Friday, July 23, 2004

Do movie goofs = gaffes or greatness? You decide

—Originally published 7.23.04

Want to ruin a favorite movie you think is just perfect? Go check out the "goofs" section at The Internet Movie Database. is one of the best sites on the Internet, in any category. It offers every possible answer to the ubiquitous movie-watching question: "What else has that guy been in?" and is an obsessive-compulsive movie fan's dream.

There is no way to go into all the site offers here, because it would just take too long. Plus, I've been visiting for years and still feel like I haven't cracked the surface.

But the "goofs" are particularly fascinating.

One of the first goofs I ever caught was while watching the original "Star Wars" as a kid. During the battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, the Jedi master has all sorts of special-effects trouble with his lightsaber. Until I checked IMDb, I had no idea there are so many other problems.

Take, for instance, what the site calls "the most famous Star Wars goof of all": I never noticed this, but apparently a stormtrooper knocks himself silly while walking under the partially-open door of the room where C-3PO and R2-D2 are hiding in the Death Star.

That is one of more than 70 goofs listed on the "Star Wars" page alone -- everything from the direction the wind blows in different takes to costuming troubles to crew members accidentally winding up in a shot is there for you to marvel or laugh at, or both.

It's really quite amazing to read. I've watched "Star Wars" more times than I can remember and haven't caught more than a handful of the problems listed at IMDb. Don't think I'm just picking on "Star Wars," either.

"The Big Lebowski," another favorite I've watched about 30 times, has 18 goofs listed -- I've caught almost none of them.

You want classics (well, I count "The Big Lebowski" as a classic, but you know what I mean)?

• "The Godfather," a personal favorite rated as IMDb's No. 1 movie of all time: 47 goofs.

• "Casablanca," an unquestionably great film: 18 goofs.

• How about "Citizen Kane," widely regarded as the best movie ever made: 17 goofs.

There is a double point here. First, no movie is perfect, no matter how wonderful or praiseworthy it may be. I never would have believed there were so many problems with "The Godfather" before checking that list. A truly great film moves beyond those minor flubs; a bad film drowns in them.

And second, these goofs don't actually ruin anything. The more minor problems listed, the greater the film must be because people must have watched it many, many times to find all this stuff.

In fact, I may print out the "Star Wars" list and check them off as I watch the movie for the umpteenth time. Sounds like just the right kind of game for an obsessive movie fan like me.

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