Common movie and TV mistakes

This is a list of mistakes, things done wrong, etc. that happen so frequently onscreen we barely notice any more. 'Movie logic', stupid behaviours, and everything related.

New this week Audio problem: Characters holding conversations on board aircraft where they wouldn't normally be audible such as military helicopters or cargo planes. In real life those are loud places where people wear hearing protection and communicate with radios or built in comms. (Not a mistake for luxury helicopters or airliner size cargo planes with sound proofing).

New this month Character mistake: In almost every film or TV show, if the villain actually bothered to kill the hero as soon as they met face to face instead of just talking about their plans, the villain would actually succeed in his or her plans. Instead, the villain letting the hero live becomes their real downfall.

New this month Factual error: Trains that do not stop, but crash through objects on railroad tracks. Train engineers will hit the brakes of the train when they see anything or anyone on the tracks, and if they come in contact with said objects, will stop to investigate what they hit, and cooperate with local and Federal authorities. Two examples are "Back To the Future, Part III" and "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry."


New this month Stupidity: A group of people entering a haunted house, cave, etc. and splitting up instead of sticking together to protect one another. This happens in many but not all films when a group enters an area.

New this month Deliberate mistake: Modern cars crashing without airbags going off. Probably a deliberate mistake for safety (trained stunt drivers can create the scene safely with the airbags removed) and visibility (deflated airbags would obscure the actors and getting past them would slow down the action).


Revealing mistake: "Hacking" something by hammering a keyboard and characters appearing they're nowhere near actually typing.

Factual error: People using computers and having what's shown on the monitor's screen projecting clear sharp mirrored images onto their faces. That's not how monitors work. For example in Jurassic Park, when the raptor breaks into the control room and is hopping around the computer workstations, sharp, distinct "GTAC" genetic coding is shown projected from a computer screen across the raptor's face. Another example is seen in the 1995 film Hackers, when sharp, distinct text and even graphics are shown projected from an early laptop onto the faces of Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller.

Factual error: Unless it's a high powered shotgun, bullets don't throw people back when they get shot.

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Factual error: Someone gets punched in the face or otherwise knocked out and comes around hours later, then go on to pick up where they left off as best as possible and forget the incident in about 30 seconds. If you've been unconscious for hours you've got a traumatic brain injury and need medical attention, you won't be hunting down your assailant any time soon.

Jon Sandys Premium member

Factual error: People being in a vicious gunfight with no ear protectors and still being able to have a normal conversation afterwards.

Deliberate mistake: In fight scenes, it's often one person against a small army. Despite having the person greatly outnumbered, the enemies proceed to attack them one at a time, allowing each to be easily dispatched. The whole point of having so many is to overwhelm your enemy... not take turns getting punched out.

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Factual error: In many TV shows and movies that show two parties speaking to each other on either a landline phone or pay phone, as soon as one party hangs up the phone, the other party hears an instant dial tone. Phones did not have a dial tones after calls were disconnected in reality, but rather silence followed by loud annoying buzz sounds.

Factual error: Snipers using a laser mounted to their rifle to line up their target. Snipers in real life don't use lasers in this manner. For one thing, it gives away their position, and additionally because lasers won't line up a target accurately at a long range, as the bullet is affected by gravity, the rotation of the Earth, and other factors.

Phaneron Premium member

Other mistake: The hero can usually knock out henchmen with one or two punches, but the main villain (as well as the hero themselves) can take much more punishment. This is practically akin to enemies in video games. In fact, heroes are so confident of their abilities that they can knock an opponent down and know that they are down for the count without even having to verify.

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Suggested correction: How is this a mistake? Of course the main villain, the boss, is hardest to knock out. If his henchmen were just as strong or stronger, why are they just henchmen? See it like a race, the champion is hardest to beat, that's why he is champion.


He doesn't mean that it's in video games, he's meaning that this makes movies and shows like video games using that.

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Just to give an example, at the beginning of the movie "Goldeneye," James Bond knocks out a henchman sitting on a toilet with one punch. But at the end of the movie, Bond and Trevelyan are beating the crap out of each other and neither is knocked unconscious. It's certainly reasonable for someone to be a more formidable fighter than their underlings, but it wouldn't make them magically impervious to blows to the head.

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The mistake is that the hero of the movie very rarely checks to see if a disabled opponent got back up. They are supremely confident that they are out, even if the hero literally just rolled them on to the floor. Makes for good movie magic, but is totally unrealistic.


This mistake has four aspects. (1) The hero knocks someone unconscious for good with just one hit. (2) The hero does this to several enemies in succession, with the same results. (3) The hero shows no signs of fatigue. (4) The hero takes on the tougher villains and takes them down too. Doing all of these requires immense superhuman strength. In films about superhumans, this is not a mistake. But there are films that deliver this and are cheeky enough to give the appearance of there being a modicum of reality in it.


It's not necessarily a measure of strength, technique has got a lot to do with it. When one goes for the throat for example or the jaw a knockout is almost always certain, if you know what you are doing. You have to if you got no time to hit someone twice because the next opponent is not waiting.


You are right. But we don't see proper technique either. I really have issues with people getting unconscious for good from a punch between their eyes, especially when John Reese does it.


I agree with you that some movies take it too easy. But is it really common? The first knock out of Goldeneye example isn't all that unlikely, he may even have hit that guy twice, but a blow to the head, a surprise blow to the head can definitely knock someone out, happens in boxing all the time. Even between the eyes, as long as the head is knocked around.


Factual error: True gun silencers do not exist in real life. There do exist what are called "suppressors," but they don't quiet the sound of a gunshot anywhere near what you see in movies and television shows.

Phaneron Premium member

Factual error: Enhancing an image by zooming in to blurry CCTV footage and somehow reading the reflection of a ticket in someone's pocket off a nearby fridge.

Stupidity: Giving a long drawn out speech before killing someone, allowing the hero to arrive at the last second and save the day. Just pull the trigger and you've won.


Factual error: In many films and TV series that feature passwords being cracked by a "brute-force" attack, individual characters of a password are found independently of each other. (See Ocean's Eight, Under Siege 2, various episodes of Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahnpolizei, or Person of Interest.) In reality, this is impossible; most of the times the password itself is not stored anywhere. Rather, an irreversible cryptographic hash of the password is stored, and the typed password's hash is compared with that. Either the whole thing is right or no access is granted.


Audio problem: Non-metal items making audible metallic sounds. The audible metallic sound effect of a blade, such as a sword, when it's being drawn from a wood or leather scabbard that doesn't have a metal throat, and also when it's drawn from a fabric or leather belt.

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Factual error: Whenever police officers are involved in some kind of shooting while on duty, they are always kept on the case. They're never suspended or investigated by internal affairs. In real life, there's a full on investigation that takes months to make certain the officer in question was justified in the shooting, not to mention the intense media scrutiny surrounding the incident.


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