14 Movie Mistakes That Should Have Been Caught in Editing

Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, and Orlando Bloom in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) Lord of the Rings actors

On a movie set, so many eyes and minds work to ensure a scene is shot perfectly. Sometimes that means guaranteeing continuity from a previous scene, preventing film equipment from falling into a shot, or keeping factual errors from plaguing the finished product.

It may be the script supervisor's job to watch for continuity and ensure that props remain in place, backdrops match the action, and actors deliver their lines accordingly. However, they're far from the last line of defense, as the director, editors, and hands-on crew should have also been watchful to prevent these XX obvious on-set mistakes that went unnoticed.

1. The Ghostbusters' Ectomobile Lights

Ectomobile and the Ghostbusters outside of Fort Detmerring in a deleted scene.
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Unless you’re well-versed in emergency vehicle law, this one may have been easy to overlook. The lights on the Ectomobile are a wonderful touch, suggesting that the Ghostbusters are an emergency service worthy of weaving in and out of traffic. However, according to the Firefights Association of the State of New York, flashing blue lights are reserved for emergency vehicles. Considering the ‘busters were constantly at odds with the law, it’s safe to assume the iconic Ecto-1 or any of its variants weren’t classified as emergency vehicles.

This explains why you may see a cosplay group driving around in a custom Ecto without their lights flashing. That and paranormal emergencies are incredibly rare in the real world.

2. Oppenheimer's 50-State Flag 

Oppenheimer surrounded by fans flying 50-state American flags in movie gaff
Image Credit: Universal Studios.

In Christopher Nolan’s 1940s biopic, Oppenheimer, the film follows the real-life historical events behind the development of the atomic bomb. While J. Robert Oppenheimer was the focus of the film, some viewers found themselves distracted from Cillian Murphy’s award-winning performance in a scene by one glaring historical mistake.

During a moment set in 1945, marked by the recent use of Oppenheimer’s creations on Japan, excited Americans are waving miniature American flags. The problem? The flags were the 50-state flag, first flown in 1960 outside the Fort McHenry National Historic Site. Neither Alaska nor Hawaii were part of the U.S. at the close fo World War II.

3. Indiana Jones and the Snake Pit

Raiders of the Lost Ark Movie (1981)
Image Credit: Lucasfilm.

Steven Spielberg’s epic action thriller and launching point for the Indiana Jones franchise, Raiders of the Lost Ark, has many famous set pieces. Famous among them is the Well of Souls, where Indy and Marion are locked into an Egyptian pit of snakes. At one moment, you can see the glass screen separating the actors from the reported 5,000 live snakes surrounding them.

Sure, the snakes were likely not dangerous, but we can understand what a distraction they'd be to act around. Especially that many of them. Still, a little more care could have prevented the illusion from being marred by that visible barrier. 

4. Legolas' Eye Change

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Movie (2014)
Image Credit: Mark Pokorny/Warner Bros.

I still remember the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, with Orlando Bloom’s courageous Legolas making teenage girls swoon. However, in the Hobbit trilogy (preceding the Lord of the Rings story), Legolas has bright blue eyes, whereas years later, they are darker. This oversight might be forgivable with a different director, but Peter Jackson helmed every film.

As a massive fan of Tolkien and both movies, here's the inside scoop — the makeup and costuming departments would remember to put Orlando's blue contacts in on and off throughout the production of the original trilogy. When Bloom returned for The Hobbit's second and third installments, costuming was extra sure to put his contacts in. Other rumors circulating around the eye color include Bloom's aversion to wearing the uncomfortable lenses and general concerns over how they could affect the actor's eyes after prolonged use.

5. Hitch Has an Allergic Reaction

Hitch Movie (2005)
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Hitch, Will Smith’s early-millennium romantic comedy about a sophisticated relationship coach, features a scene where he suffers an allergic reaction. In a panic, he searches for an antihistamine before discovering his face has swollen up. Cut to a later scene, and his makeup is on the opposite side of his face. You may think, “But that's such an easy and forgivable mistake!” However, you have to understand that actors have their photos taken in costume and makeup as a reference for the next time they're in that garb. Maybe it was simply a trick of mirror magic, and the artist got confused looking at Smith's face in a mirror.

6. Tears of Gravity

Gravity Movie (2013)
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Gravity is a captivating science-fiction thriller with a side-dose of scientific inaccuracies. One scene shows astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) weeping as her teardrops float into the air. However, space has an extreme surface tension, meaning real tears would pool on a real astronaut's face.

We get the dramatic appeal of tears flying off Sandra Bullock's face, but two seconds of research would have prevented this scientific gaff. 

7. Brad Pitt’s Eating Continuity

Ocean's Eleven Movie (2001)
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The Ocean’s Eleven saga remains one of Steven Soderbergh’s greatest movie accomplishments, but it's not without its technical faults. Throughout the movie, Rusty Ryan’s trademark action is eating. In several scenes, Brad Pitt’s character munches on various snacks. However, the fourth wall comes down briefly when a shrimp cocktail goes from a cup in one shot before changing to a plate in the next.

It makes you wonder how mistakes like this happen. Did someone not like the look of the cup? Did the cup break between shots? Or maybe it's simply an act of Vegas magic meant to keep viewers on their toes.

8. Tarantino’s Ventriloquism

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Movie (2019)
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood had people marveling at Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to the golden age of Hollywood. However, in one random scene, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) asks a ranch hand whether he’s been to Houston. His answer, “Of course I have,” comes without him moving his lips — it was dubbed in during post-production.

We'd wager that this is one of the most common errors in moviemaking. Dubbing is a common practice to fix lines that didn't come out right, were incoherent, or were never said in post-production. Unfortunately, if the actor never said the line, there would be no moving lips to match with the dialogue.

9. A Titanic History Gaffe

Titanic Movie (1997)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

During a scene in Titanic, young Jack foreshadows his eventual demise, telling Rose about ice fishing with his father on Lake Wissota, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Lake Wissota was formed in 1917, five years after the ship famously sank. James Cameron must have blown a gasket when someone broke the news after the film's release. After all, if you're going to go so far as to mention a specific lake, at least research its history as more than 50,000 of them across the U.S. are manmade. 

10. Rohan’s Spear Shame

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Movie (2003)
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

The final Lord of the Rings movie won many Oscars, sweeping the board in several departments, including Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, and Best Production Design. So, it was ironic when viewers noticed a Rohan cavalry rider holding aloft a floppy rubber spear during the Siege of Gondor.

A rubber prop may seem silly in a big action segment, but they're a cheap, safe alternative when that actor isn't going to be using it in the simulated battle. Generally, non-metal swords, spears, and the like are for actors tucked in the back of the shot. So, maybe this rider wasn't meant to be so close to the camera.

11. Your Kids Are Gonna Love It

Back to the Future Movie (1985)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

We all love Marty McFly’s iconic “Johnny B. Goode” performance, capped off with an Eddie Van Halen-inspired guitar solo. Sadly for Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis, McFly plays a Gibson ES-345, which didn’t hit the retail market until 1959 — four years after the story takes place.

That's also not the only mistake in that scene. As McFly holds the final note, there's an obvious vibrato. However, a keen eye will notice McFly isn't applying one to the guitar. 

12. Macaulay Culkin’s Rip Tide

Home Alone Movie (1990)
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Kevin McCallister’s ill-fated staycation in Home Alone is a great life lesson for the youngster, and his new-found responsibility sees him shopping for groceries, including a pack of Tide washing detergent. Cut to him walking home when the bags split, scattering its contents — all except the missing Tide.

It's a surprising mistake for the production, considering that one of Kevin's biggest moments of growth is his ability to finally face the terrifying furnace to do a load of laundry. 

13. Get That Stormtrooper Some Advil!

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope Movie (1977)
Image Credit: 20th Century-Fox.

Perhaps the most famous untouched blooper is during the opening scene of the original Star Wars, Episode IV. When the Empire’s stormtroopers breach the rebels’ escape ship, the second actor bangs his head on the door frame. I am sure “Second Stormtrooper” still loves telling his story at his local bar, and it's become an iconic part of the franchise. 

One could argue that it aligns with the ineptitude of Stormtroopers, who were allegedly terrible shots when firing at the film's heroes. Then again, fan lore suggests the Stormtroopers were intentionally missing so Vader could follow them to the Rebel base. Another theory states it was the will of the Force as if it were an all-power being. 

14. What’s Noah Doing in the Maze?

The Maze Runner Movie (2014)
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The Maze Runner is not the greatest young adult fiction movie adaptation. Perhaps its reputation suffered after sharp-eyed viewers caught a glimpse of on-set screenwriter Noah Oppenheim’s reflection in a glass door panel. You must wonder whether Oppenheim received royalties for his unintended walk-on role.

This is another one of those baffling mistakes that should have easily been caught in the editing room. 

Author: Ben Rice

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Raised in England and with a career background in international education, Ben now lives in Southern Spain with his wife and son, having lived on three continents, including Africa, Asia, and North America. He has worked diverse jobs ranging from traveling film projectionist to landscape gardener.

He offers a unique, well-traveled perspective on life, with several specialties related to his travels. Ben loves writing about food, music, parenting, education, culture, and film, among many other topics. His passion is Gen-X geekery, namely movies, music, and television.

He has spent the last few years building his writing portfolio, starting as a short fiction author for a Hong Kong publisher, then moving into freelance articles and features, with bylines for various online publications, such as Wealth of Geeks, Fansided, and Detour Magazine.