Costume design must be one of the tougher jobs when working on a movie. With everything from clothing materials and fashion accessories right down to something as innocuous as belt loops to consider, designers need to make sure that everything fits together perfectly. Otherwise, the eagle-eyed online community will pounce on their little mistakes. Which is pretty much what happened with these 40 embarrassing examples.
40. Braveheart – William Wallace’s kilt
The kilt is such a stereotypical piece of Scottish attire that it’s hard to accept that it didn’t exist in the 13th and 14th centuries, when William Wallace fought for independence against England. Not that Mel Gibson, who plays Wallace in Braveheart, would let silly facts get in the way of a movie where he gets to bash the British. After all, he proudly dons a kilt throughout the whole thing.
39. Captain America: The First Avenger – Jim Morita’s earpiece
It’s amazing that no one told actor Kenneth Choi, playing soldier Jim Morita, to pull his hat down to cover his decidedly 21st-century headset in a movie set in the Second World War. Sure, it’s a Marvel movie, so no one’s exactly watching it to learn about the conflict’s realities, but a Bluetooth headset is surely a bridge too far.
38. The Doors – Jim Morrison’s Ray-Bans
The Doors’ enigmatic frontman, Jim Morrison, was a music icon of the 1960s who died in 1971. However, in the Oliver Stone biopic The Doors Val Kilmer’s Jim Morrison wears a style of Ray-Bans that weren’t manufactured before the 1980s.
37. Gladiator – Lycra shorts
Russell Crowe seemed to have got confused about whether he was starring in an ancient Roman epic or the cheesy spandex-filled British TV series Gladiators. Indeed, during the scene where he’s fighting a tiger, we get a flash of Lycra poking out from under his tunic. Ancient Rome dissolved around 1,500 years ago; Lycra was invented in 1958.
36. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – Redcoat uniforms
Redcoat soldiers are a symbol of the British Empire, but the variation of the uniform that you see in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl didn’t come into existence until 1747. However, the movie is set during the reign of King George I, which was between 1714 and 1727. Basically, then, those soldiers you see are from the future.
35. Troy – Paris’ pink parasol
Even if you ignore how goofy Orlando Bloom looks under a flamingo-pink parasol in Troy, there’s no getting around the fact that it wouldn’t have even existed at the time. In fact, it’s thought that parasols were introduced to Ancient Greece at some point in the 5th century BC. Yet the siege of Troy, widely thought to be a myth, happened in the 12th or 13th.
34. Elizabeth I – Floating ruffs
Neck ruffs – vogue in Tudor times – were traditionally worn with tops that ran all the way up to the neckline. So with that in mind, Elizabeth I – portrayed here by Helen Mirren – should’ve had her costume designer hanged, drawn and quartered for fitting her with a ruff with no shirt underneath it.
33. Pearl Harbor – No stockings
Showing off the bare flesh on your legs in the fusty 1940s was most unbecoming. After all, when there was a nylon shortage during the Second World War, women drew lines on the backs of their legs to create the illusion of wearing stockings. The leggy ladies in 2001’s Pearl Harbor who expose bare knees clearly didn’t get the memo.
32. Sense and Sensibility – Modern diaper
By the 1800s, many babies already had the luxury of diapers in which to do their business. But they were made of cloth and toweling – not, as the Sense and Sensibility movie suggests, the crazy super-absorbent Huggies material that we see today. Maybe the filmmakers decided that old-timey diapers would’ve been too traumatic for a spoiled modern baby – and if so, fair enough.
31. Glory – Digital watch
Anachronisms don’t get much worse than this. In 1989 Civil War movie Glory, there’s a shot where we see someone’s wrist with a digital watch clearly wrapped around it. But even self-winding wristwatches weren’t invented until 1923, let alone digital electronic watches, which first appeared in 1970.
30. Pompeii – Purple-dyed capes
Purple dye did exist in Ancient Rome under the rule of Emperor Nero. The only problem was that he made it punishable by death for anyone other than him to sport the color. In the movie Pompeii, then, Roman general Corvus and his soldiers wouldn’t have worn flash purple garments.
29. Ben-Hur – Star of David
When Sheik Ilderim pins a Star of David onto Ben Hur’s belt before one of cinema’s most famous race sequences, it’s a big demonstration of the former’s defiance of the Romans. But in 26 AD, when the movie is set, such a symbol would’ve meant nothing to the Romans, as the first records of the Star of David only go as far back as the 12th century.
28. Unforgiven – Belt loops
It took a keen eye to spot this minor costume error in Oscar-winning Clint Eastwood western Unforgiven. Gene Hackman’s Little Bill Daggett wears a belt throughout much of the movie, but his trousers have belt loops in them. In reality, these features didn’t appear on trousers other than sportswear until the 1920s.
27. King Arthur – All wrong
Okay, King Arthur is based on a myth, so the movie can afford to take some historical liberties. But contemporary shoes on a bunch of knights ostensibly from the 5th century? That’s kind of pushing it. The heavy plate armor they wore in the movie is also way off, as Sarmatian knights like Arthur and his crew actually wore lighter battle attire.
26. Django Unchained – Django’s sunglasses
Around an hour into Quentin Tarantino’s ultra-violent slavery revenge movie, Django (Jamie Foxx) rocks an awesomely eccentric pair of gold-rimmed sunglasses. However, black-shaded sunglasses didn’t arrive till the 20th century. If anyone can get away with ultra-cool style over historical substance, though, it’s Tarantino.
25. The Last Samurai – Samurai armor
Samurai armor is really fun to look at, especially when it’s worn by Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. But the armor in the movie was actually worn over 250 years prior to when the movie was set in the late 19th century. By that time, traditional armor like that was almost non-existent in Japan.
24. Saving Private Ryan – Black jump boots
In another eagle-eyed spot by the internet community, it was exposed that the black jump boots worn by paratroopers in Saving Private Ryan wouldn’t have been worn in the Second World War. That’s because the style of footwear didn’t appear until the 1950s. So what did paratroopers wear before this? Brown jump boots – obviously.
23. The King’s Speech – Wrong kilt
In a wardrobe blunder that caused outrage among the proud people of Scotland, the kilt worn by Colin Firth as King George VI in The King’s Speech had an Irish tartan design made in 1997. However, the correct kilt would have been the Scottish Balmoral design traditionally worn by the British royal family since 1853.
22. Quadrophenia – Motörhead t-shirt
In a movie about two warring subcultures – mods and rockers – defining themselves by their taste in music and clothes, you’d have expected the costume designers to be extra careful. And while it kind of makes sense that rockers wore Motörhead t-shirts, what doesn’t is that the movie is set in 1964. The band, after all, formed in 1975.
21. American Hustle – Rolex watch
American Hustle does a great job of capturing the styles, music and spirit of the late ’70s, though it does make one big blunder. FBI supervisor Stoddard Thorsen (Louis C.K.) wears a gold Rolex GMT-Master II watch that was initially launched in 2005. Also, what’s a presumably not-very-well-paid bureaucrat like Thorsen doing wearing a big bit of bling like that?
20. Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves – The telescope
Kevin Costner’s turn as the eponymous 14th-century folk hero in Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves was a curious casting decision, but the 1990s were a more forgiving time in Hollywood. At least his silly attempts at an English accent were a clever distraction from the fact that he whips out a telescope at one point. After all, the device was invented nearly 300 years after the time when the movie is set.
19. There Will Be Blood – Waffle-sole boots
Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as 19th-century oil magnate Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood is the stuff of Hollywood legend. But this piece is dedicated to bursting movie bubbles, and the grippy waffle soles you see on his shoes in one fireside scene weren’t around until the 1970s. In fact, Nike invented them with the help of – you guessed it – a waffle iron.
18. Back to the Future – Marty McFly’s guitar
It’s hard to criticize anachronisms in a movie that’s about time travel. After all, Back to the Future’s Marty McFly could technically have thrown anything into the back of the DeLorean and taken it from the 1980s to the 1950s. So when he plays “Johnny B. Goode” using a 1958 Gibson ES-345 guitar in 1955, it’s perhaps forgivable…
17. The Great Escape – trendy POW clothes
In The Great Escape Steve McQueen was pretty much the same person off screen as on it. In fact, German police arrested him on more than one occasion for speeding at the time when he was shooting the film. He didn’t compromise on clothing for the role, either, wearing khakis and a dandy blue cut-off sweatshirt. There’s no rule against looking your best in a POW camp, right?
16. Seabiscuit – All those chinstraps
Chin straps are one of those things that make so much sense that you just assume they’ve been around since the first Ancient Roman whacked on a helmet. But for jockeys, they weren’t invented until the Caliente Safety Helmet in 1956, which means Tobey Maguire shouldn’t be wearing one in the inspirational – but slightly inaccurate – horse-racing drama Seabiscuit.
15. Where Eagles Dare – 1960s style
The 1960s as an era was very into its own vibe, and even “historical” movies from this time couldn’t resist gussying up in the fashions of the time. Take the war movie Where Eagles Dare, for example. Actress Ingrid Pitt, in the role of German waitress Heidi, inexplicably sports a 1960s beehive haircut and light pink lipstick.
14. Amadeus – Costume zippers
Are zippers really better than buttons? That’s a question for another day, but one thing that’s certain is that zippers were invented in 1913 and only made their way onto clothes in 1925. So the biopic Amadeus was wrong to show ballet dancers doing up their costumes using zippers instead of buttons. More than 100 years wrong, in fact.
13. Raiders of the Lost Ark – Jeans and T-shirt
The rip-roaring Steven Spielberg adventure Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in the 1930s, so what right does a guy have to be strolling around in the background in jeans and a T-shirt? The fact that Indy is surrounded almost exclusively by local Egyptian people in traditional clothing makes the jeans-wearing scene-bomber all the more glaring.
12. The Other Boleyn Girl – Hair-out French hood
Both Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson wear so-called French Hoods in The Other Boleyn Girl, and we all know what hoods are for, right? For covering your head – and in a French hood the hair would be covered by a veil at the back. However, both leading ladies’ hair can be seen, making what they’re wearing more of a French Headband.
11. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Nazi war medals
As surely as Nazis loved their swastikas, they also loved their big shiny war medals. But to have worn war medals you needed to have first fought in a war. This is something that the makers of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade seem to have missed. After all, the movie is set in 1938, a year before the Second World War began.
10. The Color Purple – Clip-on tie
Heavy-hitting drama The Color Purple is nothing to mock. But how can you take Albert seriously when in 1913 he wears a clip-on tie that was invented in 1928? Maybe it represents his conflicted personality – or something.
9. My Girl – Mood Ring
Mood rings were the “in” thing once upon a time. You remember them, of course: the rings change color depending on the temperature of the fingers they are worn on. But because 1990s comedy-drama My Girl is set in 1972, the makers of the movie were just off the mark in having Vada wear one. Sadly, mood rings weren’t invented until 1975. Nearly there, guys…
8. The Informant! – Nike golf shoes
When the FBI guys in crimey, coppy comedy The Informant! are playing golf in Hawaii, we can see them wearing Nike golf spikes in a sneaky bit of product placement. But this is anachronistic placement, because the movie is set in 1992, and Nike didn’t produce golf shoes until 1996.
7. Schindler’s List – Shaved legs and armpits
The Nazi concentration camps of the 1940s were among the worst places in all of human history. But in Schindler’s List, it seems that the women still had time to shave their armpits and legs. This wasn’t yet the norm in Eastern Europe – let alone in death camps.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – Cowboy hat
Admittedly, Cowboys in the Caribbean has a certain ring to it, and with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise apparently running out of ideas, maybe that’s the natural next step to take. Still, cowboy hats (and T-shirts and shades) have no place in the 18th century, when the first movie is set. Clearly, a wayward crew member… or a Matthew McConaughey cameo?
5. Zulu – Shaved faces
It would’ve been unlikely for a British colonial soldier in 1879 not to have a powerful handlebar mustache so prominent that you could use it as a coat hanger. But Michael Caine and most of the other stars of the Zulu are all clean shaven.
4. Julius Caesar – Bullet bras
Bras today are pretty subtle, but things were different in the ’50s. Back then, pointy, conical “bullet bras” were the norm, and there was no mistaking it when a lady was wearing one. Still, they were particularly obvious in Julius Caesar. After all, the movie is set in 44 BC – around 2,000 years before bullet bras (and around 1,900 years before any bras) were invented.
3. Hello, Dolly! – 1960s make-up
Again the 1960s muscles in its garish style where it doesn’t belong. Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly!, set in the 1890s, is the culprit this time – with thick cat-eye make-up that just wasn’t the done thing in 19th-century New York.
2. Gangs of New York – Modern fireman
When a fire breaks out in Martin Scorsese’s semi-fantasy Gangs of New York, set in the 19th century, the people must have felt comforted to know that among the firefighters there was one with the yellow pants (and presumably expertise) of a modern-day firefighter. Or maybe he just would’ve got stabbed by rowdy gang members. Whatever the case, in the movie no one bats an eyelid.
1. The Ten Commandments – Blue silk dress
The striking aqua-blue silk dress worn by Anne Baxter in her role as Egyptian queen Nefertiti is one of the enduring images from the 1956 Technicolor biblical epic The Ten Commandments. It’s also historically impossible. At the time, around 1350 BC, you could only dye clothes using natural colorings. So no natural dyes could have achieved that color on silk.