Factual error: In the last battle scene when you see shots of the German destroyer through the periscope the last one shot before it's blown up is really bad angling. The ship is far away but in the scope it's very close and the periscope (in order to get that camera angle) is 100 ft in the air.
Factual error: At the beginning of the film the German commander is shown directing an attack using the periscope in the control room. German U-boats had two periscopes: a 'sky' scope (the one in the control room) used exclusively for searching the area directly above the boat prior to surfacing, and the 'attack' periscope located in the conning tower (turm). It was not possible for a German submarine commander to direct an attack from the control room periscope as depicted in the film.
Continuity mistake: Just after shooting the radio room on the German destroyer, U-571 submerges so quickly that the sailors do not manage to plug the gun. After a few moments when the boat goes from 180 to 200 meters there is a short shot from the above when we can clearly see that the gun is perfectly plugged.
Factual error: When the marine commando shows the sailor his "luggage" (the boxes of explosives) to be loaded onto the submarine, some of the boxes have orange Explosive B placards. Those are Dept. of Transportation placards. The D.O.T. didn't exist until 1966 and the placards were not used until later than that.
Continuity mistake: After the melee with the destroyer above the surface, they attempt to dive and travel under the keel of the destroyer to escape the deck guns. As the camera is going underwater, the destroyer can be seen, but when the camera is below the surface, its keel cannot be seen.
Add timePhil Watts
Factual error: When the American crew storms the U-571 and reaches the aft compartment, where the last Germans are gathered, we can see a row of bunks on each side of the chamber. The VIIC type has no crew acommodation in this place; the last compartment houses just the electric motors and some pumps and auxiliary machinery, as well as the breach of the aft torpedo tube.
Continuity mistake: As the submarine is preparing to leave the dock in one of the movie's first scenes, Bill Paxton, the commander is standing on the top part of the sub. A seaman is walking in Bill Paxton's direction and the camera is at a distance. As the camera zooms in the man walking should have been in the frame under Mr. Paxton but he just disappeared.
Continuity mistake: When the German destroyer is with U-571, look at the ship. Notice in the first shots there are 2 gun turrets on either side. Yet in the later shots during the final battle there's only one turret. In addition, right before the turrets are shown turning to fire, look at the ship again - they are already aimed at the U-boat. I guess the Germans felt the need to do this two times.