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Mistakes from the 50 best movies of all time

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Lucasfilm

Mistakes from the 50 best movies of all time

Hollywood movie-making takes time, money, cooperation, careful planning, and a painstaking knack for detail. But even the most meticulous preparations sometimes can't spare a film from its share of goofs and mistakes to the delight (or chagrin) of observant viewers. 

The majority of these goofs take the form of simple continuity errors. For example, a glass might be full in one shot and empty in the very next. Other mistakes appear by way of historical misfires, major plot holes, visible camera equipment, or crew members getting caught in a shot. And every now and then, the annals of cinema are graced with a goof of epic proportions. For example, white cars can be seen in the background during a battle scene in “Braveheart.” 

The much-publicized Starbucks cup in “Game of Thrones” was hardly the most notable example in entertainment, though it shows a simple point: Even with the advent of CGI and advanced editing technology—not to mention fully financed production crews—human error is often unavoidable. You probably could have guessed that Alfred Hitchcock, one of the most legendary filmmakers, appears more than once on this list; but even the “Master of Suspense” fell victim to, well, obvious visual and plot points.

When critically acclaimed films from Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”) or Martin Scorcese (“The Irishman”) exceed three hours in runtime, should we be more forgiving? You be the judge; just know even these directors are not perfect as you’ll see.

Since even the world's greatest films are prone to the occasional flub, Stacker is embracing the imperfections by listing mistakes from the 50 best movies of all time. To determine the rankings, Stacker derived a score based on equally weighted IMDb ratings and Metacritic scores. Only English-language movies released in the United States were considered for the list, and each film needed at least 20,000 votes on IMDb to qualify. If the movie didn't have a Metascore, it was not included.

Check out mistakes in the 50 best movies of all time.

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Netflix

#50. Marriage Story (2019)

It’s common to toss, turn, and reshuffle in bed during the night. But once we’re awake, untucked, and the bed has been made, things tend to become more fluid for the day. Well, that isn’t the case in a few goofy continuity errors in one scene from “Marriage Story.” Nicole wakes up Henry in bed, but during different shots in the scene, the sheet is both noticeable then hidden, Nicole’s arm goes from in front of her body to behind it when her mother kisses Henry, and Henry goes from being totally tucked into showing his uncovered torso. 

 

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Tribeca Productions

#49. The Irishman (2019)

One could suggest that Martin Scorsese's chances of making mistakes would've decreased had he cut some time from his 209-minute “The Irishman.” Take your pick from a lengthy curated list on IMDb: historical inaccuracies, continuity errors, false geography, and unsynced audio/visual moments to name a few. As with carrying out plots and pleasing mob bosses, accurate location, timing, and transportation are the backbone of much of this re-told Jimmy Hoffa story. Yet early in the film, in the 1950s, Frank has already driven the wrong road. He makes a point of taking 476 North, which wasn’t in existence or operation until 1996.

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Liberty Films

#48. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

One of the most iconic scenes in this holiday favorite finds a bunch of partygoers jumping into a pool. A close look reveals the same character jumping in twice. This one was most likely a continuity error.

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Walt Disney Pictures

#47. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Long before she crossed paths with magic dinnerware, Belle was apparently in possession of a magic front door. In one scene, the door to her home is located atop some stairs and facing a porch. But when she tosses Gaston out in a later scene, the door opens on the ground level and faces a small pool of mud. It also swings outward and inward.

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Paramount Vantage

#46. There Will Be Blood (2007)

In the final act of this gripping saga, Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) chugs his first drink and doesn't finish his second. In the next shot, however, both glasses are empty.

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Walt Disney Pictures

#45. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Much of "Toy Story 3" takes place at a hostile daycare center, where an evil bear named Lotso runs the show. On the toys' first night, there are no trucks patrolling the hallways, and the monkey doesn't sound the alarm when he sees that Buzz escaped. Later, it's revealed that both the trucks and the alarm are routine security measures that operate nightly.

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Warner Bros.

#44. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

This celebrated adventure flick takes place in the year 1191. Yet when one of Robin Hood's merry men dismounts a horse to help a friend, there's a car in the background. Unless that car's a DeLorean, someone has some explaining to do.

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Twentieth Century Fox

#43. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

In the book upon which this 1940 film was based, slow-witted Noah Joad runs away from home after becoming a burden to his family. In the film version, Noah (Frank Sully) spontaneously disappears with no explanation at all and is simply never heard from again.

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Charles K. Feldman Group

#42. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Marlon Brando is widely considered one of the greatest film actors of all time, but that doesn't mean he was always the most prepared. During a poker scene in this 1951 drama, Brando's Stanley Kowalski can be seen mimicking Stella's lines with his lips as if trying to recall the script from memory.

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Warner Bros.

#41. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

At the center of this hard-boiled mystery is a priceless statuette known as the Maltese Falcon. Made of precious metal, the falcon would weigh at least 35 to 45 pounds in real life; however, at least two characters in the film pick up the falcon or put it down as if it weighs less than a small sack of flour.

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William Castle Productions

#40. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

In this legendary horror flick, director Roman Polanski uses the clicking of a bedroom clock to mark the passage of time during Rosemary's dream. During a later scene, it's revealed that the very same clock is plugged into the wall. That means it's an electric clock—and electric clocks don't tick.

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Pixar Animation Studios

#39. Inside Out (2015)

Despite its fictional portrayal of human emotions, this animated smash hit from Pixar clearly strived for psychological and biological accuracy. Had it wanted to present things as they really are, however, it would have shown the world in limited color when depicting it through newborn Riley's eyes. That's because babies don't develop the ability to see the color spectrum until they're about 5 months old.

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Pixar Animation Studios

#38. Ratatouille (2007)

It's said that the team behind this acclaimed Pixar movie embarked on several research trips to get a better understanding of French cuisine. Yet the film refers to a majority of herbs—such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil—as spices. 

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Lucasfilm

#37. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

One of cinema's most iconic films appropriately contains a mishap for the ages. It occurs when three stormtroopers are walking down a hall, and one of them nails his head on a lowering door.

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United Artists // Wikimedia Commons

#36. The Apartment (1960)

Billy Wilder's 1960 classic was brilliant in many ways, but its continuity issues were rampant. In the opening sequence, C.C. Baxter's (Jack Lemmon) narration tells the audience this is 1959—which means Christmas that year was on a Friday. Yet people come into work the two days after Christmas, when it would have been a weekend. Similarly, Baxter states the date at the start of the film is Nov. 1, which was a Sunday in 1959. But Baxter tells a coworker about a Halloween party the night before, which would have actually been a Saturday; the men would not have been in the office the next day.

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Regency Enterprises

#35. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

To depict the true horrors of slavery, director Steve McQueen took some liberties while adapting Solomon Northup's now-famous memoir. But creative license becomes a historical goof when the main character is asked where he became an expert in ”terraforming." That particular word wouldn't be invented for another 100 years.

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Columbia Pictures Corporation

#34. Taxi Driver (1976)

Spoiler alert: toward the end of "Taxi Driver," Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) goes on a murderous rampage and gets shot in the neck. Makeup artist Dick Smith would later confirm in a documentary that when De Niro presses his hand against the wound, he reveals wrinkles in his bald skin cap.

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Warner Bros.

#33. Goodfellas (1990)

Offering a bevy of iconic characters and sequences, Martin Scorsese's gangster epic is likewise filled to the brim with factual errors, exposed equipment, and other goofs. Perhaps the most glaring mistake comes during a scene where Jimmy (Robert De Niro) wraps a phone cord around Morrie's neck in the back of the wig shop. The phone is clearly off the hook, yet it starts to ring.

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DreamWorks

#32. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

In this award-winning World War II film, soldiers try to save a medic after he gets shot in the stomach. Look near the medic's neck as the soldiers tear at his shirt and one can briefly spot the perimeter of a fake stomach. Consider it a thankful reminder that the brutally graphic scene is Hollywood magic and not real footage.

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Paramount Pictures

#31. Double Indemnity (1944)

In this classic film noir, insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) gets lured into a duplicitous scheme by Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck). Neff is supposed to be a bachelor, but MacMurray's real-life wedding ring can be spotted throughout the film.

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Selznick International Pictures

#30. Gone with the Wind (1939)

It might be the highest-grossing film of all time (when adjusted for inflation), but that doesn't mean "Gone with the Wind" isn't packed with its own share of mistakes. For instance, the film takes place before the invention of the lightbulb, yet a number of lamps in the film have either a cord or bulb.

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Zoetrope Studios

#29. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Making this Vietnam War epic was an absolute nightmare for director Francis Ford Coppola, so it's no surprise that the film contains a reported 395 errors. During one of the movie's most iconic scenes, "Ride of the Valkyries" plays through aerial speakers as military helicopters approach a small village. A closer look reveals that the reel-to-reel tape never touches the playback head.

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Pixar Animation Studios

#28. Toy Story (1995)

A major plot point in Pixar's breakout hit is that Andy and his family are moving in a matter of days. But once Buzz becomes Andy's favorite toy, Andy's mom changes the bedroom wallpaper from a cowboy theme to a spaceman theme. Couldn't that have waited until they arrived at the new house?

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Paul Gregory Productions

#27. The Night of the Hunter (1955)

The entire premise of this noirish drama is more or less built on an impossible scenario. While in prison for a misdemeanor, Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) shares a cell with a death row inmate, who mutters in his sleep about a stolen fortune. In real life, a man charged with a misdemeanor wouldn't be in the same facility as a death row inmate, let alone the same cell.

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RKO Radio Pictures

#26. Notorious (1946)

The brooding Hitchcock film centering on a government agent (Cary Grant) who sends Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) the daughter of a German war criminal, to go undercover and spy on a group of Nazis in South America has its share of kerfuffles outside the intricate plotline. In one scene, as Alicia realizes she's being poisoned, the cup she just drank reappears full.

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Universal International Pictures

#25. Touch of Evil (1958)

This noirish thriller from Orson Welles opens with one of the most emblematic long shots in cinematic history. At the beginning of the famously extended sequence, a crew member is briefly visible in the upper lefthand corner of the screen. Of course, most eyes are on the bomb being placed in the trunk of a car.

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The Mirisch Corporation

#24. Some Like It Hot (1959)

This 1959 comedy classic set in 1929 delivers an array of choice musical numbers, including Marilyn Monroe's rendition of "I'm Thru With Love." That particular song didn't come out until the 1930s.

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IFC Productions

#23. Boyhood (2014)

Famously shot over the course of 12 years, Richard Linklater's film follows young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he moves repeatedly from one town to the next. Before moving to Houston, there's a bumper sticker on his mom's car that reads: "Atherton Elementary Honor Student On Board." Atherton Elementary is actually located in Houston.

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Walt Disney Pictures

#22. Wall-E (2008)

The film about an anthropomorphized trash compactor grossed $223.8 million in the U.S. and Canada, and $309.5 million around the world. But at its most basic, Wall-E's functionality as a Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class just doesn't make sense. When he puts trash into his main chamber to condense it, the trash he expels has the same volume as what he put in.

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Warner Bros.

#21. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

True to its name, this John Huston adventure takes place in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. But if that's the case, then why is there an Australian kookaburra making noises in the background?

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Twentieth Century Fox

#20. All About Eve (1950)

This timeless drama deals with the ins and outs of show business, so it's almost meta when Addison (George Sanders) slaps Eve and her head turns the wrong way. Actress Anne Baxter's minor blunder is otherwise known as a "stage" slap.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

#19. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

When Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet the Tin Man for the first time, they apply oil to his rusty joints so that he can move. There's just one problem: tin doesn't rust. While legions of fans will argue that the Tin Man probably contained metal parts, or that ”rust“ is being used colloquially in this particular instance, the scene nevertheless endures as a famous flub.

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Paramount Pictures

#18. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Director Francis Ford Coppola made an intentional cameo in "Apocalypse Now," but his appearance in "The Godfather: Part II" was purely accidental. As young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) drives down the street, Coppola's reflection briefly appears in a car window.

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New Line Cinema

#17. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

If there's one thing Peter Jackson's ”Lord of the Rings“ trilogy shouldn't screw up, it's the placement of the precious ring itself. Yet in this first installment, Frodo slips the ring on his middle finger to become invisible and then has the ring on his index finger just a few moments later.

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Norma Productions

#16. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

This acclaimed drama depicts the fraught relationship between a columnist and press agent, so one might expect it to portray newspapers with a relative degree of authenticity. On the contrary, the film repeats certain paragraphs over and over when Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) peruses J.J. Hunsecker's (Burt Lancaster) Broadway column.

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Charles Chaplin Productions

#15. Modern Times (1936)

King of slapstick comedy Charlie Chaplin resorted to a variety of cinematic tricks while executing this brilliant satire. When his character famously emerges from the giant machine, for instance, the footage is played backward. If not for the men behind Chaplin hammering in reverse, the audience would be none the wiser.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

#14. North by Northwest (1959)

The movie that arguably spawned the modern action genre also touts one of cinema's most well-known goofs. It goes down during a climactic scene inside the Mount Rushmore cafeteria, where Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) pulls out a gun and prepares to shoot Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant). Before the gunshot rings out, a young boy in the background is already covering his ears.

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Columbia Pictures Corporation

#13. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Even renowned perfectionist Stanley Kubrick was prone to the occasional mistake, including grammatical errors. During the opening credits sequence in this dark comedy, the text reads, "Base on the book Red Alert by Peter George." The words "fictitious" and "occurrence" are also misspelled during the same credits sequence.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

#12. Singin' in the Rain (1952)

The most famous scene in this acclaimed musical appropriately features Gene Kelly singing and tap-dancing in the rain. Keen observers might notice that the sound of tapping doesn't always match up to the movements of his feet. In fact, listen closely enough and one might hear the sound of tapping even after Kelly's stopped dancing altogether.

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Shamley Productions

#11. Psycho (1960)

Hitchcock's famous shower scene endures as a work of art unto itself, albeit one with a minor mistake. As Janet Leigh's character lies dead on the floor, her eyes are contracted when they're supposed to be dilated. After learning of the error, Hitchcock reportedly consulted with a handful of ophthalmologists, who recommended that he use belladonna eye drops when depicting murder victims.

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Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

#10. Vertigo (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock's epic mystery-thriller is riddled with continuity issues—from Madeline (Kim Novak) losing a shoe in the water and having both on in the next scene, to a sailor walking by the flower shop twice in a row from the same direction. A boom mic is visible in the movie's first scene in Midge's (Barbara Bel Geddes) apartment; and as the camera pans away from Scottie (James Stewart) as he stands at the tower's edge, the camera's shadow appears on the tower's exterior wall (the scene was cropped for the “Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection” DVD).

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RKO Radio Pictures

#9. Citizen Kane (1941)

The most famous word ever spoken on film might very well be "rosebud," uttered by Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) before he takes his final breath. As reporters scramble to figure out the meaning behind the word, some viewers might wonder how those reporters heard it in the first place, as Kane appeared to be alone when he died. The most ardent fans argue there was a butler in the room, but to this day it remains unclear.

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Universal Pictures

#8. Schindler's List (1993)

Steven Spielberg was striving for authenticity when crafting this award-winning drama, but he should've brushed up on his German before filming certain scenes. As an SS soldier drags a boy to an assembly area, he mispronounces the verb "schiessen," which means "to shoot." Instead, he says the verb that means "to defecate."

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New Line Cinema

#7. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

The third installment of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy features a truly epic battle scene that required a slew of camera angles and tons of coordination. Because of all the complex camerawork, a number of the film's crew members can be spotted lurking within the orc army. Look for the people who aren't dressed to the nines in battle gear, and who don't resemble evil creatures.

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Miramax

#6. Pulp Fiction (1994)

In one of this film's best scenes, a young man emerges from the bathroom and lets the bullets fly toward Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson). Before that bathroom door even opens, however, at least two bullet holes are already in the wall.

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United Artists // Wikimedia Commons

#5. City Lights (1931)

Admittedly, films like 1931’s “City Lights” were shot in technologically humble times for Hollywood. Though Charlie Chaplin built his legacy in intended comedy, numerous errors slipped through the cracks of his movies in a more indirectly hilarious fashion. Despite a budget of $1.5 million, Chaplin and Co. struggled to fill a gallery of spectators for the famous fight scene. If you watch the back row, you’ll notice nobody is moving due to the use of cut-outs, mannequins, and even painted-on people. You can actually spot the same mannequin of a man in a gray suit in several scenes in “City Lights.

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Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

#4. Rear Window (1954)

Alfred Hitchcock was a master of suspense, but not necessarily a master of common sense. In this taut thriller, James Stewart's character is a professional photojournalist who is armed with a high-powered camera and a boatload of suspicions about his neighbor (Raymond Burr). And yet he never takes a single photo of the neighbor's potential misdeeds.

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Warner Bros.

#3. Casablanca (1942)

Inside Rick Blaine's (Humphrey Bogart) Moroccan night club, a now-famous piano player named Sam (Dooley Wilson) sets the atmosphere. Only Wilson didn't actually know how to play the piano. It's no wonder, then, that his hand movements don't match the music whatsoever.

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Orion-Nova Productions

#2. 12 Angry Men (1957)

There are 12 angry jurors in this heralded drama, and all but one think the defendant is guilty as charged. The lone holdout is Juror #8 (Henry Fonda), who leaves the room to buy a knife and then introduces new evidence into the proceedings. In real life, these maneuvers would be grounds for a mistrial.

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Paramount Pictures

#1. The Godfather (1972)

The most egregious error in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 masterpiece comes when Sonny (James Caan) attacks Carlo (Gianni Russo) outside some apartment buildings. In the midst of the beating, Sonny throws a whiff that can be spotted from a mile away, though it's portrayed as a direct hit. It might very well be the most famous "movie" punch in cinematic history.

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