You know those pieces of movie trivia you love telling your friends? They’re all wrong.
It’s time to fact check some of the most widely-spread pieces of information about your favorite films. Ready to be the smarty-pants at your next movie night?
Two children (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards) are stuck in a Jeep. In the pouring rain. And oh yeah, dinosaurs are loose. Suddenly, a T. Rex breaks through the Jeep’s windshield, and gets this close to eating the kids!
And — that break was totally unplanned. The kids’ screams are genuine!
Except — that sequence was always planned with the T. Rex breaking the glass, from storyboards on. However, Mazzello did say that the T. Rex “came down too far one time, and it chipped the Plexiglas and broke a tooth.” You can even see the chipped tooth later in a shot!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
In a wizarding world of magic and mischief, it makes sense that the child actors would have some on-set fun. In fact, the twin actors playing Fred and George Weasley (James and Oliver Phelps) would sometimes switch roles without the director noticing.
Eat your heart out, Mary-Kate and Ashley!
Sadly, this “fact” is nothing more than a particularly powerful spell. No switching shenanigans occurred. However, the Phelps brothers did confirm that on the first day of shooting, they had no idea who was playing which Weasley. When they asked the director, he thought they were joking!
The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs is a uniquely terrifying portrayal of the dark depths of human madness. At its center? Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, a serial killer whose dietary choices are… unique. To make him as eerie as possible, Anthony Hopkins made the subtly unnerving choice to never blink…
…except he totally does.
He blinks. You can watch his eyelids close and then open, aka blinking, throughout. The fake fact does have a kernel of truth, though. Hopkins researched real footage of psychopaths, noticing they seemed to “plan” blinks. So he was deliberate with when he blinked.
As Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) sneers his way through a racist rant, he bangs his hand against the table, smashes a glass, and cuts himself. And guess what — DiCaprio actually cut his hand! And kept acting while bleeding! Then — he smeared his real blood onto Kerry Washington unexpectedly! Eww!
This fact is “half-right.” He did really cut his hand and keep acting. But the blood-smearing, a planned shot from the beginning, took place after Quentin Tarantino called cut. They cleaned up DiCaprio’s wound, gave him fake blood, and then shot the Washington sequence.
Good Will Hunting
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for this feel good Boston classic. Just one problem: It’s not their screenplay! They stole it from acclaimed screenwriter William Goldman (The Princess Bride), and took all the credit.
In real life, Affleck and Damon did meet with Goldman (and Rob Reiner) while shopping their script around. It originally had an action thriller element, and Reiner and Goldman advised the two to remove it. They did. Less “stealing a script” and more “taking good advice.”
The Wizard of Oz
In the margins of this Technicolor family friendly classic, while Dorothy (Judy Garland) follows the yellow brick road with her new friends, you can see, in the background, the rustling of tree leaves. What is that?
Believe it or not… it’s a depressed actor, cast as a munchkin, hanging himself.
Definitely don’t believe that!
There’s no onscreen suicide in The Wizard of Oz. That’s, quite simply, a big ol’ bird running around in the background. Production wanted Oz to feel as alive as possible, and brought in some wild animals to liven things up.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
At the end of the medieval comedy classic, the police abruptly come in and shut the film production down. And the movie just… ends. The reason for this wild choice? The actual filmmakers ran out of funds, and had to improvise!
From the beginning of the script to the end of the shoot, this police shutdown was always the planned ending. In fact, it’s foreshadowed throughout the film, as we see modern day policemen investigate the onscreen murders in absurd little asides. How else could it end?
Being John Malkovich
In one scene of the bonkers meta-comedy, John Malkovich (John Malkovich) is walking alongside a street, when an actual driver threw a beer can at Malkovich’s head and yelled at him. Spike Jonze loved the moment so much, they tracked the guy down and gave him money and a credit!
It’s a real fun story, but it’s not true. That was just a planned and rehearsed scene — one that, to be fair, they didn’t think they could nail on the first take, and absolutely did. Jonze, a master prankster since Jackass, started the rumor we all know.
Three Men and a Baby
During one scene of the ’80s comedy, you can see the outline of… someone in the window curtains. The horrifying story is that a child who used to live in the apartment building they shot in killed himself.
And this outline, including the gun he used… is his ghost.
That’s very scary and very wrong.
Director Leonard Nimoy (yeah, Spock directed this movie! And that IS real!) shot it on a soundstage, not even a real apartment building. Plus, the outline in question is straight up a cutout of Ted Danson’s character, which is very reasonable.
George Lucas was overseeing construction of the sets of his strange space opera. Then he saw a particularly striking carpenter building something. He walked up to him and asked him to audition for a role.
That man? Harrison Ford. The role? Han Solo.
So romantic… and so false. Ford and Lucas had worked together previously on American Graffiti. While Ford did work as a carpenter in his spare time, he wasn’t working on the Star Wars set.
And while we’re busy dispelling Star Wars myths: Greedo shot first.
Requiem for a Dream
In one arresting shot, Jennifer Connelly lies perfectly still underneath the waters of a bathtub… and then SCREAMS.
To secure this shot, director Darren Aronofsky actually bought the rights to remake anime film Perfect Blue. All for this one shot!
Except — you don’t have to buy the rights to a film to reference a single shot. Everyone references single shots all the time. Aronofsky was involved in a potential live action remake of Perfect Blue that wound up falling through, but it had nothing to do with Requiem.
When perfect villain Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) is dropped from Nakatomi Plaza to his doom, filmmakers told him they were going to drop him on three… but then dropped him on two! His shocked reaction is all the more genuine.
Rickman said that it didn’t happen that way. In fact, he shocked the producers by telling them he was willing to perform the stunt in the first place! And the producers, worried about safety, made sure it his last shot of the film (by “safety,” we meant “of the film”).
In one scene of the animated classic, where Jasmine’s tiger Rajah is tussling with Aladdin, you can hear Aladdin — or some other nefarious voice — whispering, “Good teenagers, take off your clothes.”
What foul messages are Disney imparting on our precious children?
While the line of dialogue is admittedly messy sounding (maybe there was a sound editing error?), he is in fact saying, “Good kitty, take off and go.” He’s trying to appease to Rajah by using a modern vernacular we use to talk to pets, you see.
When James Bond (Sean Connery) discovers a dead woman covered in gold paint, it kicks off the plot, and instantly became one of the franchise’s most iconic images. But at what cost?
The actor playing that woman actually died from asphyxiating on that gold paint. And they kept it in!
No, she didn’t die. At the time, society did believe we inhale oxygen through our skin, but that has since been debunked. The actor, Shirley Eaton, was totally fine. She acted in a few more movies, then retired to spend time with her family.
Pulp Fiction is full of myths and theories. Just ask any freshman at film school about the golden briefcase, and they’ll talk your ear off. But here’s one you may not know: Every single clock in the Tarantino classic is set to 4:20.
Why? Um… ask your father.
While you do see some clocks set to this suggestive time in a pawn shop, there are plenty other clocks that just simply aren’t. Including what’s arguably the most important clock of all — Butch’s (Bruce Willis) watch, an item that Butch’s dad went through quite the ordeal to maintain.
Let’s give you a fun fact you can’t refuse.
Every time someone is about to meet a violent fate in the film, an orange is nearby. The fruit acts as a symbolic foreshadowing of death. How interesting, how unorthodox, how brilliant!
How brilliantly untrue!
Audiences assigned that symbolism afterward — it was not the intent of the filmmakers. Production designer Dean Tavoularis just used oranges as a pop of color to the otherwise dark palate of the film: “I don’t remember anybody saying, ‘Hey, I like oranges as a symbolic message.’”
The Dark Knight
When the Joker (Heath Ledger) blows up a hospital, something happens on the final trigger. He pushes the button, nothing happens. He shrugs and drops his arms, annoyed. Then, finally, it explodes. This delayed explosion was a genuine mistake, and Ledger’s reactions were so good they kept it in!
“Some men just want to watch the world burn” might be a good description of director Christopher Nolan. But he wants to watch it burn… carefully.
This sequence was not a mistake — Nolan and his crew planned everything, delays and all, with the utmost precision.
2001: A Space Odyssey
HAL is the perfect, prescient villain for our technology-obsessed times. You know how Stanley Kubrick came up with the name? Well, take computer company IBM. Then go one letter backward from I. One backward from B. And one from M. What does that spell?
A fun piece of social commentary? Nope.
HAL simply stands for Heuristically Programmed Algorithmic Computer. In the original screenplay, HAL’s name was going to be Athena (named after the goddess of wisdom) before Kubrick and cowriter Arthur C. Clarke came up with the acronym.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
During one scene, where Michael Palin reveals the embarrassingly unusual name of a character and everyone tries poorly to stifle their laughter, the filmmakers actually told the extras they would be fired if they laughed. The struggle is all the more real!
It’s not true! And frankly, some of the “trying not to laugh” performances are so exaggerated and stylized, it would be weird if it was.
In fact, director Terry Jones often had to specifically coach on when to laugh, because the Tunisian extras didn’t speak English.
The Basketball Diaries
In the background of one scene of the Leonardo DiCaprio/Mark Wahlberg teen drama classic, you can see someone jump off a bridge and commit suicide! And they kept it in the final cut!
Are there any depths Hollywood won’t stoop to?
Don’t worry: It is definitely not someone committing suicide.
The shot shows the Henry Hudson Bridge, and no jumps off that bridge were reported the time of shooting. Also, one of the actors, James Madio, said bluntly that it’s false, and that it looks more like a garbage bag.
Ben-Hur was a massive undertaking. The Charlton Heston-starring epic was the most expensive movie ever made at the time, featuring unprecedentedly lavish sets. But during the film’s incredible chariot race, a stuntman was killed while racing — and his death was used in the final cut!
It’s not true! The production took great care of the set piece, making sure everyone was okay the entire time.
However — the 1925 version did have lots of miserable mistakes, including the death of a stuntman from a rehearsal gone awry.
It happens throughout the classic Mel Brooks/Gene Wilder spoof. Someone says Frau Blucher’s (Cloris Leachman) name, and horses neigh in fright! Why are they so afraid?
Because “Blucher” is German for “glue,” and the horses don’t want to meet that fate!
In fact, Blucher is not German for glue, and doesn’t sound like the German word for glue (which is Klebstoff). It was a simple parody of the movie trope where a villain’s appearance is accompanied by a loud sound — in this case, horses.
The found footage horror film told entirely on computer screens is based on a real, horrifying story of a young girl who committed suicide after an embarrassing video of hers was leaked. Gives the flick a bit more dramatic weight than you expected, right?
Er, it would, were it true.
The movie’s idea came from a simple chat between the director and producer. The producer, Timur Bekmambetov, said he would love to see a film entirely on computer screens. And the director thought a horror film would be the perfect environment.
Even though it’s a silent film made in 1922, this classic film still shocks today. You know why, don’t you?
It’s because star Max Schreck… was an honest to goodness vampire. And the production went to horrible lengths to protect their supernatural star.
Hoo boy, is this one not true. But it’s a phenomenal story. So good, filmmaker E. Elias Merhige made a film called Shadow of the Vampire presenting the making of the film as if it was true. Willem Dafoe played Schreck with terrifying vulnerability.
The Empire Strikes Back
At the beginning of the film, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is attacked and injured by a Wampa. This was a late-in-production addition to help justify a face injury Hamill sustained during a terrible car accident between the filming of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
Hamill did undergo a nasty car accident, fracturing his cheekbone and nose. But the Wampa attack was written in the script from the very beginning, before Hamill’s real-life accident happened. Hamill has remarked on how exaggerated the accident’s details have become, including false rumors of plastic surgery.
Singin’ in the Rain
Here’s a fun fact: It’s hard for rain to show up on film. Here’s a funner fact: To make it show up while singing the titular song of Singin’ in the Rain, filmmakers Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen used milk droplets instead of water, to make it thicker on camera!
Here’s a less fun truth: They did not use milk instead of water. They used water. They just lit it more aggressively than normal. Which is too bad, because the idea of dumping a bunch of milk on Gene Kelly is very, very funny.
When our heroes happen upon a young kid playing “Dueling Banjos” with a strange grin on his face, it is truly terrifying. And it was an accident — filmmakers found that kid on the porch already doing that, rolled cameras on him, and threw it in.
No, they didn’t.
They conceived of the song, the banjo, and the child from the beginning of production, and they hired a specific actor (who couldn’t actually play the banjo). The supposed authenticity of Deliverance did have real life consequences though: equal parts tourism and gentrification occurred in filming areas.
The Lion King (1994)
In a moment of darkness (both literal and emotional), Simba plops to the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust into the night sky. The dust magically swirls around… but wait. What is that dust spelling?
“SEX”?! Disney is trying to brainwash us all!
It’s true that the dust does spell something purposefully. But it ain’t “SEX.” It’s “SFX.” As in “special effects.” As in “Disney was trying to have a bit of fun paying tribute to their crew.” Since the controversy, Disney has eliminated the letters from streaming versions of The Lion King.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the first feature-length Disney animated movie. The unprecedented culmination of Walt Disney’s hard work and determination. A movie that changed the way we consume and program animated content forever. What a friggin’ benchmark!
It’s just… not quite technically true. Right before Snow White, Disney released Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons, a theatrical exhibition of short films. According to the Academy rules, an animated feature film is 40 minutes or longer. And this collection is 41 minutes.
So… sorry Snow White.
Due to a horrific on-set accident, Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) was shot and killed while filming gothic action cult classic The Crow. But did you know that the shot that killed him was included in the final cut?
Thank God this isn’t true.
The footage that would’ve included Lee’s death was destroyed without being developed, and filmmakers recreated the scene with Lee’s body double. The double? Chad Stahelski, who went on to direct the action-packed John Wick franchise.
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