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Contact (1997) Poster

(1997)

Goofs

Anachronisms 

When Hadden is contacted onboard MIR, he states that the "low oxygen, zero gravity is the only thing keeping his cancer from eating him alive..." yet he is wearing a nasal cannula which has only one purpose, to give additional oxygen to the patient which would negate the "low oxygen" claim.
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In a flashback to the early- to mid-'70s, we see a toy horse on young Ellie's nightstand. The horse is made by Breyer Animal Creations in the mid to late 1980s.
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Audio/visual unsynchronised 

During the close-up of Fish watching Palmer's Larry King interview, the TV screen is reflected in Fish's glasses. In that reflected image Mr. King is talking, but the audio from the TV is Palmer's voice.
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Character error 

When the alien signal is heard for the first time, they state that the star Vega is about to set. Yet outside the window the radio telescope array is clearly still pointing up at the sky, when it should be pointing to the horizon.
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Ellie says, "There are over four hundred billion stars out there, just in our galaxy alone. If just one in a million of those have planets, and if just one of a million of those have life, and if just one in a million of those have intelligent life, there would be literally millions of civilizations out there." The math doesn't work. 400,000,000,000 times (1/1000000) times (1/1000000) times (1/1000000) is far less than one. The movie's creators were informed of this issue after the scene was shot and couldn't find a cost effective way of fixing the problem, so they left it in.
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Ellie has two telescopes set up to watch the Leonid meteor shower (flashback). Telescopes are useless to view meteors because of their tiny field of vision.
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Ellie says to Palmer that her father died when she was 9. Yet later in the movie Mr. Hadden set her birth date to August 25th 1964, and her father's death to November 10th 1974, so she was 10 at the moment of his death.
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When Dr. Arroway first hears the alien signal at the VLA, she shouts into her walkie-talkie the Right Ascension and Declination that the signal is emanating from. Twice, she says, "Declination plus 36 degrees," but when she repeats it the third time, she accidentally says "Declination 36 hours."
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Following the reception of the signal transmitting prime numbers, Ellie talks to the operator in the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Control Room in Australia. He reports (in a not too convincing Australian accent) the position of the source "we put it right smack in the middle...Vay-ga." Australians would not use the American pronunciation but would pronounce the name of the star as "Vee-ga."
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When she first meets Kent, Ellie pronounces "starquake" as "starquick"
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The desk of the ham radio station is arranged so that the semi-automatic Vibroplex ("bug") morse key is on the left hand side, closest to the camera. This suggests it is used by a left handed person. Yet neither Ellie nor her father appear to be left handed. Ellie uses her right hand to complete her drawing of Florida and her father wears his watch on his left wrist suggesting he is right handed.
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Whenever Ellie is using the Sony headphones, you can see she places the cup with the blue bead on the band over her right hear; this is reversed as the blue bead on that model headphone is meant to go over the left hear (the right ear cup has a red bead on the band.)
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Continuity 

When the pods drop through the machine commences, the ship containing the control staff rocks severely (causing some of the control staff members to shout in panic as they lose their balance), and the machine itself is releasing brilliant light and a thunderous roar as the rings whirl like helicopter blades. Three or four seconds later, when the pod splashes into the catch net, there is little ambient noise. In the ship, staff members are suddenly sure-footed and tranquil.
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Ellie gets out of bed after having sex, pulls her sweater on and walks to the end of the bed, clearly braless. Seconds later as she leaves, she has somehow miraculously acquired a bra.
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In the VLA control room when the message is first received, the Tektronix 420 oscilloscope is in the "Trigger - Edge Source" mode when Ellie decreases the vertical scale. When the message momentarily stops, she glances back at the same scope and it is in the "Display - Style" mode.
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When Ellie is leaving Arecibo Palmer Joss leaves her a note. When we first see the note it is pinned to a wall. When Ellie looks at in on the wall the 9 in the phone number has a straight tail. She takes it off the wall and puts it down beside the phone. At that point it's a different note. The signature is different and the 9 in the phone number has a short hook, like a lower case g. In the next scene, when Ellie is packed up and about to get in the jeep to leave, she goes back in to see if she missed anything. She sees the note by the phone. This time it's back to the original note.
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When Ellie is flown to the Naval vessel in the VTOL plane, the wide-shot shows the plane as military grey. In the following close-up, when she steps out of the plane, it has a colourful livery.
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When the VLA scientists receive the video transmission, the "zoom" slider on the computer screen is on 0. Moments later, when they are asked to zoom out on the video, the slider is on 4, and the scientists move it to 0.
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When the first test of the machine commences at Cape Canaveral, it is late afternoon, as indicated by the sunlight shining on the western side of the machine. However when the P.O.V. shifts to the spectators along the Banana River causeway, the sun in shining on the southeastern side of the machine, indicating mid-morning.
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Ellie arrives at the Japanese location of the new Alien transport in a gray Hawker Harrier. She leaves in a white and red plane.
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When Ellie calls in to Fish and Willie to alert them about the signal, the part of the room where they are sitting is dim, with no overhead lights on. Two seconds later (after we see Fish spring from his chair to use a PC in another part of the room), the overhead lights above Willie are suddenly on.
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The position of Ellie's headset microphone when she first gets into the sphere.
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Dumlin's interview prior to the test run of The Machine is played on TV before he has actually recorded it.
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Josh visits Ellie in Japan. Later in the control room, his hair is very different, obviously sporting a new haircut.
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Crew or equipment visible 

When Ellie first hears the signal, the crew is reflected in the glass doors as she goes up the stairs.
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A camera is visible in Ellie's glasses when she is talking for the first time with Palmer at Arecibo.
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Errors in geography 

As Ellie steps down the stairs of the U.S. Capitol after testifying, the limousines drive away on a road that is on the west side of the U.S. Capitol. In fact, there is no road there at all, only steps that lead down to a small reflecting pool. This road was added via CGI.
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The opening sequence contain impossible physics with the four planets (Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) that appear completely desynchronized as the sequence zooms out. The Great Red Spot on the gas planet Jupiter appear larger and centered near the equator rather than slightly positioned at the middle lower line of the planet.
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Every scene outside supposedly NASA facilities repeatedly mentioned as being in Florida show the California state flag flying below the US Flag. The official state flag of Florida contains a red-bar cross with the Florida state seal in the middle. The state flag of California shows a bear in the middle with a red bar at the bottom. The two flags could not be more different. The Florida state flag should be flying in those scenes, not California.
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A satellite image of Earth is shown when Ellie first receives the alien signal in the evening, however, the satellite image suggest morning in New Mexico as the sun is centered off the U.S. east coast.
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After young Ellie's contact with the man in Florida on her shortwave set, her father praises her for the most distant contact to date, "One thousand one hundred and sixteen miles." The air distance from Madison to Pensacola is actually 906 miles.
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The mountainous peninsula and bay on the east coast of Hokkaido, concealing the second machine, does not exist. At the actual location (midway between Shibetsu and Rausu) is a simple bulge in the shoreline, consisting of rolling foothills and farmland.
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The opening sequence shows Earth, particularly the Gulf of Mexico, shows an incorrect shoreline. There is an indentation north of Tampa Bay that doesn't exist, as well as a very irregular Florida Panhandle shoreline.
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Factual errors 

You can't use walkie-talkies/cell-phones near a radio telescope array. It would overpower the array, making it useless.
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The suggestion that a man-made Earth-orbiting satellite could have been used to simulate a signal emanating from a star is absurd. A satellite within Earth's or the Sun's gravitational fields can not carry enough fuel to maintain a position in front of a distant star for more than a fraction of a second out of every several hours. And since the signal was tracked from several locations on Earth, the sky would have to be filled with hoax satellites to fool more than one listening station. Moreover, the VLA alone would be able to confirm the distance of the signal from parallax.
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The VLA in New Mexico does not listen for radio transmissions, but in fact takes radio "photographs" of space. In their Visitor Center they acknowledge the filming of Contact but debunk the premise of the film that their dishes could be utilized for the purpose described.
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It is impossible for Dr. Arroway to have graduated from MIT Magna Cum Laude, as MIT gives no such distinctions.
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The radio and TV signals that are said to have reached the star Vega could not. By SETI's own calculations, these signals are imperceptible from noise within 2 light-years; Vega is 25.7 light-years away.
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At Arecibo, Ellie monitors 1221.5 MHz. This is in the GPS L2 frequency band (1227.6 +/- 10.23 MHz), rendering it unusable for SETI because of the interference.
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When Ellie first hears the signal from space, she calls back to the guys with a walkie-talkie and they answer her as well. But, when the guys press the talk button, her conversation doesn't stop emanating from the radio. Which of course it would.
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In the opening galactic pullback scene, the oldies in the soundtrack are out of sync with the indicated distance from Earth. It takes only 4 hours for a radio transmission to travel from Earth to the edge of our solar system, yet 1960s music and news cues are heard as the "virtual camera" passes Jupiter.
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In the first scene when Ellie is sitting outside near the VLA, the license plates on her car show a New Mexico tag on the front bumper. The state of New Mexico does not provide front license plates for vehicles registered in that state.
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When the signal starts sending primes Fish is counting/marking 7 but on the scope in front of him seven has already been completed and eleven is mostly finished.
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As the camera pulls away from the Earth in the opening scene, we see the gas cloud known as the Eagle Nebula (M16) with the "Pillars of Creation." The view is how it's seen from Earth and should be flipped right to left because we're seeing it from the other side.
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At various points in the movie, Ellie and her colleagues use and handle equipment that serves no reasonable purpose for what they're doing, first and foremost professional audio equipment. The most obvious this is in the scene after Drummond's funeral; For instance, Ellie increases the audio volume of the still running signal by means of rotating the encoder knob of an Eventide DSP4000 Ultra-Harmonizer - a function the knob does not provide in this application, and on a machine that would not serve any purpose in this context. Furthermore, the machine is placed on stack of two different kinds of multitrack recorders (two from Alesis, two from Tascam, either model with similar functions) that also don't really serve a purpose here from an audio engineering point of view, except for displaying identical flashy rows of level indicators of the same signal. All this equipment was obviously chosen for its technical looks.
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The start of the film young Ellie is shown operating the amateur radio station W9GFO. Her operating procedure and dialog sound more like CB radio than amateur radio. The use of the term "come back" (inviting a listening station to reply) was not used in ham parlance. Rather it should have been "over", "go ahead" or just plain "go". If using VOX (voice operated control) she would only need to stop talking. This would have automatically switched her transceiver from transmit to receive, allowing her to hear the other station.
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The VLA site is in Socorro County, NM and not in Socorro itself. The site is 50 miles from Socorro and lies between the towns of Magdalena and Datil on the San Augustin Plain.
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Early in the film, when the signal has just been picked up, the team is investigating the nature of the signal and its origin. It is identified as being amplitude modulated (AM). The display on the oscilloscope with the orange trace, shows an AM carrier wave, modulated by a tone of around 2kHz, with its two (over-modulated) sidebands (plus 2kHz and minus 2kHz) clearly shown. The signal heard over the loudspeakers bears no resemblance whatsoever to the signal being displayed.
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When Ellie calls in to Fish and Willie to alert them about the signal, Willie grabs the radio out of the charger, cant figure out how to use it, so throws it to Fish. He catches it and responds to Ellie by talking into the back of the radio.
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While Ellie is talking to her father on the beach, the waves hitting the shore are going backwards. Instead of rolling in TO shore, they are rolling out FROM shore.
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Incorrectly regarded as goofs 

Joss implies to Dr. Arroway that he's not familiar with Occam's Razor (which, as a divinity student, he should be), but this is his style of joking banter, and he never flat-out says he's not familiar with it.
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When Ellie receives the call from Mir, the Cosmonaut addresses her as "Comrade Arroway", a form of address that became outdated with the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, it is still commonly used out of tradition and habit.
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Plot holes 

When giving testimony at the inquiry, Ellie states that the travel lasted 18 hours for her and just a second for the witnesses. She had no way of knowing the exact duration of her experience since she didn't have a watch and any scientist who admitted being subject to a vivid illusion would know that subjective time is hard to reckon. Besides, the duration of the static recording was unknown to her and the public.
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If an alien race wished to transmit a signal consisting of prime numbers far across the Galaxy, it should be sufficiently advanced to realize that AM is a very inefficient mode of transmission. It would be far better for the aliens to use a single carrier wave (CW) using either simple on-off keying (like Morse code), or frequency shift keying (FSK). FSK would give the transmitted signal an extra 3dB in power over simple CW.
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After Ellie notices the compass is floating smoothly, she unstraps from the chair inside the "IPV" and floats as well. Soon, the chair shakes violently loose from its anchor point, then slams into one side of the pod. When Mission Control resumes video contact with her, she's lying on the floor of the IPV, her cheek bloodied, but it's hard to tell if the chair is still mounted or not. The condition/position of the chair would confirm or refute her story of having traveled, rather than dropping straight through the spinning rings.
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When the signal is transmitting the prime numbers, we are able to hear and count the transmission to number eleven. However, after that, when the actors stop counting and start talking at once with each other, the signal never pauses after what would be the next prime number, thirteen. Later it is revealed that the signal transmitted all the prime numbers to 101.
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The IMC team put in a chair and restraints, calling these "minimum" but made no provision for food, water and (since they did not know the duration of the trip) some form of waste disposal.

It would seem food and water would be more important than a chair.
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Revealing mistakes 

During the first test of the space travel device, in one shot you can see all three rings on the device starting to move and spin. In the very next scene which is a wide shot, you can clearly see that none of the device rings are moving, yet they are supposed to be.
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During the press conference, you can see Bill Clinton's hair move just a little from the breeze when he gave the real speech outdoors. You can also see sunlight on it.
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When Young Ellie runs to the bathroom to get medicine for her father, at the moment when we see her through the reflection of the pharmacy cabinet mirror reaching to open it, the red sleeve under her dark blue coat doesn't show in the mirror where instead we see a black sleeve.
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After a Control crew member gasps, "My God," there is a wide shot of the Control room staff and spectators as they gape in awe at the suddenly incandescent machine. However, the directions of the actors' gazes are inconsistent, with some of them facing far to the right of the machine's pictured location.
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As Ellie drives madly after first hearing the signal, her face is visible in the rear view mirror from alongside the car.
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When Ellie first hears the radio signal, she jumps into her car and starts frantically yelling into the walkie talkie. Several shots of her driving shows her hand on top of the steering wheel, rapidly moving the wheel left and right. This is a common movie mistake that reveals that the actor is not really driving the car. When driving in a straight line, as Ellie was, her hand should have been holding the steering wheel steady. Moving the wheel back and forth rapidly would cause the car to drive in a zigzag pattern.
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When young Ellie opens the bathroom medicine cabinet, the reflection reaching for the knob has a dark blue cuff visible inside her coat sleeve; the Ellie on the outside of the mirror has an orange sweater cuff protruding from the coat sleeve.
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When Ellie runs downstairs to check on her father, the spilled bowl of popcorn is on her left, and she turns left. But when she runs back up the staircase, the scene is laterally reversed, with the spilled popcorn on the right side of the staircase.
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When Ellie runs downstairs to check on her father, the spilled bowl of popcorn is on her left, and she turns left. But when she runs back up the staircase, the scene is laterally reversed, with the spilled popcorn on the right side of the staircase. Also, on the way down the stairs, her hair was parted slightly left of center, but when she reaches the upstairs, her hair is now parted right of center.
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Spoilers

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Character error 

At one point in the movie, Ellie comments that the secret message inside the signal, analyzed to this point, contains about ten thousand data pages. Some time later, Hadden comments that the message has a full extension of about sixty-three thousand data pages.
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Errors in geography 

At the end of the movie, Ellie is sitting on the ground at the VLA radio telescope facility. She's sitting on the lip of a steep wash or small canyon, with the radio dishes of the VLA visible in the background. There is no such wash or canyon on the grounds of the VLA in New Mexico. The small canyon was filmed at another location and digitally added to the VLA grounds.
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Plot holes 

At the end of the movie, it is revealed that Ellie's video recorder recorded 18 hours of static, suggesting she really did go somewhere. It is peculiar that scientists in the movie neglected to include a simple clock in Ellie's equipment. Surely they would have wanted to see if time inside the pod would slow down since that is what the theory of relativity says would happen when you travel very fast (relatively close to the speed of light). Although in the movie the opposite occurs (time moves faster for Ellie) that clock would nevertheless have shown that 18 hours had passed inside the pod, while from the outside it seemed to pass straight through the machine, adding credibility to Ellie's story.
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Revealing mistakes 

For no discernible reason, the tech that is holding Joseph's thumb back from the detonator pulls his hand back and after a moment gingerly places it on Joseph's forearm, allowing him to detonate the bomb.
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When Ellie boards Hadden's plane, she watches herself in a CCTV monitor; her movements however don't match precisely what's seen on the monitor; which is obvious, because there is no camera at the exact angle from where she is recorded. Jodie Foster obviously acts out a previously rehearsed routine.
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See also

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

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