Edit
North by Northwest (1959) Poster

Goofs

Audio/visual unsynchronised 

When Eve and Roger are kissing after the porter leaves the compartment there is no movement nor is there any noise from the train. You can even hear Eve leaning against the wall of the compartment as it creaks as Roger presses against her.
Eve's line "I never make love on an empty stomach" is overdubbed with "I never discuss love on an empty stomach".
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The airstrip at Vandamm's place clearly seems to be a gravel strip. Yet, as the plane touches down, a brief tire screech is heard, as from a plane setting down on a concrete or asphalt strip.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When Thornhill escapes from the Mt. Rushmore house and runs over to the black Ford, he is shown opening the car door and just starting to get in while on the soundtrack the sounds of the door being closed and the ignition being turned on are heard.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Boom mic visible 

At the Chicago station when Eva tells Thornhill to take a bus to meet Kaplan, in the long shot with the column behind them, the boom mic is clearly visible wobbling above.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Character error 

The right side mirror on the bus that picked up the other man along the Indiana highway is in two different positions. As the bus approaches, it is adjusted correctly. When the man gets on and the bus pulls away, the mirror is turned and pointing toward the front of the bus, where it would be useless to the driver.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Continuity 

When Thornhill and his secretary are in a cab in front of the Plaza Hotel, a 1958 Ford cab is parked behind them. But when Thornhill exits the taxi, the car behind them has changed to a 1957 Dodge.
When Thornhill is writing the message on the matchbook, the message takes up three lines and reads "They're onto / you - I'm in / your room." When Eve opens the matchbook below, the message takes up four lines and reads "They're on to / you / I'm in your / room." The matches also change from being half full to totally full.
When Thornhill is about to get out of the cab leaving his secretary there, the cab behind is bright orange. After he gets out, the cab behind is a different color and make of car.
Thornhill complains that he only has one suit for his stay in Chicago, yet when he heads out into the prairie he has a different colored suit on. Director Alfred Hitchcock claimed that it was actually the same suit that just looked a different color due to film color-matching techniques. However, according to Eva Marie Saint, Cary Grant loved clothes and didn't want to see the blue suit from the hotel scene in Chicago trashed from crawling round in the dirt to avoid the crop duster. So, a different suit was used for that scene (which happened to be a different color).
Thornhill is taken from Mt. Rushmore in an ambulance with a hatchback-style rear gate, which is the correct rear door for an ambulance conversion of a station wagon. When he arrives in the forest to meet Eve, he emerges from a station wagon with a standard lower tailgate and upper hatch - not an ambulance.
In "George Kaplan's" room at the Plaza Hotel, we see a close-up shot of Thornhill pressing the call button for the maid. Visible in this shot is a telephone with a coiled cord. But in all other shots that show that phone, it has a straight, non-coiled cord.
When Roger is kissing Eve in her train compartment, he removes his hands from the back of her head twice.
When Thornhill runs out of the corn field dust covers his shoulders. There is no dust when he falls under the truck.
After the plane/truck incident, the shadows change by 180 degrees between shots of the spectator group and Thornhill driving away with the stolen car.
Vandamm's left arm continually switches positions back and forth between the table and his chest while he's sitting with Thornhill in the Mount Rushmore cafeteria.
When Thornhill is looking through the telescope at Mount Rushmore, during the first and last shorts, the Professor is sitting on the far side of the bench, but on the close-ups, he is sitting very close to Thornhill.
In the interior shots of the police car after Thornhill gets removed from the auction, there is no rear view mirror. However, in the external shot at the airport when they get out, there is a mirror.
After Eve leaves her room at the Ambassador Hotel, Thornhill emerges from the bathroom, where he has been pretending to take a shower, and notices a notepad on the night stand. He picks up a pencil and uses the old "rub a pencil over the impression to reveal the note that was written on the sheet above it" trick. He begins rubbing using a horizontal motion form left-to-right, however when the camera switches to an extreme close-up, the pencil is being used in a vertical up-and-down motion.
Position of the wine glass during the dinner on the train.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When the crop-duster plane hits the tanker truck, the truck's shadow on the road extends several feet across the center dashed white line. In the next shot, the shadow reaches only a few inches across the white line, without the truck having moved at all.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The angle of the driver's side windshield wiper on the tanker truck (during the shot when the truck's hit by the crop-duster plane) is different from the angle in the next shot - even though the wipers aren't turned on.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Inconsistent shadows during the crop-dusting scene.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Following the crop dust scene, Roger goes to Eve's hotel room. She makes drinks for them. His is "scotch, water, no ice." She makes 2 drinks, putting ice in hers - which is on her right. When she finishes, she picks the one with the ice (hers) up with her right hand, and Roger's with her left. She then turns and walks toward Roger. She hands him his drink with her right hand. Hers, with the ice, is in her left hand.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Positioning of the three men and their wine-glasses seated in the banquette when Thornhill joins them, prior to being escorted away by the henchmen near the start of the film.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Thornhill's hands jump around on Eve's hair and shoulders between shots in her train car.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When Thornhill is photographed at the United Nations with the knife in his left hand, Thornhill holds a picture of Vandamm in his right hand. Later, this incriminating photo of Thornhill is seen in the possession of the the ticket seller, with Thornhill holding the knife in his left hand but with his right hand empty.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
At the lodge at Mount Rushmore, the professor enters the lodge only a few moments ahead of Thornhill, yet the shadows on the building are completely different.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
As Roger Thornhill and Eve Kendall are walking along the station platform in Chicago, you can see one end of a locomotive, indicated by the short, white horizontal lines. There is a cut to a close-up of Eve's face, and a cut back to them walking again. After the second cut, the side of a passenger car is seen instead of the locomotive.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When Thornhill is getting dressed at the hospital, as he steps into his pants you can clearly see the belt is already threaded. In the next shot he has the belt in his hands and he threads it through each belt loop.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When escaping from the two thugs at the Plaza, Thornhill jumps into a two-tone red and white 1958 Ford Taxi. At the end of this ride, he arrives at the UN in a two-tone orange and white 1957 Ford taxi.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
In the scene after the auction, where Roger is taken into a police car, we clearly see that the inner parts of the car are mostly brown. However, in the following scene, where they arrive to Northwest station, the inside of the car is clearly gray.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When Thornhill is being examined for intoxication, his position changes from sitting up in one shot to leaning forward in the next shot.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When Thornhill starts talking with the Plaza housekeeper Elsie, his left arm is bent. In the next shot, it is straightened at his side.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When Thornhill is speaking to the real Lester Townsend, at first they are separated and facing each other then in the next shot they are much closer together and angled differently.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The view out the window during the dinner scene on the train is not consistent.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When coming out of the train, Eve Kendall and Roger Thornhill spot the two agents and walk past them. In the next shot we should see them in the background, but they are nowhere to be seen.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The flowers on the dining car from NY to Chicago change with every shot.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
At Cary Grant's character's table in the Mount Rushmore cafeteria the salt and pepper shakers move around constantly from shot to shot, yet neither character ever touch them.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When Roger boards the train he is seated with Eve and meets her for the first time. He orders a drink. In this scene there are several camera cuts between them. When the camera is on her you can see Roger with his hand on the drink. When the camera cuts to him he has his arms folded in front of him and he is not touching the drink. This happens in more than one cut during this scene.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The location of the ashtray on the bedside table in George Kaplan's hotel room shifts between shots.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When escaping from the two thugs at the Plaza, Roger jumps into a two-toned yellow and white 1958 Ford cab. The cab pulling up behind him is also a 1958 yellow and white Ford. When the two thugs jump into the cab behind him, it is two-toned red and white. When Roger arrives at the UN, he is in a two-toned yellow and white 1957 Ford cab. When the thugs arrive at the UN behind Roger, their cab is a two-toned orange and white 1957 Ford. But when they get out of it, the cab is again two-toned red and white. When the cab pulls off behind them, it is back to orange and white.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The crop duster that buzzes Thornhill is a light-colored Naval Aircraft Factory N3N. The aircraft that crashes into the truck is a red Boeing Stearman Model 75.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When Thornhill is in the phone booth at the train station in New York, the exterior shot shows the phone has a coiled cord. When it switches to the interior shot, the phone cord is a straight wire.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Thornhill's cuff links in the Oak Room bar differ from all other scenes where he's still in that same suit.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
At the very beginning of the film, Thornhill is seen walking down a crowded New York City sidewalk. Some of the people walking in front of him also appear walking behind him.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
As the crop duster runs down Thornhill, on two occasions there is a very brief burst of machine gun fire, followed by dirt kicking up. But it seems that the propeller is used as the primary weapon. It seems as if Hitchcock wanted to do away with the machine gun, but two brief bursts survived the cutting room floor.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
At the very beginning of the film, the cab Thornhill "steals" from the fellow who hailed it, arrives at the curb, driver side beside the curb. Thornhill puts his secretary in in first, and himself second, hence ending up behind the driver. However for the rest of the scene, and when he exits the cab, he and his secretary have switched seating positions, and she is behind the driver.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Crew or equipment visible 

When Thornhill and his mother are changing elevators you can see a crew member bend over in the reflection on a pane of glass.
During the climactic Mt. Rushmore scene at the end of the film, the top of the mountain set, and equipment, are clearly visible for a number of seconds.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
As the plane crashes into the truck, wires are visible on the right-hand side of the screen.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Errors in geography 

As the drunken Roger is placed in the car by the kidnappers, waves can clearly be seen crashing into a rocky coast line with a large drop to the sea. The scene takes place in Glen Cove, New York, as evidenced by the police car, but there is nowhere on Long Island that has a coastline like this.
Thornhill sees the car with Eve and the others arrive and stop on the same level as him while he's on the observation deck outside the cafeteria at Mt. Rushmore. The parking lot is actually a couple hundred feet below.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The location of the "United States Intelligence Agency" building in Washington contains several errors. First, there is no building of any kind on the Mall opposite the Capitol. Second, when the Professor walks by the window in his office, the traffic seen driving past on the street immediately to the left of and beside the building is so close that the side of the building would have to run through the far side of the office to comport with the location of the street and the angles shown (the office door would either not exist or open into mid-air above the street).
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
There are a couple of shots looking out over the tops of the monument's heads. In one of them, two presidents face the other two. The actual monument has three presidents facing one.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
As Roger Thornhill returns to the Ambassador East in Chicago after the traumatic scene in the cornfield, you can see a palm tree near the hotel. There are no palm trees in Chicago or anywhere in the Midwest.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Factual errors 

When the Mercedes carrying Roger is balanced on the rocky cliff, the left rear wheel is spinning in the air. Moments later, the car drives back on to the road. In a rear wheel drive car from the 1950's, all of the torque would be delivered to the free wheel, making it impossible for the car to move without being pushed or pulled.
Roger Thornhill orders a "Gibson" cocktail on the train with Eva Marie Saint, his glass is filled with a 'brown' colored liquor as he puts it to his mouth; a "Gibson" is a gin and vermouth mix with an onion garnish, therefore it would be a 'clear' cocktail not brown.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs 

Someone who resembles Thornhill gets off the train without a suitcase; it's possible to confuse that person with Thornhill, who has a suitcase under his arm.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
After escaping from the Rapid City hospital, Thornhill takes a cab to Vandamm's mountain retreat. He knows where it is because the professor told him the latitude and longitude at the restaurant.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The line "our friend who's assembling the General Assembly" is a deliberate play on words, and it's in the script. It is not a case of Thornhill (or actor Cary Grant) erroneously saying "assembling" instead of "addressing".
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
During the plane chase scene the plane flies over and then the bullets hit the ground. Bullets fired from the plane would be traveling a lot faster than the airplane and would hit the ground before the plane flies past. However, a later headline indicates two were killed in the crash, the second being someone with a machine gun who could easily shoot down or behind the plane.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Plot holes 

When Cary Grant leaves the train in Chicago, the Redcap uniform he is wearing is a perfect fit (if anything with the sleeves a little long). Yet when you see the man he got the uniform from, he is a very short little man whose clothes would never fit Grant, who of course is very tall.
The "Townsend" sign outside the estate is on the opposite side of the entrance and facing away from the car carrying Thornhill, so that he could not possibly have read it from inside the vehicle, especially from the sharp angle at which the car pulls into the driveway.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Revealing mistakes 

During the scene in the diner at Mount Rushmore, a young extra boy in the background anticipates the surprise gun shot, fired by Eve. The diners are supposed to be unaware this is going to happen but the young extra boy covers his ears way before she draws the gun. The young extra boy must have known there would be a loud bang from the blank-filled pistol from previous takes and therefore covered his ears on the "printed" take.
In the Chicago P.D. patrol car after Thornhill's arrest at the auction house, the cop on Thornhill's right forgets to lean as they simulate a turn. Cary Grant can be seen giving the errant actor a poke in the arm.
The shot of Thornhill's car racing past the police car during his drunken escape is run at a higher than normal speed: the movements of the police officer are hurried and jerky and the red light atop the car is flashing at a much faster rate until Thornhill's car passes, at which point the film abruptly reverts to normal speed, as the cop moves and the light flashes at a noticeably slower (i.e. normal) rate.
The first exterior shot of the train depicts a pink sunset. Yet, it is broad daylight in the following dining-car scene.
Early on in the film, during the nighttime drunk driving sequence, the process photography backgrounds for the shots of Cary Grant filmed full-face while driving should be showing scenery (the twists of the road, trees, etc.) receding into darkness. Instead, the receding backgrounds have been filmed as if illuminated by a high-candlepower white spotlight, which lights up the receding scenery, even the tops of receding trees, before they vanish into darkness. The path of the spotlight cannot be accounted for by the headlights of cars in the opposing lane of traffic, since the light is angled upward too far, and is visible even when no opposing cars pass Grant's car. The only light behind Grant's car at night should be the dim red light thrown by the car's tail-lights.
When Vandamm's henchmen put the drunken Thornhill into his car, intending him to drive over the cliff, their heads disappear, as the footage of the actors protrudes into the matte cliff background.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
In the opening scene when Thornhill is taking a cab to the Plaza hotel with his secretary, the cab makes a U turn on Central Park South right in the middle of heavy traffic. A NYC Cop can be seen holding up traffic and then letting it pass as they pull in front of the hotel.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Cary Grant's stunt double is very obvious in the crop duster scene and the final scene on Mount Rushmore.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Every indication is given throughout the film that the action takes place in the summer - the trees in NYC are in full flower, ditto the foliage at the Long Island estate, the Indiana cornfield landscape is scorched, the way people are dressed, especially in the Chicago as well as South Dakota scenes, etc. - yet the newspaper which the Professor and his colleagues read recounting the murder of Lester Townsend carries a late November date.

The film was actually shot from mid - late August through September, 1958.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
As Thornhill walks along the 20th Century Limited at Grand Central Terminal, he passes a car that's numbered 10006. But after he gets on the train and looks out the window, we see on the adjacent track another New York Central passenger car that also is number 10006. Two passenger cars of the same railroad will never have the same number.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
As Eve is being led to the plane with the house in the background, the sky appears to be very dark, but when the angle shifts with the plane in the background, the sky appears to be very bright.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
In older copies, Thornhill's taxi ride with his secretary is a bit too revealing. At points, you are able to see blue sky above their heads while they're still in the cab. Only their exit from the taxi appears to have been shot using a full-length automobile. This mistake (as well as several others) were apparently fixed when the movie was re-mastered for DVD.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Obviously re-used footage at the beginning of the film: reflected images of traffic show the same sequence of vehicles going by over and over, and the same people exit the building twice in two consecutive shots of the same scene, most prominently the middle-aged woman in the blue dress.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
When the professor stands by a window, the entire background showing the Capitol building shakes for a brief moment, making it obvious that it is not real.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Many backdrop tops and light reflections.
Wobbling trees as the ambulance passes.

Spoilers 

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Continuity 

In the struggle on Mt. Rushmore, Eve slips and tears Roger's right back pocket from his trousers. In later shots his trousers are intact.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Continuity 

In the UN stabbing scene, Thornhill pulls the knife from Townsend's back with the blade pointing down. When the camera cuts to a wider shot, Thornhill is holding the knife upright.

Continuity 

When Leonard loses his footing while climbing down Mt. Rushmore, the long shots show him dangling in front of a side of the mountain entirely carved with vertical lines. But in the close-up, his feet are shown dangling in front of bare rock, with the carved lines ending well above his ankles.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Continuity 

When Cary Grant is getting dressed in the hospital after getting "shot", he unwraps a new shirt but it is already wrinkled from where it had already been tucked into his pants.

Plot holes 

The scene where the spies grab Thornhill from the Oak Bar contains several lapses in logic. First, it is not credible that the spy, George Kaplan, would go to such lengths to disguise his identity yet be lured out by the simple act of having a page call his name in the bar. Second, the foreign agents should certainly have noticed that Thornhill's actions when speaking to the page were not those of someone answering the page's call, but rather that he was asking him something else. Third, since the page had not gotten a response from Kaplan, when he went back into the bar after pointing out the telegram desk to Thornhill, he would have resumed paging Kaplan across the bar -- an action which would certainly have been heard by the agents, still standing at the entrance with Thornhill, and thereby indicated to them that they had nabbed the wrong man. But the page inexplicably, illogically and unprofessionally does not resume his call for Kaplan.

Plot holes 

When Thornhill goes to the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago, he learns from the desk clerk that Kaplan had checked out at 7:10 that morning (leaving Thornhill at a loss as to how he could have gotten a message from him after 9). But this time sequence makes no sense to the plot. If Kaplan was supposed to be following Vandamm, why would he leave Chicago two hours before Vandamm even arrived (and how would he have gotten to Chicago a day ahead of Vandamm)? And since Thornhill was able to discover when Kaplan had checked out, so could have Vandamm and his henchmen -- in which case, they would have realized that Thornhill could not possibly be Kaplan, since Kaplan had already left town at a time when Thornhill was still on the train going to Chicago.

See also

Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

Contribute to This Page