The 5 Worst Science Mistakes In Films

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In the realm of films there are often times when you have to just accept that the ridiculous is possible. Mostly that’s a position any normal person is willing to take on as they decide to watch a fictional story. But sometimes there are such clear violations of common sense scientific knowledge that we have to throw our hands up in frustration and ask what the hell were they thinking?

Below are some of the worst violations of scientific knowledge on film. Many are just one example among many, and the list goes on further from here. We’ve gathered specific examples in our mini-list, but let’s remember that computers do not say ACCESS GRANTED and then allow you to control the entire Isla Nublar. Also, can anyone explain why Hoth has no other climate except “balls numbing cold?”

Superman Kills Everyone
In Superman Lois Lane is killed during an Earthquake, and Supes is powerless to stop it. In his grief the Man of Steel not only defies all known laws of time and space, but also kills every living thing on the planet. Or that’s what would really happen if Superman flew around the Earth so often and fast that he stopped the planet’s spin and reversed it. Unless everyone gathered at the poles, we’d be flung off the planet at various speeds. At the equator you’re moving at 1000 mph through space, and if the planet stopped spinning you would be flung violently away. Way to go Superdouche, you’ve killed the world just to save the perpetually in trouble Lois Lane.

Got An Image, Yo I’ll Enhance It
Despite what Tony Scott wants you to believe, Jack Black cannot use any known cameras or satellites to rotate around Will Smith to find an item in a bag. That type of image enhancement is patently ridiculous. This phenomenon is prevalent in lots of films, especially spy thrillers. Most often it’s found with pixilated image enhancement, see Liam Neeson using a photo kiosk in Taken for a recent hilarious example. But that 3D camera in Enemy of the State is by far the most egregious incident of impossible image enhancement in film. A pixel is a pixel, and no amount of button pushing will change the data you started with; especially grocery store kiosks running Printshop.

Remember That It’s In Your DNA
Alien Resurrection may be the lowest point in Joss Whedon’s writing career, and I’m just going to forget that anything he wrote could lead to a cloned character having the memories of the person it was cloned from. Even if we go along with the memory transference thing for the sake of “suspended disbelief,” there’s still the fact that the real Ripley was burned up. Some loss of info had to occur. Our experiential being is not written into our DNA. You’re the way you are because of your DNA, but what happens to you is a separate thing. And your clone, despite having your DNA, could become a totally different person. The Ripley clone is just one of many problems with the 4th Alien film, but it has us scratching our heads and wondering WTF.

Caution: Slow Moving Light
If you were standing at the Rebel base on Hoth and a Walker fired a laser cannon at you, do you know what you would see? Nothing, there’d just suddenly be a hole in your chest. That’s because lasers travel at the speed of light. TIE Fighters and X-Wings battling in space would look like a bunch of space ships traveling in straight lines until they collide with each other or some other object, and occasionally one would explode seemingly out of nowhere. Laser cannons in the Star Wars films fire the slowest known beams of light in any universe. I’ll excuse the blasters that characters like Han Solo carry around like a handgun, as they aren’t necessarily firing lasers. But I have a wary eye on them as well.

The Water Will Rise Only So Much
Let’s forget that Kevin Costner gains the power of gills at an exponential evolutionary rate, the true offense of Waterworld is the planet being covered in water. There’s almost no land in the film because all of the polar ice caps have melted, raising the sea level several hundred meters. The truth is that if this did happen the sea would only rise around 200 meters. Yes, causing much havoc and losing a large amount of land the world over. But we wouldn’t have to run around treating dirt like a precious commodity; there’d be plenty to go around.

BONUS: No Wonder People Have No Clue What Evolution Actually Is
Waterworld is not getting away with the gill evolution thing. In the film we’re supposed to believe that “The Mariner” has evolved gills to adapt to the new climate. This mutation occurred within 500 years, and to only one person. But the issue is that mutations occur based on what’s currently happening. The environment doesn’t dictate the mutation, the need of the creature does. There’s no reason for Costner to gain gills, because humans are perfectly capable of survival on the water’s surface. Evolutionary mutations don’t occur to give one particular critter a superpower or advantage. There is no elitism in evolution. Every living thing on the planet is equally evolved, just in different ways. No one is evolutionarily superior.

Join in on the discussion with the comments section below, and tell us what you find to be the worst science violation in movies. They may be fictional stories, but I still wonder how an invisible force field can stop a laser. It’s invisible; the light will pass right through!


  1. Tim says:

    The problem with gills and mammals is heat loss numb nuts. No creature with gills has a body temperature above ambient. The only exception is perhaps a tuna’s eyes, which temporarily heat up during a hunt to enhance vision.
    Why would Ripley’s DNA contain alien DNA? Why would cloning Ripley produce a copy of her at the moment she died plus alien?

  2. Tim says:

    While I’m at it, why do the computers in Alien make printer noises when printing to screen?

    • old fart says:

      at about the time, there were computer terminals that printed on paper instead of sending to a screen – had these in my high school

  3. Meboisvert says:

    Superman didn’t stop the planet instantly, but gradually. And this wouldn’t negate the force of gravity. We might feel thrown, but I doubt we’d be thrown into space.

    • alpinetek says:

      He didn’t “reverse the spin of Earth. He traveled back in time, AS he traveled back, we saw events (such as the Earth’s spin) “re-wind”.

  4. Sci-fiSon says:

    Bring back Babylon 5!  Can’t believe that wasn’t in the list.  IMHO, it had the strongest character development I’ve ever seen in a sci-fi TV series.

  5. Haedrion says:

    Fundamental Physics 101

    When WATER turns to ICE it expands.

    If the polar ice caps melt the oceans would fall not rise.

    Fill a cup with water and ice.
    let the ice melt.
    The water level will sink
    not overflow…

    Just so were clear. I like the premise and enjoyed the movie, though the preoccupation with oil felt redundant.

    • James says:

      Earth Science 101

      Ice caps are on land (mainly Greenland and Antarctica)…it’s putting water into the ocean that isn’t already there.

  6. immum23 says:

    Actually the thing that stopped me having any belief when watching Waterworld were ‘The Smokers’. How on earth are they manufacturing cigarettes? Paper and dried plant leaves in a world full of water? Even if they had a supply of salvaged cigarettes, how would they keep them dry?

  7. The astronomer says:

    No no no
    The earth would have the same mass making it impossible for it to just fling us out the only problem would be the compasses face south instead of north

  8. The Werewolf says:

    “There’s almost no land in the film because all of the polar ice caps have melted, raising the sea level several hundred meters.”

    This is actually bad science itself.

    The ice in the arctic is already mostly floating in water. It’s already displaced all the water it can. The ice on the tundra, Greenland and Siberia would cause some water raise. Now the ice in Antarctica is an entirely different thing – it’s mostly on land and so doesn’t contribute to the current water levels. When *I* melts you’ll see water levels rise.

    To check this out: take glass of water and fill it completely. Then float an ice cube in it letting excess water flood out. Then let the ice melt. The glass will remain exactly full.

    As for Superman – he *didn’t* spin the Earth backwards.. He was spinning *himself* around the planet at lightspeed in order to go back in time (you *did* notice all the events happening backwards, right?)

    Still crap science – but different crap science. 🙂

  9. embalmination says:

    No fire in space…I repeat, NO FIRE IN SPACE. How was this not first on the list being that it is so overused in many films?

  10. DJCJ says:

    Re. Star Wars “lasers” are not actually laser beams. According to the Star Wars mythology, its actually a gas heated at incredibly high temperature and under extreme pressure which in turn creates a plasma. This plasma is then shot out by an energy bolt, which is this flying. Over distance and time, the plasma dissipates, which is why you have to ‘be in range’. Anyway, that’s the nerdy explanation I get from my nerdy Star Wars books by his self-confessed Star Wars nerd!! Remember if it was a laser beam flying out from the Falcon into a TIE fighter, it would just slice it in half or carve a hole in it, not explode. Its the plasma charge that is a burst of energy that blows the thing up.

  11. also in water world when he takes elenore down to see where he gets his “earth” all on one cable he can see sky scrapers and a ski lift? wait was he above a city or the country side mountains where there is skiing i dont remeber a ski slope in manhattan??

  12. one of my biggest movie quandrys is in back to the future 2, after Biff steals the delorian, he apparently goes back to 1955 to give himself the book creating alternate 1985, so when he returned the time machine to real 2015 ( 2 years from now, i wish) shouldnt everything have changed ? but alas it didnt.

  13. Just Some Guy says:

    The Cloned Ripley has “Genetic
    Memory” because it is inferred that the Alien Xenomorphs have
    “Genetic Memory”. Scientists have hypothesized that some insects here
    on Earth have “Genetic Memory” due to the fact that they perform
    complex activities without having to be trained to do them. The Ripley Clone
    was made from a blood sample that was taken from her while she had an Alien
    Chest-burster growing inside her; hence the blood sample contained both Human
    and Xenomorph DNA, resulting in a Human/Xenomorph Ripley hybrid which inherited
    the genetic memory traits of the Alien Xenomorph.

  14. Smarterthansteve says:

    You need to take some more science classes before posting articles like this. Almost every single point you make is incorrect. The most obvious error to me was the Superman point. The Earth is slowed then spun in the opposite direction, due to the way gravity works the reversal done by Superman works physically if not temporally as the movie states. Thus everyone stays dead from the attack Lex launched but nobody gets “flung violently away”.

  15. Bullets fly faster than we can see yet there is a clear and distinct trail on all large guns that we clearly can see. Why? Because every Fifth to Tenth bullet is known as a “tracer” it leaves a distinct trail behind it so that the shooter can visually see the line of fire and adjust his aim to hit his target if he already missed. The crazy thing about that is that for every trail you see there can actually be ten bullets in between. While Star wars was firing single long shots other shows like The revitalized version of BattleStar Galactica on SCI FI Channel utilize the tracer bullet style element that is more common with our own military.

    As far as image enhancement goes, it all depends on the original size of the photo, but you still can blow up an image to about 200%-400% without it losing too much detail and you will be able to see smaller objects a little better when they are blown up and you can also lighten up areas or add contrast and fix levels to enhance the image. The original image has to already have had a good deal of sharpness and quality. If it was pixelated in the small size it will be even more pixelated when you blow it up and the larger you blow the image up the more it will start becoming blurry.

    My personal favorite technology you see in movies is the 3D drafting holographic projection technology you see used in IRON MAN. As a CAD Drafter and 3D Rendering artist I think that technology would be sweet. I wonder if they already have something like that or have it in development. Being able to manipulate it in mid air like Tony Stark (Robert Downey jr) did in the movie is probably out of the question for right now, but I’m sure the imaging portion can be done and may already be in use in the science and military defense areas as that is what most 3D rendering programs already look like… just not projected off the screen. – DJ Emir Graphic Designer

  16. MishaBurnett says:

    The reason that the water covered all the land is because Superman threw Hoth at the Earth, and Hoth is made out of ice and melted.