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: 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: 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: 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: 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

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

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

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

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

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: 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: 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: Actors playing police, soldiers or agents who keep their fingers on the triggers of their firearms. In real life, trigger discipline is an early and repeated part of firearms training. This is often most obvious on movie posters. This mistake has become less common as military veterans started to become advisers to movie makers and actors have sometimes undergone training before filming begins.

Factual error: Unless it's a high powered shotgun, bullets don't throw people back when they get shot.

Quantom X Premium member

Factual error: Often when bombs are shown falling, they're depicted with a distinct whistling sound. Two problems there. Bombs don't inherently whistle - some bombs in WW2 were specifically fitted with whistles for the psychological warfare element, but the vast majority are silent. Secondly, the standard noise heard from the ground, a high pitched whistle slowly getting lower, is wrong. The doppler effect, whereby a sound changes as it moves closer to someone hearing it, means the pitch heard would increase, not decrease, as a bomb falls towards you. The sound most often used in movies/TV shows of a whistling bomb is what the pilots dropping the bomb would hear, not the people it was falling towards.

Jon Sandys Premium member

Factual error: Protagonists who have been able to clear their name after being framed, but only in the process of committing several other crimes, for which they receive no punishments. The law is still the law and crimes are all separate from each other committed in that time period.

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Suggested correction: This can be true or not. Prosecutors have a lot of discretion whether to prosecute a crime of not. If you help the police solve a crime that you were originally a suspect by committing another crime, as long as that crime is not murder (it can be self-defense) the prosecutor has discretion whether to prosecute.

odelphi

Plus, in the case of common mistakes, they are not working with the police to clear their name. And just because they're not murdering people doesn't mean they're not assaulting people (outside the realm of self-defense). Plus, this common mistake is especially true for police officers kicked off the case and then break all sorts of police procedures with no consequences.

Bishop73

The only point I am making is that prosecutors do have discretion whether to prosecute crimes. If the crime is minor AND you helped the prosecutor with other more serious crimes, they can choose to not prosecute you for the minor crimes. The OP was vague as to what kind of additional crimes they committed. If murder, then I don't see how they get away with that just because they helped solve other crimes. It would depend on what kind of other crimes the protagonist committed.

odelphi

I would have to disagree as your explanation leads to them being a vigilante acting outside of the law.

Quantom X Premium member

Factual error: Whenever police officers are involved in some kind of shooting while on duty, they are always kept on the case. They're never suspended or investigated by internal affairs. In real life, there's a full on investigation that takes months to make certain the officer in question was justified in the shooting, not to mention the intense media scrutiny surrounding the incident.

mikelynch

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: In almost every sci-fi feature, things like explosions, laser blasts, ships colliding, asteroids hitting, and planets exploding, can all be heard. However in reality sound can not travel though empty space. So almost all of that would really be completely silent.

Quantom X Premium member

Factual error: When someone dies with their eyes open and another character can close the dead person's eyes by gently running their hand over their face. The eyes of a dead body won't stay shut that way.

Bishop73
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Suggested correction: This is partially true. If the person is recently deceased then you can close the eyes with relative ease. If however they have been deceased long enough for rigor mortis to set in then the mistake is valid. It's a tough one to be honest.

Ssiscool Premium member

That's not true at all. Muscles can not contract after death. Therefore, if someone tries to close the eyes of someone who is dead, the eyes will open back up to their original positions. They only way they can stay closed is if someone seals them shut, in the case after death, a wet swap may work, which is not what they commonly do in films.

In addition to this, this was also why the old common practice of placing heavy coins over the eyelids was used in many cultures.

Quantom X Premium member

Factual error: Characters, typically the hero, can crash through windows without so much as getting a cut on them.

Phaneron Premium member
Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: Depending on the age of the window, that's the whole point. Safety glass is designed to break in a way to stop people getting hurt.

Ssiscool Premium member

Not every window is made from safety glass. When was the last time you saw a movie where a main character crashed through a store window, office building window, house window, plate glass window, etc. and ended up getting shredded to ribbons?

Phaneron Premium member

You don't often see blood but items of clothing do get ripped. One example I can think of off the top of my head is The Last Stand where Arnie gets chucked through a glass door. His jacket gets rips on it.

Ssiscool Premium member

Factual error: The importance of leaving a crime scene undisturbed is greatly exaggerated in films and TV. Crime scenes are often disturbed deliberately by responding police officers. Immediate safety and the preservation of life are paramount to all other concerns. If a body is found, the scene must be secured to be sure a suspect is not still present and the area is safe; this often involves searching through the scene itself. The body must also be inspected to be certain the victim is deceased and doesn't require medical attention; this act often involves moving the body. The idea of police stopping anyone from going anywhere near a crime scene until forensic examiners arrive is a movie cliche not based in reality. It is rare, to the point of being almost unheard of, for a criminal case to hinge on the positioning of a dead body or the exact location of evidence in a room.

BaconIsMyBFF

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