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Anachronism Stew: Films With No Good Excuse

  • Film trailers for films with settings that take place in the past have lately been using modern music, often clashing with the time period.
  • Almost every medieval movie will feature knights covered head-to-toe in full plate armor, regardless of what century it is. In reality, this form of armor was not developed until relatively late in the period.
  • Mulan
    • The Forbidden City (constructed during the Ming dynasty) is featured prominently in the finale, but the Huns were already integrated into Chinese society by the time of the Northern Wei. The use of fireworks suggests the Sui dynasty but their style of dress suggests a later date.
    • Not to mention a certain pair of Goofy Print Underwear with what appears to be an elastic waistband, and a modern toothbrush and toothpaste tube.
  • The Brothers Bloom features costumes and props ranging from the 1930s to modern times, giving the world a charmingly timeless look and feel. People dress like it's the 1930s, dance like it's the 1960s, but then use cell phones and perform gangster rap.
  • Schindler's List, a film about the Holocaust, features the famous "Jerusalem of Gold" by Naomi Shemer...Which wasn't written until the 1960s in modern Israel.
  • King Arthur (2004) does not contain really blatant anachronistic cross-overs with other time periods, but it mashes together kings and invasions from several Dark Age centuries... and Guinevere is a bow-wielding woad-covered warrior princess, clad in a leather bra and leather outfit more suitable as a Dungeons & Dragons costume?
    • Also, England is apparently ruled by The Empire, based in Rome and run by the Church.
    • Meanwhile, Tristan's carrying a Chinese dao (maybe it was meant to be a falchion?) but wields it kenjutsu-style.
    • In the Final Battle, the Picts (depicted as the Barbarian Tribe throughout the film) somehow pull counterweight trebuchets (first mentioned in the 12th century) from... somewhere... and use them as field artillery against the Saxon forces, no less. Of all pre-gunpowder siege weapons, they chose the only one that was invented after the fall of Rome!
  • The two Eloise films starring Sofia Vassilieva are supposed to be set in the 1950s, at least based on the clothing and some vehicles, but the producers didn't seem to make any effort at keeping to the era - cars from the 1990s and early 21st century appear in some scenes, and it didn't help that what appears to be Times Square in its present rendition was shown in the film.
  • The actors in the 1939 American adaptation of Wuthering Heights are dressed the way producer Samuel Goldwyn wanted, and nothing about the costumes is contemporary to the setting. The movie is set in the 1780-1810 time frame, yet the hair and clothing date from the 1840-1880 time frame. Worse, the female characters look like they were hit with a 6-inch makeup cannon, even though in the time frame the only women who would have worn makeup at all (and it would not have been makeup like you see in the film) were cheap street prostitutes.
    • The same could be said for the costumes worn for the 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Check out the inch-long false eyelashes on Elizabeth!
  • 10,000 BC is one of the most blatant examples, featuring, among other things, woolly mammoths, saber tooth tigers, metalworking (developed in 5500 BC), domestication of horses (first done in 4000 BC), papyrus (estimated at around 2560 BC), the telescope (invented in 1609), and the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. And the Terror Birds, 2 million years out of place.
    • Some of the anachronisms are justified by the fact that the movie is based on an idea that some Atlantis-styled civilization invented various technologies that were then forgotten because of the events of the movie, but all animal-related anachronisms still stand firm.
    • It was a homage to 1,000,000 BC, also anachronism stew.
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves managed to feature "Celts" hundreds of years after they existed as a distinct ethnic grouping. (The "Celts" are also ridiculously, even offensively, portrayed as mindless Orc-like barbarians, but that's another matter...)
    • This is actually just one of the things they ripped off from Robin of Sherwood and bastardized. In Robin of Sherwood, the "barbaric" Celts are Welsh tribesmen (and aren't referred to as Celts). But that's Hollywood (see Britain Is Only London).
    • It also had an anachronistically advanced and accurate clock, and obviously medical care even better than the present day, to judge by the ultra-quick recovery from a Caesarian childbirth.
    • The opening credits feature the famous Bayeux Tapestry, which dates from the 11th century (Norman Conquest, etc.). The film is set in the 12th century (Crusades, etc.). This is akin to showing images from The American Revolution in the opening to a movie about The American Civil War.
      • Though this could be to show the impact of the Norman conquest on the country, with the English peasantry ruled over by a Norman aristocracy.
    • Alan Rickman's Sheriff makes use of the term "hired thugs." This did not enter usage until Philip Meadows Taylor's novel Confessions of a Thug, 1839, in reference to the Thuggee cult of assassins in India, a cult which did not come into existence until the 16th century.
  • Rent: The film adaptation is based in the late 1980s/early 1990s, when AIDS was much closer to home for the types of people featured (not that it's anything to sneeze at today). However, Benny must have been some kind of prophet to conceive of a cyber studio when the Internet wasn't mainstream yet, and the references to Thelma & Louise, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the gentrification of the East Village are anachronisms. Considering that the original stage play was also conceived and written before the Internet became mainstream, the cyber studio was likely an oblique reference to how awesome Benny is.
    • Benny was an ex-MIT student, if he was part of the MIT Media Lab (founded 1985) it makes perfect sense.
  • While most of the 1996 movie Twister took place in the modern-day (thus avoiding this trope, for the most part), the beginning scenes, set in 1969, have some level of Anachronism Stew to them. In one scene, character Jo's father warns that the approaching tornado is "probably an F-5;" the Fujita scale, from whence the rating is taken, was developed in 1971, two years later. Plus, the meteorologist shown on the TV giving the warning is Gary England, head meteorologist of Oklahoma City TV station KWTV; while the footage is actual archived footage of one of England's tornado warnings, England did not join KWTV until 1972.
  • The Other Side of Midnight, which is set in the time frame just before World War II, has a scene where Catherine is taking a taxi from Union Station in Washington, DC. She mentions in conversation with the cabbie that if the taxi meter goes over a dollar she's in trouble. But no cab in Washington DC would have had a meter at the time; the city cabs worked exclusively on a zone-fare system.
  • Sin City is sometimes seen as fitting this trope due to having vintage cars but the stories take place in The Nineties, the timeframe in which the comics were first published. This is evident by the Priest's 1990 Mercedes (described as being modern) and the 1980s Ferrari 348GTS driven by Yellow Bastard and if you pause the movie when it shows Marv's trial headline, it shows the date.
  • The film of The Cider House Rules is surprisingly careful, taking advantage of the fact that the drive-in theater was invented in the 1930's and thus, around in the 1940's. It never explicitly states that drive-in has become a huge phenomenon, which would be anachronistic as that did not happen until the 1950s. However, its depiction of widespread favorable attitudes about abortion and choice of haircuts and characterizations of female protagonists bears a strong 1970s air to it that seems out of place for 1940s Maine. Supposedly justified in that it was part of Lasse Hallstr÷m and John Irving's visions.
  • In Whoopi Goldberg's movie A Knight in Camelot, the main character gets sent back in time to the Middle Ages. OK. She takes her boom box and laptop with her. She then checks the Internet for information on how to build an electrical generator using a waterwheel...
  • The 2008 film Mamma Mia! is another casual mishmash. Although Sky intends to set up a website to draw customers to Donna's Villa (not possible before 1996, not likely before 2000), the lyrics to the song "Our Last Summer", related dialogue and the photographs of the fathers indicate that 20-year-old Sophie had to have been born somewhere between 1970 and 1972. And the "Donna and the Dynamo" stage costumes — implied in dialogue to be the original outfits they wore during their (brief?) stage career years before — are clearly late 1970s disco-era in style, long after Donna would have been retired and raising Sophie. Harry's car early in the film is clearly from the year the film was made, as are the styles worn by everyone from off the island when they arrive.
  • Lymelife is set in 1979, yet contains a reference to The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980, and the Falklands War, from 1982.
  • In the film version of Titus Andronicus Julie Taymor deliberately uses anachronisms as a part of the stylistic choice. She's clearly making no effort to be historically accurate — she's given lavishing care and attention to the ingredients of her anachronism stew. Even though it takes place in ancient Rome, we see 1950s era kitchens, Nazi symbolism, motorcycles, and designs from the 19th century, champagne bottles at an orgy, bound books, and 1920s-style microphones at a political rally. When you see Titus' severed hand delivered in a Zip-Loc bag, you know that the director's not going for historical accuracy.
  • Robin Hood (2010) has taken a lot of flak for featuring what essentially looks like the medieval Higgins boat, a design that would have certainly been impossible for people of that era to keep watertight. (The invasion itself also never actually happened, but that's a whole other trope).
    • The main character in the final battle using a war hammer about 100 years before it was invented or even needed. The war hammer was invented to deal with plate armour, especially full plate armour, that became prevalent in Europe after the invention of the firearm, seeing as it was the only form of amour that offered a modicum of protection against them. The anachronistic war hammer even appeared on several posters, that featured still from the final battle.
    • Troop transports with lowerable ramps at the front were in use in this period — the ramp even allowed horsemen to charge directly off the deck. They were used for exactly this purpose at the battle of the Tower of Galata (1203) during the siege of Constantinople in the fourth crusade. (Also, the French did actually invade England during the reign of King John, as part of the First Barons' War. It wasn't much like in the film, though).
    • Sir Walter Locksley is given a funeral pyre by the peasants, even though in the UK you couldn't legally dispose of your dead by burning them until Welsh physician William Price successfully challenged corpse disposal laws after being arrested for trying to burn his deceased infant son; thus, until 1902 you rarely, if ever, saw a dead Brit on fire (the most notable being Percy Shelley, whose ashes were buried with his heart, which was quickly salvaged from his funeral pyre, after his decomposing remains were recovered on the shore of Italy by close friends).
  • The Scorpion King. It supposedly takes place "before the pyramids", but, yeah. For example, a merchant in Gomorrah sells "swords made by the monks in Pompeii". And then we have the gunpowder...
    • The prequel takes this much further. Besides ignoring internal continuity (a character wants to go visit the pyramids), we have a character who's a fan of Herodotus adventuring with the Akkadian main character, and a reference to Mahjong, among other things.
  • Kelly's Heroes: Donald Sutherland and his crew of hippies are anachronistically fighting in the middle of World War II.
    • The kind of people that are commonly described as "hippies" (meaning, young people who reject contemporary values and lifestyles) have existed in practically every era, going back at least to the first few centuries before Christ. The fact that it was not "cool" to be a hippie until about 1967 should not rule out the existence of hippies before then. That said, a particular kind of hippie can be anachronistic.
    • Actually he's more of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander than anything. I think fighting in a war and enjoying it goes against the tenants of hippie-dom.
  • Braveheart depicts the medieval Scots as wearing both blue woad face paint (which was characteristic of the ancient Picts and is seen in general use no later than the Roman occupation) and kilts (which didn't come into fashion in Scotland until the 16th century).
  • Batman (1989) and Batman Returns are practically crammed with anachronisms — although it's understandable, since both films were directed by Tim Burton, who is fond of this trope. The original movie is clearly meant to be set either in 1989 or Twenty Minutes into the Future, but the organized-crime characters and some of the reporters at the Gotham Globe dress as if it's some point between the 1920s and the 1940s. Batman Returns is a little more justified, since it's set at Christmastime and so gets to employ various elements of Norman Rockwell/Frank Capra imagery - though that still doesn't explain why a newspaper being hawked in the early 1990s (and by an Extra! Extra! Read All About It! paperboy, no less!) would cost less than half a dollar, something that's practically unimaginable in post-1970s America.
    • Batman: The Animated Series is meant to be deliberately anachronistic and is ambiguous in its time setting, combining computer and other technological advances with old-fashioned dressing, mostly vintage automobiles and sometimes anachronistic dialogue. This is meant to evoke a noir-ish feel reminiscent of old gangster movies. A People Magazine cover in the episode "Beware the Grey Ghost" does give the year as "1993", though.
    • Justified in that the team was likely trying to capture the pulp/noir feel of the Golden Age Batman comic books.
    • Batman Forever attempted to follow in the footsteps of its two, far more serious predecessors and added an AKIRA-esque neon aesthetic to the mix. There is a scene where Two-Face's goons chase Batman in town cars and wield old-fashioned tommy guns, and in the DVD commentary, director Joel Schumacher states that this was to add to the ambiguity of the time setting. Other than that, though, the only really anachronistic touches in Batman Forever were Commissioner Gordon's bowler hat (which had become The Artifact by that time) and the Victorian (one might even say "Lovecraftian") appearance of Arkham Asylum (which is justified by Rule of Cool).
  • Many films of A Christmas Carol inaccurately depict period clothing during Scrooge's childhood flashbacks, which would logically be set in the late 18th century, but the people are dressed 1840's style. Also, there's a jarring revealing mistake in Scrooge, where a car can be seen driving by in the background during young Scrooge and Isabel's romance sequence.
  • The Hairy Bird: The cherry-picker truck used by the Flat Critters to get to Tinka's window was a Ford C-Series cab-over. While this truck was manufactured between 1957 and 1990, the cowl insignia combined with reflectors indicates this is a model made after 1968, five years after the movie takes place.
  • It's a slight case, but in Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009) it's utterly baffling to try and figure out just when they take place. The openings with Michael Myers as a child are definitely somewhere in the early 1980s judging from the clothing and hair styles, but after the Time Skip to "Seventeen Years Later" (which should put the events with Laurie somewhere in the mid to late-nineties), people talk on post-2004 cellphones, make references to Austin Powers, and watch flatscreen televisions like they're in 2007 (when the film was made). To confuse things even more, no one references music beyond 1990, all the cars are pre-2000, and nearly all the things seen on TV are pre-1970. No one at all seems to know when the movie actually takes place.
  • The Clash of the Titans remake from 2010 features the Greek gods wearing medieval European suits of armor. Curiously, the goddesses are wearing classic Grecian attire. Also, Zeus' totem is a bald eagle- which lives in North America and thus was unknown in Ancient Greece. Wonder how many subjects were failed.
  • Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire takes place in 1914, but for some reason a fish tank full of coelacanths can be seen near the very beginning of the film! (in real life, coelacanths — live ones, at least — weren't even discovered until 1938).
    • Justified both in the movie's own logic (the man owning the coelacanths is a millionaire with access to technology far superior to anything seen in the 1910s and in some ways even superior to modern technology, and a team of treasure hunters/explorers who are hired for the purpose of finding artifacts not thought to still exist) and thematically (at the time the continued existence of coelacanths was thought as fictional as Atlantis itself).
  • The 2003 animated Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Sinbad, a figure of medieval Muslim legend, is somehow turned into a native of a Classical Greek setting (complete with converting him from Islam to polytheism). However, his ship remains more or less 10th-century Middle-eastern in design, as does the clothing of his crew. And one member of his crew appears to be Latino.
  • Deuces Wild has a violent gang rumble in a park set to heavy metal music. We hear the rock music on the soundtrack rather than within the movie's universe, but it's still jarring to hear guitars that loud and growly in a film set in 1958.
  • Similar to Deuces Wild above, Maverick, while surprisingly accurate in general, has a sudden soundtrack shift from the usual western atmospheric instrumentals to country-western once the poker tournament starts.
  • X-Men:
    • X-Men: First Class is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but characters gleefully walk around in modern haircuts while warships (some of which weren't active in 62) fire Tomahawk cruise missiles at them.

      In a slightly more minor example, Shaw/Schmidt plays La Vie en rose by ╔dith Piaf in the concentration camp in 1944, despite the song not being written until 1945 or released as a single until 1947.

      Also, despite taking place in the early 60's, nobody ever comments on Angel's or Darwin's race.
    • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Quicksilver has a personal stereo during his scenes—however, the first one wasn't released until 1979.
  • Moneyball has several. The movie (based on a true story) is set in 2001 and 2002. One of the characters sings a song that wasn't released until 2008. Another character wears Nike+ (Nike Plus) shoes, which also weren't out yet. Some of the team logos and a stadium name are also out of place.
  • The Asylum film Halloween Night is set 1992. Absolutely no attempt is made to make it look like it is. Not surprising, given that it's The Asylum. They make absolutely no attempt to make anything look like anything.note 
  • In both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, James Bond asks for a specific type of vodka martini which contains Kina Lillet (known as the "Vesper"). The recipe was included in both of the original novels of the same name, and the recipe was transplanted to the film adaptations - one problem, however, is that Lillet stopped making Kina Lillet in 1986, yet the film is a Continuity Reboot set in the 2000's.
  • 2011's Red Riding Hood takes place in what appears to be Europe in the Middle Ages, yet features modern hair styles that would require a trip to Ulta to maintain, and American accents before there was an America.
  • Chicago (2002):
    • The radio in Mama Morton's office is from the early 1930s. Table radios from that era — the original play was first staged in 1926, so it was probably set around 1923-26 — came in three basic styles: wooden "coffins", metal "jewel boxes" and, for the truly stylish, Atwater Kent breadboards. The radio would also have two or three individually tuned dials and a separate speaker, possibly shaped like a horn. Also, the radio would've been powered by three or more storage batteries, so it would've been used sparingly. (AC powered home radios weren't introduced until 1927.)
  • The 13th Warrior, the movie adaptation of Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead is set in the 10th century. In addition to the anachronisms carried over from the novel (relatively few, but see the Literature section), the main characters are Horny Vikings. One wears a Murmillo helmet, another wears a 16th-century Spanish helmet and breastplate.
  • The direct-to-video animated film Easter Egg Adventure appears to take place in the early 19th century or so (there are many scenes depicting characters riding in carriages pulled by horses, and there are many places that look old-fashioned), but yet there are boomboxes and rap music.
  • The Legend of Zorro: Mostly, not so noticeable, but there's a few real bad ones:
    • A map of the United States...with the state borders as they will be after 1925.
    • An officer from the Confederate 1850 (the Confederacy isn't even formed until 1861).
    • Surprisingly, the nitroglycerine they're making isn't an example, as it was invented in 1847. It's also far too unstable to be usable in any sort of battlefield weapon.
  • The Shaw Brothers epic Eight Trigrams Pole Fighter is set in the Song Dynasty, and involves the Yang family of warrior patriots being set up and led into a trap by the Evil Chancellor. The sixth brother goes mad from the revelation, and never learns that their fifth brother, played by Gordon Liu, also survived the massacre. Thus he found his own way home, a battered shell of a man, until he calms down and stops lashing at everyone around him - whereupon he describes the massacre in mad glee, and at one point carries his spear over his shoulders and makes MACHINE-GUN NOISES. This may have been intended as a pun, since the Chinese word for 'spear' is also a loan-word for 'gun'.
  • The 1984 cult film Streets of Fire throws 1950s and 1980s pop culture elements into a blender.
  • An example in The Artist. For the most part the creators have Shown Their Work, but two songs that were used weren't written until The Thirties, while the film took place in The Roaring Twenties.
    • Another example taken on women's clothing. They still wore 1927 clothing in 1932, where the current silhouette had longer skirts and natural waistlines.
    • This link provides more.
  • Various Chinese war films and TV shows have this, many of which are so blatant it seems like They Just Didn't Care. It's bad enough that the AK-47 is shown being used in the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949), but a 21st-century AWM sniper rifle (and calling it a Mauser) and digital camouflage?
  • Saving Mr. Banks:
    • P.L. Travers is greeted into her room with a bunch of Disney character plushes, one of which is a Winnie the Pooh doll. Disney's version of Pooh didn't hit the screen until 1966.
    • Zig-zagged in regards to Disneyland. Several changes were made to the real one to make it look as how it was during Walt's time (e.g., the area in front of the train station is lined with attraction posters). However, Fantasyland remains unchanged despite going through a complete renovation in 1983, less than 20 years after the release of Mary Poppins. You can also sometimes see a boy wearing a Woody hat. Toy Story did not come out until 1995.
  • Lord of War: Soviet troops in 1991 Ukraine are shown holding Chinese copies of the AKM, years after the AKM was removed from service in the Soviet armed forces.
  • Which Way To The Front?: Obscure 1970 Jerry Lewis comedy in which Lewis plays a rich playboy who starts his own army to fight the Nazis in WWII. Among the anachronisms: Lewis listens to a 33 rpm long-playing record album (a format not introduced until 1948) on a 1960s-style stereo (stereos not introduced until the late 1950s). His haircut and demeanor also are not consistent with someone in the early to mid-1940s.
  • Singininthe Rain: The film takes place in the late 1920s at the very start of the sound era, however the "Beautiful Girl" segment, supposedly being shot for a movie of the era, is technologically too advanced for what was possible at the time (compare the real-life film of the era, The Broadway Melody). The closing musical segment is also supposed to theoretically be part of a film within the film, however it too is far more advanced than would have been possible in the late 1920s, however it is presented as a fantasy sequence, so does not necessarily count as an anachronism.
  • A couple of period-set Elvis Presley films contain this. Likely the most overt is the 1969 film The Trouble with Girls (and How to Get Into It) which is set in the 1920s, however Presley's sideburn-dominated hairstyle is completely anachronistic for the period. In addition, a soul song performed on screen titled "Clean Up Your Own Backyard", aside from being musically anachronistic, contains references to "armchair quarterbacks", a television-specific reference that didn't come into use until at least the 1950s, if not later. (While it was common for only portions of songs to be performed on screen in Presley films, this lyric is featured in the movie.)
  • Wild Wild West: despite the film being set a number of years after the Civil War/Emancipation, there is no way an African-American like James West would be in his particular job at this point in American history.

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