My top ten all-time movie mistakes

News Mark Pickavance 16 May 2007 - 10:51
Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbor

Not everything in the movies goes quite to plan, and many errors make it to the final cut. And these are ten particular favourites...

On any film set there are people employed, like the continuity person, whose job it is to catch potential problems and mistakes that might damage the suspension of belief that any good movie should create. But sometimes, and it might only be after the film is released, these mistakes surface. They might be a plot hole, or a geographical error, or just plain stupidity on the part of the film makers. Here are my all time top ten…

10. Commando (1985)

You can always rely on Arnhuld for some genuine silliness, and Commando is full of it. Next time this is on look out for the car chase scene with Sully, where the damage appears on the cars before the collision that causes it, and then disappears again.

Another mistake is later in the movie when 'Matrix' assaults the island, first by attacking the barracks. He places 'claymore' explosive charges around the building before detonating them remotely. In the slow motion explosions you can see that the soldiers posted around them don't run or fall down, because they're dummies attached to metal posts. It doesn't help that they made the supports a little too strong and despite the massive collateral damage around them they stay resolutely at their posts.

9. Mission Impossible 2 (2000)

As an actor I really like Brendan Gleeson, who plays the CEO of a pharmaceutical operation in this bucket of hokum. But his character wouldn't be the ideal person to head such a company, because he knows nothing about combating a virus or medicine at all.

First he uses penicillin as an example of fighting viral infection, which actually works against bacteria. And then his video showing how 'Chimera' works shows the virus invading red blood cells and then spreading by destroying them. As a human red blood cell contains no DNA it can't be used by a virus in this way. You score 0 out of 10 for science, Agent.

8. Charlie's Angels (2000)

I know it's possibly insane to treat anything in either of the Angels outings seriously, but there is a defect in the first film I had to mention. In the scene where they fight the strange assassin played by Crispin Glover, Drew Barrymore picks up Lucy Liu and spins her round to kick Crispin. That's fine, but to warn her she's about to do that she shouts her name out, except she shouts 'Lucy' and not the character’s name, which is Alex. Doh!

7. Top Gun (1986)

Having flown a little myself this film’s portrait of combat pilots and aircraft was far from reality in almost every way. Many people have pointed to the obvious mistakes in how fast aircraft travel and the distances they cover in the film. But the ones that stuck me are those to do with what goes on the cockpit, which is entirely weird.

For starters no one had explained to Tom Cruise that the throttles go forward to increase power, and back to reduce it. Throughout the entire movie when he wants to go faster he cuts power, and to slow down he activates the afterburners!

Daftest scene of all is the one where Goose dies, when they get into that spin! In this they decide to eject using the handles above their heads to initiate the ejection, and as they are spinning these are difficult to reach. This is a known issue, which is why real pilots are provided with much easier to reach ones directly between their legs. The difference with these is that they don't release the canopy, but explode it into pieces, therefore avoiding the scenario that ultimately kills Goose.

But then he'd not have been there anyway, because in the first 20 minutes most of the pilots break the cardinal sin of drinking within a 24 hour period prior to flying, and having been seen doing so by a senior, his 'Top Gun' experience should have ended there and then.

6. Bullitt (1968)

This movie has possibly one of the best car chases of all time in it, but as good as it is there are a number of major continuity problems along the way. There are minor issues; like we see a number of hub caps come off the Dodge Charger, which then go back on in the next shot. But the most obvious are two vehicles, a VW Beetle and a Camper Van, which the high performance pursuit overtakes numerous times.

However, some of the other vehicles on the road aren't part of the production, which is demonstrated at one junction scene where at least one man gesturing in his vehicle is actually a confused member of the public.

5. North by Northwest (1959)

There's a scene in the cafeteria at Mount Rushmore, where a revolver is discharged. If you look in the background prior to the gun being fired you can see a child covering his ears in anticipation of the shot.

4. Gladiator (2000)

Our historical understanding of ancient Rome would make you think that plenty was wrong in Gladiator, and you'd be right. But one mistake stood out a mile when I first saw this at the cinema. In the scene where Maximus lies dead in the Coliseum, the camera moves behind him as the people come towards him to show their respect.

At this time it's possible to see a strange mound of sand that's been built up under his head, so that the armour he's wearing doesn't make his head tilt backwards. I can understand why they did it, but it looks like he fell in the only location in the entire field that isn't flat.

3. Pearl Harbor (2001)

When they wrote the script for Pearl Harbor, history wasn't a major consideration, I suspect. As a result huge numbers of factual errors crisscross the events, with equipment that's from the wrong era and people doing things they couldn't in 1941.

But the best by far is an establishing shot of Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) entering Pearl Harbor. Why in this shot no one noticed that the building behind her has emblazoned on it "Est. 1953", is a mystery.

2. Days of Thunder (1990)

Being as famous as Tom Cruise is can impact on other actors around you. There's a scene where Cole, played by Cruise, is walking with Rowdy Burns and his wife, in which both she and the doctor both call him 'Tom', and not 'Cole'.

1. Titanic (1997)

I recall when this came out that the director, James 'top of the world' Cameron made much of the recreation of the ship, and the historical detail that went into the production. Therefore it's something of a mystery as to how this film has almost more technical errors in it than almost any other on record.

There are many, including the fact that the location for the famous 'flying' sequence on the bow was strictly off-limits to passengers. But my personal favourite comes in the scene where Jack is charming Rose with his tales of ice fishing in Lake Wissota. Had Jack been a real historical character this would have been a neat trick, since its artificial lake was created when a dam was constructed six years after the Titanic sank.

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