When David and Marty are discussing David's discovery that the signal is a countdown to attack, a news reporter in the background states that ships "have just arrived over the capitals of India, England, and Germany." A few seconds later, the TV graphic David points out shows a ship over Bombay, erroneously referred to as India's capital (which is really New Delhi). Germany's capital is listed as Germany rather than Berlin.
In the first "RAF" F-16 scene, the tail number on the airframe in the background, WS690, was actually assigned to a Gloster Meteor NF.12 Night Fighter built by Armstrong Whithworth in the late 40s/early 50s.(Page 311 of British Military Aircraft Serials 1912-1966 by Bruce Robertson). Current UK Military serials begin with the letter "Z". Current tail numbers are painted in 12" high white characters on the rear fuselage, not the tail fin. The national markings are also incorrect, if the RAF had operated the F-16 the aircraft would have carried low visibility (pink and light blue) tactical roundels and tail cockades together with squadron markings on the fin and either side of the fuselage roundels.
At the beginning of the battle over Area 51, President Whitmore fires his first missile, which is destroyed by the alien ships shield. As he begins to fire the second, his instrument panel shows he has fired one, and has three left. But when it cuts to the outside his fighter jet, all 4 missiles are still intact. Also the missile fired the second time, is in the spot where the first missile was fired from.
When David shows up at his father's house before they leave NYC his father answers the door holding a shotgun. But when he points the shotgun at David it makes the sound of a pump action shotgun, while he is clearly holding a double-barreled non pumping shotgun.
When President Whitmore is being updated on the situation with
the alien craft, which has broken off into "three dozen other pieces". After the Secretary of Defense asks "Where are they heading?" the man responds "They should be entering our atmosphere within the next 25 minutes," but his mouth is out of sync.
When David and Connie are talking in the room at Area 51,
she states "Haven't you ever wanted to be part of something special?". At that point David slams the bottle down on the window sill which is supposed to be made from concrete (bearing in mind that is attached to a massive metal window frame), yet it sounds as if he slammed the bottle down on hollow wood.
Farmer Lucas complains to Miguel Casse that his crop is failing because Russell Casse has not dusted his crop. He has a handful of wilted vegetation to prove his case. Dusting is typically for pests, wilting vegetation is typically from lack of water so that would not be Russell Casse's fault for not dusting but rather Lucas' fault for not watering.
The map of Russia shown in "Sky News" (in Russian), shows the city of St. Petersburg as Petrograd, a name used only from 1914 until 1924 (it was called St. Petersburg 1703-1914, Leningrad 1924-1991, and St. Petersburg again ever since.) Other misspellings: Novosibirsk spelled "Novosyoyrsk" (and erroneously described as mountainous), "Fenomen" (phenomenon) spelled "Fznamenon". Inexplicably, the station is called Soviet News, even though the movie takes place some years after the abolition of the Soviet Union.
The address on the letter Steve receives from NASA reads "El Toro, CA 50055" The 50055 ZIP code is actually for Collins, Iowa. The appropriate ZIP Code for El Toro Base (prior to its closing in 1999) is 92609.
David claims he can triangulate Connie's position, but he only sets one antenna. A triangle has 3 points: the target (Connie's phone) and 2 directional antennae which must be aimed at the target to determine its position. The antenna David sets is omnidirectional, and couldn't be used for triangulation, even if he had a dozen of them.
During the news report of Russell's arrest the reporter states that he was arrested as he papered town hall from the air. Assuming he was doing this using his crop duster, he was most likely arrested after he had landed.
When Julius Levinson is praying in a group, he is sitting on the floor. He recites "Sh'ma kolenu." This is a benediction from the daily Jewish prayer, the Amidah (the standing prayer), and would be recited standing.
When the Army General is briefing the Marine General, he tells him the spaceship is 540 kilometers across. First, an American General wouldn't use kilometers, he'd use miles, or else he'd pronounce it as kill-meters.
Air Force personnel do not refer to "Area 51" by that name but rather its official military designation. The code name Area 51 was assigned by the CIA in now declassified documents and used mainly by civilians and in fiction.
The President assures Julius Levinson "there is no Area 51." This is untrue, as Nellis Air Force Base is divided into sections and one of these is "Area 51." That this is just a piece of desert, with no facilities, does not mean the location does not exist.
On earth, when Hiller tries to fly the alien fighter the first time, he pushes the stick forward and the ship flies backward into the back stop. This teaches him that pulling back on the stick moves the ship forward and pushing it forward moves the ship back. When the fighter is docked on the alien mother ship, Hiller pulls the stick back to back away from the dock. As he should have learned by now, he needed to move the stick forward to move the fighter backwards.
When Connie and David argue, David opens the refrigerator door, and we see several items (a milk carton and a few bottles) on the shelves inside the door. When Connie opens the refrigerator a moment later, those shelves are empty.
The interior of Russell's F-18 cockpit is depicted in two separate fashions when seen from his point of view. At times, his HUD is decorated with a photo of his three children. At others, the HUD is seen accompanied by a matchbook.
When the first plane fires the first nuclear bomb, you see the pilot is steering his plane away to the left after firing. But, on the radar at the headquarters where the president is looking at, you see the plane making a turn to the right.
During the scene before the US counter-attack, the planes on the ground are F-14's, with the wings swept all the way back. However, the planes taking off and in the air are F-18s, which do not utilize a swept wing design.
When Jasmine sees the approaching fireball she grabs Dylan from the car and begins to run. In the shot from behind, there are double-yellow lines on the road at her feet reaching into the distance, but in the shot facing her the lines have vanished, though she did not change lanes.
When the "Black Knights" are being briefed about their first battle during the counter-defensive, on the map, the briefing officer points out that three different attack groups: one from the North, one from the South, and the last from the West. When the battle actually takes place, you only see one group attack.
In the special edition, David uses a CD-ROM with all the phone numbers in America to look up Connie's phone number. When he types in "Levinson, Constance", the computer goes searching through the numbers. The computer says her number begins with 556 when it is going through the numbers, but when it comes up with the search results it now starts with 555.
When Major Mitchell is asked to shoot the Coke can from the alien aircraft, he asks the Sgt for his side arm (gun) but in the earlier scene where they shoot the alien through the glass Major Mitchell is wearing his own gun on his right hip.
When Levinson opens his laptop to watch the last few second count down, it can clearly be seen that clock goes down to about 1 second and 30 milliseconds, but during a close-up in the next shot, the time time has jumped up to over 2 seconds.
Initially while at Area 51, the President is initially wearing a white shirt with blue stripes, spaced widely apart. As the Area 51 scenes unfold, he is subsequently in a gray shirt with closely-spaced stripes.
When Major Mitchell is asked to shoot the Coke can from the alien aircraft, he has a bunch of papers in his hand. He continues to hold the papers until he actually aims at the can with a gun and then the papers are gone. He might have just dropped them on the floor but it seems more likely he would put them some place safe (e.g. table).
During the LA counter-attack, the Marine aviators are supposed
to be firing AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles from the under wing pylon . In external shots of the aircraft, Harpoon anti-ship missiles are shown on inboard pylons instead.
During the original attack on the ships by the F-18s, they shoot missiles at it and are surprised by the fact that it has a forcefield, a technology which obviously surpasses ours. However, in the shot back at NORAD, where the President is watching on the computer, there is a line shown for the forcefield shown neutralizing the missiles. Something like that would not have been programmed in that system and it shouldn't have recognized the forcefield at all because of it.
In the second sequence of the film, a man is sitting on a counter and continues a conversation on the phone. He is then off-screen for a second or two, and when he returns to view, he is suddenly off the phone and in a chair.
The alien destroyer that hovers over New York City positions itself so that its center (which holds the city-destroying weapon) is fixed above the Empire State Building. However, in some wider shots of the city and the ship, you can clearly see that the center of the ship is not above the Empire State Building, as it's supposed to be.
Right before Hiller and Levinson take the alien ship to the mother ship, hugs are exchanged between Hiller and Jasmine. Her right arm is above Hiller's shoulder and alternates to around his waist in subsequent shots.
When Julius and David pull up beside the White House gate, David places the device on the Plymouth's hood to triangulate Connie's position inside. The device's position on the car's hood differs between the close-up and wide shot - note the car door.
When David shows up at his father's house, Julius opens the door pointing a gun at him. David grabs hold of the barrel, and in the shots facing Julius, David lets go, but in the shots facing David, the barrel is still pointing up and which David is still holding firmly.
Just after Hiller parachutes to safety, we can see he's landed not far from the edge of a crevice. But when walking towards the downed alien ship, in the background the crevice is gone. (Widescreen version)
During the first strike against the alien ship with the F-18 fighter jets, when they start "falling down like flies". Near the end of the attack the monitor shows two jets left, indicating Hiller's and his friend's plane are the only ones. The next scene shows two jets immediately being shot down.
As the Alien Destroyer is approaching Area 51, the entire attack wing launch their missiles. There are multiple impacts in the area of the 'sail' at the front of the Destroyer. The scene then cuts to Area 51 staff getting people underground for safety. In the background the Destroyer can be seen in the distance. It is completely undamaged, despite the dogfight going on in front of it.
When Tiffany alerts the other alien believers of the ship opening up, there is an African-American woman standing right next to her. The woman, hearing Tiffany, looks up and points. But in the shot of the camera zooming down towards Tiffany as she looks up, the woman is gone.
(Widescreen Only) When Tiffany joins the other alien believers on the rooftop, she brushes by a brunette woman who is in her thirties, wearing a light brown long-sleeved shirt, a black purse, and is holding a sign. But in the next shot of Tiffany, the woman is gone.
In the containment lab, when the alien awakens and begins its attack, the alien moves from right to left towards a doctor, who is backed up against a door. The crewmember who is wearing the alien costume has on a white shirt and black trousers, and the costume's straps attached to the pants are visible, as well as some wiring at the back.
At the Area 51 lab, when President Whitmore is down on the ground in pain, in the shot from inside the lab facing the lab's outer hall, the alien costume only reaches just above the crewmember's waist - the costume straps attached to his pants are visible, as well as his arm.
When Levinson is kicking stuff around in Area 51, one of the trash cans is marked "ART DEPT" on the bottom. Area 51 would not seem to have an art dept. Suggestions that ART is a military acronym or abbreviation are amusing, but don't stand as mitigation.
In the opening shots, the Earth is shown in the background of the alien mother ship. The rotation of the Earth is plainly visible, at about 2 or 3 degrees per second, giving an Earth day of about 2 or 3 minutes.
When he leaves his office, David says that there are roughly 6 hours until the countdown is finished. When he arrives at his father's, the roads are already packed. It takes about 4 hours to drive from New York to DC, in perfect traffic. In reality, they never would have made it out of New York in time.
When Washington, D.C. is attacked, the space craft is positioned over the White House as it fires its destructive beam. During the following scenes of destruction, we see the explosion destroy the U.S. Capitol Building from the East Front. If the beam had been centered over the White House and spread outward, it would have hit the U.S. Capitol Building from the West Front first.
MCAS El Toro is shown in the movie in the middle of the desert. MCAS El Toro, which has since been closed, was in Orange County, sandwiched between two very busy freeways (I5 and the 405) and surrounded by sprawling suburban cities of Irvine and Laguna Hills. Before it closed in 1999, it was possible to see F18s landing while driving down those freeways.
Air Force One takes off from Dulles Airport just as the blast wave hits the airport. Air Force One is actually stationed at Andrews AFB. Dulles is also 25 miles west of Washington DC, and it is impossible anyway for the blast to have reached that far that fast after detonation over the White House.
When the ship floats over New York, it goes over the Empire
State building, and the needle of the building is within yards from the ship. At that time, the World Trade Center was, in reality, much higher up, yet somehow the taller buildings are not damaged from colliding with the ship. Also to note in a later scene when they show the invasion ending at dawn, one of the towers is still standing and intact.
As the Alien Destroyers enter the Earth's atmosphere, one scene cuts to a surfaced submarine in the Persian Gulf. It identifies the submarine as an SSBN in the Persian Gulf. This is an indicator of a Ballistic Missile Submarine. 1) SSBN's do not cruise on the surface in hostile waters, they are only on the surface when entering, tied up or leaving a friendly base. They submerge and disappear. 2) SSBN's operate in the safety of the deep. The Persian Gulf is not deep enough for an SSBN to safely operate.
In the beginning, the ship casts its shadow on the Moon in a way that would place the sun directly above the ship. This is inconsistent with the way we see sunlight cast on the Earth. Furthermore, the Earth is seen in nearly full phase. A full Earth would not be visible from sunlit portions of the Moon.
The President mentions to his wife that she will be evacuated by helicopter from Los Angeles to Nellis AFB. There are at least two bases closer (March Air Reserve Base and Vandenburg AFB). As time was of the essence, why fly her somewhere farther away?
When the ship approaches New York, the shadow hits the World Trade Center and is curved, yet the ship is still inside a cloud which is not. As the ship moves, it changes direction, crossing the river, approaching the WTC, which was in Lower Manhattan, then moving in over the Empire State Building, which is far from both.
As an alien ship approaches Washington D.C. we see its shadow first encounter the Lincoln Memorial, then travels up the National Mall directly toward the U.S. Capitol. We also see the shadow go over the Washington Monument. This shadow is moving east. A couple of scenes later we see a shadow approach the White House directly from the front in a northbound direction. Since the White House is directly north of the Washington Monument, the White House should have already been in the shadow and the shadow should have approached it from the West Wing.
When the ships enter Earth's atmosphere, one ship is seen entering above the Casse's trailer park in Southern California, even though the only ship in Southern California is the one headed towards Los Angeles. Furthermore, the very next shot is of the Los Angeles ship flying over its destination. There is no explanation as to what ship flew over the Casses; rather, the entire scene was likely meant for dramatic effect.
The shadow of the approaching ship moves up the face of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, indicating the ship is moving from the front to the back of the Memorial and therefore away from the mall. The next shot shows the shadow moving toward the Washington Monument obelisk at the other end of the mall. In effect, the ship's direction has completely reversed.
Captain Hiller "steals" a UH-1 helicopter to go rescue Jasmine. The distance from Area 51 to El Toro is over 750 miles. The UH-1, without additional fuel tanks (which are not shown), had a range of well less than 400 miles, which is about half of what would be required to reach El Toro on just a one-way flight. Without preparations and ground support it would not be possible to make such a flight, especially given the damage caused by the alien attacks.
When David is walking around the office with Marty right before the President makes a speech about the alien invasion you can see a vending machine selling Arrowhead bottled water. That product is not available in New York, where the scene takes place. It is, however, available in Southern California, where the film was shot.
The Black Knights were scrambled from El Toro, a Marine Corps facility near Irvine, CA. Yet when Capt. Hiller crashes, he would have had to be near Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada (where Area 51 is located), some 250-300 miles away. Both Nellis and Edwards Air Force Bases are closer and would have have scrambled fighters which do not appear in the fight scene.
In the Israeli/Arab scene, the officer is heard talking about elements still present "in the Golan Straits". The Golan Heights is a set of hills between Israel and Lebanon, currently under Israeli control, and there are no water bodies anywhere nearby.
The Laser reflector seen next to Eagle's Descent stage on the Moon at the start of the movie is in the wrong place and facing the wrong direction. It was placed much further away from the craft, and pointed towards the Earth. The Earth itself is much higher in the sky from where Eagle sits, not near the horizon as the movie suggests.
The RAF do not operate F-16s and also the RAF's aircraft would not have the old style red white and blue roundel and symbols, they would instead have a smaller red and blue roundel and also appear in a desert camouflage.
Various mistakes regarding the correct time of day: The sun is rising in Washington DC after a scene in which it is shown rising in New Mexico. Then, it's said to be 2:45 a.m. in LA, which would make it 3:45 in NM, after the sun has risen there. Also, in the final celebration, it's broad daylight in Las Vegas, sunrise or sunset in Egypt, and at least partially light in Australia, all at the same time.
When Capt. Hiller is wearing his Service "Alpha" uniform, he is missing collar rank insignia on his dress shirt. This is a requirement under Marine Corps uniform regulations. Additionally, his mustache is extends beyond the corners of his mouth, a violation of Marine Corps grooming standards.
The United States flag placed on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin is no longer standing. It was knocked over by Armstrong's and Aldrin's take off in the Lunar Module. Furthermore, if the flag was still standing, it would be all-white and not depicting the red, white and blue colors, since there is no atmosphere on the Moon, the Sun would've easily burnt off the colors.
During the first battle with the alien fighters, Will Smith
destroys one by deploying his braking parachute to block the alien pilot's field of vision and causing it to crash into a cliff wall. But the F-18 which he is flying doesn't actually have a braking chute.
When the nuclear missile is launched from the B-2 bomber over Houston, the bomber is within sight of the spaceship. In reality, the missile would be fired from over the horizon, as the B-2 would not be able to escape the shock-wave caused by the detonation if it was within sight of the spaceship.
When Russell is sitting in the fighter jet he pushes a button and you hear "missile launch." It is impossible to launch missiles while a fighter is on the ground due to the Weight On Wheels Interlock. It is possible to disable this function in some jets, but this is a highly unusual procedure, and the Marines/Navy would almost definitely not do this.
In the El Toro scene and before the final battle, F/A-18's are shown with the sword and wreath symbol of the Air Force's Air Combat Command. The Air Force does not maintain F/A-18's in their inventory, it is a Navy Plane.
The scene with the U.S.S. Georgia takes place in the Persian Gulf. The captain lifts a phone and says to "get Atlantic Command on the line." The Persian Gulf falls into the theater of Central Command, not the Atlantic.
The decorations worn by General Grey include decorations received for valor in combat, yet the General is not wearing the Navy/Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon. If he had received a decoration for valor, he would have certainly received this ribbon as well.
Captain Hiller is an F-18 pilot. Yet in the scene after the alien attacks have begun and Air Force One has landed in Area 51, Capt. Hiller is shown commandeering a helicopter and flying it to El Toro to search for and rescue Jasmine. While military pilots begin flight school with the same basic flight training, later in flight school they later specialize, and it is highly doubtful that Captain Hiller would have received both F-18 and helicopter flight training, especially since one is fixed wing and the other is not.
The opening scenes show an alien mothership passing low over the Apollo 11 landing site. The vibration of its passing erases the famous boot print left on the soft lunar surface. The Moon's atmosphere is too thin to transmit any vibrations.
While being briefed about the nuclear weapon fitted onto the repaired alien spacecraft, Captain Hiller remarks that mechanism used to launch the device is "Just like the AMRAAM launch pad on a stealth". At the time the only known stealth aircraft in operation were the F-117A 'Nighthawk' Stealth Fighter (actually a light attack aircraft) and the B-2A 'Spirit' Stealth Bomber (a large strategic bomber). AMRAAM stands for 'Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile' and would never be outfitted on either the F-117 or the B-2 as neither aircraft was designed to carry air-to-air weapons or engage in aerial combat.
The alien ship blocks out all of the satellite dishes on the roof of David's office building, however when he returns to his office all monitors still show they have a signal. Just a few minutes before they were complaining of the interference caused by the alien signal. The ship blocking the satellite entirely would have caused a complete blackout of all blocked signals similar to the solar interference experienced in early March and October.
When the First Lady calls the President from Los Angeles at the beginning of the movie, she tells him it's 2:45 a.m., which would make it 5:45 a.m. in Washington, DC. When their daughter wakes up and turns on the TV, The McLaughlin Group is on. This show never came on in the Washington, DC area until 11:00 a.m., and only on Sunday mornings - which also means they couldn't have seen The Late Show with David Letterman the night before (it's only on Monday-Friday nights).
While flying on Air Force One, a female Air Force Officer walks by the camera, she has the missiler functional badge on. First a missiler unless doing a special duty would never be on Air Force One, and secondly the Missile functional badge is worn on the pocket, NOT above the flap of the pocket like pilot wings and other functional badges.
During the interior scene of the supposed AWACS, the flight
engineer panel shown is that of a 135, not an E-3. The panel of the E-3 is streamlined with push buttons; also, the pan shot from the aft of the aircraft is showing the seating inside the aircraft incorrectly.
About 5 minutes into the movie, an Air Force Master Sergeant is shown with 6 stripes all down. In 1991 the MSGT rank changed to 5 down, 1 up, and the old design had essentially been phased out by 1995.
The submarine is listed as the U.S.S. Georgia, which is an Ohio class fleet ballistic nuclear missile submarine, or Boomer. The submarine shown in the movie is in fact a Los Angeles Class Attack submarine.
Major Mitchell is wearing the name tag which is worn on the Air Force short sleeve or long sleeve Blues shirt on his Dress Coat. This style name tag was worn on the Air Force's previous style Dress Coat, however, in 1996, no name tag was worn on the style of Dress Coat, which Major Mitchell is seen wearing.
When the B2 launches the Nuke missile, it can be seen immediately banking left however, in the situation room where the radar is being monitored, you can see that on the screen it immediately banks right.
When the National Security Advisor suggests a nuclear attack on the aliens while aboard Air Force One, David uses "nuclear winter" as a reason not to do this. In fact, "nuclear winter" was discredited as a viable theory during the First Gulf War (when Kuwait was liberated) as Carl Sagan tried to stop President George Bush from taking action against Iraq on the claim that if Saddam Hussein set the oil fields afire the nuclear winter equations showed there would be a "year without summer." Hussein did set the oil fields afire, but summer came anyway. The flaw is that the nuclear winter theory was based on a model with an infinite number of variables and was scientifically invalid. However, as David is extremely ecologically conscious -- to the point that some people might consider him an "eco-nut" (constantly annoyed that the people around him don't follow his strict views on recycling, smoking, and Styrofoam cups, for example) -- it is reasonable to assume that he would not know or be less inclined to believe that the Nuclear Winter theory was discredited.
The Roswell Crash Wreckage was taken to Wright Patterson Airforce Base, not Area 51, however, as any military historian and possibly almost all the UFO people know, the debris' trail is lost after Wright Patterson. This is, in fact, the very reason Area 51 became a hotbed of UFO conspiracies, many conspiracy theorists stating that, since it was so secluded, it was the most likely place where it ended up.
Dr. Okun tells everyone that the aliens do not have vocal cords, yet the creatures seem to squeal and grunt during other parts of the film. However, these aliens are analogous to insects, which do not have vocal cords but have other noise-making organs.
When Russell Casse is flying a fighter plane as "Eagle 20", he launches his number two missile or "Fox Two" missile and then attempts to launch "Fox Two" for a second time. "Fox Two" refers to a type of missile (short-range, infrared-guided (heat-seeking) missile - "Fox One", for example, is a passive-radar-guided missile) not to a specific missile on an airplane.
It is doubtful whether a 340-mile mothership could approach as close as the moon without being detected in some way. Earth- and space-based telescopes are capable of resolving far smaller objects at far greater distances - for example, the asteroid 4-Vesta is about the same size, is nearly 146,000,000 miles from Earth at its closest approach and was discovered in 1807; the moons of Mars are twenty-four and thirty miles in diameter and were discovered in 1877. From lunar orbit, the apparent diameter of the mothership would be approximately 5 arcseconds, or about one-sixth the size of the Moon. Even if it had a nonreflective surface, it would block light from stars behind it as seen from Earth.
There is a common misconception that USA law requires actors portraying military personnel to wear the uniform improperly ("out of uniform") so as to not be "impersonating" military personnel. This is simply not so. 10 U.S.C. 772(f) does authorize the wear of an armed forces uniform by an actor in a theatrical or motion picture production "if that portrayal does not tend to discredit that armed force." SCHACHT v. UNITED STATES was a Supreme Court case in 1970 which found the preceding quote unconstitutional. As such, actors may wear the uniform in a theatrical or motion picture production without fear that it must reflect well on the military. Short version: Any movies which depict improperly worn uniforms can't use this excuse. They simply made a mistake.
When Jasmine is coming out of the tunnel after the initial attack on Los Angeles, everything is destroyed yet there are still palm trees standing unscathed. Considering the strength and heat of the attack, logic would dictate that the palm trees did not have a chance.
Jasmine's older-model television is not connected to a cable and has a VHF dial turned to channel 3, yet is somehow showing the "channel 51" news. A similar goof occurs later when the marines in the locker room watch the "channel 11" news on a similar TV.
When the alien gliders first appear, the Air Force is taken by surprise, yet the tactical display at the base already displays them as neat iconic abstractions. It needs a qualified person to design concise 2D icons from complex 3D shapes though, and of course, knowledge of this shape to begin with.
When David and their father are playing chess, most of the people in the scene are wearing sweaters or jackets, even though it is July 2 in New York City and the radio says the temperature is 95 degrees.
When the ship is first seen lumbering above the White House, we see people (probably unaware that they're being filmed) not reacting at all to the ship. (This cannot be seen on the wide-screen version)
In the crash of Hillard's F/A-18, notice that the radome, canopy and cockpit are completely intact. Nice effect, but in reality, they would have been disintegrated since these components would have impacted first. Additionally, since he ejected, the canopy would not still be attached.
When the First Lady is at the hotel and on her cell phone you can see bright sunlight pouring into the lobby through the windows. This would be impossible with the giant spaceship hovering above, blocking the sun. The scenes at the White House after the aliens' arrival show the same goof.
During the first alien attack, Marty in New York and another driver in Los Angeles (the one who grabs his steering wheel) are shown stuck in traffic, facing the oncoming firestorm from the alien's primary weapon. All the cars on both streets are shown facing the alien attack and ship head-on. Why would any drivers be heading TOWARD the Empire State Building, trying to move closer to where the ship is hovering and preparing to attack?
Several of the shots of the underside of the spaceship arriving at Area 51 and about to deploy its main weapon are actually shots of the spaceship closing its main weapon and departing after destroying New York run in reverse. You can see the tops of the destroyed skyscrapers along the bottom of the screen.
When the spacecraft are approaching their first target cities they are enveloped in roiling clouds and yet a sharp shadow is shown proceeding across the ground. The enveloping clouds would cast a diffuse edged not a sharp shadow. Further, the flames seen in the clouds would emit light, which would partially negate the effect of the shadow, illuminating the ground to some degree.
When the large ships hover over a city, they cast a shadow of a certain darkness. However, these ships are 15 miles wide and so low that what should happen is that the shadow gets darker and darker and darker as the ship continues to move over the fixed viewpoint. The shadow in the film does not.
As Air Force One is taking off from Washington, D.C., the runway marker lights are still functional, despite the control tower (and everything else behind Air Force One) being obliterated by the aliens' weapon.
The same group of pilots surrounding Russell in a 1971 photograph are later seen as another group of pilots, having not aged a bit in 25 years, entering Area 51 with the President during the film's finale (the same extras were used in both instances).
On the side view of the AWACS crew, one can see part of the Flight Engineer panel with all the amber lights related to cross feed valve position, low pressure fuel pumps and fuel shutdown valves turned on. They shouldn't while in flight. Also the generators load indicators read zero, meaning along with the previous paragraph that the engines are not running.
The scenes when Jasmine leaves the tunnel after the first alien attack and the one where she helps saving people with the truck - which is supposedly happening in a different part of the city - were both shot at the same location, as is obvious from the derelict building with the distinct vertical structures that can be seen in the background of both scenes.
Actors "marks" to stand on, are visible at these points through the movie:
- A Secret Service agent, when President Whitmore is on the phone telling his wife he wants her to leave LA
- Steven Hiller, about to leave for El Toro, walking up to his red car, where Dylan plays and Jasmine joins him
- Jasmine at the club, walking to the mirror in the dressing room
- Dr. Isaacs, behind Dr. Okun walking up to greet President Whitmore
- Dr. Okun when he leads President Whitmore, General Grey, David, and others to see "the big tamale"
- 3 people just before Dr. Okun unlocks the vault, and again right after he opens it and explains alien telepathy
- Nimzicki, when the President walks up to "the big tamale" Dr. Okun rushes up the ramp to explain his excitement
- General Grey, when the alien is terrorizing the President's mind
- Julius and Connie, when David is talking about viruses and Major Mitchell first shoots at the Coke can (not in other shots in the same scene)
- President Whitmore right before he angrily fires Nimzicki.
Near the beginning, when Whitmore is in bed talking to his wife on the phone, he never indicates to her that he is handing the phone to their daughter, yet Mrs. Whitmore is fully aware that this exchange has happened, even though neither of the sentences "Mommy?" and "Here's your mother." are uttered near the phone's microphone. She even knows exactly when she can start talking, without her daughter greeting her.
After Miguel confronts Russel about dusting the wrong field he starts his motorcycle without moving implying he used an electric starter. He rides a '60s-era Honda Scrambler which would have a kick starter.
The goof items below may give away important plot points.
When the pilots return from destroying the alien ship at Area 51 General Gray salutes the President and says "They're going down all over the world Tom. We've got them beat." A general of the U.S. Armed Forces should not address the Commander-in-Chief by his given name in public. He should have used "Mr. President".
When the fighter aircraft make their final assault on the alien destroyer over area 51, all of the planes shown are F/A-18s but once they have landed at least one F-5 and F-16 can be seen and a lot less F/A-18s.
After successfully defeating the alien craft above Area 51, President Whitmore is greeted back to the base. In this sequence, President Whitmore's hair changes four times. When he first lands, his hair messy and in his face. In the next shot, his hair is gelled back. His hairstyle switches two more times before settling on the slicked-back look.
They only had 30 seconds to not only escape the mothership, but also to reach a minimum safe distance to clear the multi-megaton blast that was about to occur. It took 90 seconds just to get out of the mothership.
At the end of the film Jasmine, Connie, the president and others drive into the desert to welcome the returning heroes. The jeep stops a short distance away with Jasmine leaping out (with Connie still in the Jeep) and running toward Steven. Jasmine is shown running alone. Yet, Connie jumps into her man's arms before Jasmine.
Just before Jimmy's F-18 plane is shot down by the alien fighters, the air speed readout shows it traveling at speeds just over Mach 2.5. This is impossible with an F-18 fighter plane, since it only has a maximum top speed of Mach 1.8.
The F-18 hornets in the last battle scene are shown to be launching sidewinder missiles against the mothership. Sidewinder missiles are designed to catch up quickly and destroy small fast moving aircraft and a large mothership the size depicted in the movie, would be impervious to the relatively small explosive force of a sidewinder missile. A more effective solution would be to use mark 84 bombs as the mothership isn't a fast moving object. However, it was stated after arriving at Area 51 that most of the US military is incapacitated by that time, and Area 51 was not specifically set up to support fighters, therefore it is likely they could not find loadouts for the fighters.
Russel Casse's airplane was destroyed by the impact with the alien ship, not the jammed missile exploding on the plane. Such a crash would detonate the warheads on air-to-air missiles. That the missile had jammed has no bearing on whether or not it exploded.
President Whitmore's group when they get to Area 51 consists of President Whitmore, David, Connie, Julius, General Gray, Patricia, and Nimiziki. However, there are also five other White House staff members (three men and two women) with them who appear throughout the rest of the film. These five staffers were never shown getting on the President's helicopter and, given the short amount of time that President Whitmore and the other six got aboard and took off, would not have boarded in time and would have had to have taken the second helicopter, which was incinerated as it took off when the White House was destroyed. How did these five staffers make it to Air Force One?
The U.S Air Force's E-3 Sentry has a very large and very powerful radar system that could track for hundreds of miles, yet the crew could not detect a spaceship several miles long until it was too late?
Pilots use specialized suits to keep the G-Force from making them go unconscious. After Russell Casse destroys the primary alien weapon, in one second you see the suit on the President in his plane. In a second shot, again for a second, you can see him turn to look behind him, and you will notice he is not wearing the suit
In a scene at the end, Hiller and Levinson are seen walking away from the crash of their alien spacecraft. When Constance and Jasmine jump out of the military vehicle to greet them, several sets of parallel tracks are visible on the ground. These tracks are perpendicular to the path traveled by the actors and the military vehicle and could not reasonably constitute part of the scene. They were likely caused by production team vehicles.
The city-size ships all over the world are all destroyed in coordinated air assaults carried out over the course of a few minutes. Immediately after, we see people celebrating them in areas as widely separated as Nevada, Africa, Egypt, and Australia... all of them in broad daylight at the same time. At least one of those locations would have been in nighttime.
When Levinson is briefing the higher-ups on the plan to plant the virus, he references satellite photos of the mother shop, however the photos on the board where he plants his hand are Polaroids. Even without this reference, instant pictures of the mother ship seem highly implausible.