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Out of Time: 10 Notable Movie Anachronisms

Don't know if you've seen Captain America: The First Avenger yet (and if you haven't, you're missing out on some quality pectoral action). If so, you may have noticed a little historical revisionism, namely the presence of African-American troops fighting alongside whites (also that closed-circuit TV cameras were already in widespread use by 1943).

While black troops have fought -- with distinction -- in every one of America's wars, they were segregated from white combat troops until Korea. Captain America is hardly alone in ignoring this, as just about every WWII movie made since 1970 has also done so (Spike Lee famously criticized Clint Eastwood for not depicting black soldiers in 2008's Flags of Our Fathers, though not entirely fairly). And while The First Avenger's depiction of African-American front-line troops is inaccurate, how does it stack up against some more (or less) egregious examples of movie anachronisms?

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Even a casual perusal of the IMDb "Goofs" sections will turn up dozens of anachronisms for many well-known films. Any movie purporting to depict a famous historical event, for example, will likely have several (Torx bolts on Medieval swords, or modern vocabulary and slang), and some are just so crammed full of them it's not even worth bothering trying to list them all (10,000 B.C., Pirates of the Caribbean, Clash of the Titans), while some use anachronism for humorous/stylistic effect (A Knight's Tale, Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Most can be forgiven, I think, if the film is enjoyable overall.

Having said that, here are a few I've personally found interesting. As always, your mileage may vary (oh, and though Braveheart isn't listed here, I'll follow up the header pic by pointing out the kilt wasn't introduced to Scotland until two centuries after the events depicted in the film).

Raiders of the Lost Ark -- He's an archaeologist, not a cartographer First of all, you'll get me to refer to this movie as "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" when you get me to acknowledge Greedo shot first. Second, the nifty effect used when Indy is flying to Nepal and Egypt depicts borders and countries as they'd be found on a 1981 map, not a 1936 one: Thailand at the time was "Siam," while Jordan was "Transjordan," for example.

Don't get too attached to those glasses, Moe.
Don't get too attached to those glasses, Moe.

The Godfather -- Eisenhower Era Hippies

In what director Francis Ford Coppola referred to as sloppy unit work, some longhaired hippie types can be seen in the background as Michael exits his car on his visit to Las Vegas to see Fredo. Even allowing for Sin City's libidinous ways, such hair and dress likely would've prompted the LVPD to break out the truncheons back in the '50s.

Naturally, I can find no clips or pictures to support this. Trust me, it's there.

Kelly's Heroes -- Oddball

Like most WWII movies of its era, this bank heist film starring Clint Eastwood plays pretty fast and loose with the facts. Most of the time, they're only apparent to military history nerds who like to point out that Gutowski most likely wouldn't have been able to find ammo for his Mosin-Nagant 91/30, as if anyone cares. However, the bearded Oddball (Donald Sutherland), who constantly accuses those around him of spreading "negative waves," predates the Beat movement by about ten years.

 

"Let's do some good."
"Let's do some good."

The Untouchables -- D'oh, Canada

Some things are just eternal (or close enough for our purposes): the light of the sun, the tides, America's moral supremacy over the rest of the world. Others just seem like they've been around forever: Ke$ha, Jay Leno and Canada's maple leaf flag. L'Unifolié, the 11-pointed maple leaf, has only been their official symbol since 1965, some 35 years after the events portrayed in the film.

The Green Mile -- Not-So Comfy Chair

The movie, featuring two executions by electric chair, takes place in 1935 Louisiana. Louisiana didn't adopt the electric chair for executions until 1940.

Heh heh..."Lougle."
Heh heh..."Lougle."

Hot Tub Time Machine -- Crüe Sweet Crüe

Part of Lou's (Rob Corddry) success when the rest of the gang returns to 2010 is that he stayed in 1986 and recorded "Home Sweet Home" with Mötley Crüe (later redubbed Mötley Lüe). One problem: Theater of Pain was released in 1985.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves -- Out of Scope

Leaving aside Kevin Costner's Speedo tan lines and how the Sheriff was able to sneak freaking catapults through miles of dense forest, how about Azeem - Robin's unlikely multicultural companion -- using a refracting telescope that was still some 600 years from being invented?

 

Out of Time: 10 Notable Movie Anachronisms

Blade Runner -- The Curse

This is more of a reverse anachronism, as several of the companies depicted in Ridley Scott's classic sci-fi flick have either disappeared entirely (Pan Am), disappeared inside new corporate ownership (Cusinart, Atari) or were broken apart by the government (Bell).

Then again, Coca-Cola, featured prominently in the film, did go through the whole New Coke/Coke Classic thing, but one could argue they actually emerged stronger. Oh, and we're still not any closer to flying cars.

Goodfellas -- A Two-Fer

Immediately after the title tells us the scene takes place at New York's Idlewild Airport in 1963, a 747 flies overhead - six years before they first appeared -- and we see Henry leaning back on a 1965 Chevy Impala.

The Alleged -- Cleopatra and The Ten Commandments

I've never seen Cleopatra all the way through, and I haven't seen The Ten Commandments since my grandparents made me watch it when I was nine, so I have no immediate way of confirming rumors of a commercial jet visible in the former or if Charlton Heston sports a wristwatch in the latter. Anyone with evidence of either should feel free to let us know.

Those studded wristbands are pretty hot, though.


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