Common movie and TV mistakes

This is a list of mistakes, things done wrong, etc. that happen so frequently onscreen we barely notice any more. 'Movie logic', stupid behaviours, and everything related.

Factual error: Most ventilation ducts are not large enough for a person to crawl around in, and any duct large enough for an adult to fit in wouldn't be able to support the person's weight. In the rare event that a company could afford a large ventilation system that could support a person's weight, they would likely forgo it anyway, as it would pose a security risk.

Phaneron Premium member

Factual error: Enhancing an image by zooming in to blurry CCTV footage and somehow reading the reflection of a ticket in someone's pocket off a nearby fridge.

Factual error: People being in a vicious gunfight with no ear protectors and still being able to have a normal conversation afterwards.

Factual error: True gun silencers do not exist in real life. There do exist what are called "suppressors," but they don't quiet the sound of a gunshot anywhere near what you see in movies and television shows.

Phaneron Premium member

Factual error: Airbags which deploy and stay inflated. That's not how airbags work, they deflate immediately.

Jon Sandys Premium member

Factual error: In almost every movie from the introduction of sound on to present day, lightning and thunder happen simultaneously, while in reality there's always a delay between the former and the latter.

Sammo Premium member

Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: Hardly always, if the lightning hits right in front of you you hear the thunder immediately. I'd say from about 100 meters you perceive it as instantly, as it's only 0.3 seconds between flash and thunder.


This is a mistake about in almost all movies, not in all thunderstorms. The common mistake in the movies is when lightning isn't hitting 100m away from the character, but the sound is still instantaneous.


I assume it's about thunderstorms in movies. Name an example.


Instant thunder (even at a considerable distance of miles from the lightning or explosion source) is, indeed, a common and probably deliberate error in most films. The reasoning for it is simple: a prolonged and realistic delay between lightning and thunder could change a 1-second shot into a 6-second shot, for example, compromising the director's intended pace and mood for the scene. Steven Spielberg films have utilized both instant and delayed thunder. In "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," for example, when the UFOs zoom out into the distant background (certainly miles away) in a wide landscape shot, they produce a lightning effect in the clouds that is simultaneously heard as thunder. But in "Poltergeist" (a Spielberg film directed by Tobe Hooper), there is a very deliberate scene of characters realistically counting the seconds between distant lightning and resulting thunder. Choosing to obey physics or not is a matter of the director's artistic license.

Charles Austin Miller

There's a scene in Judge Dredd where every few seconds, there is a flash of lightning instantly accompanied by the sound of thunder. It happens frequently in Sleepy Hollow as well.

Phaneron Premium member

I know the scenes you are referring to. In both those instances you have no idea about the distance of this lightning. It could be (and probably is) right on top of them. You can hear that from the typical high sharpness of the sound, only heard when the flash is very close. Thunderclouds are never very high in the air so even the rumbling within the cloud itself can be heard, sometimes you don't even see lightning when it rumbles (yet there is). It's a bit far fetched but you could hear a rumbling or the thunder from a previous flash and mistake it for the flash you see at the same time. Can happen when there are continuous flashes.


I posted this while I was watching Death in Paradise, episode 7 of the third season, but really, you have never seen in pretty much any horror or cheap slasher movie whenever there's a storm, the flash of a lightning coming at the *same* time as a thunder jumpscare sound? It's vastly spoofed, even, when some ugly/creepy/terrifying character makes its appearance. One example randomly picked? Dracula by Coppola, in the first 10 minutes, carriage, lightning in the distance, not even a split second after, rumble. In RL it would reach you a couple seconds later. But really, it's such a movie archetype, I am sure you can find it in any Dracula movie.

Sammo Premium member

The Dracula example doesn't really show how far away the lightning is, it could right above them. It's fake as hell, I agree with that, but the fact there is lightning and thunder at the same time without actually seeing the distance is not a mistake to me. It's also highly unnatural lightning as it only happens twice and then nothing, it's not even raining. It's obviously meant to be caused by the evil surrounding the place. The idea is there is constant lightning right on top of them.


Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: Generally, people aren't thinking too forwardly or rationally when someone they're pursuing is about to get away. Their lizard-brain just thinks "getting away -> chase," not considering how unlikely (though not impossible) it is for them to either catch up with the car before it fully accelerates or when it makes a turn, then either pull the driver out of the car or jump on the car.

The person acts on instinct. Many people would do the same in real life.

Catwalk Premium member

Deliberate mistake: In fight scenes, it's often one person against a small army. Despite having the person greatly outnumbered, the enemies proceed to attack them one at a time, allowing each to be easily dispatched. The whole point of having so many is to overwhelm your enemy... not take turns getting punched out.

Quantom X Premium member

Character mistake: In almost every film or TV show, if the villain actually bothered to kill the hero as soon as they met face to face instead of just talking about their plans, the villain would actually succeed in his or her plans. Instead, the villain letting the hero live becomes their real downfall.

Factual error: Someone gets punched in the face or otherwise knocked out and comes around hours later, then goes on to pick up where they left off as best as possible and forget the incident in about 30 seconds. If you've been unconscious for hours you've got a traumatic brain injury and need medical attention, you won't be hunting down your assailant any time soon.

Jon Sandys Premium member

Factual error: Snipers using a laser mounted to their rifle to line up their target. Snipers in real life don't use lasers in this manner. For one thing, it gives away their position, and additionally because lasers won't line up a target accurately at a long range, as the bullet is affected by gravity, the rotation of the Earth, and other factors.

Phaneron Premium member

Audio problem: Non-metal items making audible metallic sounds. The audible metallic sound effect of a blade, such as a sword, when it's being drawn from a wood or leather scabbard that doesn't have a metal throat, and also when it's drawn from a fabric or leather belt.

Super Grover Premium member

Other mistake: When someone is working on a car or changing a wheel they always manage to keep their hands clean.

eric 64

Factual error: An oft-repeated myth in movies, usually in the science fiction genre, is that humans only use 10% of their brains. The truth is that humans use all of their brains, even when asleep.

Phaneron Premium member


Revealing mistake: "Hacking" something by hammering a keyboard and characters appearing they're nowhere near actually typing.

Factual error: In many films and TV series that feature passwords being cracked by a "brute-force" attack, individual characters of a password are found independently of each other. (See Ocean's Eight, Under Siege 2, various episodes of Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahnpolizei, or Person of Interest.) In reality, this is impossible; most of the times the password itself is not stored anywhere. Rather, an irreversible cryptographic hash of the password is stored, and the typed password's hash is compared with that. Either the whole thing is right or no access is granted.


Factual error: When a police officer finds a suspicious powder he or she puts some on his or her tongue and knows straight away what drug it is, in reality the powder would need a lab test to analyse it.

eric 64

Factual error: Knocking someone out by hitting them in the head is in no way a "safe" means to incapacitate them. Leaving a person unconscious after a head injury is extremely dangerous and can lead to death. It is absurd for a hero who doesn't want to kill anyone to go around punching people out and just walking away.


Revealing mistake: People playing video games in a movie or TV show will often mash the button in a way that doesn't match what is going on in the game.

Character mistake: The victim will wait for the antagonist to finish a speech or villain song, rather than attempt to kill them while their guard is down. It's only the hero unexpectantly bursting in that won't wait for them to be done.

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