Making movies is a tough job that takes months of work after shooting wraps. There’s the daunting task of editing, selecting the best takes and piecing everything together in hopes of making the perfect movie. Many directors and editors take pride in their work, enjoying the process of putting the film together to create their art and witnessing the final vision coming together. But what happens if a significant mistake is caught? The likelihood of being able to go back and reshoot scenes can be slim. Reshoots are not only a hassle but can be very expensive; between getting the equipment together and getting the actor back on the set – if they’re not already working on another project – if a re-shoot can be avoided, it will be.
So if and when mistake makes it to the final movie, it’s never clear whether the director or producers were aware of it and opted to leave it there for the sake of ease. Or if, despite a perfectionist crew, the glaring error somehow slipped through the cracks. Of course, there are some tiny movie mistakes of consistency that can be forgiven such as props switching sides by themselves or mysterious costume malfunctions. But there are some movie mistakes that are shocking in themselves, oversights that have viewers wondering how nobody managed to catch the mistake while the movie was still in the process of filming or even editing. Call it nitpicking, or call it over-analyzing, but these sorts of mistakes break the audience’s suspension of disbelief and intrude on an otherwise perfectly-formed fantasy world.
In looking at 10 of the biggest movie mistakes around, we’re not talking little mistakes; we’re talking about those glaring “How did they not see that?!” mistakes. If you’re an avid movie watcher, chances are you have probably caught at least some of these mistakes on your cinematic journey. You could call these mistakes “shocking” or “surprising” or just plain oversights on the production team’s part but after seeing this list you’ll likely be hitting up your movie collection to witness them for yourself.
10. The Wizard of Oz (1934) – Ruby Shoes?
Myths and legends have been attributed to this movie for years, with a munchkin-playing actor supposedly committing suicide while the gang skipped and sang, “We’re off to see the wizard”. But there was one very dramatic mistake that we’re shocked didn’t garner more attention than it has. Dorothy’s signature look is the ruby slippers, and the conflict of the film is centered on the shoes. But during the scene where Dorothy and the Scarecrow are fighting with the trees, in the shot where the Scarecrow falls down, you can clearly see that Judy Garland is, in fact, wearing black shoes.
9. North by Northwest (1959) – Little Boy Covering Ears
This one has an “aw” factor involved. In the scene at the Mount Rushmore Café, involving actress Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant, Saint shoots at Grant before making an escape. All fine and dandy, but if you look to the right of the screen, you will see a little boy plugging up his ears in anticipation of the gunshot. Given the accolade of Alfred Hitchcock and his pristine attention to detail, this makes a very shocking mistake. Even with this adorable mistake, “North by Northwest” ended up being quite a successful film for Hitchcock.
8. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) – Storm Trooper Bangs Head
Maybe this one isn’t quite so obvious, but it definitely makes this list for its humour; maybe we can forgive the production team for keeping this in. In a scene where a group of Stormtroopers are going through a doorway, an unfortunate Stormtrooper on the right hits his head on the top of the doorway. There’s even the piercing sound of a thunk as the poor Stormtrooper unsuccessfully makes his way through the door frame. Given that George Lucas obviously wanted these guys to look menacing and evil, it is perhaps shocking that this scene wasn’t reshot and was instead kept in, as it risks making the group clad in white more of a vehicle for comedy relief than fear.
7. Back to the Future (1985) – Time Travel Confusion
In the beginning of the Back to the Future movie, when the Libyans are chasing Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox), the screen cuts to the odometer of the DeLorean (or at least, what we think of as the DeLorean), which reads 33064.2 and the trip counter, says 88.8. Then a few seconds later, the screen cuts away and goes back to the odometer, which has now changed to 33061.8 and 86.4. But then there’s another cutaway and the odometer has completely changed, reading 32,994.4 and the trip counter says 19. A little complicated to understand but for geeks of the movie, a terrible oversight in consistency.
6. Pulp Fiction (1994) – Preemptive Bullet Holes
Regarded as one of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpieces, there’s in fact a pretty obvious mistake lurking in the film; one has to wonder why or how Tarantino didn’t notice it before. When the characters Jules and Vincent (played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson) go into the room where they would be fired on – and miraculously survive – it’s rather hard to believe. Why? The room they go into is already riddled with the bullet holes that would appear from the future gunfire. Perhaps they stepped into a time warp in that room instead?
5. Independence Day (1996) – Visible Set
Unless Area 51 has an art department, this one is a huge mistake for such a big budget Hollywood film. During the scene where Jeff Goldblum’s character is in a drunken stupor, in his attempts at making the Earth less appealing to the murderous aliens he knocks over a barrel that says, “ART DEPT”. If you blink, you might miss it, but it’s definitely there. Perhaps the crew didn’t have enough props for Goldblum to destroy and throw around during the scene so they added what they could…
4. Gladiator (2000) – Gas Cylinder…?!
This particular mistake is definitely a face palm moment for many of us who have seen “Gladiator”. This is, perhaps, another mistake where if you weren’t really paying attention, it could be missed… but only if you turned your head away from the screen for 30 seconds. In the scene with the Battle of Carthage, an overturned chariot reveals a gas cylinder behind it. Woops! Given how successful the film was, maybe it can be chalked up to an oversight. But at the same time, this film did win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects so you have to wonder how many were turning a blind eye to this mistake.
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) – Blinking snakes and a Disappearing Scar
While this movie was hugely successful, there were so many silly mistakes in this big budget blockbuster that fans were left aghast. The biggest and most embarrassing mistake was Uncle Vernon’s letters coming pre-ripped, and Harry Potter’s signature scar disappearing and reappearing at will. There are also reappearing extras in the Diagon Alley scene, while zoologists basically ripped the film apart for the blinking snake. Since the movies got better after Chris Columbus discontinued his work on the film series, it seems he may have been at least partly responsible for some of these oversights.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) – Visible Crew Member
For a big budget Disney film with a crew in the hundreds, how was it possible for a mistake such as this to make it past the cutting room floor? Jerry Bruckheimer must have blinked too many times from all the explosions and special effects since he missed this huge mistake. If you look closely to the left as Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) says, “On deck you scabrous dogs”, there is a crew member in a white short sleeve shirt, sunglasses, and a tan cowboy hat, looking like he’s enjoying the ocean view. The poor guy couldn’t even blend in if he wanted to.
1. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) – Costume Confusion
This particular movie mistake is almost comical in the sense that the editors must have been basically asleep when working on this particular scene – or otherwise, the hair and makeup crew was doing a lot of experimenting on Anne Hathaway while the scene was being shot. In a single scene, Anne Hathaway’s hair changes about three to four times. And for a movie that is centered on the fashion world and the importance of keeping up [consistent] appearances, this mistake somehow survived – much to fans’ entertainment.