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: 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

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Suggested correction: Not true. Generally they are tasting it to see how pure the drug is. Hard drugs are often diluted with milk sugar, so they make a bigger profit. The higher the sweet taste, the less pure the drug is.

stiiggy

First, law enforcement officers don't ever taste drugs, it's a good way to die if you don't know what you're ingesting. But second, the mistake isn't saying they are tasting drugs to know it's strength or purity. The mistake is explicitly about a cop tasting a drug and positively identifying what it is based on taste, which happens a lot in cop movies. Such as when the cop says "that's cocaine", not "that's half pure cocaine."

Bishop73

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.

FleetCommand

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

Factual error: Babies being born and looking a) much older than newborns, b) not covered in blood and gunk, and c) perfectly normal skin colour. Often no mention of cutting a cord or delivering the placenta either.

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: IP addresses are 4 groups of up to 3 numbers each, maxing out at 255 - it's a fundamental limitation of the technology. But IP addresses in movies are often shown as something like 564.100.432.165, which is impossible. This isn't like movie phone numbers all starting with 555, because that's still a feasible phone number, just with a "movie" area code.

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

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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.

lionhead

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.

Bishop73

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

lionhead

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

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.

lionhead

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.

lionhead

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.

BaconIsMyBFF

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

Factual error: People using computers and having what's shown on the monitor's screen projecting clear sharp mirrored images onto their faces. That's not how monitors work. For example in Jurassic Park, when the raptor breaks into the control room and is hopping around the computer workstations, sharp, distinct "GTAC" genetic coding is shown projected from a computer screen across the raptor's face. Another example is seen in the 1995 film Hackers, when sharp, distinct text and even graphics are shown projected from an early laptop onto the faces of Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller.

Factual error: In many action movies someone will instantly kill a man by approaching them from behind, grabbing their cheek, and twisting their head to the side, breaking their neck. The move is even frequently used one-handed. The torque required to actually break a neck this way is enormous and would require much more leverage than simply standing behind someone and twisting their head. Neck cranks are certainly real but they are done in a more traditional "head-lock" style on a grounded opponent. Also, a broken neck is not always fatal, let alone instantly fatal. A broken neck is not even an assured knock-out, so it is absurd to use this move as an effective "stealth kill" in spy movies.

BaconIsMyBFF

Factual error: The hugely exaggerated amount of flame and damage produced by military weapons such as a hand grenade. They make a loud boom, a bit of a flash and a small stain of black smoke. No mammoth explosion, that's for sure.

stiiggy

Factual error: Characters gain access to secure facilities using a single thing: a stolen ID card, fingerprint on sticky tape etc, but with no second factor to verify identity like a PIN code. This might be appropriate for something low key like the back room of a store but in thrilling shows the characters are usually trying to get into places like the CIA or high tech laboratories. In real life, higher level security access controls include at least two factors to reduce the risk of unauthorized entry. This is often a deliberate mistake by movie makers as it would slow the story down to describe multiple security measures and show how the characters gain everything needed for access. Exceptions are movies like Mission Impossible or Sneakers where this sort of complexity is part of the plot.

Factual error: People taking cover behind very small / flimsy things, like car doors or wardrobes, dozens of bullets being fired at them, but they emerge unscathed.

Jon Sandys Premium member

Factual error: In movie plots that take place hundreds or even thousands of years ago, the characters have perfectly white, straight teeth. It is a known fact that Queen Elizabeth I was virtually toothless by age 40. Good dental hygiene didn't really exist until after WWII. Some movies get it right, but only for the bad guys.

odelphi

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Suggested correction: False teeth have been around for centuries; they could be made from a variety of materials including wood, porcelain, or even human teeth taken from corpses or people who willingly sold their teeth to make some quick cash. People with the means to do so could acquire them quite easily, and they were often indistinguishable from a person's own natural teeth.

zendaddy621

Your reasoning is very weak. Yes, false teeth have been around for centuries, but even today with much better technology, with close observation you can tell someone has false teeth. Everyone knew G. Washington had false teeth. No, these characters from 500 years ago are not ALL wearing false teeth.

odelphi

Australian Aboriginals have (had, before colonization) almost perfectly white, straight teeth and it's known that this is somehow related with their foraging diet. If it's true, then most people back ago could have almost perfect teeth too.

Furthermore, widespread tooth decay before great age was only a rich person's problem until refined sugar became cheap, so the peasants wouldn't have bad teeth either.

dizzyd

Tooth decay is not caused by refined sugars. Any carbohydrates will promote bacterial growth, which can cause tooth decay. Additionally acidic food and drinks and alcohol (which can be high in carbohydrates) can damage the teeth and promote bacterial growth. And the mistake is talking about movies in general with countless characters, not a few select characters with significant means.

Bishop73

Thanks for your response. You said it better than I could have.

odelphi

I mostly agree with you, but I am talking about characters who are rich with perfectly white teeth (and more importantly) great gums - no recession. What I disagree is that only sugar causes teeth decay. Not true. Virtually all food breaks down into simple sugars with enzymes in your saliva.

odelphi

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