Corrected entry: Characters that are supposed to be blood relatives, but have no familial resemblance.
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.
Corrected entry: In movies in which men dress up and pretend to be women (eg. Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, etc), when going out as a "woman", they are wearing dresses 100% of the time, but real women around them are commonly wearing pants a lot of the time (something the men as women don't do).
Correction: It's not a mistake for men in drag to exclusively wear dresses instead of pants.
Corrected entry: Whenever a man goes into the ladies' restroom to talk to a woman, it's always conveniently empty.
Correction: This is more of a cliche than a mistake. I have entered hundreds of public restrooms in my life and a good number of them have been empty when I did. It's not a mistake for a movie to show an empty ladies room in a particular scene, no matter how many other films do the same.
Corrected entry: When somebody gets shot and dies, they don't grunt out in pain. Their brain shuts down, along with the central nervous system, and they drop like a sack of potatoes. In pretty much every movie when a bad guy gets shot they exhale an "ahhhh", or an "uhhhh." That can happen when one is injured and in pain, not when they're shot dead. Plus when somebody is shot at a distance it's impossible to hear sound especially through deafening gunfire. Even the sound of suppressed weapons are louder than a grunt.
Correction: This is incorrect. Even when the brain is severely damaged it often takes a few seconds for someone to actually expire. The "dying breath" or "death rattle" is a very real phenomenon and even happens when people have been shot in the head. A fatal brain injury doesn't shut down the entire body as quickly as flipping a light switch makes the room dark.
Corrected entry: When a man proposes to a woman and gives her an engagement ring, it always fits perfectly on her finger.
Correction: Choosing a ring takes a while as the man/woman will always try to find the "perfect" ring. It's likely that the recipient's partner will know which ring size to choose. This does make sense as the couple will have known each other for a few years at least.
Corrected entry: When men wake up in the morning they often look clean shaven.
Correction: The speed at which facial hair grows is not the same for every man. I can shave my face and still look clean shaven two or three days later.
Correction: Also, key word is look. Some men have light colored facial hair that doesn't reveal itself to the eye. But can to the touch.
Corrected entry: Whenever the antagonist tells the protagonist to kill him/her, the protagonist doesn't do it but simply lets the antagonist live and walks away. Big mistake because the antagonist will definitely come back for revenge. If the protagonist just killed the antagonist when he/she asks to die, that would give the protagonist a quicker victory.
Correction: In most films I see this in, the protagonist is better than the antagonist and isn't a cold-blooded murderer. The protagonist is content with letting the judicial system take care of punishment. It's when the antagonist escapes police custody or is found not guilty he or she comes back for revenge. There are many movies where the protagonist then kills the antagonist, but only in self defense of life.
Corrected entry: Whenever a character comes home at night to their house or apartment, every single light has been left on.
Correction: I wouldn't really call this a mistake. Especially depending on the area they live. Often times people leave their lights on when they are away to make it appear that people are still home so it's less likely they get broken into and robbed.
Agreed. My family frequently left lights and/or the TV on when we were away when I was growing up.
Also agree. It's not uncommon to see especially in more rural areas.
Yes, leaving lights on in your home when you're away is normal, but it seems that every single light in every room is a common occurrence in movies and TV shows.
Could you give some examples? I don't remember ever seeing this happen. It certainly doesn't happen every time.
Corrected entry: Despite being a lawyer, architect or whatever, the male character will have a garage filled with high end, spotlessly clean tools.
Correction: Several issues with this entry being a mistake: - first, how often do we actually see this? If this has happened in some shows, perhaps it would be better expressed as a mistake in those specific shows, instead of 'common'. - second, why a male character? Can't female characters have tools in a garage? - third, the writers may have given the character shiny tools for a reason: the character is wealthy but still handy; they feel they needed to buy the tools to project an image even if they don't use them; they like buying shiny toys (the character does the same with the kitchen or home cinema); somebody else in the family uses them; the character has a hobby or a long term DIY project, etc.
To me, it's a mistake because it almost always feels out of place for the character, their life, lifestyle etc.
Again, do you have an example?
Correction: How is that a mistake?
A garage full of top of the range, specific, expensive and spotlessly clean tools? How many lawyers, office executives etc do you know who perform sophisticated diy projects on a regular basis to need a whole garage full of tools like that?
My brother is a CFO and he built a treehouse for his kids by himself. He has a garage full of nice tools which are kept clean. Clean tools are long lasting tools.
Can you give an example?
Corrected entry: Whenever someone comes home with some groceries, a baguette is frequently seen sticking out of the bag.
Corrected entry: People getting into their car and adjusting their rear view mirror, despite it being their car that they were the last one to drive, so what needs changing? Of course it's normally just to give a reason for them to see something or someone behind them they otherwise would have missed.
Correction: Also, you don't always sit in the exact same position when getting in the vehicle. I adjust my mirrors sometimes simply cause I slouch when I drive, then later I'll sit up straight, then later I'd lean back while driving. Each time changing my point of view through the mirrors.
Corrected entry: Whenever the plot of a film or TV show revolves around a judged competition, whether for plot convenience or dramatic effect, the protagonist(s) often will perform or be judged last, even though this so frequently happening would be very unusual in real life.
Correction: This would be a valid observation if all movies that have a judged competition and the protagonists being the last to go were somehow connected to each other. But as each movie stands on its own, it's not really a plot hole or any other kind of mistake that the main characters are the last to go, because the improbability of that happening is relative to the given film itself and doesn't factor into other films dealing with the same subject.
Corrected entry: Any modern movie that is a period piece depicting the 1920s or 1930s shows old dilapidated houses with paint peeling off. Other things are obviously aged and weathered. Things like screen doors are rusty, or a gas station pump is weathered and obviously old. In reality, these things were relatively new back then. The paint on the house should look normal, and nothing should be rusty or weathered since they had not yet had the chance to age.
Correction: Just because a house or building from the 20's or 30's would be old now doesn't mean they didn't also have old house back then too. Plus, the rusted, paint peeling, etc is indicating poverty and the hardship times of that era. People didn't worry about small repairs and cosmetics when they didn't have food.
Corrected entry: A more recent goof in the action and spy thriller genres, a group of henchmen setting out on a mission in black SUVs will be tailgating each other. If any car other than the one in the rear were to slam on their brakes, it could potentially cause a pileup.
Correction: Some police and military teams practise driving fast and close to prevent other vehicles coming between the ones in the convoy. Since the bad guys in current movies are often shown to be ex-military, this may be the reason they drive like that. That's speculation but it is no more or less credible than them being licensed to carry automatic weapons or explosives. Depends on the quality of the movie and the willing suspension of disbelief of the audience.
The difference being that police and military teams will be sanctioned to drive like that. In addition to being a dangerous driving habit, tailgating is also illegal. So henchmen and mercenaries driving like that in civilian vehicles could also draw the attention of law enforcement who could pull them over and put a monkey wrench in their mission plans, especially if they discover illegal weapons.
Corrected entry: It's very common for shows, games, or movies that take place after the end of the world to still show people using fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel in vehicles. However, with the production of gas having ended, this could not last very long. Even when properly stored, civilian gas supplies would go bad and be unusable after about a year, diesel a little longer but not by much. Private stashes of gas, like in cans, would only last about 5 months. And the military supplies of gas would, at best, last for 5 years.
Correction: Stored gasoline is typically treated with fuel stabilizer (about 2 ounces of stabilizer will treat 5 gallons of gasoline and prolong its shelf-life by years). All of my stored gasoline is treated with stabilizer, and I've used cans that are 5 years old and older. Even untreated gasoline can have a remarkably long shelf-life: Some years ago, I sold an old Volvo that had been sitting in my garage with a dead battery for 11 years; the buyer brought a fresh battery and installed it just to test the starter, to see if the engine was frozen. To everyone's amazement, the old car immediately started, revved and purred like a kitten, burning the gasoline in its tank from over a decade earlier.
Correction: This all highly depends on the quality of the gasoline and the amount of ethanol and its exposure to oxygen. I've heard about jerrycans of gasoline 25 years old still usable. It's also possible to purify the gasoline again so it's usable by filtering it. Don't need a huge refinery for small amounts.
Corrected entry: Unless the character is being portrayed as a bumbling oaf then their car is always spotlessly clean inside and out. No empty sweet wrappers, drinks cans, receipts, window streaks etc.
Correction: How is this a mistake? Clean people do exist and it is not a mistake to want to film them. Cleanliness is a virtue, and the films might want to deliberately exploit the fact. Women with hourglass-shaped bodies? Now, that's a mistake.
Every single person? I've never, in my life, been inside a spotlessly clean car.
Bear in mind the vast majority of the time we aren't shown the entirety of the car. My car's pretty clean but has bits of leaves, etc. in the footwell because I never clean there - no movie ever shows the footwells! I don't throw random garbage around the inside either, it gets put in the side pockets, again, not somewhere that tends to be of great focus in movies.
Films are intended to bend reality. Wanting to have clean cars in the film is not automatically a mistake. It is at best a cliche or trope. Sometimes, it is advocacy.
Corrected entry: Particularly in sitcoms, characters will talk about another character behind their back while still being in the same room and talking at a normal speaking level, but the character being talked about somehow never hears anything.
Correction: Considering the fact that most sitcoms are recorded in front of a live audience, I wouldn't really say this is a mistake. Like in a live play, it needs to be heard by the audience. Also it's more of a cheat than a mistake, with the implications that they are speaking low enough that the person in question can't hear them but the person they are speaking to closer can. If anything, you might could consider this a Deliberate mistake. However it's more just a result of the style of the medium.
I don't see how doing this for the benefit of a live audience invalidates this as a mistake, especially since the actors could just as well go into another "room" on the set to have their conversation. If you are speaking at a normal volume and the person five feet away from you can't hear you, unless they are dead or hard of hearing, then it's a legitimate mistake, deliberate or otherwise.
*deaf or hard of hearing.
I agree. If you think they characters are talking too loudly not to be heard, turn down the volume of your TV till you can't hear them from across the room.
Corrected entry: Movies, and TV shows often treat jails and prisons as if they are the same thing. They're not. Jails are typically run by local law enforcement, and local government agencies, and are designed to hold inmates awaiting trial or serving short sentences for misdemeanor crimes. Prisons on the other hand are facilities typically operated by either a state government, the federal bureau of prisons. Prisons are designed to hold inmates serving longer term sentences for more serious crimes.
Correction: This is not necessarily a film/script mistake. Even the American English speakers, who have this distinction often speak in metonymy and metaphor a lot. For example, when they say "it won't make a difference when you go to jail", they really mean "it won't make a difference when the authorities catch you." It does not matter whether the culprit is sent to a jail, sent to a prison, incarcerated at home, receives capital punishment or is forced to pay fines and do community service.
I would agree that it is a common mistake. "Jail" and "prison" are often used interchangeably or incorrectly. The "Corrected Entry" above gives the basic distinctions between the terms and - more often than not - the word "jail" is used for both jail and prison.
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Correction: Blood relatives do not always resemble each other.
No, but they frequently do, and movies rarely reflect that.
That's not really a "common mistake", though since it's never a mistake to have blood relatives that do not resemble each other.
Yes, you are right about that.
I mostly agree. Family members often look too different to be biologically related. Even if an effort is made, for example, to have a son look like his father, some things don't sync - like a different face shape/bone structure or skin tone (not due to tanning). One example of father/son dissimilarities are in The War of the Worlds - the boy playing Tom Cruise's son has a completely different facial shape/structure. Regarding skin tone, in Boyhood the sister of Mason has a different skin tone than the rest of the family - and it stands out.
I'm probably a bit sensitive to this since my family members don't all have a strong resemblance to each other, but it's absolutely possible, especially if your family tree is diverse in genetics/ appearance. It happens more often than not in movies, but it's not a mistake. (And who's to say that in many of these cases people weren't adopted?).