The job of film and television background actors — also known as extras — seems pretty simple on paper. They’re there to help create the realistic atmosphere of a scene, whether it be a bustling restaurant or a packed sports game. Extras are instructed to act naturally, without being too over-the-top. Most of the time, that’s what they do. But then there are other times when one specific extra does something to call attention to his or herself — and that fumble ends up in the final version of a movie. It happens more often than you might think.
With hundreds of people milling about in a scene, or a complicated setup with several moving parts, it can be hard to catch something unusual in the background. This is why editors and directors end up leaving these trivial moments in movies — either they didn’t notice them, or it wasn’t worth it to cut around them. However, over the years there have been many eagle-eyed movie viewers who have caught something out of place in the backgrounds of their favorite movies. It can be someone performing a basic, mundane action unrealistically, such as sweeping a broom without letting it touch the ground. Or, it can be an extra who gives a distractingly exaggerated performance. And whenever young children or animals are involved, good luck trying to get a take where nothing goes wrong.
Below, you’ll find several examples of extras who did something on camera that momentarily took us out of the film. How many of these background blunders have you noticed before?
Boy Plugging Ears in North By Northwest (1959)
Alfred Hitchock’s thriller North By Northwest is filled with climatic suspense, but for a brief moment, that suspense was completely dropped. In one scene, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) confronts Eve Kendall (Marie Saint) in the cafeteria at Mount Rushmore. At the end of the scene, Eve fatally shoots Roger with a gun — as you can imagine, it took several takes to get it right. Even though the gun only fired blanks, it still made a sharp, loud noise, which bothered one of the child extras seated in the cafeteria. In the take Hitchcock ended up using for the film, you can spot a young boy plugging his ears in anticipation of the sound. The moment occurs at around the 1:40 mark.
Unlucky Girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Before Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory takes a dark turn down the tunnel of the famed candymaker’s twisted lair, it gives us this jaunty little number sung by Bill the Candy Man (Aubrey Woods). It’s a mostly innocent song about the joys of taking candy from a relative stranger, but nonetheless, it’s pretty sweet. Well, except for one moment. As Bill lifts the counter hatch to let the children behind the counter, he accidentally pops a young girl — who was standing directly in front of the counter — in the jaw. We see the girl lurch backwards at the 2:19 mark, which must have been pretty painful. When the kids wanted a jawbreaker from the Candy Man, this wasn’t what they had in mind.
Unzipped Pants in Teen Wolf (1985)
This cinematic goof is one of the more well-known incidents on this list, even inspiring a parody on Family Guy. Essentially, there’s a scene in Teen Wolf that takes place right after the Beacon High School Beavers win their basketball game. The crowd is ecstatic, and for a moment, we see a red-sweatered fan cheering on the team — with their pants unzipped. Once the extra notices what has happened, they quickly zipped up their fly. Check it out at the 0:16 second mark. The extra was rumored to be a man at first, but it actually turns out that she was a woman. In fact, you can spot her red sweater in several other scenes in the movie.
Smirking Soldier in Dunkirk (2017)
Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic Dunkirk deals with pretty serious subject matter — the real-life evacuation of Allied soldiers from northern France. At one point during the film’s first teaser, a group of soldiers are visibly terrified by a German plane that threatens them with instant destruction. But one soldier, who is standing to the right, looks quite amused. His beguiling smirk was quickly pointed out by viewers, because it seems so out of place. Maybe one of his fellow extras told him a joke before they started shooting?
Too Much Enthusiasm in Ghostbusters (1984)
Background actors are encouraged to be enthusiastic when the scene calls for it, such as a parade for the Ghostbusters in the 1980 film of the same name. However, there is such a thing as taking it too far. One man stands in the crowd, showing his love for the Ghostbusters with everything he’s got. At one point, he even manages to squeeze an audible line in there — “Ghostbusters, alright!” — which has now gone down in Ghostbusters history. Funnily enough, that extra is Eldo Ray Estes, who is now an Emmy Award-winning makeup artist.
Drunk Party Guest in Scream 2 (1997)
In Scream 2, Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott attends a party at a sorority house, only for it to end once the police arrive at a nearby sorority house, where Ghostface has just murdered a female student. As the guests leave the house in droves, we see Sidney slowly exit with a perplexed expression on her face. We also see — for a brief moment at 2:39 — a guy stumbling out with a bowl in his hands, doing a comical impression of an inebriated partygoer. His eyes roll around his head as he gets his bearings, turning a serious moment into something downright silly.
Happy Beachgoer in Jaws (1975)
When Jaws came out, it was frightening enough to lure people away from the ocean out of fear of a shark attack. Even today, Jaws remains entirely convincing in its premise… Almost. Fast-forward the clip to 23 seconds in to see a shirtless man (the one wearing the bucket hat) running towards the ocean, a huge grin plastered on his face. While everyone else is miming mass hysteria, this dude is living his best life at the beach. Luckily, he only appears on camera for a split second, so the illusion isn’t entirely shattered.
Frozen Kids in Everything Must Go (2010)
Everything Must Go stars Will Ferrell in the rare dramatic role of an alcoholic who tries to get a fresh start by selling off most of his possessions in a yard sale. Ferrell’s character reconnects with an old high school classmate played by Laura Dern, and we notice her two kids playing in the front yard. When the scene cuts back to Ferrell and Dern, her kids are still in the background — except they’re now frozen in place. It goes on for around six seconds, and neither of the actors seem to notice that these children are caught in some sort of paranormal time loop. It’s weird, and definitely something that sticks out from the rest of the film.
Dog Tossing in Mr. Nanny (1993)
Hulk Hogan stars in Mr. Nanny as a man who takes on the dual role of nanny and bodyguard to two kids. It’s not a particularly memorable or high-quality film, but it did gain attention for its bizarre “dog tossing” scene. Towards the beginning of the movie, Hogan speeds down the highway on his motorcycle through Palm Beach, Florida. He rides by a body of water, where a man can be seen throwing his dog mid-air towards the ocean. The moment occurs at 15 seconds in, and no matter how many times you watch it, there’s no making sense of it. Technically, this guy wasn’t a hired extra on the production — he was just an unlucky guy who got caught in a strange act. Maybe his dog wanted to go for a swim?
Sweeping the Air in Quantum of Solace (2008)
Quantum of Solace takes 007 on a mission to Haiti, where you can spot a noticeable blunder in the background. As Daniel Craig’s James Bond uses his phone while standing on a pier, you’ll notice a man standing behind him who is sweeping with a broom. But here’s the thing — the man’s broom isn’t even touching the ground. He pushes it back and forth, but the broom never makes contact with the floor beneath it. One can only assume that this man is an undercover operative that is really bad at his cover job, but in reality, this extra was just miming his assigned action pretty unrealistically.
Man Down in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
A choreographed fight scene can be very impressive when executed flawlessly, and this one from The Dark Knight Rises was almost perfect… Except for one tiny thing. As Batman and Catwoman duke it out with a bunch of henchmen, one man on the left draws attention to himself with a bizarre character choice — he falls over without being hit by anybody. Neither Batman nor Catwoman is anywhere near him, and yet he falls like timber. At least the scene is dimly lit, so the man just looks like a shadowy silhouette.
Cat-astrophic Explosion in You Only Live Twice (1967)
Extras don’t just come in human form. There are also animal extras, and those little guys can be total divas. Case in point, this cat who nearly ruined a scene in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Blofeld, played by Donald Pleasence, is known for having a serene white cat in his arms or lap. But when a loud explosion goes off inside the villain's base, the kitty’s demeanor totally shifts. The spooked cat begins to squirm out of Pleasence’s arms, and the actor has to keep him secure with an impossibly tight grip. He manages to do it, although the cat looks ridiculously uncomfortable the whole time.
Stormtrooper Head Bump in Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
Ah, one of the most famous background blunders in movie history. In the original Star Wars, there is a moment where a group of Stormtroopers enter a control room through the Death Star’s blast door — and one unassuming Stormtrooper bonks his head on the door. Since being pointed out by fans, the Star Wars community has fully embraced the mess-up. In fact, George Lucas made no attempt to remove it in the special edition of the film. Rather, he added a “thud” sound effect to make it even more noticeable.