers.
That being said, the film is far from perfect, and Scott missed a major error. Suspension of disbelief is temporarily shattered for anyone with a sharp eye during the “Battle of Carthage” scene, which reveals a gas tank attached to a tossed over chariot. It’s safe to say the chariot is a bit ahead of its time, given the film took place many centuries before fuel-powered vehicles would become a reality.
9. Star Wars – Stormtrooper Hits His Head
One of the best bloopers of all time has to be the stormtrooper hitting his head on the blast shield door of the Death Star in Star Wars IV: A New Hope. It brings a smile to even the most serious of Star Wars fans every time they see it.
So how did it happen? Actor Laurie Goode told The Hollywood Reporter he was struggling with an upset stomach the day of filming: “By midmorning, I had paid three to four visits to the loo/bathroom. Having re-dressed myself and returned to the set, I felt the need to rush back to the gents’ toilets, but I was placed in [the] shot. On about the fourth take, as I shuffled along, I felt my stomach rumbling, and “bang,” I hit my head!”
8. Blade Runner – Changing Weather
Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner is now regarded as one of the best films of its genre. It’s renown for its amazing visual effects and strong performances, both of which help to overcome its many continuity errors.
Take the scene where replicant Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) is killed (or “retired” in the parlance of the film) by Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), leading to many close up shots of her stunt double, who looks nothing like her. Or the fact that Deckard is hired to take out five replicants, yet the film only features four?
Or the film’s most celebrated scene, where doomed replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), dies during an evening downpour, only to release a pair of doves into an inexplicably clear, sunny, sky. These mess-ups drove Scott nuts for years, and he finally fixed them all with his 2007 “Final Cut.”
7. Teen Wolf – Zipper Down
Perhaps the strangest entry on our list, this error in Teen Wolf is worth noting because of how distracting it is, as what’s going on in the background is arguably more intriguing than the central storyline.
It takes place at the end of the film, which sees our title character (played by Michael J. Fox) winning a basketball game. We see a reaction shot of the crowd, with visibly excited fans jumping up and down in the bleachers. Then we also see a woman feverishly zipping up her fly.
Yes, that’s what happens. Apparently an extra was just hanging out on set, unaware her underwear was exposed until cameras were rolling. Obviously the director was also unaware, or maybe thought it was so odd it was worth keeping in the final cut. And a legendarily, bonkers film error was born.
6. Raiders of the Lost Ark – Reflecting Cobra
Yes, not even Stephen Spielberg’s classic 1980s action film gets a pass here. This iconic film is packed with plenty of continuity errors, but the most memorable fittingly involves Indiana Jones’s arch-nemesis: snakes.
It happens during the Well of Souls scene, where Indy falls into a pit of cobras– one of which stares him straight in the face. To make this shot happen without risking injury to Harrison Ford, a glass pane separated the two. And in the theatrical cut of the film you can clearly see the snake’s reflection.
You won’t see it if you watch Raiders of the Lost Ark today, however. Once Spielberg caught the error, he made sure to fix it when it was released on DVD. But if you have a chance to watch the old VHS editions, or see the original theatrical cut, you can see it in all its flawed, reflective glory.
5. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls – Chess Pieces
When it comes to Jim Carrey’s performances, one of his memorable is certainly the wise cracking finder of lost pets in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The over-the-top sequel Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls saw the actor at his scenery chewing best, even if the film overall paled next to the original.
Perhaps one example that When Nature Calls was an inferior second installment was the lack of attention to detail. As in, the missing chess pieces. What’s that you may ask? In the climax of the film, Ace is solving the film’s center mystery while the man bankrolling his investigation is playing chess by himself.
4. Halloween – Palm Trees in the Midwest
John Carpenter’s Halloween helped popularize the slasher genre, making Jamie Lee Curtis a star in the process.
That being said, its low-budget, rushed shooting schedule lead to some memorable errors. Take the scene where Curtis’ character Laurie Strode looks behind a shrub to see if masked killer Michael Myers is hiding there– you can see a puff of Carpenter’s cigarette smoke blowing into the shot. Or the fact that every car has California license plates, even though the film is set in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois – as the film was shot in Southern California.
There’s another element that dispels the illusion that Halloween takes place in the midwest: the occasional palm tree sticking out in the background, including the scene where Laurie tries to calm young Tommy Doyle’s pre-Halloween night jitters.
3. The Wizard of OZ – Dorothy’s Magically Growing Hair
Not even one of the greatest cinematic classics of all time is immune from the occasional flub. Hard as it may be to believe, The Wizard of Oz has a sizable amount of continuity errors.
Perhaps the most notorious involves the follicles of Judy Garland, forever immortalized for her portrayal of Dorothy from Kansas. And it happens during the pivotal scene where she first meets the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger).
During their musical number together, she first appears with pigtails just above her shoulders. Then as the song progresses, they grow longer, at one point even reaching below her shoulders. Yet when the song concludes? They’re back at their original shortened length.
Other notable errors include Dorothy’s losing her ruby slippers for black shoes during one shot, characters switching positions with no regards to prior placement and chandelier candles that magically relight themselves.
2. The Usual Suspects – Unusual Airplane
The Usual Suspects became a neo-noir classic by keeping the audience consistently on its toes before laying them out with an unforgettable plot twist. While the film is certainly a shrewd cinematic exercise, it leaves in one mighty sloppy gaffe that should have certainly been caught before it was released in theaters.
The infamous scene in question involves a four-engine jet airliner (Boeing 747) coming in for a landing, but when the plane is shown from behind it only has two engines (a Boeing 767).
To quote the film, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that… he is gone.” We’re sure everyone involved with The Usual Suspects wishes this error didn’t exist when they catch it playing on television.
1. North by Northwest – Kid Extra Spoils The Scene
Alfred Hitchcock has earned his title as The Master of Suspense thanks to his ability to craft taut narratives that expertly manipulate the audience. His classic film North by Northwest is essentially a masterclass in how to create a spy thriller, but it’s not without its flaws: it holds one of the most notorious errors in cinema history.
In the scene, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is confronted by Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) near Mt. Rushmore– and he discovers that the woman he’s falling in love with just might not be who she seems. During a confrontation, she shoots him point blank with a gun.
Apparently the young boy in the background was extra sensitive to loud noises (and had likely tired of multiple takes), because you can clearly see him putting his fingers in his ears before the gun was ever shot.
Did we miss any atrocious continuity mistakes in movies? Tell us in the comments!
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