Top 6: Plot Holes In Good Movies

Posted in Top 6 at 4:59 am by Sam

Plot holes are generally considered flaws in narrative fiction, and perhaps they are. But many great movies have plot holes in them. Ultimately, if a movie is great enough, logical inconsistencies don’t amount to much of anything. For Episode 46, our Top 6 list is about plot holes in good movies. Some of our picks are minor plot holes in great films; others are huge plot holes in good films. None of the plot holes on our lists hurt the stature of the films they’re in in the slightest.

What are your favorite movie plot holes?

As always, we recommend listening to the episode before reading further.

  1. Letters of Transit, in Casablanca (1942)
  2. Rosebud, in Citizen Kane (1941)
  3. Selective Memory Loss, in Memento (2000)
  4. Who Killed the Chauffeur?, in The Big Sleep (1946)
  5. Motives of the Villains, in Aliens (1986)
  6. Navigating the Fire Corridor, in The Rock (1996)
  1. Searching for Princess Alina, in Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989)
  2. Letters of Transit, in Casablanca (1942)
  3. Rosebud, in Citizen Kane (1941)
  4. Charming an Inanimate Object, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
  5. Selective Memory Loss, in Memento (2000)
  6. Trucks, in Die Another Day (2002)


  1. joem18b (231) said,

    August 14, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    Thoughts on plot holes:

    - Did the Martians forget to take their shots before invading Earth?

    - Is it a plot hole when Schwarzenegger leaps out of a passenger jet after it’s left the ground, and then scampers away?

    - In The Illusionist or The Prestige, can’t remember which, is it ever explained how the ghostly beings can just stroll into the theater?

    - If Linda Lovelace had the medical condition that she said she had in Deep Throat, what was breakfast like when she ate a bowl of All Bran and drank a cup of hot coffee?

    - In action movies, as a result of thousands of rounds being fired off by the bad guys at the hero, and several physical attacks on the bodily person of the hero by the bad guys, the hero ends up with a scratch on the forehead and a bullet wound in arm, leg, or side. But I’ve seen several action movies that end with the scratch and/or bullet wound missing, and the hero completely intact - a major plot hole.

    Anyway, in general, I don’t notice plot holes, but:

    1. Young Guns (1988) - Billy the Kid and his gang are completely surrounded, in a house. Bullets zinging in through every window. The house is on fire. No way out. Then the gang runs out and they all ride away on their horses.

    2. Godzilla (1998) - Changes size several times during the movie.

    3. Sweet Land (2005) - The young man and woman must harvest their crop by hand. One cuts ten stalks; the other ties them up with thread. Repeat. Repeat. Camera lifts, pans, lifts more, pans more, and we see acre upon impossible acre of rippling golden whatever it is. Momentary blackout and then, the couple is standing, all sweaty, looking a little tuckered, and the whole plain is cropped down to the nub. Whew! they say.

    4. The Lost Room (2006) - Innovative, challenging presentation of facts, but with many holes and questions in this miniseries. Then it turned out that I had brought home Disk 2 and we had only watched part 3 of 4 parts.

    5. The Matrix 3 (2003) - I couldn’t follow all that stuff with The Oracle and The Architect and Deus Ex Machina, but I’m mortally certain that there were all sorts of plot holes in there. You’d expect that, in The Matrix…

    6. The Conversation (1974) - I’ve never gone back to check this, but when I saw the movie in the theater, it seemed to me that the last time the tape was played, the intonation in the key sentence was altered, to change the meaning of the sentence - a total cheat.

    Also just to mention http://www.moviemistakes.com/, with 71,448 mistakes in 5,367 films. Plus, you can add your own. I looked up Shawshank, of course, it being ranked so highly and all. One plot hole listed plus all sorts of factual and continuity errors. Also checked out Master and Commander (53 mistakes) vs POTC (361 mistakes).

  2. Jeffrey (84) said,

    August 15, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Independenc Day: Somehow Earth’s technology is compatible with the alien’s when uploading the virus, considering the fact that we can’t get PCs and Macs to work together.
    Superman: Reversing the Earth spinning on its axis doesn’t actually turn back time.
    The Shawshank Redemption: How did Andy stick down the poster when he’s on the other side?
    King Kong (2005 version only): Why build a giant wall to protect yourself from Kong when he can climb over it?
    The Lord of the Rings: Why don’t they just fly on the back of the giant eagles?
    James Bond: A secret agent that tells everybody his identity.
    Superman 2: How did Clark walk all the way back to the Fortress Of Solitude in a few hours?
    The Game: What if he jumped off the other side of the building?
    Return of the Jedi: Why did they build an exact replica of the Death Star with exactly the same design flaw?

  3. Sam (405) said,

    August 15, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Maybe this is why I had trouble with this one. Maybe I’m too picky. I think I tend to forgive and excuse fiction wherever I can, simply because getting hung up on the details usually isn’t as fun as letting the ride happen. In any case, Jeffrey, I gotta take issue with half your list.

    Superman: Reversing the Earth spinning on its axis doesn’t
    actually turn back time.

    No, but if he turned back time so that it ran backwards for a bit, the Earth *would* reverse the direction of its spin, wouldn’t it? It’s fantasy science either way, how Superman wound time back, but I think you’ve got cause and effect reversed here.

    King Kong (2005 version only): Why build a giant wall to protect
    yourself from Kong when he can climb over it?

    They didn’t know he could climb over it until he got mad enough to try.

    The Lord of the Rings: Why don’t they just fly on the back of the
    giant eagles?

    Well they do, don’t they? In any case, who knows under what circumstances the eagles permit themselves to be used in that way.

    James Bond: A secret agent that tells everybody his identity.

    Kind of. But as famous as his introductory line is, he assumed aliases many times. Additionally, the name is sufficiently bland that, until the weaker movies made his name as famous within his world as in ours, there was no trouble using his real name anyway. If traced, his name would simply connect him with an uninteresting trade company called Universal Exports, M’s cover organization throughout the books and movies.

    Return of the Jedi: Why did they build an exact replica of the
    Death Star with exactly the same design flaw?

    It didn’t. The way to blow the thing up was different, and the real added defense was the shield generator on the Endor moon, which would have kept enemy ships from getting anywhere near it.

    You’ve got some good ones in that list, though. The Shawkshank Redemption one is great — I remember hearing that one before, but I didn’t think of it when compiling my list. The one for The Game is good and tragically reminiscent of a great many plot holes in many movies with traps or cons. Sometimes ambushes are set for people, whether goodguys or badguys, that depend entirely on knowing exactly which tree branch someone will choose to pause under to light a cigarette.

  4. Andy (13) said,

    August 16, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    The plot hole mentioned above in Independence Day is just mindboggling. I was actually thinking of this moment when listening to the “How to Use Computers” segment. Wow.

    Anyhow, one of my favorite plot holes in a movie that I other love is from Ocean’s 11. Immediately after watching it the first time I had a nagging feeling that something was off during the heist but it took 2 or 3 watches to figure it out entirely. Here’s the jist (mild spoilers included):

    Danny and Linus break into the vault and Yen is already inside. The rest of the crew eventually shows up as the SWAT team, but before they do, Benedict’s men are instructed to carry duffle bags that they believe contain lots of cash (but actually contain fliers) from the vault to the fake getaway van. Where did the bags and fliers come from?? Danny and Linus didn’t bring them into the vault….Yen certainly didn’t…. Luckily the movie moves quickly enough to miss this, but I was disappointed when I figured out that there was such a gaping hole in what was otherwise an entertaining heist.

  5. Andy (13) said,

    August 16, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    One more quick one. Unfortunately I don’t remember if this is from Caddyshack or Happy Gilmore.

    In one of these climaxes, there is a situation where sinking a putt would win the tournament, but missing would lose. Naturally, there must be a way to tie.

    I am shaky on this one because I haven’t seen either movie in a while, but I seem to remember this being a problem.

  6. Jeffrey (84) said,

    August 16, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Re: Happy Gilmore
    If he missed the final putt it would have been a tie and gone to a play off.

  7. Andy (13) said,

    August 16, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    You’re right, I was leaning towards Caddyshack.

    Although I think this may be addressed by Dangerfield altering the bet at the last second to be dependent on the putt going in or not.

    I need to watch the movie again. I just remember having a problem with it. Anyhow, it’s a comedy so plot holes shouldn’t be as much of a concern as they are in Ocean’s 11.

  8. wintermute (157) said,

    August 16, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Apparently, the commentary on the Ocean’s 11 DVD acknowledges that plot hole, admitting that there was no way to get the flyers into the vault.

  9. Jeffrey (84) said,

    August 17, 2007 at 10:30 am

    In Signs, why do the aliens come to invade a planet which has two thirds surface water and rains if water can seriously harm/kill them?

  10. K.T. Slager (55) said,

    August 17, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    … The bags of fliers were already there!

    Actually, that’s a good point. Hadn’t ever noticed that.

    And something that totally has nothing to do with what y’all are talking about, but I’m glad someone mentioned the movie Sweet Land just because the director is a former professor at my tiny arts college. Represent!

  11. joem18b (231) said,

    August 18, 2007 at 12:38 am

    If you see the director/former professor again, tell him he did good. By coincidence, we have a young German woman staying with us for a while. She’s back tomorrow from Yosemite. We’re anxious to get her take on Sweet Land.

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