13 movie mistakes that made their films better

·9 min read

Films are complex beasts with so many moving parts that mistakes are unavoidable. Even the blockbusters with the biggest budgets and most sets of eyes on them routinely make it to cinemas with a few errors, especially when it comes to continuity.

From fluffed lines to errant extras, numerous mistakes have to be corrected on set (or, increasingly, in the editing suite) but occasionally they can bring a new and welcome quality to a scene.

Here we look at some of the unplanned and unwanted events that directors decided to keep in the final cut.

The 40 best film soundtracks

40. High Fidelity (2000): Before Garden State and 500 Days of Summer, the team behind the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel compiled 15 tracks like a mixtape. It was one its lead character would have approved of: as with many of the soundtracks on this list, High Fidelity’s success lies in a balance between old-school gems by the Velvet Underground, The Kinks and Elvis Costello to Noughties newcomers like Stereolab and Royal Trux. (Touchstone/Kobal/Rex)
40. High Fidelity (2000): Before Garden State and 500 Days of Summer, the team behind the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel compiled 15 tracks like a mixtape. It was one its lead character would have approved of: as with many of the soundtracks on this list, High Fidelity’s success lies in a balance between old-school gems by the Velvet Underground, The Kinks and Elvis Costello to Noughties newcomers like Stereolab and Royal Trux. (Touchstone/Kobal/Rex)
39. Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights (2004): This may seem like sacrilege given that the first Dirty Dancing soundtrack is indisputably the more iconic of the two. And yes, the sequel (essentially a remake set in Cuba during the 1950s), starring Romola Garai and future Rogue One star Diego Luna, suffered from a plot loaded with clichés and lack of chemistry between its two lead actors. But the soundtrack – featuring the Grammy-nominated Latin fusion band Yerba Buena, Colombian rock band Aterciopelados, and the Cuban hip hop group Orishasis – is what draws me back to this guilty pleasure of a film. Dirty Dancing 2 didn’t really deserve such a soundtrack, but it adds some actual heat to a film that, asides from the superb dance routines, leaves you cold. (Rex)
39. Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights (2004): This may seem like sacrilege given that the first Dirty Dancing soundtrack is indisputably the more iconic of the two. And yes, the sequel (essentially a remake set in Cuba during the 1950s), starring Romola Garai and future Rogue One star Diego Luna, suffered from a plot loaded with clichés and lack of chemistry between its two lead actors. But the soundtrack – featuring the Grammy-nominated Latin fusion band Yerba Buena, Colombian rock band Aterciopelados, and the Cuban hip hop group Orishasis – is what draws me back to this guilty pleasure of a film. Dirty Dancing 2 didn’t really deserve such a soundtrack, but it adds some actual heat to a film that, asides from the superb dance routines, leaves you cold. (Rex)
38. Goodfellas (1990): Martin Scorsese had strict rules for the soundtrack to his film Goodfellas: each song had to have been around during the time in which the scene was set, and the tracks had to make some kind of comment on the scene or character in question “in an oblique way”. A staggering 48 songs are heard during the film, including classics by Dean Martin, Fred Astaire and The Drifters, Sid Vicious, The Who and The Rolling Stones. One of the most unforgettable moments is when Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” plays as the Wise Guys cook dinner, which was “always a big thing” in prison. (2012 Getty Images)
38. Goodfellas (1990): Martin Scorsese had strict rules for the soundtrack to his film Goodfellas: each song had to have been around during the time in which the scene was set, and the tracks had to make some kind of comment on the scene or character in question “in an oblique way”. A staggering 48 songs are heard during the film, including classics by Dean Martin, Fred Astaire and The Drifters, Sid Vicious, The Who and The Rolling Stones. One of the most unforgettable moments is when Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” plays as the Wise Guys cook dinner, which was “always a big thing” in prison. (2012 Getty Images)
37. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010): When it comes to soundtracking your movie, it helps if the director is a massive music nerd. Of course, music was always going to play a huge part in a film about a boy in a band and his video game quest to win the girl of his dreams. But Edgar Wright, a former music video director, found a way to seamlessly integrate his soundtrack into Scott Pilgrim vs the World’s narrative. Beck, who wrote the music for Scott Pilgrim’s garage band Sex Bob-omb, was a perfect match for their chaotic, DIY approach, while Metric’s song “Black Sheep” was used for a performance by ex-girlfriend Envy Adams’s (Brie Larson) band The Clash at Demonhead. (UNIVERSAL PICTURES)
37. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010): When it comes to soundtracking your movie, it helps if the director is a massive music nerd. Of course, music was always going to play a huge part in a film about a boy in a band and his video game quest to win the girl of his dreams. But Edgar Wright, a former music video director, found a way to seamlessly integrate his soundtrack into Scott Pilgrim vs the World’s narrative. Beck, who wrote the music for Scott Pilgrim’s garage band Sex Bob-omb, was a perfect match for their chaotic, DIY approach, while Metric’s song “Black Sheep” was used for a performance by ex-girlfriend Envy Adams’s (Brie Larson) band The Clash at Demonhead. (UNIVERSAL PICTURES)
36. Drive (2011): Drive wouldn’t have worked as well as it did without the soundtrack. Steven Soderbergh's go-to composer Cliff Martinez assembled the songs for Nicolas Winding Refn’s ambitious indie project, showing an understanding that the most effective soundtracks are often the ones that transport you into the movie without you realising. By using a set of mostly female vocalists, all of whom sing over dry electronic beats, Martinez achieved a sonic portrayal of Drive’s startling juxtaposition between beauty and violence. (Picselect )
36. Drive (2011): Drive wouldn’t have worked as well as it did without the soundtrack. Steven Soderbergh's go-to composer Cliff Martinez assembled the songs for Nicolas Winding Refn’s ambitious indie project, showing an understanding that the most effective soundtracks are often the ones that transport you into the movie without you realising. By using a set of mostly female vocalists, all of whom sing over dry electronic beats, Martinez achieved a sonic portrayal of Drive’s startling juxtaposition between beauty and violence. (Picselect )
35. The Bodyguard (1992): It’s the biggest movie soundtrack of all time and the 15th best-selling album in the US. Whitney Houston breathed new life into songs by Dolly Parton (“I Will Always Love You”) and Chaka Khan (“I’m Every Woman”). Five of the songs performed by Houston were hits:
35. The Bodyguard (1992): It’s the biggest movie soundtrack of all time and the 15th best-selling album in the US. Whitney Houston breathed new life into songs by Dolly Parton (“I Will Always Love You”) and Chaka Khan (“I’m Every Woman”). Five of the songs performed by Houston were hits:
34. Magical Mystery Tour (1976): Yes, it was the Fab Four's worst film, but the soundtrack is packed with some of their best songs: “I am the Walrus”,
34. Magical Mystery Tour (1976): Yes, it was the Fab Four's worst film, but the soundtrack is packed with some of their best songs: “I am the Walrus”,
33. Belly (1998): Few films offer as comprehensive a look at hip-hop stars during the heights of their creative powers – even though the movie itself was a clumsily written crime drama. Belly’s soundtrack captured the East Coast rap scene as it stepped towards a grittier sound and underwent one of the most important transitions for any genre in music history – with contributions from the likes of D’Angelo, members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and Jay-Z. (Artisan Entertainment/YouTube)
33. Belly (1998): Few films offer as comprehensive a look at hip-hop stars during the heights of their creative powers – even though the movie itself was a clumsily written crime drama. Belly’s soundtrack captured the East Coast rap scene as it stepped towards a grittier sound and underwent one of the most important transitions for any genre in music history – with contributions from the likes of D’Angelo, members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and Jay-Z. (Artisan Entertainment/YouTube)
32. Donnie Darko (2001): At the time, it felt like Richard Kelly’s dark and gloomy film starring a young Jake Gyllenhaal was one of the few to truly capture what it meant to be a confused, alienated teenager. With composer Michael Andrews, Kelly picked some the best songs from an era that dealt in existential angst via upbeat synth-pop: Echo and the Bunnymen, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Pet Shop Boys and more. By choosing to close the film on Michael Andrews’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World”, Kelly underpins both the self-absorbed attitude of teenagers convinced that only the artists singing these songs truly understood them, and the nostalgia felt by their parents who were there in the moment. (Rex Features)
32. Donnie Darko (2001): At the time, it felt like Richard Kelly’s dark and gloomy film starring a young Jake Gyllenhaal was one of the few to truly capture what it meant to be a confused, alienated teenager. With composer Michael Andrews, Kelly picked some the best songs from an era that dealt in existential angst via upbeat synth-pop: Echo and the Bunnymen, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Pet Shop Boys and more. By choosing to close the film on Michael Andrews’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World”, Kelly underpins both the self-absorbed attitude of teenagers convinced that only the artists singing these songs truly understood them, and the nostalgia felt by their parents who were there in the moment. (Rex Features)
31. Midnight Cowboy (1969): Midnight Cowboy – the first X-rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture – took original material and pre-existing songs to complement the theme of a naïve cowboy/wannabe sex worker trying to survive in a big city, and the juxtaposition between Jon Voight’s character Joe Buck and dying con artist “Ratso” (Dustin Hoffman). Fred Neil's song “Everybody's Talkin'”, which underscores the first act, won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male (for Harry Nilsson). (Rex Features)
31. Midnight Cowboy (1969): Midnight Cowboy – the first X-rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture – took original material and pre-existing songs to complement the theme of a naïve cowboy/wannabe sex worker trying to survive in a big city, and the juxtaposition between Jon Voight’s character Joe Buck and dying con artist “Ratso” (Dustin Hoffman). Fred Neil's song “Everybody's Talkin'”, which underscores the first act, won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male (for Harry Nilsson). (Rex Features)
30. Lost Highway (1997): Trent Reznor’s work on David Lynch’s 1997 neo-noir movie is loaded with stark electronics and instrumentals by Angelo Badalamenti. In between, you have Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and, of course, This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren” – a track that caught Lynch’s attention and inspired him to co-write two albums for Twin Peaks chanteuse Julee Cruise. (Rex)
30. Lost Highway (1997): Trent Reznor’s work on David Lynch’s 1997 neo-noir movie is loaded with stark electronics and instrumentals by Angelo Badalamenti. In between, you have Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and, of course, This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren” – a track that caught Lynch’s attention and inspired him to co-write two albums for Twin Peaks chanteuse Julee Cruise. (Rex)

“I’m walkin’ here!” – Midnight Cowboy ’s taxi cab was a real one and nearly ran Dustin Hoffman over

One of cinema’s most iconic lines was the result of an accident on set. Midnight Cowboy didn’t have a permit to close down a busy New York City street for Jon Voight and Hoffman’s long walk down the sidewalk, so they tried to shoot it “on the fly” using hidden cameras stationed in a van across the street.

After 15 takes, they finally had one going that wasn’t upset by pedestrians or other real world elements, but then a taxi ran a red light, very nearly knocking Hoffman and Voight down as they crossed the street.

“I guess the brain works so quickly,” Hoffman recalled to Vanity Fair, “It said, in a split of a second, ‘Don’t go out of character.’” Thus Hoffman managed to get out the now iconic words “I’m walkin’ here,” when what he meant was “we’re shooting here”. Seeing how Hoffman handled the near collision, Voight managed not to break character too. “[Director John] Schlesinger started laughing,” Hoffman continued. “He clapped his hands and said, ‘We must have that, we must have that,’ and re-did it two or three times, because he loved it.”

Leonardo DiCaprio actually sliced his hand open during Django Unchained's tense dinner scene

There are countless examples of actors’ unfortunate injuries making it into the final cut (Apocalypse Now, Foxcatcher, The Godfather, Nightcrawler, The Lord of the Rings...) but this one really added to the menace of its scene.

A masterful exchange – vintage Tarantino – sees a cordial dinner turn sour as DiCaprio’s villain Calvin Candie slowly lets on that he knows the true reason for Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr Schultz’s (Christoph Waltz) visit to his plantation.

Frustrated by his guests’ denials, Candie begins banging the dinner table. “Leo had slammed his hand on the table countless times and he moved his hand further and crushed a crystal glass,” Django producer Stacey Sher told Variety. “Blood was dripping down his hand. He never broke character. He kept going. He was in such a zone. It was very intense. He required stitches.”

“My hand started really pouring blood all over the table,” DiCaprio recalled in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. He was fascinated to see how his scene partners and director would react, and Tarantino was only too happy to roll with it.DiCaprio suggested his character might then smear the blood on Kerry Washington’s character’s face, so Tarantino quickly had some fake blood mixed up for the next shot. DiCaprio received a standing ovation from the crew once the cameras stopped rolling. Both bandaged and non-bandaged versions of scenes were shot for the remainder of the movie, so Tarantino that had options. “I’m glad Quentin kept it in,” DiCaprio said.

James Bond wasn’t supposed to stride magnificently from the ocean

In the original scripted version of Casino Royale‘s now infamous beach sequence, Bond was down to merely observe the villain’s wife Solange while floating in the sea.

“It was actually by accident,” he told The Telegraph of his saunter in a Speedo. “Where we filmed, off the Bahamas, it’s just one of those places where there is a sand shelf and the sand shelf happens to be three feet deep. Because the idea was, I was supposed to swim in and sort of float off, but I swim in and stand up. And it was just one of those things.”

He realised too late that the new version of the scene would be compared to Ursula Andress’ famous exit from the sea in the first James Bond film, Dr No.

“It was going through my mind... as I did it, I went, ‘Oh f***.’ But I didn’t realise the repercussions of it,” Craig continued, adding with a trademark sense of discomfort about his own fame: “I had no idea I would be haunted by it for the rest of my life.”

Rain Man‘s “uh oh, fart” scene was indeed a case of spontaneous flatulence

Hoffman has a history of turning mistakes into improvisational scene stealers. Durian an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1984, he and co-star Tom Cruise confessed that the “farting in the phone booth” moment in Rain Man only happened because Hoffman actually broke wind.

“Uh oh fart, uh oh fart” Hoffman’s Raymond Babbitt kept repeating. When Cruise improvised as his brother Charlie, asking “How can you stand that?” Hoffman, hilariously replied: “I don’t mind it.” Hoffman told Oprah it was his favourite scene ever.

The Usual Suspects had a similar wind problem

The police line-up scene, in which members of the gang step forward in turn and say the line: “Hand me the keys, you f**king c**ksucker,” was originally intended to be a serious one.

The cast were in a giggly mood however, and kept giving more and more theatrical and over-the-top performances of the line. Mature adults that they were, this atmosphere was created after, at least according to actor Kevin Pollak, Benicio del Toro “farted, like 12 takes in a row.”

Director Bryan Singer was initially angry with the actors, but their humorous takes went in – the line-up ending up one of the film’s more memorable scenes.

A Clockwork Orange‘s “Ludovico Technique” proved a little too real

Stanley Kubrick was known for pushing his actors to extremes, and Malcolm McDowell came off perhaps worst of his collaborators, presumably the only actor who can say he scratched his corneas for a film role.

In one of A Clockwork Orange’s most disturbing scenes, poor old droog Alex has his eyes forced open while violent and sexual footage is screened, backed by “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

McDowell’s eyes were anaesthetised in order to minimise discomfort, but his corneas were repeatedly scratched and he was fortunate lasting damage wasn’t done to his vision. Unsurprisingly, a second attempt at the shot wasn’t made, and the take with the injury went in.

Ben Stiller made a joke about air-headed models in Zoolander by being air-headed himself

In a crucial moment in Zoolander, David Duchovny’s JP Prewett reveals to Derek Zoolander the plot to use male models as assassins.

“So why male models?” Derek asks him, to which JP says they are perfect for the role as they “don’t think for themselves and do as they’re told.”

When he later couldn’t remember his next line, Stiller just repeated: “But why male models?” His fluffed line gifted Zoolander one of its best jokes.

DiCaprio’s Freudian slip in Titanic couldn’t have been more apt

When Rose (Kate Winslet) disrobes for Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), for a spot of life drawing, he directs her to pose on the chaise longue.

“Over on the couch,” was the line in the script, but DiCaprio said: “Over on the bed..uh, the couch.”

The Freudian slip made perfect sense, with a naked Rose standing in front of the wide-eyed boy and obvious chemistry between the pair (they would have a steamy sex scene soon after), and director James Cameron chose to leave the line in.

A Stormtrooper suffers an embarrassing head bump

Star Wars‘ Stormtroopers are pretty tragic figures. Nameless and faceless, they go about their henchman business thanklessly, and really ought to think about unionising.

When an actor playing one of them accidentally struck his head on a doorway in A New Hope, it created an unanticipated moment of pathos. Three perfectly good takes were also captured, but George Lucas went with the one with the head bump. In a 1997 remaster of the film, a comedic “bonk” sound effect was added to the moment, and as a homage to it in Attack of the Clones, Lucas had Jango Fett suffer a similar injury.

Star Lord drops a precious orb because Chris Pratt is just clumsy

In a more self-serious superhero movie, having the protagonist drop one of the most powerful artefacts in the universe would be cause for an instant cut.

But the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise takes a more light-hearted approach, and likes to play with the fact that Peter Quill is a bit of a goof who doesn’t comfortably go by the grandiose name of Star Lord.

As such, when Chris Pratt accidentally fumbled the Infinity Stone-housing Orb when presenting it to the Collector, it was a no-brainer for director James Gunn to keep the comedic moment in.

Jamie Lee Curtis awkwardly took a fall during her True Lies striptease

True Lies’s Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) isn’t used to posing as a femme fatale spy, so when she has to seduce a mystery man by performing a lingerie striptease (it was the 90s) it felt in keeping with the character that she slip on a bedpost and tumble onto the hotel room floor.

She wasn’t supposed to though, which you can tell by a) the straight-faced manner in which the rest of the scene is shot and b) the mystery man – who was supposed to be icy and, well, mysterious – jumping out of his seat briefly when Lee Curtis falls.

In Being John Malkovich, the actor was pelted with a half-full beer because an extra snuck some onto set

Having a beer thrown at his head added insult to injury for the character, and was the result of some lax security on set.

“That was not in our script at all,” director Spike Jonze said of the moment in a DVD commentary. “We had some extras that had snuck some beer onto set, and it had gotten pretty lit.

“Fortunately it wasn’t the driver, just the passenger, and he throws the can at Malkovich and has the famous line “Hey Malkovich, think fast!”. He now has his SAG [Screen Actors Guild] card because of it and we had to bump his pay from about $100 to $700 a day – he has Mr Malkovich’s reaction to thank for that.”

When Count Olaf asks the children for a line prompt in A Series of Unfortunate Events, he was actually talking to the crew

“Wait, let me do that one more time,” Jim Carrey says, clearly glancing behind the camera – possibly at an assistant director or script supervisor. “Quickly, while it’s fresh in my mind.”

Carrey stayed in character however, the cameras kept rolling, and his eye line was close enough to Klaus’s that director Brad Silberling was able to use the moment, as during the scene Olaf had been trying to show off his acting skills to the children.