Early in the movie, when Tony Mendez visits the headquarters of the US State Department, he passes a window containing a row of flags. Of these flags, several belong to countries that did not exist in 1980, most notably the flag of Russia.
When Tony Mendez first arrives in Tehran, there is a significant shot of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Although K.F.C. was present in Iran during the 1970s, the restaurants was closed permanently during the Islamic revolution in 1979. Thus they wouldn't exist there in 1980.
When Sahar crosses the border into Iraq, the flag at the border station has "Allahu Akbar" in traditional kufic Arabic script between the three black stars. Saddam Hussein added this phrase in 1991 in what was supposed to be his handwriting. The kufic variant was added in 2004 following the American invasion. The flag in 1978 would have just displayed the stars.
In the establishing shot when Tony Mendez goes to Hollywood to seek help is the dilapidated HOLLYWOOD sign, which was indeed how the sign appeared in the mid-1970s after years of neglect. Since that sign was originally built in the 1920s, it was only planned as a temporary structure. However, the sign was refurbished and rebuilt with new letters in November 1978, which was a full year before the Iranian hostage crisis began.
There is an British TV advertisement for Cillit Bang in the background. Cillit Bang was first launched in Hungary in 2003, before being rolled out across mainland Europe, and finally arriving in the U.K. in November 2004.
When the Swissair flight is in the process of taking off, it is being chased by several police cars. Though set in 1980, the lights are Federal Signal Corporation Streethawk lightbars which did not come into use until the mid to late-1980s.
When Tony Mendez and Jack O'Donnell go to the Office of the Secretary of State there is a woman typing at a desk, at the front of the desk there is an envelope with two stamps on it, one stamp is a 37 cent American flag design which was first used in 2002, the other is a 2 cent stamp issued in 2006 depicting Navajo jewelry. In 1980 a first class stamp cost 15 cents.
Ben Affleck's character Tony Mendez wears a Rolex Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA (reference number 116660) watch which was introduced first in 2008 (in 1980 the correct Rolex Sea-Dweller should be a reference number 1665).
During the final scene where the plane is taking off from the Tehran airport, a shot from the city streets is used showing the plane in the air. One of the air-conditioners on a building has the new logo of Turkish manufacturer Arcelik, which was introduced during the 21st century.
The design of the Swissair Boeing 747 as shown in the film was not used until 1981, when the appearance dating from the mid-1950s was overhauled for the 50th birthday of the airline. Until then, the 747's design sported a red stripe around the body on white ground with a grey belly and the name in a different font in black.
When driving up to Washington Dulles airport, a row of cars parked outside of the terminal have the center high mount stop lamp (CHMSL) in their rear windows. This light did not appear on American automobiles until 1985.
Most of the glasses worn by the characters have an antireflective coating that looks blueish-purple in color to those looking at the front of the glasses. This type of coating was not be used in 1979-1980.
While driving up to Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C., the terminal building was not shown accurately. One can see additions to the terminal that were not built until 1996. In 1979-80, the terminal was about half the size that it is now.
When in Istanbul, agent Tony Mendez enters the Blue Mosque to meet up with a fellow, but the next scene with their conversation takes place in the Hagia Sophia, a former Orthodox Church. (There are even close-up frames with Byzantine frescoes of saints.)
At least three versions of the postcard Tony Mendez writes his son for his birthday are visible. While writing the postcard the layout of the writing changes, and finally when his son reads the postcard another writing layout is visible.
After the script reading, when Tony Mendez, Lester Siegel and John Chambers make a toast, the camera angle changes while Lester drinks and there is more liquor in his glass in the second shot than in the first.
The time difference between Tehran and Washington, D.C., is 8.5 hours, and the difference between Washington and Los Aangeles is another three (i.e. 8:30 a.m. in Tehran is midnight in D.C, and 9:00 p.m. in L.A.). On the day of the escape, when Tony confirms to the CIA that he is going ahead with the mission, it appears to be dawn in Tehran and the scenes which follow over the next several hours are difficult to reconcile with these time zone differences.
In most cities in Iran (northern cities excluded because of the climate) rooftops are flat. In historic archival clips and some aerial shots in the movie this is very visible. However, when the crowd breaks through the Embassy gates and rushes into the yard in background, one can see buildings with peaked or gable roofs which is a very common sight in Istanbul and not in Tehran. BUT Tehran is in northern Iran.
As a ruse to make certain he would be patched through to speak with President Carter's Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan, CIA Agent Jack O'Donnell asks one of his aides where Malinov's children go to school. She answers, Pace Academy, Buckhead, Georgia. The city of Buckhead is 75 miles from Pace Academy. The school is in Atlanta, in a neighborhood known locally as Buckhead.
As the Swissair Boeing 747 is taking off, police cars are keeping up along side as it rolls, even though the take-off speed of this aircraft is between 160 and 180 knots. The vehicles also drive directly behind the number four engine without being affected by jet blast.
It is stated that the British and New Zealand embassies refused to help staff from the American embassy. This was not true. Both the British and the New Zealand embassies sheltered the Americans, then helped to pass them on to the Canadians. Britain's Arthur Wyatt was later awarded the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George for the risks that he took.
The opening narration states that, in 1953, the U.K. and the C.I.A. engineered a coup d'etat to depose Prime Minister Mohammmad Mossadegh and install Reza Pahlavi as the Shah. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was already the Shah at the time of the coup. The coup began when the Shah dismissed Mossadegh and appointed Fazlollah Zahedi as the prime minister.
The insignia outside the Canadian Ambassador's residence is a maple leaf. This is not used by Canadian diplomatic missions. The royal Canadian coat of arms (implemented in 1921) would have been used instead.
Early in the film there is a reference to the Canadian "Foreign Secretary". This is a British title, not Canadian. The Canadian cabinet member is "Minister of External Affairs", and this title is correctly referenced (in a TV clip) near the end of the film.
In 1980, Swissair had only two Boeing 747s, each assigned to a specific route: Zurich-New York and Geneva-New York. Except for special assignments (which this wasn't - Swissair was not informed who they were to fly out), they never flew to Iran or any other country.
Tony Mendez is shown walking through Washington, D.C., near the Washington Monument in January of 1980, yet the trees and vegetation are in bloom and full of green leaves, a scene more reflective of late spring in Washington, not the wintertime.
Immediately after the opening scene of the embassy takeover, the screen shows panning shots of Washington DC, with wording showing "69 days later," mid-January. The extensive amount of autumn color in the tree leaves clearly would not still be evident in the dead of a Washington winter.
When Tony Mendez arrives in Tehran, he presents his Canadian passport to the Iranian immigration official. On presentation, a large version of the Canadian coat of arms appears on the cover of the passport, the bio page of the passport contains a water mark (to the left of the passport number) on the top edge of the "endorsements and limitations" page which is right above the bio page, and the photo appears to the right of the bio page's data. This passport version was introduced by Passport Canada (issuer of Canadian passports) circa 1998. In 1980, the bio data on a Canadian passport would appear typed on one page, and the photo was glued to the page right beneath it. Also, the Canadian coat-of-arms appears in a smaller version in the center of the passport's cover. Ironically, ten minutes after arriving in Tehran, when Mendez is meeting the Canadian Ambassador discretely in a car and is presented with the passports that will be use to sneak the U.S. diplomats out of Iran, do we see the correct version of the passport used in this mission.
Noticeable on the uniforms and caps of immigration officials working at Tehran's airport passport control, is the former coat-of-arms of Iran used during the Shah's reign. After the 1979 revolution, the coat of arm featuring a lion holding a sword surrounded by olive leaves and a crown (symbolizing the Shah) above the lion was immediately replaced by the new theocratic government with a Persian-inspired script symbolizing "Allah" ("God"). The new coat of arms (which appears in the center of Iran's flag today) contains no imagery or symbols relating to the Shah and the Pahlavi dynasty.
During the chase at the airport, the aircraft registration HB-ISO can be seen on the B747's body. Swissair's B747-fleet operated under HB-IG"X", in 1980 this would have been HB-IGA or -B .
HB-ISO was a DC9.
There's a line "some guy in Scranton is planting a flag a day", but this actually happened on the other side of Pennsylvania near Sharon, PA. The flags are still there as seen at www.avenueofflags.com.
During the final sequence between Tony and his sleeping son Ian, a toy of the "Star Wars" character Boba Fett can be seen on the shelf. While many believe that the character of Boba Fett was not introduced until _Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)_, he actually first appeared in The Star Wars Holiday Special (and had appeared in a parade a few weeks earlier still) and even the regular-sized figure originally came out in 1979 (as a special mail away offer).
Most of the cars shown in the film were Volkswagen, Peugeot 504, Mercedes, or some other Turkish or German, or French vehicles, while more than 70 percent of vehicles in Iran in that era was PAYKAN (a British-designed car that was produced in Iran). There wasn't even one in the movie.