Factual error: The East German police cars bear the name folkspolizei. The correct spelling is volkspolizei (People's Police).
Continuity mistake: When the CIA official is briefing Powers and the other pilots in a hotel room, he sits on a chair in one shot. In the next shot, he jumps a few feet closer to the pilots. (00:23:00)
Factual error: When the exchange is made in Berlin it is bitter winter with snow on the ground. But Donovan returns to New York (the TV newsmen is reporting that Powers has been returned "earlier this morning") so it is within hours, and yet the leaves on the trees in NY are green, the grass is green, people are in shirtsleeves. Berlin and NY share the same seasons.
Factual error: At the beginning of the film, as Rudolf Abel is trying to evade the FBI, he gets on the subway. It's 1957 but the subway train he's in is a model that wasn't produced until 1964.
Revealing mistake: Near the end, during the night-time bridge exchange scene, the Americans enter from one end of the bridge and the Soviets enter from the other end. Suddenly, the Soviets switch on multiple flood lights directly behind the Soviet party, which should have cast shadows from their bodies dozens of meters in length. Instead, the shadows from the Soviet party are quite short, only a couple of meters, indicating that the primary lighting is out-of-frame, far above their heads.
Continuity mistake: When Tom Hanks is sitting in the hallway of the German Attorney General's office speaking with the receptionist, his left collar tab is inside his sweater, then in the next shot it is outside the sweater, then it returns inside, followed by the right collar tab being out of the sweater, which returns to the inside of his sweater when he stands up. (01:51:05)
Factual error: The US Supreme Court shown in this movie is not located in Washington, DC. There are no tall skyscrapers located to the side of the real building as shown here, nor are there bollards as shown. This looks like the exterior of the NYC Courthouse, not the US Supreme Court. (00:54:10)
Factual error: When Abel is arrested by the FBI there is a modern VFR flight chart posted on the wall.
Factual error: When the U2 pilots are in Pakistan and get to see the plane they will be flying, they open the hanger doors and in the background there is either an F-5 or T-38 aircraft taxiing out on the tarmac. The Air force did not take delivery of these aircraft until 1961. The U2 shoot down over the Soviet Union took place in May of 1960.
Other mistake: When the US Student tries to get from the west to the east, one can see Volkspolizei and Kampfgruppen on one side of the wall and Westberlin Police on the other side of the wall. The camera pans, on the right side, brickies are busy with the wall (which should be the east side), a couple with child is running (why? They are already on the other side), camera pans further and shows the student pushing his bicycle. In the background are now NVA soldiers and an East German tank (see the markings). Isn't this the west side? It is definitely not the side the brickies are on, and the wall was built from the east side. I guess the soldiers and the tank are on the wrong side of the emerging wall.
Factual error: The arrest of the Russian spy occurs in June of 1957, however in the street scene prior to the arrest a 1958 Chevrolet is easily spotted. A 1959 Plymouth is also visible in the first 1957 scene.