When you’re making a movie, your goal is to keep the audience excited and engaged, and sometimes, that means playing fast and loose with the rules of reality. Sure, Batman couldn’t really grapple up the side of a building without tearing his arms out of their sockets, but it looks cool—and that’s what counts.
Sometimes, however, “movie magic” becomes too big to ignore. Whether they’re the result of cut scenes, dramatic choices, or bad writing, plot holes can strain credibility and change the way we view our favorite films. When that happens, it’s our job as internet writers to complain about them. Relentlessly.
1. A Quiet Place
In A Quiet Place, John Krasinski (better known as Jim from The Office by every human being with a television) tries to keep his family alive after an alien invasion. The aliens are attracted to sound, but they’re totally blind, and they’re incredibly strong…unless they need to rip through a car, at which point they’re much, much weaker for no discernible reason.
This film is full of questionable plot points—the creatures are attracted to sound, but a family of humans, who (we assume) fart and sneeze regularly, has no problem avoiding them for a year. The bigger issue, however, is that the family covers their farm with sand to prevent footsteps from drawing alien attention. Our problem: They would need tons of sand. Where did they get it? Did they happen upon the estate of an incredibly eccentric farmer?
2. Batman Begins
Batman Begins, also called No, Not The Dark Knight, The One Before That, was a solid effort from director Christopher Nolan. In the film, the villainous Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) threatens Gotham City with an airborne chemical that induces extreme fear. He introduces the chemical to the city’s water supply, and later, the especially villainous Ra’s al Ghul threatens to vaporize all of that water with a powerful microwave emitter, releasing the chemical and causing mass hysteria.
Of course, the human body is mostly water. That microwave emitter would’ve killed all of Gotham City, rendering the villains’ plan (and Batman’s heroic efforts) useless. Besides, if Ra’s had access to an ultra-powerful microwave emitter, why not just use that to accomplish his dastardly goals? He really should have thought things through. No wonder The Dark Knight is the one we remember.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Toward the end of the film, Harry figures out that the evil Peter Pettigrew has been living with Ron Weasley for years. Pettigrew can transform into a rat, so he’s been spying on Harry as Ron’s pet, Scabbers. By extension, that means that he’s been eating tons of little food pellets under false pretenses.
But Ron’s brothers, Fred and George, have access to the Marauder’s Map, which magically shows the location of every person in Hogwarts. Why didn’t they notice Ron sleeping in a bed with Peter Pettigrew every night? “Maybe it’s a boo in the family that no one talks of,” suggested Oliver Phelps, who played George Weasely. “Maybe it was an unspoken word in the Weasley family.”
Sandra Bullock plays a medical engineer on her first trip to space. A catastrophic debris storm destroys her ship, leaving her struggling for survival with help from a seasoned astronaut (George Clooney). While trying to connect with the International Space Station, Bullock and Clooney get tangled in a parachute.
Clooney selflessly unclips his connection to Bullock, saving her life, but dooming himself in the process. It was the only way to allow her to reach the space station…unless he’d just tugged the tether. Remember, they’re in low gravity, so a light tug would send him moving back towards the space station. Hey, why would the filmmakers know that? It’s not like the movie’s called Gravity or something.
5. Independence Day
For most of the alien-invasion classic Independence Day, the aliens seem unstoppable. They have numerous technological and biological advantages over humans, but humans have grit, gosh darn it. Toward the end of the film, computer expert David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) figures out how to disable the aliens’ defenses by uploading a computer virus to their mothership…with his Mac.
How did the Apple computer connect to the mothership? WiFi? And were the aliens running Mac OS? It makes no sense—but it did in the original script. A cut scene showed Levinson accessing the old alien spaceship and figuring out their computer systems. Granted, that’s still far fetched, but it’s not quite as silly as what made it to the screen.
6. Die Hard 2
Two years after the events of the original Die Hard, police officer John McClane foils another far-reaching criminal plot while waiting for his flight at Washington Dulles International Airport. Terrorists take over the airport and shut down the control tower to prevent any planes from landing. The planes don’t have enough fuel to get to another airport, so they circle, waiting for McClane to come through.
Of course, they could have, you know, landed anyway. There’s more than one airport in the Washington D.C. area, and traveling to any of them would have required less fuel than what the planes spent by circling the airport for two hours. Also, while the criminals shut down the airport’s communications, the FAA is prepared for that—any Flight Service station transmitter in the area could have landed those planes safely.
7. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark breaks credibility with its first scene. Archaeologist Indiana Jones (played by Han Solo) enters a Peruvian temple, grabs a golden idol, and escapes as the temple comes crashing down around him. The scene shows Jones as a daring adventurer, but it also makes him out to be a terrible archaeologist.
The bigger plot hole: At the end of the film, the bad guys get the Ark of the Covenant and open it. It destroys everyone but Jones and his fellow adventurer, Marion, since they close their eyes at the moment of truth. That means that if Jones had done nothing at all, the villains would have received their comeuppance anyway—nothing Jones did in the movie mattered.
8. The Shawshank Redemption
At the end of The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) escapes from his wrongful imprisonment by slowly tunneling out of prison over the course of 19 years. He digs a hole to the prison’s sewer system by night and scatters the broken rocks in the prison yard by day, hiding his progress with progressively larger pin-up posters. It’s the perfect escape.
The guards only discover Dufresne’s plot when the warden angrily throws a rock, which goes through the poster hiding the hole. It’s dramatic, but how did Dufresne re-hang the poster after leaving the room? The rock makes a perfect hole; if the poster was only attached at the top, the entire poster would move into the wall.
9. The Karate Kid
At the end of the film, Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio, better known as “that one guy who was in Karate Kid”) takes on the vicious Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka, better known as “that other kid from Karate Kid”), a practitioner of the evil Cobra Kai martial arts. The competition’s rules are clear: No kicks to the face.
LaRusso wins by kicking Lawrence in the face. Seriously. It’s the one rule that the referee keeps repeating, and the hero of the movie breaks it (along with Lawrence’s nose, probably). All of Mr. Miyagi’s lessons on humility and respect go out the window, and LaRusso wins by cheating. That’s a great message for a kids’ flick.
10. Toy Story
The premise of the original Toy Story is that toys come to life when humans leave them alone, and somehow, it’s not a horror movie. The plot centers around Woody (Tom Hanks), who feels jealous when his human owner gets a new toy, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Lightyear doesn’t realize that he’s a toy until a mid-movie existential crisis.
So, if he doesn’t think he’s a toy, why does Buzz freeze up when humans come into the room? It’s clearly not some magical instinct—later, Sid’s toys join together to punish him for his sadistic ways, so toys can absolutely interact with the real world whenever they want. Toy psychology is apparently complicated.
11. Star Wars
In the second film of the original Star Wars trilogy, we learn that the evil Darth Vader is actually Luke’s father, and in the prequel trilogy, we learn about Vader’s past life as the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. At the end of the prequels, Vader fulfills his destiny, and Obi-Wan Kenobi hides his children from him.
To hide Luke, Kenobi takes him to Tatooine…where he goes by the name Luke Skywalker. The Empire didn’t need to search the galaxy for the gifted youth—they could have simply opened a phone book (assuming that they had phone books a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away). Of course, Vader thought that his kids had died during childbirth, but he should have felt their presence, since, you know, the Force. Maybe he was too busy daydreaming about pod races.
As we’ve learned from this list, alien movies tend to have plot holes. M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs is a particularly egregious example. At the end of the movie, former priest Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) regains his faith during an alien invasion when he suddenly realizes that his late wife’s last words, “Swing away,” were intended to tell him to hit aliens with a baseball bat and douse them in water. It’s weird.
The water destroys the aliens, and around the world, people realize that they’ve got a secret weapon to defeat the invasion. The issue: Why would aliens land on a planet that’s 71 percent water? They could go to any other planet in our solar system, mine it for resources, and move on. There’s no reason to visit a place that’s made almost entirely of the most dangerous substance known to alienkind.
13. Back to the Future
Far be it from us to throw shade at this Michael J. Fox classic. But we’re dealing with a time travel movie, here, and we’d be remiss not to point out the difficulties that arise when you start messing with the time stream.
When Marty McFly meets his young mother, back in 1955, they have quite a lot of contact. She develops a crush on him. He plays “Johnny B. Goode,” paradoxically giving Chuck Berry his own inspiration. He even brings his folks together. You’d think they’d recognize their old friend when, in the film’s present, he emerges from their growing son.
14. Edward Scissorhands
Life ain’t easy for a boy with scissorhands. Until the events of the film, Edward (Johnny Depp) spends his life in solitude, carving ice sculptures to pass the day. He’s quite the artist, too. His sculptures are huge, life-sized depictions of kids at play and birds at the bath.
That’d take a lot of ice. So where did this isolated guy who’s unable to touch or pick anything up get those huge frozen blocks? He doesn’t have a friend who can go down to the local ice depot and pick them up for him, and he can’t handle ice trays.
15. The Shape of Water
We accept the premise of a romance between a Black Lagoon-esque fishman and a nonverbal cleaning woman, sure. That part checks out. But we do have one quibble with the design of the secret evil government base in which the fishman is imprisoned.
Specifically, we have a problem with the security cameras. It makes sense that there’d be security cameras, but why put them everywhere except in the room where you hide your most valuable asset? A camera in the fishman-prison room would have squashed the whole budding romance, because no evil government agent is going to stand idly by while the help shares eggs with a violent creature.
16. The Matrix
Look, when you’re dealing with multiple realities, you’re going to run into some plot holes. Let’s all take the red pill and look at the reality of what went wrong in The Matrix. Remember Cypher’s betrayal? Played by Joe Pantoliano, Cypher backstabbed all of Zion just for a chance to live out his dreams in an illusory virtual world. Wait a second, though.
In order to enter the Matrix, hovercraft operatives have to have an assistant in the real world to handle the whole plugging/unplugging operation and guide them to nearby exit points. So how exactly was Cypher supposed to sneak into the Matrix solo for his meeting with Agent Smith?
17. Ghostbusters 2
Say you live in Manhattan in 1984. You’re minding your own business when all of a sudden the streets are flooded with ghostly figures and a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It’d be hard to stick to your skepticism about the existence of the paranormal, right?
Not if Ghostbusters 2 is to be believed. City residents still think the Ghostbusters are a bunch of quacks, and no one seems to believe in ghosts, at least until they all come together to beat Vigo the Carpathian with good vibes and great oldies. Or, as Bobby Brown puts it, “Talk about Vigo, the master of evil. Mess with my boys? That ain’t legal.”
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus attempts to tell the origins of the aliens from Alien, because if there’s one thing that audiences care about, it’s what villainous monsters looked like as babies. The film is set in 2089; a team of archaeologists travels to a distant moon, where they discover an artificial oxygen atmosphere.
The scientists immediately take off their helmets, since the air is breathable. No scientist would ever do that—there could be pathogens, or exotic molds, or any number of other dangerous things in the air. They clearly remove their helmets so the audience can see their beautiful faces, but it makes no sense from a logical perspective.
19. Jurassic Park
To enjoy Jurassic Park, you have to suspend your disbelief. Set aside the fact that dinosaur DNA couldn’t survive intact in the body of an ancient mosquito; forget that most of the dinosaurs that occupy Jurassic Park are actually from the Cretaceous period. We’ve got a T-rex-sized bone to pick with a major scene.
Remember when the heroes are surrounded, indoors, by a closing circle of velociraptors? A T-rex saves them, swooping in at the last moment to eat the smaller animals. Well, that gigantic T-rex really comes out of nowhere; how did it manage to hide, or even get into the building in the first place?
20. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Gandalf (Ian McKellen) has all the coolest friends. His overactive social life turns out to be a huge advantage when, imprisoned on the roof of Orthanc Tower—instead of in, say, a dungeon, or something—a gigantic eagle named Gwaihir comes to save him. (Future bad guys of the world, this is why we don’t use open-air prisons.)
Gandalf’s easy access to giant eagles begs the question: How come he didn’t just call in a favor with the Eagle Folk, and have them carry the Ringbearer all the way to Mount Doom? Flying would certainly have been easier than three movies’ worth of violence and slog. Faster, too.
21. Superman: Man of Steel
Superman (Henry Cavill) is impervious to, well, just about everything—at least while he’s on Earth. And notice how you rarely see him sporting a beard in the comics. For some reason, 2013’s entry into the Superman mythos strays from the clean-shaven path, depicting Supe in multiple states of hirsuteness.
So how is this guy shaving? Presumably, his hair is as powerful as everything else on his body; we have yet to see him emerge from a burning building looking more like a classic Lex Luthor up top. We can only assume he’s signed up for some super-deluxe version of Harry’s Shaving Club, which includes a monthly shipment of kryptonite razor blades.
At the beginning of the flick, inventor Randall Peltzer visits an antique store and buys a mogwai, an adorable little creature that’s clearly capable of advanced thought but shows a limited grasp of human speech (in Gremlins, nobody finds this especially interesting). There are three rules to keeping a mogwai: Don’t expose it to bright lights, don’t let it come into contact with water, and don’t feed it after midnight.
The last rule is the annoying one. Every time is technically “after midnight.” Maybe it’s supposed to be, “don’t feed it between midnight and dawn,” but if that’s the case, then say that. Don’t just assume that the dumb inventor will figure it out (because clearly, he doesn’t). Also, come on, mogwais are intelligent creatures. Don’t keep them as pets. Get a Furby.
The 2004 holiday classic stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human raised as an elf at the North Pole. He re-enters the human world around Christmastime, and hijinks ensue. Part of the appeal of the movie is Buddy’s earnest belief in Christmas, contrasted with the jaded skepticism of the other adults—they don’t believe in Santa, and they certainly don’t believe in elves.
That’s a problem, because Santa’s sleigh runs on Christmas spirit, and nobody has it anymore. But wait a second. Santa has been traveling around the world delivering presents for centuries… where do non-believing parents think the presents have been coming from? Are they blown away every year when presents show up under their tree?
24. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Time travel movies have a way of breeding plot holes, and the Terminator franchise is no different. Take the mechanism of time travel, for instance. The first film establishes that only living tissue can generate the electrical field necessary to successfully travel through time.
Then there’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. In order to destroy the good Terminator (Governor Schwarzenegger), Skynet sends back an “advanced prototype,” the T-1000, which is pure liquid metal. So apparently the only materials that can travel through time are living tissue and mimetic polyalloy. That’s a pretty big stretch just to explain why time travelers don’t wear clothes.
So, what have we learned here?
If you’re going to write a film, you’re going to have to trust your audience to give you some leeway. While we’ve had fun picking them apart, many of the films on this list are all-time classics. Great films can still have plot holes, and films with airtight logic aren’t always enjoyable (we’re looking at you, Battlefield Earth). Look closely at any masterpiece, and you’ll find plenty of world-breaking mistakes.
So i watched The Dark Knight. Again! And a humongous surge of spiritual goosebumps still hit me. Who cares about plot holes when they've tapped you on spiritual levels?
— Prabanjan (@XtremeSociopath) August 24, 2019
The best movies move so effortlessly that audiences ignore the plot holes entirely. We’re swept up in the magic of the moment, so we don’t think too hard about any of the minor inconsistencies—at least until the credits roll.