Ben-Hur (1959)

49 mistakes

(17 votes)

Audio problem: When the rowers in the Roman galley were going normal speed, you could tell that the drum was sounding before the drummer hit it.

Continuity mistake: At the end of the chariot race, a heavily bloodsoaked Messala is taken to receive medical treatment. While something is done to his legs out of shot (amputation, presumably) an orderly in a clean white tunic leans his whole body weight on Messala to hold him down on the bed as he writhes in agony. When the orderly stands up, we see that his tunic is still spotlessly white.

Revealing mistake: The chariot race is about to begin, and Messala arrives late. As he's backing his team into position, look at the left side of the left-most horse's neck. You can see the reins rubbing the black dye off. (Solid black horses are *extremely* rare).

Factual error: Quintus Arrius is fighting an enormous fleet of Macedonian pirates. However, Macedonia had been a Roman province since 148 BC and after the defeat of the Cilician pirates by Pompey in 67 BC the Mediterranean was free of pirates. The movie is set nearly 100 years later.

Continuity mistake: Right before the chariot race, Sheik Ilderim is on Judah's left side, pointing out the spikes on Messala's wheels. There's a shot of the wheels and then back to Judah, where the Sheik is now on Judah's right side. Judah holds the Sheik's forearm as the fanfare starts. Then a long shot, showing the Sheik, now on Judah's left side again, and Judah removing his hand from the Sheik's forearm.


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Suggested correction: The sheik actually moves around the chariot to the right side. No continuity error.

You can't assume that the sheik moves. It's not shown and the shots are so quick in succession the sheik didn't have time to move.


Revealing mistake: During the naval battle, the same footage of a sinking galley is used several times, apparently to represent the sinking of several galleys.


Continuity mistake: When the baskets are being loaded to be lowered into the Valley of the Lepers, someone loads two heads of lettuce onto a basket. Just as the basket is being lowered, someone else throws in three more heads. When the basket hits the bottom, there are only three heads of lettuce.


Continuity mistake: When the Sheik is taking down the bets, his man, who handed him the book, is standing behind him with his hands down. When the camera angle changes, his hands are folded. (00:07:45)


Continuity mistake: At the very end, the scaffold that was used to erect the crosses vanishes between shots.

Continuity mistake: Ben Hur's horses change position. When the chariots are preparing for the race and at the starting line, the horse with the pink nose is third from the left, but at the end of the race, the pink-nosed horse is fourth from the right.

Factual error: When Messala is passing through Nazareth, he says they will be in Jerusalem by tomorrow night. Nazareth is approximately 90 miles from Jerusalem. It would take three days to cover that distance, not one.

Continuity mistake: At one time during the chariot race Judah and Messala are going side by side. Then Judah steers his horses against the inner wall and almost comes to a complete halt. However, an instant later he is abreast with Messala again. (00:26:00)


Continuity mistake: During the scene when Ben-Hur meets his servant, Simonides, he removes his turban, and his hair is flat and sweaty. The shot pans to his mother, and when it cuts back, his hair is dry and combed.


Revealing mistake: When Miriam, Esther and Tirzah find shelter from the storm in a cave, the storm is violent and the wind is howling, but the trees visible in the background are barely swaying.


Factual error: In the movie, Pontius Pilate is appointed to be governor of Judea around AD 32 (Judah is enslaved in AD 28, spends 3 years as a slave and then at least one year with Arrius before he meets Pilate, who is still not appointed). In reality, Pilate was the governor of Judea from AD 26-36.


Revealing mistake: When Judah and Messala hurl their spears into the wooden beam, the projectiles follow very straight paths all the way across the room to their targets, whereas due to gravity they'd really travel curved paths, practically parabolic, requiring a skilled thrower to aim above the target. What's revealed here is that the spears were rigged to slide on thin wires, to assure that they'd hit the target on cue.

Continuity mistake: In the parade of chariots before the race, the riders are shown circling the track once before making their way to the starting line. As they emerge from the stables, the horses and chariots leave very noticeable tracks on the ground so you can trace their progress around the track. The riders head down the right side of the track (from the perspective of the stables) then make the wide turn to head down the backstretch, and then make the wide turn back onto the right side of the track where they started. The film then cuts to a wide shot of the riders heading back down the right side of the track for the second time, but the track ahead of them and all the way down the backstretch is now clean of any tracks. It's clear this shot comes from when the riders first emerged from the stables. The riders then stop on the starting line on the backstretch, which means they were either transported to the other side of the track without making a third turn, or they did 1 lap around the track in the space of 1 and a half laps.


Factual error: Before the spectacular chariot race, we have the "Parade of the Charioteers." Around the arena you see classical statues. They are just props, they do not influence the storyline at all, they are just dotted around the set to remind us that we are in the Roman Empire. All the statues are just plain white stone. Archaeological research shows that the great Greek and Roman sculptors always painted their sculptures. Skin, clothes, eyes, hair, were all carefully painted to make the statues look 100% lifelike. In the next thousand years the paint wore away, and now, when you go to a museum and look at Greek and Roman sculptures you only see plain stone figures. Yet in ancient Greece and Rome all those statues were elaborately painted. This error applies not just to Ben Hur but probably every classical epic film ever made.

Rob Halliday

Continuity mistake: During the crucifixion, look at Jesus' hands, there are three clear shots of this. In the first shot you plainly see his blood from his hands on the cross. In the second shot, the blood is gone from the cross. In the third shot, it's back.

Continuity mistake: When Ben-Hur is about to be transferred from his cell to Tirus after the tile struck the governor, his hands are being tied by the centurions. When he strikes the incoming centurion, his hands are free.

Messala: Sextus, you ask how to fight an idea. Well I'll tell you how... With another idea!

More quotes from Ben-Hur

Trivia: The 'Greek chariot' Mesalla uses in the race is based on the Persian scythed chariots which Darius III attempted to use against Alexander the Great's troops at the battle of Gaugamela, though with only insignificant success.

More trivia for Ben-Hur

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