8 Obvious Movie "Mistakes" That Were Actually on Purpose
Learn the secret purpose behind some shockingly intentional big-screen snafus.
Few things can pull you from the suspended disbelief of movie-viewing quite like catching a mistake. But while unintentional bloopers can and do happen, not every gaffe is the result of oversight. Some so-called "errors" spotted by viewers have been proven to be purposeful choices. Keep reading to discover eight films containing what many thought were mistakes but were choices left in the final edit for very intentional reasons.
The cardboard cutout, Dracula (1931)
Fans of the 1931 version of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi have long been unable to unsee one odd detail: When Dracula first enters Mina's (Helen Chandler) room, a large piece of ragged cardboard is attached to a lampshade in the foreground. This cardboard feature reappears later on the righthand bedside table lamp.
Some have speculated that this odd piece of set dressing was an oversight meant to control glare on the camera lens, but according to Dracula: Dead and Loving It screenwriter and film historian Steve Haberman's commentary for the classic film's DVD release, this was a purposeful addition, meant to reflect an allegedly common practice of shielding a patient's eyes from light while allowing health professionals to work in the room. A fan post on a message board points out that the presence of similar sickroom lamp shields in 1932's Faithless, 1937's Nancy Steele Is Missing!, and 1952's Full House support this assertion.
Marion's bra strap, Psycho (1998)
Gus Van Sant told Entertainment Weekly (via SlashFilm) that when he pitched the idea of a meticulous, scene-by-scene reshoot of the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho, he said that the idea was simply to take "a really good movie and not change anything." So it's perhaps no surprise that what appears to be a gaffe where Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn) kills Marion Crane (Anne Heche) and wraps her body in a plastic shower curtain only to have her white bra strap briefly visible through the curtain is actually a deliberate homage by the filmmaker.
In the 1960 version, there's a similar quick glimpse of Marion's bra-wearing corpse, despite the fact that she would certainly have been wearing nothing when she was stabbed in the shower. So what seemed to be a mistake that slipped through was actually another nod to the source material.
Clumsy Jango Fett, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
A blink-and-miss-it "mistake" in the second prequel, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, is actually a clever easter egg for die-hard fans of the original Star Wars. A legitimate blooper in that 1977 classic sees one of the background stormtroopers bumping his head on a door frame in the Death Star. The 2002 movie, which reveals that the original batch of stormtroopers were clones of bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), mirrors this famous error as Jango boards his ship to escape the rainy planet Kamino. He bonks his head on the descending door and must duck under it, suggesting poor spatial awareness is a genetic trait.
Visible film crew, Grindhouse (2007)
In Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, part of the Grindhouse homage to exploitation double features, a set of mirrors behind Rose McGowan's go-go dancer character "accidentally" reveals members of the film crew. Planet Terror deliberately includes this and other purposeful "mistakes," as does its sister film Death Proof. The Quentin Tarantino-directed movie went to theaters with a "missing scene" title card to stand in for supposedly lost frames of film that were so racy, fictional projectionists had cut them out to take home, as reported by Vulture.
Modern footwear, Marie Antoinette (2006)
For a brief moment during the Marie Antoinette shopping spree scene set to "I Want Candy," a pair of anachronous pastel blue Converse shoes pops up next to more era-appropriate ones. This was no oversight, however—as director Sofia Coppola revealed in an interview with IGN, she chose to include the shot from an assortment of secondary footage her brother Roman Coppola had created for the scene. "He just shot a bunch of stuff and left that in for fun because he thought I would like it, and then when I was editing we decided to leave it in," she said.
Before chronicling the invention of the atomic bomb in Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan dramatized one of the greatest battles of World War II in 2017's Dunkirk. The production employed a historian to ensure the events depicted are historically accurate—but that doesn't mean no liberties were taken for the sake of clearer storytelling.
History buffs might take issue with the fact that the German planes in the battle sequences are adorned with yellow paint, something the Nazis didn't start doing until some weeks after the battle. But as Nolan told USA Today, the "mistake" actually makes it easier to tell the planes apart in the sequence. "In reality, the planes were not painted yellow until about a month after Dunkirk," the director said. "But it's a very useful color scheme for trying to distinguish two planes in the air. We need to tell the story in a clear way…and there are going to be things that we have done that are inaccurate, but they are done with eyes open and with respect for the real history."
Crew shoppers, Shazam! (2019)
This mistake wasn't purposely made, but the creative team managed to make the best of it. "Moviemaking is nothing but problem-solving," says Shazam! director David F. Samberg in a YouTube video about the movie based on the DC hero. He explains that he was so focused on the special effects required for a scene in which Shazam (Zachary Levi) is learning to fly in a mall that he didn't notice until it was too late that a group of crew members were still in the shot. There was no time to digitally remove them, so effects artists CGIed in some shopping bags and a mop to make them look like shoppers and a janitor.
Wonky CGI, The Flash (2023)
The opening sequence of the 2023 DC movie The Flash depicts the superhero (Ezra Miller) saving newborn babies from a collapsing hospital using some less-than-stellar special effects that had some viewers scratching their heads at the "PlayStation 2 CGI graphics" and even led one VFX artist who worked on the film to claim that irrational demands were placed on him and his colleagues by the studio.
But according to director Andy Muschietti, the "distorted" visuals were actually a creative choice intended to reflect what the Flash sees. "The idea, of course, is… we are in the perspective of the Flash. Everything is distorted in terms of lights and textures. We enter this 'waterworld' which is basically being in Barry's POV. It was part of the design so if it looks a little weird to you that was intended," the filmmaker told io9.
For more movie trivia sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.