Contact

Factual error: The geography around the VLA in New Mexico is actually relatively flat - in fact one of the reasons why the array complex is there is because the land is flat. The canyon in the film was actually Canyon de Chelly, in Arizona, more than 170 miles (270 km) away. But in the film, when Ellie goes to the canyon, the radio antennas seem to be right there, insinuating that the canyon is part of the VLA's magical desert scenery.

solarpilot
6

Factual error: When Mr. Hadden reviews Ellie's life history on his airplane, he says she graduated from MIT 'magna cum laude'. This is impossible, as MIT does not award academic honors to graduates.

9

Factual error: In the zoom-out at the very beginning, we hear broadcasts going back in time as we zoom out through the solar system. However, we hear broadcasts going back through time roughly 40 years. Shouldn't we be 40 lightyears out from Earth to hear them, rather than just in the Oort Cloud beyond Pluto? Radio waves travel at the speed of light like any electromagnetic wave. EM waves should not be confused with sound waves, which move much slower than the speed of light.

7

Factual error: At the end, after Ellie testifies before Congress, she departs the Capitol building to a waiting limo. The media is there waiting for her. Behind the reporters appears to be the Reflecting Pool, and the Washington Monument at the far end of it. However, in reality, the Reflecting Pool is actually located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, not the Capitol. While there are two Reflecting Pools, the columns in the movie are the columns of the Lincoln Memorial, not the Capitol. Furthermore, the steps leading to a street in front of the reflecting pool are located at the Lincoln Memorial; the Capitol has a large green lawn between it and the street.

6
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Suggested correction: It wasn't the Lincoln Memorial, but the Treasury Building.

Factual error: A big deal is made of the fact that no camera can be installed in the pod because of the high local magnetic field. This is idiotic. First, it is easy to shield a video camera from an electromagnetic field. Bog standard technology. Second, Super 8 film cameras could easily be used - they have no electronic parts worth worrying about and they're small enough to have multiple units installed - and if the electromagnetic field is strong enough to fog film, it is strong enough to kill any human being knocking about the place.

3

Factual error: When Foster is going to Japan, a Harrier jet transports her to a ship. The ship is underway, traveling at quite a clip according to the wake. The Harrier landed on its heliport platform, facing the stern. Harriers hover, but cannot fly backwards at more than a crawl. It would have crashed.

Jack McNally
1
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Suggested correction: It isn't technically a harrier just another futuristic version of a VTOL aircraft. We don't know the capabilities of a fictional aircraft.

Factual error: The last time Eleanor Arroway talks to S.R. Haddon, he's aboard the Russian space station Mir, and Haddon explains that he's up there because the "low oxygen" and zero gravity counteracts his cancer. In fact, there is no "low oxygen" environment aboard space stations or other spacecraft. Low oxygen content would, of course, kill any astronauts or cosmonauts in short order. The breathable air in spacecraft always has at least the same oxygen content as Earth atmosphere at sea-level. In fact, most Russian missions used excessive amounts of oxygen. S.R. Haddon's original dialogue was probably "high oxygen and low gravity," but the line was bungled and allowed to remain in the film.

Charles Austin Miller
1
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Suggested correction: Also, being terminally ill, he is grasping at straws, and can't be expected to think solidly. After all, gravity wouldn't mean all that much to cancer cells in the human body, and special oxygen conditions of any kind can be generated on Earth (there is a weak possibility that low but sufficient for a human oxygen levels would slow cancer cells, which are often less efficient, more vulnerable in certain areas than healthy cells), so no need to go up, and finally, he may simply be Dennis Tito-ing and making an excuse to do so.

dizzyd

Factual error: The scene where Ellie and Palmer are looking at the stars next to the Arecibo observatory dish, they are looking at the constellation Cassiopeia. This constellation is visible to the North. However, judging from the parts of the antenna structure visible in the background, they are actually looking South. The suspended walkway/cable raceway connecting the control room and the antenna structure visible in this shot is on the North side of the dish. In real life, the control room and observation areas are on the North side of the dish. It is also not clear what time of the year this was but Cassiopeia is not visible from Puerto Rico during part of the year due to its low elevation above the horizon.

Numlock

Factual error: Hokkaido island geography shows a relatively smooth coastline. The location of the second machine cannot be natural, but must have been added post production.

Visible crew/equipment: As Ellie runs up the stairs of the observatory after hearing the first audio transmission from space, she runs towards doors with two large glass windows in them. As she opens the doors, a crewman/cameraman is visible in the right window for a brief fraction of a second.

More mistakes in Contact

Palmer Joss: What are you studying up there?
Ellie Arroway: Oh, the usual. Nebulae, quasars, pulsars, stuff like that. What are you writing?
Palmer Joss: The usual. Nouns, adverbs, adjective here and there.

More quotes from Contact

Trivia: Filmmakers George Miller and Francis Ford Coppola both sued Warner Bros. over Contact. George Miller sued for breach of contract (as he was the original director before being fired and replaced by Robert Zemeckis), while Coppola sued because he claimed that he and Carl Sagan (the writer of Contact) had already developed the premise for a TV show in the 1970's which was never produced, before Sagan later used the idea for Contact in 1985. Both suits failed - Miller's firing was within contract and perfectly reasonable, and Coppola was dismissed (twice) because he had taken far too long to sue the company (if he sued when Sagan began working in the 80's, he may have won, but he waited until after the film's release in 1997 to sue).

More trivia for Contact

Question: In the few seconds (Earth time) it took for the pod to fall through the time travel device, it would have been impossible for Ellie to have become detached from the safety seat. It would have been even less possible for the seat to have become dislodged from the pod, AND for the seat to smash against the side of the pod with sufficient force crush it. I understand there was a cover-up (e.g., the 18 hours of static on her recording device), but Ellie, herself, would have remembered the dislodged, smashed seat. Why did she never bring it up in defense of her version of the facts? Was there a reason someone knows of, or is this just a plot hole?

Michael Albert

Chosen answer: Ellie defended her version of the facts with everything she had to work with, but the simple fact was that the government cover-up was just too strong for her to overcome. The points you raise are perfectly reasonable, but the version of events released by the powers-that-be denies everything that happened and, without any other proof, Ellie has only her word to convince people with. For some, that's enough, as we see in the film, even if a majority choose to believe the "official" version.

Tailkinker Premium member
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