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.

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.

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Deliberate mistake: Characters in super hero movies commonly wearing only a small mask over their eyes which somehow keeps people from identifying them. Despite the fact that most of their facial features and hair styles are visible and recognizable. Great examples being Robin, Green Lantern, The Lone Ranger, and The Incredibles. And of course Superman just takes off his glasses.

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Deliberate mistake: You don't automatically get "one phone call" when you're arrested in the USA. Depends on the state, for a start. You're always entitled to access to a lawyer regardless, but not always making the call yourself. If you make a call with no-one answering, you've not "wasted" your call either. Plenty of states allow multiple calls, within reason. It's a plot device, not based in reality.

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Deliberate mistake: Characters who are being confined in an area (typically inside cages, prisons cells, et cetera) that provides enough space for the character to escape, but they still consider themselves stuck (e.g. the iron bars of a cage/prison cell having enough distance between each other to allow the character to squeeze through between them). This is more common in cartoons and animated films.


Deliberate mistake: Whenever someone needs to dump out someone's garbage because they're looking for something, it's always dry and clean, never disgusting.

Mike Lynch

Deliberate mistake: The criminal tells his evil plans to a priest, who is then unable to prevent a crime because of the "seal of the confessional." Yes, priests may not tell another what is heard in confession, however the 'seal' protects only those who seek absolution for past sins. Confessionals are not boxes into which you can tell a priest your dastardly plans and they can't do anything about it. There is no seal on this misuse of the confessional. Examples include 'Priest' (1994).


Deliberate mistake: Common in shows from the 60s to the 90s, the rear view mirror is missing from most cars. A deliberate mistake for several possible reasons: Mirrors might block the actors, they might show reflections of crew and equipment and sometimes scenes were filmed with the windscreen removed, taking the mirror with it (for instance if the car is filmed while stationary or mounted on a trailer).

Deliberate mistake: Particularly in space-fantasy and science-fiction movies and television series, electronic control panels and components erupt in a shower of sparks when overloaded (as during space battles, collisions and technological failure scenes). Such furious sparking has been used in numerous futuristic films and TV shows dating from the mid-20th Century right up to the present. Of course, this sparking effect is intended to add "gee whiz" action and spectacle to otherwise mundane shots. But the implication is that advanced, futuristic technology idiotically neglects to incorporate electrical fuses or circuit breakers, which are designed to prevent equipment sparking and meltdown during power overloads. In reality, all of these control panels and electronic components should instantly and safely go dark and stop functioning as soon as the breakers are quietly tripped or the fuses are quietly blown.

Charles Austin Miller

Deliberate mistake: Characters who are being pursued on foot frequently hide in plain sight of their pursuers. You see characters (typically the "good guys") duck around the corner of a building, or a tree, or some other obstacle, where they freeze and glance over their shoulders to watch their oblivious pursuers (typically the "bad guys") wander past just a few feet in the background. Nevermind the fact that the good guy's body is only partially concealed by said obstacle, or not concealed at all. This is an old film-making trick intended to heighten audience tension, even though it is totally illogical.

Charles Austin Miller

Deliberate mistake: When food is served, little (if any) is eaten - even if people are starving. Instead, the diners play with their food, pretend to be cutting it or getting it onto a fork/spoon, and might raise food to their mouth but not actually put any in (which might be followed by "fake chewing"). Frequently, ONE bite is taken out of a sandwich or slice of pizza and the rest goes uneaten. As a variation, when the family is just about ready to "dig into" a holiday feast, there's an emergency = no-one eats.


Deliberate mistake: In almost every movie with shootouts, highly trained soldiers, or experienced mercenaries or thugs suddenly get "Storm Trooper Aim" when shooting at the heroes. Even cops do this where they have clear shots of people running away from them, often times multiple of them with fully automatic weapons firing rapidly at a semi close target and somehow just hit all around them and even the ground.

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Deliberate mistake: Often in rainy scenes in movies, the crew has the rain machines set to have the rain drops far far larger than natural. Huge water drops so that they will actually be visible in the final print.

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Deliberate mistake: How many times have we seen cars and trucks drive through snow, dirt and mud, only to arrive at their destination perfectly clean.

Mike Lynch

Deliberate mistake: When a man and woman have sex in a movie scene, after the sex is over the woman covers her breasts with the blanket/sheet and the man covers up from the waist down. Also, if the woman gets up off the bed, she drags the bed-sheet with her to cover up. You just had sex, why would you all of a sudden have modesty? Also, they always have sex under the covers. Who has sex under the covers?


Deliberate mistake: Trains should stop when the engineer is killed or otherwise incapacitated because of a switch known as a "Dead man's" which is used in these events to stop the train. This mistake is often done purposely to keep the action going and for plot purposes. This is especially common in action films.


Deliberate mistake: Modern cars crashing without airbags going off. Probably a deliberate mistake for safety (trained stunt drivers can create the scene safely with the airbags removed) and visibility (deflated airbags would obscure the actors and getting past them would slow down the action).

Deliberate mistake: Where as its not as common in modern movies, the 80's and 90's movies were really bad about vehicles exploding into huge balls of fire over the littlest things. Cars would hit each other and explode. One would flip over and explode. They would hit walls and boom! Or hilarious ones like Escape from LA, a motorcycle runs into a metal barrel and explodes instantly. As if the cars were filled with nitroglycerin or something.

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Deliberate mistake: Especially in action movies and westerns, people in gun scenes often go through way more ammo in their weapons than possible and never reload. Especially the heroes.

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Deliberate mistake: Rather than gradually exploring character backgrounds as the story unfolds, characters in cheesier movies awkwardly rush to reveal whole biographies in just a couple of lines, right at the beginning of the film. Such an unlikely conversation might go like this: "I'm the luckiest girl in the world, married to the lead developer and system analyst of NASA's most ambitious interplanetary program ever"; and the husband replies, "Well, it helped that your father created the program and took a chance on me after that Wall Street computer-hacking scandal six years ago." There's no subtlety at all, it's just fast-food character development.

Charles Austin Miller

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