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Contact (1997) Poster

(1997)

Goofs

Anachronisms 

In a flashback to the early- to mid,1970s, a toy horse is on young Ellie's nightstand. Breyer Animal Creations made it 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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In a flashback, Ellie has two telescopes set up to watch the Leonid meteor shower. Telescopes are useless to view meteors because of their tiny field of vision.
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Ellie tells Palmer her father died when she was 9. 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 when he died.
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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." When she repeats it the third time, she 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 "we put it right smack in the middle...VAY-ga." Australians pronounce the name of the star "VEE-ga."
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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, and throws it to Fish. He catches it and responds to Ellie by talking into the back of the radio.
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When she first meets Kent, Ellie pronounces "starquake" as "starquick"
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Whenever Ellie uses the Sony headphones, she places the cup with the blue bead on the band over her right ear. It's supposed to go over her left ear; the right ear cup has a red bead on the band.
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Continuity 

Ellie gets out of bed, pulls on her sweater, and walks to the end of the bed, clearly braless. Seconds later as she leaves, she is wearing a bra.
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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 releases 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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In the VLA control room when the message is first received, the Tektronix 420 oscilloscope is in "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 "Display - Style" mode.
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When Ellie is leaving Arecibo, Palmer Joss leaves her a note 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. The signature is different and the 9 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 original note by the phone.
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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 colorful 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. When the P.O.V. shifts to the spectators along the Banana River causeway, the sun shines 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. She just left in a different plane than she arrived in.
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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, Fish springs 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 plays on TV before he has actually recorded it.
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Palmer Joss visits Ellie in Japan. Later in the control room, he has 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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The first time Ellie talks to Palmer at Arecibo, a camera is reflected in Ellie's glasses.
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Errors in geography 

Every scene outside Florida NASA facilities shows the California flag below the US Flag. California's flag has a bear in the middle and a red bar at the bottom. Florida's flag has a red-bar cross with the Florida state seal in the middle.
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The opening sequence contain impossible physics, with Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn completely desynchronized as the sequence zooms out. Jupiter's Great Red Spot appears larger and centered near the equator, not just below the planet's midline.
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Ellie first receives the alien signal in the evening. In the satellite image of Earth, the sun is centered off the east coast of North America, suggest morning in New Mexico.
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The mountainous peninsula and bay on the east coast of Hokkaido, concealing the second machine, do not exist. The actual location, midway between Shibetsu and Rausu, is a simple bulge in the shoreline, with rolling foothills and farmland.
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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, "1,116 miles." As the crow flies, Madison is 906 miles from Pensacola.
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The opening sequence shows an incorrect Florida Gulf Coast shoreline. The indentation north of Tampa Bay doesn't exist, and the Panhandle shoreline is very irregular.
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Factual errors 

Walkie-talkies and cell phones are not allowed near a radio telescope array. They would overpower the array, making it useless.
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A satellite within Earth's or the Sun's gravitational fields can't 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. 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. The VLA alone would be able to confirm the distance of the signal from parallax.
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The VLA in New Mexico doesn't listen for radio transmissions, it takes radio "photographs" of space. The Visitor Center acknowledges the filming of this movie, but debunks the idea that their dishes could be used to listen for radio transmissions.
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MIT does not award Magna Cum Laude to its graduates.
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At Arecibo, Ellie monitors 1221.5 MHz, which is in the GPS L2 frequency band (1227.6 +/- 10.23 MHz). It couldn't be used for SETI because of the interference.
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Radio and TV signals are indistinguishable from noise within 2 light-years. Vega is 25.7 light-years away.
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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.
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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 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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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..." He is wearing a nasal cannula, which has only one purpose, to give additional oxygen to the patient.
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As the camera pulls away from the Earth in the opening scene, the gas cloud known as the Eagle Nebula (M16) with the "Pillars of Creation" is visible. The view is from Earth. It should be flipped right to left because it's shown from the other side.
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In the first scene when Ellie is sitting outside near the VLA, her car has a New Mexico tag on the front bumper. New Mexico does not provide front license plates.
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When the signal starts sending primes, Fish is counting/marking 7. On the scope in front of him, seven has already been completed and eleven is mostly finished.
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At the start of the film, young Ellie operates amateur radio station W9GFO. Her operating procedure and dialog sound more like CB radio than amateur radio. The term "come back", inviting a listening station to reply, is not used in ham parlance. She should have said "over", "go ahead" or "go". If she used VOX (voice operated control) she would only need to stop talking, and the transmitter would automatically switch from transmit to receive, allowing her to hear the other station.
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The VLA site is in Socorro County, NM, on the San Agustin Plain, 50 miles from Socorro, between Magdalena and Datil.
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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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The filming location is spelled incorrectly. It is located upon the Plains of San Agustin, not Augustin. There is no "u" before the "g".
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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." That a form of address became outdated with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it's still common due to tradition and habit.
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When Ellie runs down the stairs to check on her father, she turns left to go into the room where he lays dying. When the shot changes to Ellie running back up the stairs to get his medicine from the bathroom cabinet, the view is flipped all the way up the stairs, down the hallway, and into the bathroom. As Ellie reaches for the medicine cabinet, she is in a "mirror world" (where everything is flipped). This was a camera trick used to help add to the chaos, confusion, and fear as Ellie's world came crashing down.
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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. The visual effects crew deliberately inserted contradicting images in the Pensacola scene at the end, to create a dreamlike feeling.
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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 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 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. It's hard to tell if the chair is still mounted. The condition/position of the chair would confirm her story of having traveled, rather than dropping straight through the spinning rings.
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The IMC team put in a chair and restraints, calling these "minimum," but made no provision for food, water, or waste disposal.
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When the signal is transmitting prime numbers, we are able to hear and count the transmission to number eleven. 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, 13. Later it is revealed that the signal transmitted all the prime numbers to 101.
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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 side, closest to the camera, suggesting a left-handed user. 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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Revealing mistakes 

As Ellie steps down the stairs of the U.S. Capitol after testifying, the limousines drive away on a road on the west side of the U.S. Capitol. In real life, the area has steps leading down to a small reflecting pool. This road is CGI.
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During the first test of the space travel device, all three rings on the device start to move and spin in one shot. In the very next scene, a wide shot, none of the rings are moving.
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During the press conference, Bill Clinton's hair moves just a little from the breeze when he gave the real speech outdoors.
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When Young Ellie runs to the bathroom to get medicine for her father, 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. Instead, a black sleeve is visible.
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After a Control crew member gasps, "My God," a wide shot of the Control room shows staff and spectators gaping in awe at the suddenly incandescent machine. Some actors are looking far to the right of the machine's pictured location.
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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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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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At various points, Ellie and her colleagues use professional audio equipment that has no relation to what they're doing. After Drummond's funeral, Ellie increases the audio volume of the still-running signal by rotating the encoder knob of an Eventide DSP4000 Ultra-Harmonizer. The knob doesn't provide that function in that application. The machine is placed on stack of two different kinds of multitrack recorders (two from Alesis, two from Tascam) that also don't serve any purpose aside from displaying identical rows of level indicators of the same signal.
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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. The car moves straight when it should move in a zigzag pattern.
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Spoilers

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Character error 

Ellie comments that the secret message inside the signal, analyzed to this point, contains about 10,000 data pages. Some time later, Hadden comments that the message has a full extension of about 63,000 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 VLA radio dishes 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 don't match precisely what's seen on the monitor because there is no camera at the exact angle from where she is recorded. Younan Nowzaradan 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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