Wait… Aren’t These Objects in Movies From Totally the Wrong Era?

The internet is a place where nobody is safe – not even the world’s most respected filmmakers. After all, a movie’s acting may be flawless, its plot captivating and the whole thing multi-Oscar winning, but it only takes one online geek to point out that there’s a tiny prop – or other imposter object – in there that wouldn’t have been invented until 200 years later and, like magic, the whole spell is broken. Well, right now we’re that geek. Sorry, Mr. Spielberg.

20. Back to the Future (1985)

We’re assuming that Marty McFly had some interesting off-screen escapades in addition to those captured in Robert Zemeckis’ time-travel classic Back to the Future. Why? Because Michael J. Fox’s character plays a sweet Gibson ES-345 at his young mom and dad’s 1955 high school dance, and yet that guitar wasn’t actually created until three years later. Perhaps McFly took in a bit of a pit stop in 1958 that we never knew about.

19. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

There are gaffes galore in director Kevin Reynolds’ Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Indeed, if we’re to believe its incredible catalog of anachronisms, the blockbuster appears to span almost a millennium. Robin’s pal Azeem, for instance, wields a telescope that won’t be conceived for about 400 years, while Robin himself – played by Kevin Costner – sports some fetching Speedo tan lines. Oh, and our titular hero is also accused of stealing up to £4 million – not bad, considering the fact that the entire income of the English treasury for 1194 totaled just £25,000. By this reckoning, the notorious outlaw and his men swiped about £250 billion in today’s money. Top work.

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18. No Country for Old Men (2007)

In the role of hitman Anton Chigurh in the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem impressively remains scary as hell while displaying possibly the most ridiculous haircut in cinema history. In fact, so hilarious is his ‘do, and so captivating is Bardem’s performance, that watchers may fail to notice one tiny anomalous detail: the brand of beef jerky on sale behind Chigurh in one scene didn’t go on sale until five years after the film’s 1980 setting.

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17. The Doors (1991)

As the titular band’s hell-raising frontman Jim Morrison, Val Kilmer somehow breaks on through to the other side of the space-time continuum in Oliver Stone’s The Doors. This is because, while  precariously perching on a window ledge in a scene set in 1971, Morrison sits next to a billboard apparently promoting the movie Another 48 Hours – a feature that hit theaters in 1990. But then, as one of The Doors’ most famous lyrics has it, “people are strange” – especially when they’re time traveling by mistake.

16. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Badass archaeologist one-upping the Nazis? Yep. Cartographer? Almost definitely not. Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark takes place in 1936 and at one point sees Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford) fly to Nepal. His route, plotted on a map, goes directly over “Thailand,” which unfortunately was known as Siam until 1939. However, as the Nazis are never thought to have even looked for the Ark of the Covenant, the map farrago probably pales in comparison to Raiders of the Lost Ark’s other glaring historical inaccuracies.

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15. Glory (1989)

The Edward Zwick-directed Glory tells the inspiring true tale of the American Civil War’s all-African American 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. However, historical accuracy seems to fall by the wayside when the regiment is greeted by a group of slave children – as one of the kids is brandishing a very un-19th-century digital watch.

14. Gladiator (2000)

There’s a glaring pair of anachronistic oddities in Ridley Scott’s multi-award-winning historical epic Gladiator, the most obvious of which comes in the form of padlocks that won’t be developed for almost another couple of millennia. The other chronological goof seems to suggest that Russell Crowe’s protagonist, Maximus, still finds the time to fit an early-morning sportive into his schedule of revenge, as evidenced by the lovely Lycra shorts that he displays while fighting tigers.

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13. Quadrophenia (1979)

With its clashing gangs of mods and rockers, Franc Roddam’s classic British movie Quadrophenia comes across like West Side Story set on the mean streets of Brighton in 1964. It would seem like a pretty fair gang fight, too, if not for the fact that the rockers apparently have the distinctly unfair advantage of time travel. Indeed, one of them sports a Motörhead t-shirt, and yet this is a band that wouldn’t form until 1975. Elsewhere, there’s a spectacularly large shot of a pelican crossing – something that wouldn’t become a common feature on England’s roads until 1969.

12. Ben-Hur (1959)

Butt-numbing historical epic Ben Hur lasts a whopping three-and-a-half hours – and with such a hefty running time, perhaps it’s inevitable that some chronological goofs would have slipped through the net. And so they did. Most notably, the film features strikingly contemporary welding and a galvanized steel stage. And given that the feature’s narrative begins in A.D. 26, bound books also show up around a century before their invention. Nevertheless, William Wyler’s movie went on to win 11 Oscars, making it one of the most celebrated pictures on record.

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11. The Aviator (2004)

Howard Hughes was a film director, a playboy, an innovator, a billionaire and in many ways a forward-thinking man. Hughes was seemingly so ahead of his time, in fact, that in Martin Scorsese biopic The Aviator, the tycoon, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is seen ordering ten chocolate chip cookies in 1928 – five years before the treats were even invented.

10. King Arthur (2004)

When defending yourself against the Knights of the Round Table, it’s important to utilize the best technology available. Presumably, this is why the Woads plumped for barbed wire in Antoine Fuqua’s historical romp King Arthur. It’s certainly something the Knights couldn’t have seen coming, given that barbed wire wasn’t invented until around 1,500 years after the time in which the movie is set. Then again, Arthur’s crew may have thought that their somewhat modern-looking shoes would have acted as their own secret weapon.

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9. Forrest Gump (1994)

Just as Tom Hanks’ eponymous hero in Forrest Gump hops between different moments of historical significance, timelines are seemingly juggled a little when it comes to background details in the Robert Zemeckis movie. For example, in one scene Gump opens a letter from Apple Computer that is dated 1975 – and yet the company wasn’t born until 1976. Plus, there’s a nice shot of the 1986-renovated Statue of Liberty shown on TV during a 1976 Independence Day celebration. Oops.

8. Kate & Leopold (2001)

Hugh Jackman’s time-traveling duke in Kate & Leopold comes from 1876 yet seems awfully familiar with ahead-of-his-time operas. Certainly, during the James Mangold-directed film he waxes lyrical about La bohème, Tosca and The Pirates of Penzance, all of which debuted after 1876. The gaffe didn’t completely escape the opera-loving Italians, though. In a dubbed version for the country, Leopold’s reference to La bohème is replaced by one to Verdi’s La traviata, which was first seen in 1853.

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saving_private_ryan
Image: IMCDB

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7. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

This goof from Steven Spielberg’s WWII epic, Saving Private Ryan, is not as serious as the film’s sobering subject matter, but it is a pretty glaring one. In a scene toward the climax, Captain Miller – played by Tom Hanks – leans, wounded, against a 1963 Ural M63 motorcycle and sidecar. The year in the movie? 1944.

6. 10,000 BC (2008)

The gaffe in Roland Emmerich’s historical action movie 10,000 BC is definitely one for the evolution geeks. The mistake in question comes when the film’s narrator states that one main character is known as “blue eyes.” If that’s true, then the feature should probably in fact have been set a few thousand years later, as scientists now believe that humans may have only begun to develop blue eyes eight millennia ago.

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Malcolm X (1992)

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5. Malcolm X (1992)

In Spike Lee’s biopic Malcolm X, the title character shouts, “Someone call 911!” in the wake of his home being set on fire. However, he might as well be shouting, “Get me to the DeLorean!” for all the use that dialing 911 would do. This is because it wasn’t until 1968 that the number was set up as the U.S.’ emergency helpline; the civil rights radical, meanwhile, was assassinated in 1965.

4. Troy (2004)

During a parade in Troy, Paris and Helen – played by Orlando Bloom and Diane Kruger, respectively – are shaded by an umbrella that’s not exactly consistent with its Ancient Greek surroundings; just look at those metallic spokes! Interestingly, the David Benioff-directed film is also the subject of a famous anachronism-themed hoax involving a supposed aircraft spotted above Brad Pitt’s head in one of the scenes. This eventually turned out to have been the work of a prankster with Photoshop. Still doesn’t excuse the umbrella, though.

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3. Red Dragon (2002)

It’s not specified in precisely what year Red Dragon – the prequel to 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs – is set, but it’s pretty likely to be sometime in the 1980s. It’s impressive, then, that the Leeds family in director Brett Ratner’s movie manage to procure a copy of Robin Williams’ cross-dressing nanny classic Mrs. Doubtfire a good few years before its 1993 release.

2. Titanic (1997)

Researchers on the James Cameron blockbuster Titanic made a couple of flagrant errors, most notably when Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Jack Dawson, recounts a Lake Wissota ice fishing trip. In fact, the lake is man-made and wasn’t in existence until 1917 – five years after the ill-fated ship went down. What’s more, at one point Jack can be seen puffing away on a filter cigarette – an innovation which didn’t exist until the 1940s.

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1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

There are two gloriously geeky gaffes to be found in director Frank Darabont’s much-loved The Shawshank Redemption. The truly eagle-eyed may spot the fact that the parole officers’ stamp in 1947 features the Helvetica typeface – which didn’t come into existence until 1957. Then, when the movie reaches 1949, Andy receives a sizable poster of Rita Hayworth featuring an image first distributed in a collection of 1960s-produced celebrity pictures.

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