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Executive Decision (1996) Poster

Goofs

Audio/visual unsynchronised 

When Sen. Mavros is brought into the cockpit to talk to the SecDef he asks to speak to the President. When he does so there's the sound of a gun being cocked i.e. pulling back the hammer. Seconds later the gun comes into view and it's a semi-auto Glock which has an internal hammer and makes a distinctly different sound when the slide is pulled back to cock it.
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Grant does not use reverse thrust after landing, but just pulls the throttles back to cut the engines. When he does so, the engine sound rises as if he was applying power (presumably reverse thrust).
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Character error 

David Grant is taking flying lessons in the beginning of the movie in a complex, high-performance aircraft (meaning that it has retractable landing gear, a 200+ horsepower engine with a turbocharger, and in this case a constant-speed propeller). This is not the type of aircraft a student pilot would be learning in - typically student pilots fly in fixed-gear aircraft with simple carbureted engines of less than 200 horsepower without a turbocharger.
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During Dr. Grant's pre-solo flight, he asks his instructor "what have I forgotten?" as they approach to land. The instructor tells him, "just fly the airplane," but does not remind him to do the GUMPS pre-landing check (which most flight students memorize long before solo) - Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture, Prop, Seatbelts.
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Nagi's #2 wants him to divert the plane to Algeria. At this point in the movie the 747 is over the North Atlantic, fairly close to the US Eastern seaboard. Then, not long after, the pilots state the plane is low on fuel and they request an emergency landing. It is thus highly unlikely that the plane would have carried enough fuel earlier to fly all the way back across the Atlantic to Algeria.
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When the Special Forces team is setting up the cameras and Grant is plotting the locations of the terrorists on the computer, the first terrorist (in 1st Class) is labeled as carrying a Skorpion machine-pistol (9mm). When we see him chatting with a second terrorist, he is carrying a AK47 or AKM assault rifle (7.62mm).
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Dr. Grant lowers the landing gear of the Beechcraft Bonanza, and confirms it is down and locked. The nose wheel is still extending and moving into it's final position when he says this. It cannot yet be down and locked as stated.
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Continuity 

All through the movie Grant is wearing glasses that aren't just for reading. They get knocked off towards the end of the movie yet he is still able to see clearly with no signs of struggle. He is even able to fly the plane to a landing with no vision problems.
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The sunset light on the plane is not consistent.
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The lights surrounding the runway at Dulles change.
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As Dr. Grant makes his way forward and aft suspended over the cabin via the trolley and sling, his wristwatch switches from his left arm to right, and back again (clearly, she whole shot was "flipped").
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Just after Cahill starts working on the bomb, we see a shot of Rat scooting along the wires at the top of the plane. As he comes straight at the camera, he's only wearing a microphone. The next profile shot shows the mic in a different position, but when Rat gets to the end of the cable to dismount, he's suddenly wearing a full military-spec night vision camera setup on a headmount, and the mic has switched sides.
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When Cahill opens the first hatch on the F-117 Nighthawk and looks up, a green indicator is shown that the pressure is "Equalized". When he climbs to the second hatch, a red indicator is shown that the pressure is "Unsafe".
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Crew or equipment visible 

Shortly after the pilot discovers the American soldiers, he goes back to the cockpit. A section of blue screen can briefly be seen at one point.
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A fraction of a second after the window is shot out, there is a bright flash outside it for no reason.
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Errors in geography 

In some shots the sunset light on the plane is coming directly from its right, which is impossible on a westward flight in the northern mid-latitudes.
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During the flight training scenes, he is supposed to be at a small airport in Frederick, Maryland. However, palm trees are visible in the background.
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The hijacking begins soon after the Fasten Seat Belts sign is turned off after takeoff. The flying time to Washington is about 8 hours. (This is confirmed by dialogue a little later.) Yet not only during the hijacking but at every time we see the plane's exterior from then until just before reaching the US coast, the sky shows that it's still sunset. The time for a sunset to progress from Athens to Washington is about 6.5 hours; only a supersonic plane could keep up with it.
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When Grant is attempting to land the plane at Dulles Airport, he aborts the landing and then looks at the surrounding area, and notices a stadium to the left. However, there is no sports stadium close to Dulles Airport, which is 26 miles west of Washington, DC.
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The Dulles International Airport fire trucks are labeled "DULLES MUNICIPAL AIRPORT." Other vehicles are listed as Mobile Regional Airport or Municipal Airport, and the police cars are of the Mobile, Ala. Police Department and are not painted to match the Metro PD's cars. The movie was shot in Mobile.
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At the end of the movie paramedics are loading the Air Marshall into the ambulance. You can clearly see the paramedic on the right has a Los Angeles County Paramedic patch on his jumpsuit.
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Andrews Air Force Base is not surrounded by high mountains and palm trees.
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In the second London scene, at the U.S. Embassy, we see a sky that is not yet fully dark, and only a few lights are on.
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Early in the movie, Kurt Russell's character is landing a plane. The camera pans by a sign that says "Fredericks Field, VA" and includes a 703 area code. However, the titles on the screen say "Frederick Field, Maryland". Neither are likely as there are mountains and palm trees visible during the landing sequence.
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The air force base radar screen shows "Oceanic 343" with the altitude, speed, and KDIA. KDIA is the airport for Denver Int'l Airport. Dulles Int'l Airport is KIAD.
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The computer navigation display on the Hail Mary plane and the Pentagon's both have grid lines at latitude 45 north. On one display they're north of the line, and on the other, south.
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If it's sunset in some part of Europe it should be early afternoon in Washington, but we now see a clock labeled "WASHINGTON, DC" and showing 6:38. This is followed by a scene at Andrews Air Force Base where the short shadows are correct for early afternoon. All the action described so far in relation to the hijacking is supposed to occur within a couple of hours.
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At the indicated time of year, the nights in London are over 10 hours long and twilight lasts about 35 minutes. A scene set at Gatwick Airport about 2 hours before the hijacked plane arrives in Washington takes place in darkness, which is correct if it was about sunset at the time of hijacking. But the takeoff time from Gatwick referred to is about 6:30 am, long after sunrise, and indeed we see this plane flying in daylight, still before the hijacked plane reaches Washington.
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The plane departs from Athens just before sunset (it's daytime in the boarding lounge), when London would still be in full daylight. But the London bombing scene, supposedly at about the same time, is at night.
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Supposedly flying at 38,500 feet, the plane encounters weather not seen above 25,000 feet.
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Factual errors 

Armed federal air marshals aren't listed as such on passenger manifests, since their modus operandi (and the extent to which they are used on commercial airplanes) is classified.
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The computer for the fake bomb trigger has a hard disk drive with the internal disks and read/write heads exposed. This would never be the case since any dust or dirt that contacted the mechanism would cause the hard drive to crash and fail.
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The F117A Nighthawk is a single seat strike aircraft. There is only one seat: the pilot's. There is no room for passengers at all. Most of the aircraft's fuselage is taken up by the engines. The huge passenger compartment in the film just does not exist. It could be argued that this is a similar looking fictional aircraft, but the design is still clearly to small from the exterior to carry that many people.
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The Special Forces soldiers Uniforms have the Special Forces patch and the Airborne tab. Special Forces soldiers would not wear these identifying patches into the field.
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During the scene when the team is inspecting the bomb and have to choose someone to diffuse it, the Captain tells them to hurry up because 'the morphine is kicking in'. The morphine was administered at least ten minutes beforehand, and morphine generally kicks in almost immediately since it is administered intravenously.
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747s don't have their flaps down and engines idling while at cruising altitude/speed.
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The Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star, would not be able to see the F-117 Nighthawk on the radar.
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The type of airplane used in the hijacking is a Boeing 747-200. The digital cockpit shots and absence of a Flight Engineer indicate a 747-400.
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The interior views of the Remora aircraft show the passenger cabin immediately behind the cockpit. The computer schematic of the aircraft shows the passenger cabin at the rear of the aircraft separated from the cockpit by the transfer tube.
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The Secretary of Defense orders the USS Eisenhower to ready to launch their F-14s to intercept the 747. When the F-14s are shown launching, the number 74 is plainly seen on the island of the aircraft carrier. CV-74 is the USS John C. Stennis, the Eisenhower is CV-69.
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The F-14 pilots reference use of AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, despite carrying what appear to be AIM-54 Phoenixes. The US Navy uses the "Sea Sparrow." The F-14 pilot would be more likely to use the AIM-9 Sidewinder at that range, or the Phoenix than the Sparrow.
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The lower level galley is an optional feature for DC-10 and TriStar aircraft and would not be found on a Boeing 747.
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When the tail lights of the aircraft were to be used for Morse Code, a manual is referred to. The movie takes place on a 747-200 model aircraft. The manual is for a 747-400 aircraft.
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The AN/PVS-7 night vision goggles used by Cahill to see the lasers guarding the bomb detonator do offer extremely limited depth perception due to it's two-into-one design. While experience with the system can help overcome this deficiency, it is doubtful that Cahill would have had the experience necessary. Without depth perception, it would have been nearly impossible to defuse the bomb.
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When the Remora aircraft goes down there is a screen shown from the E-2 Hawkeye aircraft which has the position and various details of each aircraft. The Oceanic 747 has the ICAO airport code of Dulles Airport as being 'KDIA', when in reality it is KIAD.
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The computer navigation display on the Hail Mary plane shows its route doubling back by about 1,000 miles, requiring it to catch up with the 747 over that distance. This would waste a great deal of precious time and no reason is given for doing it.
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In the beginning of the movie, a graphic announces that the date of the Counter-terrorist Strike Team is May 17, 1995, and the time is 05:00 Zulu time. As the attack is done in Trieste, Italy, the time there would be 06:00 local time. However, the scene is shown to be completely dark, even though the sunrise in that region in mid-May would have been 30 minutes earlier.
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Infrared beams are invisible, even in a haze. And they are invisible, despite using infrared goggles, without haze. So Cahill would need both, the goggles and the air spray.
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Besides that fact that there aren't such big, empty spaces on a 747-200 or any similar aircraft (all available room is used for equipment, wiring etc.), in the space above the cabin there are various 15-inch speakers mounted to the ceiling. Such a big speaker is used for bass reproduction, where in reality much smaller full-range speakers are installed for announcements and background music.
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Andrews Air Force Base does not house F-117 Nighthawks, nor has it ever.
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Miscellaneous 

At the end of the movie, the final end title reads "Critical Decision", not "Executive Decision".
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When the terrorist blows the door lock to the cockpit the passengers scream, but when he is in the cockpit instructing the pilots there is no background noise. No one is screaming or crying in fear. It's as if nothing happened.
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Incorrectly regarded as goofs 

It has been claimed that a barometric trigger would not work, because the trigger was in the pressurized section of the hold. The pressure inside an aircraft's cabin does decrease as the plane increases in altitude, although at a slower rate than the pressure outside the plane decreases.
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Plot holes 

When Grant discovers the pilots dead, he fails to do the one sensible thing he should have done-namely, find out if there are any trained pilots on board. Several of his crew are still functioning; what about Cahill, who designs planes? Instead, Grant acts for the rest of the film as if he's the only person on board with any chance of landing the plane, without any way of knowing that. And everyone else just stays put while they abort one landing, and get bounced around through another-what kind of sense does that make?
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Nagi's hand-drawn target map shows no ground features but rivers, is labeled in Arabic, and is only for his own use, yet for no reason it also shows "WASHINGTON, D.C." in English... enabling Jean to understand its significance.
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Revealing mistakes 

The needle in the multimeter connected to the bomb doesn't match its reflection in the mirror. Moreover, after installation of the first bypass, a major point is that the needle shows the same voltage as before the installation, while in the next shot it's down to zero.
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When Dr.Grant lands at Fredrick Airport the first time in the Cessna, all the other planes are parked in the parking area where they should be. But, when he lands the 747, all the planes have been lined up along the runway in "No Parking" areas. The 747 would not have hit those planes if the planes had been in the parking areas.
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The script calls for assistance from the Eisenhower battle group. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is CVN-69. The scenes from the carrier were actually filmed on the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). The 74 hull number is clearly visible in the film. The Eisenhower was in the yards at Newport News during the time of filming.
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At the beginning of the movie, we see Grant landing his Bonanza on Runway 26. At the end, he tries to land the 747 on the same Runway 26. However, as the plane runs off the far end of the runway, we see the opposite direction is marked 7. A real Runway 26 would be Runway 8 in the other direction, not 7.
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Exterior shots of the 747 reveal landing projectors turned on while supposedly in cruising altitude.
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Spoilers

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Continuity 

During the crash landing at Frederick airport there is a shot where the left side inboard engine comes off as the wing crashes into some parked planes. However, in the next shot the wing still has both of its engines intact. Finally, at the end of the scene, the engine is missing again.
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When the plane finally comes to rest on the ground, it is at an extreme nose down attitude since the nose gear collapsed yet as the passengers are exiting and after, the plane is virtually level.
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When the 747 is on final for landing, no approach lighting system is present. However, as it begins to touchdown, it can be seen crashing into several approach landing lights which were not present before.
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Rat is shot in the back several times, and struggles to raise his pistol. A short time later, Rat is casually smiling as he helps load Cappy's litter up into an ambulance.
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When Grant is approaching Dulles, he attempts to gain control of the plane by lowering the flaps. When the flaps start to lower, you can see the landing gear yet Grant had not yet lowered it.
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Factual errors 

When Grant enters the cockpit to find both pilots dead, the first officer isn't wearing his safety belt, which is extremely unlikely.
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When the airport crash trucks are responding from their station, city fire trucks (the red ones) are responding through the station - in the back doors and out the front - to make the shot look like a lot of rigs are responding. If city rigs were responding to the airport, they would be called a significant time after the air-side rigs were sent, and would report to a holding point somewhere other than the air-side fire station.
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When Nagi kills his #2 man he raises the gun and cocks the hammer with his thumb before shooting. The gun Nagi has is a Glock 19 which has no exposed hammer spur.
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When David Grant is making his first approach into Dulles, he says his speed is too fast so he pulls back on the throttles and pushes the nose down. Reducing the throttle would not have a significant effect on the speed but cause the plane to descend. Pushing the nose down would cause the plane to gain airspeed.
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See also

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

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