Raiders of the Lost Ark – See the guy wearing jeans… Whoops!
Although we all know Steven Spielberg is a master director, this scene from Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark shows that even he is not immune to making mistakes. In the scene, we find our hero nursing a drink after losing the love of his life. In the background we can see many locals walking around. They all look fine apart from the guy over Indiana’s right shoulder who is clearly sporting a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Come on Spielberg. Sort it out!
The Last Samurai – Tom Cruise’s armour was well out of date
The 2003 movie The Last Samurai was set in the year 1870. The movie follows the story of Captain Algren who was actually largely based on a real person: the French officer Jules Brunet. Brunet was sent to Japan to train soldiers on how to use modern weapons and tactics. In the movie Tom Cruise can be seen wearing some pretty cool looking Japanese armour. However it turns out the costume department clearly found 19th century armour boring so opted to dress him in a suit from two centuries earlier.
Glory – someone is wearing a digital watch in 1863?!
There are not many negative things we can say about the epic war movie Glory which is set around the time of the Civil War. However in 1863, I think we can all be pretty confident that there were no digital watches. After doing a bit of research, we can confirm that it was actually another 53 years before digital watches were invented. We can only assume the hand belongs to an extra who forgot to remove his or her watch. Sloppy behaviour, especially considering the rest of the movie was so accurate.
Braveheart – Why are they wearing kilts?
When we think of Scottish men, we often think of kilts. So it makes sense that very few people questioned why Mel Gibson was wearing a kilt as he portrayed William Wallace in the 1995 blockbuster movie Braveheart. However a little research has led us to understand that the kilt didn’t make it into fashion until the 16th century. Bravehart was of course set in the 13th. We will let them off though as Mel Gibson pulled off that costume so well.
Dirty Dancing – Those Daisy Dukes were probably not right for Baby
As well as being best known for the line “nobody puts baby in the corner”, Dirty Dancing is also memorable for the outfits the cast wore. The scene in the image above where Baby dances across the bridge is one we can all probably remember. You probably never questioned those denim shorts. However as the movie was set in the mid 60’s and denim shorts didn’t make it into fashion until the 70s. Chances are, she wouldn’t have been seen dead in them! She still managed to capture Johnny’s heart so I guess we can let her off.
Schindler’s List – The women would not have shaved
Schindler’s List is one of the top 10 all time rated movies on IMDB and rightly so, as Steven Spielberg’s shocking 1993 drama exposed the horrific realities of the Holocaust. Still, there are some minor historical slip-ups, particularly the scenes showing women in concentration camps. Women in concentrations camps were not allowed access to razors, yet they are all shown to have hairless legs and armpits.
Back to the Future – Marty’s guitar didn’t exist yet!
As anyone who’s ever seen Back to the Future will remember, the bulk of the film’s action takes place in 1955 – i.e. three years before American guitar company Gibson introduced their iconic ES-345 model which Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly plays at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. So it’s not only the music that Marty plays in the scene which is literally ahead of its time!
Pirates of the Caribbean – why is there a cowboy on the Black Pearl?
In the final moments of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, watch closely over Captain Jack Sparrow’s shoulder to the left of the screen: there’s someone who firstly seems to be ignoring his captain’s orders, and more notably appears to be wearing a cowboy hat. Either a member of Jack’s crew has a very different dress sense, or more likely a member of the film crew inadvertently wandered into shot without anyone noticing.
The Empire Strikes Back – Han Solo’s hands are mysteriously unshackled once he’s frozen
Harrison Ford’s final scene as Han Solo in second Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back is the stuff of legend, yet there are a series of glaring continuity errors. First of all, in some shots Solo appears to be wearing a jacket whilst in others he’s just in a shirt; meanwhile, in some shots his wrists are shackled, whilst in others they’re clearly free. He’s definitely tied up when he goes into the freezing chamber, but when he comes out as a block of Carbonite, his hands are definitely loose.
The Other Boleyn Girl – Natalie Portman’s hair is wrong for the era
This 2008 historical drama casts Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII who was ultimately beheaded. Few would dispute that she didn’t deserve this fate, but the movie does see her commit one major faux pas: Portman’s long hair is frequently visible, and while she may look fabulous today, back in the 1500s it was considered scandalous for a woman’s hair to be exposed in such a manner.
The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy’s hair changes length
1939 classic The Wizard of Oz is famous for stretching the boundaries of reality, particularly in how it changes from sepia to full colour when Judy Garland’s Dorothy arrives in the land of Oz. However, one thing that forces us to suspend our disbelief further than we can handle is Dorothy’s hair. Watch closely, and you’ll see it changes length at odd times. This is especially noticeable in her first scene with the Scarecrow; her hair is long in one shot, and shorter in the next.
Django Unchained – sunglasses hadn’t been invented yet
If you’ve seen any of Quentin Tarantino’s historical movies like Inglourious Basterds and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, you may well be aware that the writer-director thinks nothing of completely rewriting history. This being the case, it seems unlikely that Tarantino cares too much about his one big costume mistake in Django Unchained: Jamie Foxx’s title character wears super-cool looking sunglasses all the way back in the 1858, about 70 years before these fashionable items became commonplace in America.
Pompeii – No one was allowed to wear purple except the Emperor
2014’s Pompeii presents a fictionalised take on the most notorious volcanic eruption in history. Movie costume departments usually like working with a specific colour palette, so it’s noticeable that the bulk of Pompeii’s high-and-mighty people wear various shades of purple. This seems to make sense as purple was considered a regal colour – however, at the time the Roman Emperor Nero was the only person legally allowed to wear it, and for anyone else to wear purple was punishable by death.
Jurassic Park – Alan Grant’s magical self-brushing hair
Steven Spielberg’s classic blockbuster Jurassic Park is another of those movies which makes us believe the impossible is possible, what with all those real live dinosaurs. However, in the scene when Sam Neill’s Alan Grant and the kids climb over the de-activated electric fence, there’s a moment that really beggars belief: Grant looks down to the kids with wind-swept hair, then in the very next shot he turns back to the fence and his hair is perfectly neat and combed in place.
The Untouchables – Kevin Costner’s suit isn’t period-appropriate
The Untouchables casts 80s heartthrob Kevin Costner as real-life 1930 crimefighter Elliot Ness, but the movie takes some liberties with fashions of the ear. Costner’s suit may look dapper to modern eyes, but it’s all wrong for the era, when double-breasted coats were more commonplace and lapels were usually much larger and pointier.
Gladiator – another denim-clad extra
If denim jeans were out of place in a movie set in 1930s Cairo, you can bet your bottom dollar they don’t belong in a movie set in Ancient Rome. Yet watch 2000’s Gladiator closely and you’ll notice there’s a spectator at the Colosseum (top left in the image above) clad in what look like white T-shirt and blue jeans. Either there’s a time traveller subplot that was cut from the final film, or this little mistake managed to escape the attention of the filmmakers during editing.
Pirates of the Caribbean – The British Navy didn’t wear scarlet back then
It’s true to say that whenever we think of Britain’s Royal Navy, we associate them with red coats, so it doesn’t seem inappropriate for them to be dressed that way in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. However, the film is set around 1728, and this uniform wasn’t introduced by the Royal Navy for another 20 years. Of course, there aren’t too many historical records of indestructible walking skeleton pirates either, so maybe we can forgive this minor historical boo-boo.
The Wedding Singer – Drew Barrymore’s hair isn’t very 80s
The Wedding Singer is one of the best-loved rom-coms of the 1990s, and the first of many collaborations between Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. However, while Drew’s cute retro bob hairstyle was pretty fashionable when the movie was released (1998), let’s not forget the film is set way back in 1985, when trendy young woman were far more likely to sport big, heavily sprayed hairdos.
Troy – there were no pink parasols back then
Retelling the classic tale of the Trojan war, 2004’s Troy displeased many critics and classical scholars thanks to the many liberties it took with the time period. Case in point: Diane Kruger’s Helen is sheltered with a dainty pink parasol. Perhaps that’s how a pampered lady would be treated today, but this story takes place in Greece around 1200 years BC, parasols were not introduced until at least 200 years later in Egypt. Still, it’s not like the fall of Troy is genuine history anyway – in fact, in many myths it’s said that Helen, the most beautiful women in the world, was hatched from an egg after Helen’s mother mated with Zeus disguised as a swan! Thankfully the film’s screenwriters decided to skim over that scene…
Jonah Hex – Megan Fox is a bit under-dressed, even for an 1870s prostitute
Megan Fox was arguably the premier big screen sex symbol circa 2010, so it’s not too surprising that the makers of 2010 comic book western Jonah Hex decided to dress the actress in a very revealing corset. Yet even though Fox’s character Lilah Black is a prostitute, the clothing they put her in was still a whole lot skimpier than even women in that profession would have worn back in the 1870s when the film is set.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – the German officers wouldn’t be wearing medals yet
Like earlier film Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade sees our hero go up against the German army in search of a Biblical artefact of tremendous power. However, also like the earlier film, Last Crusade takes place in the days before the outbreak of World War II. As such, the medals we see on the uniform of Michael Byrne’s Vogel would not be there yet.
Pearl Harbor – bare legs? Scandalous!
Michael Bay’s 2001 drama Pearl Harbor is another historical movie which angered many viewers by taking significant liberties with history. This includes the way the women in the film are presented. As well as being considerably skinnier than was the norm for everyday women back in the 1940s, they also tend to be seen with bare legs, which would have been unthinkable at the time. Skirts may have been acceptable, but only with stockings.
Captain America: The First Avenger – Peggy Carter’s hair isn’t up to military standard
It goes without saying that Marvel’s 2011 movie Captain America: The First Avenger takes some significant liberties with history, but even so, there are some glaring errors when it comes to attire. Hundreds of thousands of women served in the military during World War II, so Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is not an unprecedented character. However, she wouldn’t have been allowed to wear her hair as loose on the shoulders: Army regulations stressed it should be entirely pinned back.
Pride and Prejudice – Elizabeth wouldn’t have rubber boots
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of the best-loved novels of all time, and after the success of the 1990s BBC TV mini-series adaption, the 2005 Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley had some big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, they chose the wrong footwear with which to do so. We see Knightley’s Elizabeth wearing rubber Wellington boots, which were not popularised until around 1820; while the story is not set in any specific year, it is thought to be earlier in the 19th century.
Saving Private Ryan – American soldiers didn’t wear black boots
After presenting a brutally realistic take on the Holocaust in Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg took a similarly unflinching look at the front lines of the Second World War with Saving Private Ryan. Yet despite the film’s eye for realism, there are some minor slip-ups, particularly when it comes to footwear. Some of the soldiers, Matt Damon’s Ryan among them, wear black boots, but these were standard dress for the US Army at the time.
The King’s Speech – more kilt problems
Once again, a movie slips up when it comes to kilts. Happily, The King’s Speech doesn’t make anywhere near as egregious an error as Braveheart: kilts most definitely did exist during the reign of King George VI, and have regularly been worn by British Royalty over the years. However, the type of tartan Colin Firth has been dressed in is wrong: he should have been clad in a Scottish Balmoral design, not the Irish design used here.
Captain America: The First Avenger – what’s with that headset?
We’ve established that Captain America: The First Avenger is hardly the most historically accurate World War II movie, what with the American super-soldier, the German guy with a Red Skull, and of course Hayley Atwell’s hair. Still, the pushed the boat out even further when it came to Jim Morita of the Howling Commandos: is he wearing a bluetooth headset, in the 1940s?!
Julius Caesar – Ancient Roman women in 1950s bras
The 1953 film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is renowned for its powerful performances, not least from Marlon Brando as Mark Anthony. It’s a lush costume drama, but there’s a minor issue with the costumes when it comes to the female cast members: some of them are clearly wearing the ‘bullet bras’ which, while popular in the 50s, were certainly not around back in Ancient Rome.
Catch Me If You Can – Amy Adams’ braces are about a decade early
Steven Spielberg’s biographical drama Catch Me If You Can takes place in the 1960s – in other words, about a decade before the introduction of the kind of wired braces we see on the teeth of Amy Adams’ character. Dental braces existed at the time, but that particular style wasn’t introduced until the 70s.
American Hustle – era-inappropriate Rolex
2013 thriller American Hustle does a great job evoking the look and feel of the 1970s, but not every detail is accurate to the period – most notably, the Rolex watch worn by Louis C.K.’s Stoddard Thorsen. Rolexes have been a major status symbol for over a century and were certainly a sign of prestige back in the 70s, but the model C.K. has on – the 116718LN Gold GMT – wasn’t introduced until 2010.
Amadeus – there were no zippers in Mozart’s day
Director Miloš Forman’s multi-Oscar winning 1984 film Amadeus presents a fictionalised take on the life and death of the legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, portrayed by Tom Hulce. It’s not only the events of Mozart’s life that are fictionalised: the clothing of the day is a bit different too. We see multiple instances of clothing featuring zippers, which were not introduced until the 1890s, more than a century after most of the events shown in the film.
My Girl – Mood Rings didn’t exist yet
1991 family drama My Girl was a major tearjerker for viewers young and old alike, and with its 1972 setting it helped re-ignite interest in that time period for youngsters of the day. For one, My Girl predicted the renewed popularity of Mood Rings, the jewellery whose stone alleged changes colour in accordance with the wearer’s emotional state. There’s just one problem: My Girl is set in 1972, and mood rings didn’t go on the market until three years later.
Gangs of New York – why does a modern firefighter appear?
Gangs of New York is a period crime epic which clearly takes place in a far older, more primitive incarnation of the famed American city than we’re used to seeing on film. One more modern detail did slip through, however: watch closely during the scene with the fire fighters, and you may notice that one of them is wearing more a contemporary fire fighter’s uniform.
Singin’ in the Rain – Debbie Reynolds’ dress isn’t very 1920s
1952’s Singin’ in the Rain is one of the best-loved big screen musicals ever made, but while the film is a product of the Technicolor age, it’s set way back in the black and white days of the 1920s, when sound was first introduced into film. As colour was still a long way off, pink dresses like that worn by Debbie Reynolds weren’t the norm back then, and the cut of the dress is also wrong for the era.
The Color Purple – clip-on ties weren’t a thing yet
Danny Glover’s character Albert wears a clip-on tie in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel. Once again, this is an example of an item of clothing being shown to exist before its time. The Color Purple is set for the most part in 1916, and clip-on ties were not introduced until 1928.
Pretty Woman – Edward’s tie trouble
1990’s Pretty Woman made Julia Roberts an icon, revived Richard Gere’s career, and remains one of the best-loved rom-coms ever made. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its share of continuity blunders, however. Watch closely in one scene when Roberts’ Vivian adjusts Edward (Gere)’s tie: in one shot it’s done up, the next it’s open, the next it’s done up again. Oops!
Legends of the Fall – men didn’t wear their hair that long in 1910
Based on Jim Harrison’s 1979 book of the same name, 1994 drama Legends of the Fall gave Brad Pitt one of his earliest leading roles. He’s every inch the 90s heartthrob with his luxurious long blonde hair and his stubbly chin. Of course, while this might have been considered becoming of a man in the 90s, this certainly wasn’t the case back in 1910, when the film is set. Short hair and and a clean shave was the order of the day back then.
Seabiscuit – horse rider’s helmets didn’t have straps back then
2003 sports drama Seabiscuit cast Tobey Maguire (then at the height of his Spider-Man fame) as real-life jockey John M. ‘Red’ Pollard, who rode the celebrated horse of the title. There’s a little slip-up when it comes to the riding helmet Maguire wears in the movie: it boasts a strap under the chin. Such helmets weren’t introduced until the 1950s, roughly 20 years after the events shown in the film.
John Carter – our heroes are overdressed
2012’s John Carter was the long-delayed big screen adaptation of the 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs sci-fi novel A Princess of Mars, the first in a series of novels about adventurer John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) and his Martian bride Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). Unlike some entries on this list, the main costume issue in John Carter is that neither Carter nor Thoris are anywhere as scantily clad as they are in the book, probably so as not to threaten the film’s family-friendly rating.
Good Night and Good Luck – name tags weren’t used by the military yet
Co-written and directed by George Clooney (who also co-stars), 2005’s Good Night, and Good Luck is a fact-based drama exploring political tensions in the US in the 1950s. The film garnered praise for how accurately it reflected the anxieties of the era. Unfortunately, the costume department slipped up with scenes depicting officers of the US Air Force wearing name tags, which were not introduced for more than a decade.
Sense and Sensibility – modern-style diapers weren’t around in Jane Austen’s day
Emma Thompson won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for this 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel (making her the only person to win Oscars both for writing and acting, as she also won Best Actress for Howard’s End in 1993). One little detail doesn’t ring true to Austen’s time, alas, as one scene features a baby wearing a modern-style diaper. Cleaning up after little ones wasn’t quite so simple back in the 1800s, unfortunately.
The Informant! – era-inappropriate golf shoes
Director Stephen Soderbergh’s fact-based 2009 crime comedy The Informant! casts Matt Damon against type as a food industry whistle-blower in the 1990s. One key scene set in 1992 sees Damon’s character wear a pair of Nike golf shoes with spikes in the soles. These didn’t exist yet, although the filmmakers weren’t far off: they were introduced in 1996.
Gladiator – is Maxiumus wearing spanx?
Gladiator may have made leading man Russell Crowe a superstar and won him the Best Actor Oscar, but the people responsible for dressing Crowe may have made a slight blunder. During one fight scene, we see Crowe’s Maximus roll on his back, giving a glimpse of what looks like modern black lycra shorts beneath his armour. Better that than leaving Crowe exposed, we suppose.
There Will Be Blood – Daniel Plainview’s boots
Daniel Day-Lewis earned the second of his three Best Actor Oscars for 2007 historical drama There Will Be Blood. The esteemed actor has always been famed for his method approach and strict attention to detail, so it’d probably grate on him that his performance as unscrupulous oil driller Daniel Plainview contains one minor error. The film’s costume department gave Day-Lewis boots with waffle soles, which did not exist back in the late days of the 19th century when the story begins.
The Doors – Jim Morrison’s sunglasses
1991’s The Doors is a heartfelt love letter to the music scene of the late 60s, with of course particular focus on pioneering rock band The Doors and their iconic frontman Jim Morrison. However, while Val Kilmer’s physical resemblance to the late singer-songwriter is quite uncanny, the movie shows Kilmer’s Morrison wearing Ray-Bans Aviators. While this brand of sunglasses did exist at the time, they were still primarily worn in the military and did not become fashionable until the 80s.
La La Land – Seb Wilder’s colour-changing shirt
2016 musical La La Land will always be associated for one notorious blunder not of its own making: when it was incorrectly announced as the Best Picture Oscar winner instead of actual winner Moonlight. Still, there is one pretty obvious costume mistake that you shouldn’t need to look too hard to spot. At one point, Ryan Gosling’s Seb Wilder has a road rage incident whilst wearing a brown shirt – but when he arrives at his apartment, he’s suddenly wearing a blue shirt. In the next scene it’s brown again.
Argo – Tony Mendez’ watch
2012’s Oscar-winning thriller Argo casts Ben Affleck (who also directs) as CIA agent Tony Mendez, and with his hair, beard and clothes he certainly looks the part of a late 70s man’s man. One little slip-up spoils the period accuracy, however. In some scenes, Affleck’s Mendez is shown wearing a Rolex Sea Dweller Deepsea, a model of watch which wasn’t introduced until 2008.
Where Eagles Dare – Heidi’s hair
1968 action-adventure Where Eagles Dare is one of the most beloved World War II movies ever made. It’s not based on actual historical events, so to some extent we can forgive any minor inaccuracies, but certain details rather break the illusion of the 40s setting. Perhaps most notably, when Ingrid Pitt joins the action as barmaid/double agent Heidi, she sports a haircut which looks entirely appropriate for a fashionable young lady in the late 60s, but hardly typical of the Second World War-era.
Grease 2 – athlete’s wardrobe malfunction
There are plenty who would say that Grease 2 was a mistake all around, as the 1982 sequel failed to enjoy the same success as the 1978 original. Over the years, though, Grease 2 has built a devoted fanbase – although it wasn’t until quite recently that the film’s most eye-opening blunder became common knowledge. During a Phys Ed. sequence, keep a close eye on the anonymous extra doing hurdles to the left of the screen. Those skimpy white shorts completely fail to contain his private parts. How did this movie get away with a PG?!
The Vikings – Einar’s lack of beard
On release in 1958, historical adventure The Vikings claimed to be the most accurate representation of its time period yet put on film. It’s a great swashbuckling epic for sure, but there’s a lot about it that hardly seems true to the era – not least the fact that Kirk Douglas’ Einar is clean-shaven and short-haired. To be fair, the film’s dialogue acknowledges his grooming is atypical of vikings, but it’s still a bugbear.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – Diane Szalinski’s hair colour
As well as featuring miniaturised children, 1989’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids presents another wonder: a character’s hair changes colour without anyone noticing. Marcia Strassman co-stars as Diane, the wife of Rick Moranis’ eccentric inventor Wayne Szalinski. In the early scenes she has light red hair (Strassman’s natural colour), but studio executives decided she’d look better blonde. Her hair changes colour accordingly later in the film, but they didn’t bother reshooting her earlier scenes as a redhead.
The Ten Commandments – Nefretiri’s blue dress
1956’s The Ten Commandments was the final film from esteemed director Cecil B. DeMille, and at almost four hours in length it’s one of the most lavish Hollywood epics of the era. Yet while a great deal of care and attention went into the sets and costumes, it’s not all too accurate to the time period – particularly when it comes to Anne Baxter’s Nefretiri. While Baxter may look every inch the glamorous Hollywood leading lady of the 50s, she’s clad in a shade of blue which was not worn at the time – and that’s to say nothing of some readily apparent 1950s underwear beneath the sheer blue fabric.
Unforgiven – pants with belt loops
Arguably the last truly great Western, 1992’s Unforgiven is one of the most acclaimed films ever produced in its genre, winning the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for Clint Eastwood. As great as it is, though, there are still a couple of little costume errors in Unforgiven, and you can find them at waist height on some of its leading men. Both Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman appear in the movie wearing belts around their waist held up with belt loops on their pants. These might come as standard on most men’s trousers nowadays, but they weren’t introduced until 1922 – and Unforgiven is set 41 years earlier.
The Fast and the Furious – Johnny Tran’s disappearing shirt
Back in 2001, no one could have predicted that the relatively small-scale car-racing thriller The Fast and the Furious would be the launchpad for a multi-billion dollar blockbuster franchise. Indeed, things got so fast and so furious in the first movie that a blatant costume error sped by without anyone noticing. Towards the end of the movie, bad guy Johnny Tran (Rick Yune) pulls up for a race wearing a black shirt – yet when the camera cuts back to him a fraction of a second later, he’s just in a vest. Okay, we get it, he’s all buff and they wanted to show off his shoulders, but still, does no one care about continuity?
Kelly’s Heroes – Oddball is a hippy in World War II
There’s a pretty standard look for soldier, particularly back in the days of World War II: clean-shaven and short-haired was the rule. However, on top of having a full beard and comparatively long hair, Donald Sutherland’s Kelly’s Heroes character Oddball is also notable for his very 60s-style turn-of-phrase, most notably his repeated complaint about people putting out “negative waves.” It seems no one was too concerned about the film being taken too seriously.
Gerald’s Game – Jessie was naked in the book
Stephen King’s 1992 novel Gerald’s Game had long been considered impossible to turn into a movie, until director Mike Flanagan proved everyone wrong with his 2017 adaptation. However, Flanagan made at least one significant change to his the tale of wife Jessie (Carla Gugino) left handcuffed to a bed following her husband’s untimely death: in the movie, Jessie is given a nightie, whilst in King’s original novel she was completely nude for the duration.