No movie is perfect. Awards, box office records and a cult following can’t render masterpieces like Citizen Kane immune from the sin of huge plot holes. Most of these are insignificant, amounting to little more than bits of trivia in the golden history of cinema. Others are glaring, requiring significant mental concessions on the part of the viewer.
Plot holes come in two forms: accidental and intentional. The accidental ones are usually minor and are often the result of the director or screenwriters overlooking some incidental details here and there. Plot holes of the intentional variety, on the other hand, tend to be more flagrant and require the viewer to significantly suspend disbelief. This variety of plot hole is a staple in fantasy and action films, where the act of moving the plot from point A to point B is far more important than the methods used to do so.
Action and adventure films would be a whole lot longer and lot less interesting if every single detail had to be accounted for from one scene to the next. So perhaps it’s better to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the cognitive dissonance represented by these worst plot holes in your favourite action movies.
15. King Kong: The Wall Question
King Kong was a typical Peter Jackson movie: meticulously planned, beautifully shot, and about an hour and a half too long. The first half of the movie took place in Kong’s remote homeland of Skull Island. There, a fifty foot wall surrounds the island’s interior and protects the natives from the giant gorilla. The only way Kong is able to breach the wall is when the natives lower a massive drawbridge and let him pass.
Seven hours of film runtime later and the mighty ape king suddenly has no problem scaling the 1,400-foot-tall Empire State Building . . . with one hand . . . while being shot at. Sometime during the long and confusing journey from Skull Island to New York City, Kong bravely and inexplicably overcame his ability to scale minor obstacles.
14. Avatar: The Technology Inconsistency
Avatar was universally lauded for its cutting-edge special effects and the innovative filming techniques used to bring those effects to life. The story, on the other hand, left more to be desired. The film was very well received by critics and moviegoers alike, becoming the highest grossing movie of all time.
But detractors called it a soulless, if technically adept, reimagining of Dances with Wolves, with a hint of Pocahontas thrown in for good measure.
One thing Avatar had in spades, however, was plot holes. As with any movie of this stature, certain inconsistencies are to be expected, but some are so jarring that they can take the audience right out of the moment.
At the center of Avatar (for the eight of you who haven’t seen it) is a paraplegic military veteran who, using incredibly advanced technology, occupies and “pilots” an alien body in the very inhospitable-to-humans environment of Pandora. He then goes on to marry a
Native American Na’vi princess and subsequently becomes the savior of the planet’s primitive inhabitants. the most glaring comes in the epic battle between the Na’vi and the evil humans.
Writer/Director James Cameron expects us to believe that the technologically advanced humans can place one person’s mind in the body of an alien creature but have yet to develop unmanned attack vehicles – AKA drones – and long-range missiles? With such technology on their side, the battle at the end of the movie would have been over in minutes, with all of the humans nestled safely on the base and the Na’vi reeling.
13. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhole Oversight
In his ongoing quest to destroy everything good about the ’80s, Michael Bay set his sights on the world’s favorite heroes in a half shell. Sure, he may not have directed the film, but he still gets the lion’s share of the blame for this one. Though panned by critics, the movie was a resounding success, making approximately all of the money and paving the way for an interminable line of sequels.
Despite all of its success, however, the movie about mutated reptiles who excel in martial arts shockingly had a few inconsistencies. Most egregious among these is entirely logistical in nature. Michael Bay’s revamped Ninja Turtles are practically monsters–they’re 8-foot-tall behemoths so massive that they crumple vehicles when they smash into them. It’s all fine and dandy to transform *ahem* the turtles into disfigured trolls, but you can’t have them dropping effortlessly into the sewers through standard manhole covers. The turtles may have grown, but those sewer grates are one-size-fits-all.
12. Snow White and the Huntsman: The Inexplicable Warrior
The popularity of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchises in the early to mid-2000s proved that fantasy films could still be major box office draws even in an era dominated by superhero tentpoles and animated family fare. As a result, studios began mining the public domain for anything that could be rebooted or reimagined in such a way that would attract moviegoers and, more importantly, their wallets.
In the past few years alone we’ve seen Hansel and Gretel battle witches, Alice defeat a hydrocephalic queen and her pet dragon in Wonderland, and the story of Sleeping Beauty told from the point of view of the villain.
In 2012, we were treated to a reboot of the Snow White saga, only this time instead of Snow being the helpless young waif we’re all familiar with, she was depicted as a badass, armor-wearing, sword-wielding warrior hellbent on avenging the death of her father and reclaiming her kingdom. The only problem with this–and herein lies the film’s biggest plot hole–is that Snow was imprisoned from the time she was a very young girl.
Yet, not long after being set free, she’s seen capably riding a horse into battle, sparring with demonic creatures and sorceresses, and (perhaps most shocking of all) competently engaging with other human beings despite having had no meaningful human contact in over a decade. When did she have time to learn all of this?
11. Raiders of the Lost Ark: An Impotent Hero
One of the most shocking and downright devastating plot holes in cinema history involves everyone’s favorite archaeologist, Indiana Jones.
This particular plot hole had been floating around among diehard fans for years, but was brought to widespread attention on an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Amy, one of the characters on the show, brings up the fact that, while Raiders of the Lost Ark was a perfectly fine movie in its own right, Indiana Jones played absolutely no role in the outcome of the film.
She rightly points out that, even without Indy intervening, the Nazis would still have found Marion (and likely killed her), retrieved the headpiece, discovered the map room and the location of the ark, excavated the ark, opened the ark, and had their faces melted off by the ark. Indiana Jones, despite his legendary awesomeness, was kind of just along for the ride.
10. Godzilla: The Age Problem
There aren’t many things Matthew Broderick can’t do, but apparently one of them is selling the world on the fact that he’s a bankable action star. Luckily, we can all forget the 1998 Godzilla flop ever existed because Hollywood’s next attempt at bringing the classic Japanese monster to life fared much better.
The 2014 version is not without its foibles, however. Many people complained that the movie’s titular character is only on screen for about 15 minutes of the film’s two hour runtime. That’s a reasonable complaint and one the filmmakers will have to resolve for the coming sequel.
Godzilla also had some consistency errors. One of the most incomprehensible was the age of scientist and token wise foreigner Ishiro Serizawa, played by actor Ken Watanabe. In the movie, it’s mentioned that Serizawa was born in Hiroshima just before it was nuked by the Americans.
The bombing of Hiroshima took place in 1945; Godzilla took place in 2014. That means Dr. Serizawa was nearly 70 years old in the movie, but Ken Watanabe is only in his mid-50s. Actor-character age differences are commonplace in Hollywood, but this one just seemed shoehorned into the plot just to make the character more interesting. All they had to do was say his parents survived Hiroshima and Serizawa’s presence would have carried the same weight.
9. Transformers: Age of Extinction: The One Where He Flies
Much like the nuance and character development found in his movies, the Michael Bay criticisms will be kept to an absolute minimum in this entry.
For all of their faults, the Transformers movies have been wildly successful, almost depressingly so. Perhaps expecting high art from a film about giant alien robots is unreasonable, but is it too much to ask for some semblance of consistency?
Optimus Prime serves as the non-human protagonist of the series and over the course of four films we’ve seen clear evidence of his prowess as a fighter and a leader. For all his impressive qualities, however, Optimus has a pretty crappy memory. At the very end of the movie, Optimus uses one of his most incredibly useful abilities and casually flies off into space … under his own power.
Why choose to finally bust out your flying skills at the end of the fourth movie?! Did he forget he could do that? Why, in the span of nearly 10 hours of Transformers movies, had he never flown before? Wouldn’t it have come in handy in all those battles with the Decepticons? Damn you, Michael Bay.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy: Gamora’s Surprise Skills
Guardians of the Galaxy was the surprise hit of 2014 and the movie that proved that Marvel can basically crap in a bag and we’ll keep throwing our money at them. No one knew who these characters were and the movie still made gazillions of dollars based on the strength of the brand and positive word of mouth. And, as you’d expect from a movie starring an anthropomorphic tree and a foul-mouthed raccoon, certain liberties had to be taken with the script.
Take, for instance, the Guardians’ raid on Ronan’s ship toward the end of the movie. Gamora specifically says they will be unable to reach Ronan once he seals himself in the control room behind the ship’s massive security doors.
Not to worry, however, because Gamora knows how to disable the doors, thereby granting the rest of the Guardians access to Ronan. And how does Gamora reunite with her team once her job is done? She blows a hole in the floor of the control room and hops right in. Why didn’t they just do this in the first place, instead of wasting valuable time and energy disabling the security doors?
7. The Hobbit Trilogy: The Disappearance of Tauriel
This particular plot hole is in the same vein as the Transformers one mentioned above in that it spans several movies. Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit into three interminable movies was largely met with mixed reviews. No one could fathom given that the source material is one 300-page book.
Many people thought Jackson spent too much time trying to flesh out secondary and tertiary characters, time that could have been better spent diving right into the action.
One of these ancillary characters was Tauriel the elf, portrayed by Evangeline Lilly. Tauriel was created specifically for The Hobbit movies; the character did not exist in the books. At the end of final film, Tauriel’s dwarf boyfriend Kili dies – and she essentially disappears from the plot.
In Middle Earth, Elves have extremely long life spans and Tauriel was very loyal to fellow elf and all-around studmuffin Legolas, who played a pivotal role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which takes place after the events of The Hobbit.
Which begs the question: if Legolas was still around kicking ass elf-style 60 years later in The Lord of the Rings, where was Tauriel? She had already proven herself to be a nearly invincible warrior in the seven days it takes to watch The Hobbit trilogy. So where did she go? Why wasn’t she at least mentioned?
That’s just one of the problems with creating characters for prequels and not having the decency and foresight to kill them before the original movie’s continuity suffers retroactively.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past: The Timeline Confusion
X-Men: Days of Future Past was the film that finally undid all the damage caused by Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, including the deaths of Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor X.
Although the movie was a hit with fans and critics alike, several things about it just didn’t make sense. For one, how did Future Wolverine get his adamantium claws back? In the climax of The Wolverine, Logan had his metal claws cut off by the Silver Samurai. He was able to regrow the claws, but as bone, not adamantium. Yet in the future scenes of Days, Wolverine can clearly be seen kicking Sentinel ass with his trademark metal claws.
Another quirk of Days has to do with the Sentinels themselves. The mutant-hunting robots were created by Bolivar Trask to eliminate the mutant threat. In the movie, Trask used a sample of Mystique’s DNA to help build the robots. Mystique is a shapeshifter who can change her appearance at will. The Sentinel robots, imbued with Mystique’s powers, are extremely lethal to mutants, given their ability to replicate whatever power they need to in order to kill the mutant they’re fighting.
But while Mystique is able to look and sound like anyone she wants, she can’t actually reproduce their powers. So, when Mystique mimics Wolverine, she may look like him, but she doesn’t have an adamantium skeleton or increased healing speeds like him. It’s all superficial.
For the Sentinels to be able to replicate the actual powers of the mutants they’re fighting, it would have made much more sense to use the DNA of Rogue, a mutant who actually takes the powers of other mutants. But that would have thrown off the timeline considering Rogue wouldn’t have been born yet during the past sequences of the movie.
5. The Hangover: The Unbelievable Disappearance
While not an action movie per se, The Hangover does feature a tiger attack, Mike Tyson punching people, and a naked gangster beating someone with a tire iron, any one of which would have qualified it as an action movie in our book.
Despite how great it is, The Hangover isn’t exactly the type of movie you look to for examples of realism in cinema.
In a movie full of unbelievable things, perhaps the most incredulous thing to happen is that Doug (also know as White Doug) gets stuck on the roof of a major Las Vegas hotel for nearly two days without anyone finding him. No one saw him; no maintenance people; no air-conditioner repairmen; no security guards or maids taking a quick smoke break; no guests of other hotels. Hell, he even threw a mattress off the roof and no one at the hotel thought something might up?
4. Batman Begins: The Superfluous Evil Plan
Batman Begins had an uphill battle making people forget about the previous, disastrous Caped Crusader movie. To everyone’s pleasant surprise, the movie was great and it reinvigorated the world’s interest the Dark Knight. But, in a twist that by now you really should have seen coming, the film was not without its flaws.
The movie’s Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul teaming up to destroy Gotham. They planned to release a fear-inducing hallucinogenic drug into Gotham’s water supply, plunging the city into chaos. Once the city had been thoroughly saturated with the drug, Ra’s al Ghul would sweep the metropolis with a stolen weapon that had the power to vaporize any water source in its vicinity.
The only problem with the plan, however, is that human beings are roughly 70% water. If the machine was powerful enough to vaporize the city’s entire water supply, surely it could just as easily have microwaved all of Gotham’s inhabitants? In which case, what use was there for the hallucinogenic drug in the first place? Gotham would be destroyed either way, although one way would be considerably messier.
3. Independence Day: The 90s’ Hack
Independence Day, the movie that caused millions of Americans to finally realize that July 4th wasn’t an international holiday after all. What’s not to love? Retro Will Smith; alien invasions; wanton destruction of international landmarks. The movie had it all, including post-Jurassic Park Jeff Goldblum, which segues us nicely to our next major movie plot hole.
Just when it looks like the aliens have their slimy, tentacled feet on the throat of humanity, nerd king Jeff Goldblum realizes that he can hack into the enemy’s operating system and give it one hell of a virus.
How does he do this? By using a mid-90s PowerBook and some good old-fashioned Hollywood BS. It’s petty to criticize an alien invasion movie for glossing over the finer points of technology, but asking us to believe that Goldblum’s proto-MacBook and the aliens’ hyper-advanced technology are in any way compatible is just laughable.
2. The Lost World: Jurassic Park: The Mysteriously Dexterous T-Rex
Jurassic Park was a marvel of both technological and storytelling innovation. The film was universally loved and is considered a filmmaking classic. Moviegoers couldn’t get enough of the man-eating dinosaurs and director Steven Spielberg eventually capitulated to demand and filmed the sequel in 1997.
Though the original film is often considered a masterpiece, it’s not without its inconsistencies. It should come as no surprise, then, that The Lost World is absolutely rife with plot holes. Chief among these is at the end of the film, when the ship carrying the tyrannosaurus rex crashes into the docks at the Port of San Diego.
The movie’s protagonists rush aboard the ship only to find that the crew has been summarily eaten. The culprit, however, is locked in the ship’s hold below deck. The film never bothers to address how the T-rex managed to escape, kill the entire crew, and somehow lock itself back in its temporary prison.
1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones was the focus of three of the best action/adventure movies ever made (and one flop). But the classic The Last Crusade has one major faux pas, which occurred when Indy is on the verge of uncovering the Holy Grail. Jones must circumvent a series of three deadly obstacles, tests that prove he’s worthy of the Grail’s power.
The second test is the “Word of God,” in which Indy must step only on the letters that spell out the name of God in Latin. Indy, attempting to spell the word “Jehovah,” mistakenly steps on the stone marked with the letter J. He realizes too late that in Latin, Jehovah is spelled with an I and the step crumbles beneath his foot. In his attempt to save himself, he grabs on to a bunch of the surrounding stones, none of which are marked with the correct letters either.
The point is, Indiana Jones should have fallen to his death right then and there. At least then maybe that whole Shia LaBeouf travesty would never have happened.
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