The job of film and television background actors — also called extras — sounds pretty straightforward on paper. They’re there to help create the realistic atmosphere of a scene, whether it’s a busy restaurant or a crowded sports game. The extras are responsible for acting naturally, without being too overdone. Most of the time, that’s what they do. But there are other times when a specific extra does something to draw attention to itself – and that fumbling is found in the final version of a film. It happens more often than you might think.
With hundreds of people circling a stage or a complicated setup with multiple moving parts, it can be difficult to catch anything unusual in the background. That’s why editors and directors end up leaving these trivial moments in movies – either they didn’t notice them or they weren’t worth bypassing. However, over the years, many eagle-eyed viewers have picked up something out of place in the backgrounds of their favorite movies. It could be someone performing a basic, mundane action in an unrealistic way, like sweeping a broom without letting it touch the ground. Or, it can be an extra that gives a distracting, over-the-top performance. And anytime young children or animals are involved, good luck trying to get a hold where it’s all good.
Below you will find several examples of extras who have made Something to the camera which momentarily took us out of the film. How many of these background errors have you noticed already?
Boy plugging his ears From North to Northwest (1959)
Alfred Hitchock’s Thriller From North to Northwest is filled with climatic suspense, but for a brief moment that suspense was completely abandoned. In one scene, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) confronts Eve Kendall (Marie Saint) in the Mount Rushmore cafeteria. 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 loud snap, which disturbed one of the child extras sitting in the cafeteria. In the take that Hitchcock ended up using for the film, you can see a young boy covering his ears in anticipation of the sound. The moment occurs around 1:40.
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 famous confectioner’s twisted lair, it gives us this lighthearted 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 kind of sweet. Well, except for a moment. As Bill lifts the counter hatch to let the children behind the counter, he accidentally blasts a young girl – who was standing right in front of the counter – in the jaw. We see the girl backing up at 2:19, which must have been pretty painful. When the kids wanted a candy man jigsaw puzzle, that wasn’t what they had in mind.
Unzipped pants in Teen Wolf (1985)
This cinematic gaffe is one of the best-known incidents on this list, even inspiring a parody on family guy. Essentially there is a scene in Teen Wolf which takes place right after the Beacon High School Beavers win their basketball game. The crowd is ecstatic, and for a moment we see a fan in a red sweater cheering on the team – with their pants unzipped. Once the extra notices what has happened, he quickly zips up his zipper. Check it at the 0:16 second mark. Rumor has it that the extra was a man at first, but it actually turns out to be a woman. In fact, you can spot her red sweater in several other scenes in the movie.
Smiling soldier in Dunkirk (2017)
Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic Dunkirk deals with a rather serious subject – the actual evacuation of Allied soldiers from northern France. At one point in the film’s first teaser, a group of soldiers are visibly terrified by a German plane threatening them with instant destruction. But a soldier, who stands on the right, looks rather amused. Her seductive smirk was quickly pointed out by viewers because it looks so out of place. Maybe one of his fellow extras told him a joke before he started shooting?
too much enthusiasm in ghost hunters (1984)
Background actors are encouraged to be enthusiastic when the scene calls for it, like a parade for the Ghostbusters in the 1980 film of the same name. However, there’s such a thing as going overboard. A man stands in the crowd, showing his love for the Ghostbusters with all he has. At one point he even manages to insert an audible line – “Ghostbusters, okay!” – which has now descended into ghost hunters the story. Funnily enough, that extra is Eldo Ray Estes, who is now an Emmy Award-winning makeup artist.
Drunk party guest in Cry 2 (1997)
In Cry 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 puzzled expression on her face. We also see – for a brief moment at 2:39 – a guy stumbling around with a bowl in his hands, making a comedic impression of a drunken partygoer. His eyes roll around his head as he orients himself, turning a serious moment into something downright silly.
Happy beachgoer in Jaws (1975)
When Jaws came out, it was scary enough for lure people away from the ocean for fear of a shark attack. Even today, Jaws remains completely convincing in its premise… Almost. Fast forward the clip to 23 seconds to see a shirtless man (the one wearing the bucket hat) running towards the ocean, a huge smile plastered on his face. While everyone mimics mass hysteria, this guy is living his best life at the beach. Luckily, he only appears on camera for a split second, so the illusion isn’t entirely broken.
Children frozen in Everything must go (2010)
Everything must go stars Will Ferrell in the rare dramatic role of an alcoholic who tries to make a fresh start by selling most of his possessions at a garage sale. Ferrell’s character reconnects with a former high school classmate played by Laura Dern, and we notice her two children playing in the front yard. When the scene shifts back to Ferrell and Dern, her children are still in the background – except now frozen in place. It lasts about six seconds, and none of the actors seem to notice that these kids are caught in some sort of paranormal time loop. It’s weird, and definitely something that stands out from the rest of the movie.
Dog Throw in Mr. Nanny (1993)
Hulk Hogan stars in Mr. Nanny as a man who takes on the dual role of nanny and bodyguard for two children. It’s not a particularly memorable or high-quality film, but it did attract attention for its bizarre “dog throwing” scene. Near the start of the film, Hogan speeds down the freeway on his motorcycle through Palm Beach, Florida. He rides near a body of water, where a man can be seen tossing his dog in the air towards the ocean. The moment happens at 15 seconds, and no matter how many times you watch it, it makes no sense. Technically, this guy wasn’t a hired extra on the production — he was just an unlucky guy who got caught up in some weird act. Maybe her dog wanted to go swimming?
Sweep the air in Quantum of Comfort (2008)
Quantum of Comfort takes 007 on a mission to Haiti, where you can spot a noticeable error in the background. As Daniel Craig’s James Bond uses his phone as he stands on a pier, you’ll notice a man standing behind him sweeping with a broom. But here’s the thing – the man’s broom doesn’t even touch the ground. He pushes it back and forth, but the broom never makes contact with the ground below. One can only assume that this man is an undercover agent who is really bad at his cover job, but in reality, this extra was just acting out his assigned action quite unrealistically.
Man down in The dark knight rises (2012)
A choreographed fight scene can be very impressive when executed perfectly, and this one from The dark knight rises was almost perfect… Except for one tiny thing. As Batman and Catwoman clash with a group of henchmen, a man on the left draws attention to himself with a bizarre character choice – he falls untouched by anyone. Neither Batman nor Catwoman is near him, yet he falls like wood. At least the scene is dimly lit, so the man looks like a dark figure.
Catastrophic explosion in you only live twice (1967)
Extras don’t just come in human form. There are animal extras too, and these little guys can be total divas. Concrete example, this cat that almost ruined a scene from the James Bond film you only live twice. Blofeld, played by Donald Pleasence, is known to have a serene white cat in his arms or on his lap. But when a loud explosion goes off inside the villain’s base, the cat’s behavior changes completely. The frightened cat starts wriggling out of Pleasence’s arms, and the actor has to keep him safe with an incredibly tight grip. He manages to do this, although the cat looks ridiculously uncomfortable the whole time.
Stormtrooper Headbutt Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
Ah, one of the most famous background mistakes in movie history. In the original version star wars, there’s a moment when a group of Stormtroopers enter a control room through the Death Star’s blast door – and an unassuming Stormtrooper bangs his head against the door. Since being singled out by fans, the star wars community fully embraced the mess. In fact, George Lucas made no attempt to remove it in the special edition of the film. Instead, he added a “noise” sound effect to make it even more noticeable.