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The Ten Worst Plot Holes in Movie History

by Craig "Wex" Wexler
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

All over the world, people love movies. Film is not only one of the biggest international industries there has ever been, but it’s also been that way for about a century. Movies like The Godfather, Gone With the Wind, and Casablanca are known by millions as outstanding cinematic achievements. They take our breath away every time, year after year, no matter how many times we’ve already seen them. When a movie works in all the aspects it’s supposed to, it creates emotions in us that we cherish forever.

Conversely, when a movie pulls us in and then lets us down, the disappointment can be devastating, sometimes even turning to downright anger. When a film can be built and built to a climax and then fall flat with a gaping plot hole, it can even be offensive to the viewer. Suspension of disbelief notwithstanding, things have to make sense to some degree. In some cases, movie plot holes have been so bad the movie becomes known for it. Here is a list of the ten worst plot holes in movie history.

Related: Top 10 Bad Movies That Wasted Great Concepts

10 The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid (1984) – Daniel Vs Johnny Scene (5/5) | MovieTimeTV

One of the most beloved movies of all time, The Karate Kid, has spawned four sequel movies and one television show in the form of Cobra Kai. This film was initially perceived as an underdog story in which the main character overcomes the odds and strikes back against high school bullies by defeating them in a local karate tournament. Daniel, the protagonist, and Johnny, the lead antagonist, are finalists in the “All Valley Karate Tournament.” The referee has warned both contestants that blows to the face will result in disqualification. The two engage in battle in the thrilling climax.

Nonetheless, Daniel uses an illegal kick to the face to win the final point and become the champion—just moments after a final warning was issued. In the series mentioned above, Cobra Kai, which takes place roughly thirty years later, Johnny is still mad about the missed call by the ref.[1]

9 Die Hard 2

Die Hard 2 (1990) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

The Die Hard franchise is one of the most popular in Hollywood history, and the second installment is no exception. It’s full of action and witty one-liners from Bruce Willis. Wherever you land on that debate won’t shield you from the gaping plot hole in this movie. The premise is that a group of terrorists has taken over the Washington, D.C., airport, preventing airplanes from clearing the runways. The plan is to stop incoming planes from landing. If the terrorists’ demands are not met, the circling airplanes will run out of fuel and crash.

Here’s the thing, Washington is within proximity of many other airports. The key for the protagonist is that his wife, Holly, is trapped on one of the planes stuck in limbo. Her plane circles the airport for almost the entire duration of the movie. It’s hours before they land. That plane could have made it to nearly any other airport in the country with the fuel it had. It seems unlikely that any aircraft coming into D.C. would have sufficient gas to reach a safe location.[2]

8 Toy Story

Toy Story | The Toy’s Meet Buzz Lightyear

In the original Toy Story, when the character Buzz Lightyear is first introduced, his character, unlike the other toys, does not believe he is a toy. It is established early on that he genuinely believes he is a Space Ranger.

The movie opens with a group of toys that belong to a boy named Andy. They are fully aware that they are toys. They only come to life when no one is in the room. The moment anyone enters or a light goes on, they all become lifeless. Then, Andy gets a new toy for his birthday, which also comes to life.

The new toy, Buzz, interacts with the community of ragtag toys as if he is a “Space Ranger” stranded on a remote planet. However, despite being wholly convinced that he is a Space Ranger, Buzz plays dead along with the others every time. If he’s looking for a way back to his home world, why not speak to the dominant species on the planet about it?[3]

7 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

LOTR The Return of the King – The End of All Things

One of the greatest plot holes in movie history and literature comes at the end of this nearly ten-hour trilogy (not including extended versions, of course). From their beginning in The Shire, Frodo and company have endured more than any Hobbits ever have and then some. They have lost friends, traveled the realm on foot, fought monsters, and “simply” walked into Mordor.

All the while, massive battles are being fought, and thousands are dying. Ultimately, Frodo and Sam accomplish their task and are ready to face death. But Gandalf swoops in on an army of giant eagles. They fly in, pick up the Hobbits, fight off Sauron’s forces, and swiftly escape. Readers and movies goers have been puzzled for years about why they didn’t just start on the backs of giant flying eagles. Fan theories aside, this plot hole is hard to get around.[4]

6 The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption – Escape Andy Dufrense

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time. It has been praised for its acting, dialogue, cinematography, and more. Starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, it chronicles the time spent in prison by Robbins’s character Andy Dufresne after being falsely convicted of a double homicide. Andy is an intelligent guy and wins the corrupt warden’s confidence. He uses the warden’s corruption and overconfidence to funnel money into his own private account.

While accumulating cash for years, Andy spends nights digging a tunnel from his cell to the outside. Every night when he returns to his cell, he covers the hole in the wall with a poster of Raquel Welch. Until one night, he makes his escape. The following morning the warden is alerted to Dufresne’s absence. They search his cell and tear the poster from the wall exposing the escape route. There was no way for Andy to reattach the poster to the wall from the tunnel. It may not have mattered in the end, but it’s a bit of a letdown in an otherwise breathtaking movie.[5]

5 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

MovieClips – Rise of Skywalker – Kylo Ren Meets Palpatine

Star Wars is one of the most beloved and talked about movie franchises of all time. The first film debuted in 1977 and introduced one of film’s most notorious villains, Darth Vader. Throughout the original trilogy, Vader displays great power through the Force and a blatant disregard for life. He becomes infamous for killing his own men for failure or lack of progress. However, at the trilogy’s climatic end, he redeems himself by saving his son from the evil Emporer.

Vader kills the Emperor in a way that no one can survive. He throws his former mentor down a seemingly unending shaft at the center of a space station just moments before it is blown to space dust. Over thirty years later, in the third installment of the sequel trilogy, Emperor “Palpatine somehow returned.” The whole point was that Vader would bring balance to the Force. How did he become a Force ghost if he didn’t kill the Emperor, and how did he survive such a thing?[6]

4 Back to the Future Part II

Back to the Future Part II | Opening Scene in 4K Ultra HD | The Future of 2015

The original Back to the Future was a blockbuster hit that teased a sequel in the final scene. Four years later, viewers got to see what the crisis was that sent Doc Brown back to 1985 to enlist the help of Marty McFly and his girlfriend, Jennifer. This movie starts precisely where the first one ends.

The whole lead-in and catalyst for the film are that Doc brings Marty from 1985 to the future. With that said, Doc could have just gone back a few days and warned Marty of the upcoming disaster. There was no need to bring teenage Marty and Jennifer on a dangerous mission to the future.[7]

3 The Dark Knight Rises

Final Battle for Gotham | The Dark Knight Rises [IMAX]

The first two installments of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy were above reproach. They both delivered a modern and socially responsible take on the classic superhero Batman. Unfortunately, the third film fell short and was full of plot holes. Most of these focus on the Gotham Police Force. The villain, Bane, traps the entire GPD underground for an undisclosed amount of months (estimated between three and five!). The number of officers was said to be in the thousands.

There are three plot holes here. First, there was no reason Bane would not kill them all while he had them trapped, knowing they would come after him if they ever escaped. Second, what did they live on while trapped underground? Finally, when the officers emerge, they are all clean-shaven in clean and pressed uniforms. How?[8]

2 Signs

Signs (2002) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 film Signs with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix has been hailed as a masterpiece. In most ways, this movie does live up to the hype. It is suspenseful and explores multiple themes, including faith and extraterrestrials. Shyamalan is known for his mind-bending plot twists. And Signs remains one of his most famous movies even two decades later, but this plot twist is more of a Grand Canyon-sized plot hole.

The story is about an advanced race of aliens planning an invasion of Earth. While superior physically and tactically to humans, this alien race has kryptonite-like weakness in the form of… water. So a highly advanced and intelligent race has traveled thousands of light years to conquer a world comprised of over 70% water and rains regularly, knowing that the slightest contact with water could kill them. Okay.[9]

1 Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

Martha. Why did you say that name ? | Batman v Superman

This movie had the potential to propel Warner Brothers’ DCEU to the same heights as Disney’s MCU. Unfortunately, it fell short, way short. The title character of Superman has precious little screen time and even fewer lines. The villain Lex Luther’s most notable physical trait has been altered, and the story goes nowhere fast. The introduction of Wonder Woman seemed forced, and most of the film consisted of brooding. It is called Batman v Superman, which is the one thing the film gets right.

For two hours, these two were at each other’s throats. Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne passive-aggressively attacked each other’s cities. The two heroes battled it out in dark alleyways. At the climax, Batman is on the verge of killing Superman as he had intended, thanks to Luther’s machinations. At the last second, Superman spits out the name of his mother, who Luther has kidnapped. The name Martha coincidentally happens to be the name of Bruce Wayne/Batman’s mother. Instantly all is forgiven, and the two team up to save Martha and the city. The end. That’s not just a plot hole the size of Krypton; it’s insulting.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen