Blockbusters are Hollywood’s bread and butter, and it’s the big budget, box office smash hit bonanzas that make up a large portion of the money film studios spend and earn each year. However, perhaps because the productions are so big and so very expensive, mistakes tend to appear more often in blockbuster films than in small, considered indie or art-house films. The job of a script supervisor, also know as a continuity supervisor, is to prevent plotline errors and continuity errors from appearing in film. Unfortunately no film is completely immune to continuity errors or plotline mistakes – as media outlets like the popular YouTube channel Cinema Sins reminds us. Kevin Smith’s popular podcast “Hollywood Babble On” even features a segment titled “Sh*t That Should Not Be,” which points out all the gaffes found in movies, as pointed out by diligent and eagle-eyed fans.
As diligent as film crews can be, mistakes almost always slip through – whether it be small mistakes like a person’s ring appearing on a different hand from one cut to the next, or big mistakes like contradicting a character’s backstory. It’s also surprisingly common for stagehands and crew to be caught on film during a movie’s production. One long running franchise plagued with continuity errors is the X-men franchise. In the most recent film, X-men Days of Future Past, we see Professor X alive and well, despite having died in X-men: The Last Stand. There’s no official explanation for how he survived… Some fans have speculated he transferred his mind into the body of his (never mentioned) identical twin brother. Hmm.
Last year’s X-men film, The Wolverine, was also filled with glaring mistakes. In The Wolverine, Logan spends much of his time in the Land of the Rising Sun, but it seems the film crew didn’t do much research about Japan, as the directions in which he travels and the locations to which he’s travelling don’t line up. The Wolverine has a huge historical factual error, too. Wolverine clearly sees, in perfect vision, the US Air Force plane Bockscar drop the atomic bomb on Nagasaki from the internment camp he is held in, but in reality the plane was flying at 30,000 feet and would barely be visible to the naked eye, even to a super mutant.
Can you think of any major plot holes or continuity errors in your favourite film? It’s likely you’ll find one of your favourites on this inglorious list of the ten wildly popular films which have more mistakes than other high-grossing blockbusters.
10. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, 203 mistakes, $475 million worldwide box office
When Luke is fighting off Jabba’s guards on the desert skiff above the sarlaac pit he kicks one of the guards and clearly misses. However the guard still falls back to his death. Perhaps the force could explain it?
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 384 Mistakes, $654 million worldwide box office
This Disney film, and first Pirates film, is filled with plenty of factual errors like Captain Norrington being promoted to Commodore, which wasn’t a British Naval rank when the film took place, and a musical instrument called the concertina being shown in the film, which was invented in the mid 1800s, after the movie takes place. Continuity errors include clocks running backwards and swords changing size from one scene to the next.
8. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 275 Mistakes, $775 million worldwide box office
The first Star Wars film was made on a shoestring budget, which makes it an incredibly impressive achievement and adds to the movie’s charm – but sometimes the low budget shows. One scene in the movie has become infamous because one of the Stormtroopers clearly hit his head on an opening door yet the scene wasn’t edited our. Another notable mistake is when C3P0 is in the sandcrawler and viewers can see the reflection of the camera crew on his head.
7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 312 Mistakes, $796 million worldwide box office
The Harry Potter Franchise is filled with more mistakes than any other franchise. In Prisoner of Azkaban there are continuity errors like Malfoy flinching before he is even hit by a snowball and clock bells ringing to indicate a different time than what is displayed. Books disappear and open by themselves… but maybe it can all be explained by magic?
6. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 265 mistakes, $871 million worldwide box office
In one scene where Arwen and an injured Frodo are escaping the Ringwraiths on horseback viewers can plainly see Frodo is actually just a prop dummy and not Elijah Wood or even a stunt double. When Boromir is dying his hand moves back and forth between being on Aragorn’s shoulder to being absent as the camera cuts between the two characters.
5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 296 Mistakes, $879 million worldwide box office
In the second installment of the Harry Potter series we can see mistakes everywhere; like a safety tip on the edge of a sword and certain scenes in which Hedwig the owl is clearly a toy owl. Jason Isaacs, who plays Lucius Malfoy, wore a white wig in the movie, and at one point we can even see his real hair under the wig. Not quite the standard of editing we’d normally expect from a Hollywood blockbuster.
4. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 260 mistakes, $926 million worldwide box office
In one scene viewers can clearly see some haphazard CGI effects as the hooves of horses pass right through the Uruk-Hai corpses at Helm’s Deep. In another awkward moment, at one point Eomer’s sword falls out of its sheath as he is mounting a horse.
3. Harry potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 225 mistakes, $974 million worldwide box office
The first Harry Potter movie is filled with more mistakes than any other in the franchise. As a baby, Harry Potter’s lightning shaped scar appears and then disappears as Dumbledore is placing him on the doorstep of his uncle and aunt. There is also a seat on his broomstick that’s clearly visible as he plays quidditch – a mistake that would recur in many future installments of the series.
2. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King 287 Mistakes, $1.1 billion worldwide box office
The final movie in the Lord of the Rings series not only grossed the most money worldwide, but is also filled with the most mistakes. Throughout the film Frodo has a scar on his cheek that not only changes in size but moves around on his face from scene to scene. At one point Pippin is even wearing a modern sneaker rather than going barefoot as Hobbits should.
1. Titanic, 271 mistakes, $2.1 billion worldwide box office
The second highest grossing movie of all time is filled with mistakes. However it seems like James Cameron learned his lesson because Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time, only has a paltry 33 mistakes in comparison. The Avengers, which is the third highest grossing movie of all time, only has 61 mistakes. In one scene of Titanic Jack describes ice fishing on lake Wissota as a child; Lake Wissota is a man made lake that was not filled with water until 1918, which was six years after the Titanic sank.
Key statistics from moviemistakes.com and boxofficemojo.com