Five Sci-Fi Films With Glaring Plot Holes

Cabin in the Woods

Writing a film is hard and it’s easy to make an oversight and create a plot hole; where there is an inconsistency or something doesn’t make sense. Sometimes the filmmaker simply makes peace with the plot hole for the sake of storytelling but these little problems can drive people to distraction.

Planet of the Apes – The Problem with Communication

 Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox
A surprisingly easy conversation // Credit: Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox

Planet of the Apes is a sci-fi classic from 1968 starring Hollywood legend Charlton Heston. In the film, Heston plays George Taylor, an astronaut who crashes on a mysterious and distant planet where apes rule and humans are little more than cattle. The shocking reveal being that this is not a distant alien world, but Earth in the future.

The Plot Hole: Language – Taylor has no problem communicating with the apes as they all speak English and not only English but the exact same dialect. Their written communication is also the same. Given how much language can change in just a hundred years it’s inconceivable that after all this time and the evolution of apes that they would be able to communicate so easily. This is true in many sci-fi films where people can converse easily. The film Arrival is essentially about overcoming that almost insurmountable problem.

Cabin In The Woods – I Thought You Were Dead!

A horror/scifi/genre mashup Cabin In The Woods is a post-modern take on horror films where many of the curious behaviours of people in horror movies are explained. Why are people so stupid? They’re drugged. Why do they abandon weapons? They are given mild electric shocks to drop them. Ultimately we learn that the typical horror scenarios are just setups, elaborate ritual human sacrifices to stop ancient gods from destroying the world.

The Plot Hole(s) In the scenario playing out in the film there are five victims all archetypes: the athlete, the scholar, the whore, the fool and the virgin. We see them get picked off one by one until only Dana – the virgin – is left. But we then learn that Marty – the fool – is not dead as had previously been suggested. Given that each death is accompanied by a lever where blood pours down to the ancient gods – how was there any confusion about this? The second one is the organisation behind all this boasts that they have an excellent success rate, but most horror films end with the monster losing.

Back To The Future Part II – Time Travel Troubles

Back To The Future Part II, Universal Pictures
Rich Biff in all his glory // Credit: Back To The Future Part II, Universal Pictures

A spectacular sci-fi film of time travelling adventure this sequel builds on the original by going to the future. When Marty and Doc are visiting the future their perennial nemesis Biff steals the time machine to go back to the 1950s, giving the younger version of himself a sports almanack, allowing him to always win when betting on sports. When Marty and Doc return to their time they are in a very different Hill Valley, destroyed by crime and ran by the incredibly rich Biff. Marty’s father is dead (murdered by Biff), his mother remarried to Biff and Doc has been institutionalised.

The Plot Hole When they return to their present are there now two Martys and two Docs? Doc is in a hospital and Marty is in Switzerland but they’re now also in Hill Valley – do these doubles still exist in their respective locations? Or were they deleted when Marty and Doc returned? Also, of course, changing time is not some trivial thing, when Biff did this the whole world changed, people were born who didn’t exist in the “original” timeline and when they put it back these people no longer exist. While Marty and Doc are on the sharp end of the timeline many people will have had better lives, are they right to change that?

The Last Jedi – That Was Quick

The Last Jedi is an odd film, part brilliant, part not-so-brilliant, but there are a number of plot holes in this film. Most of the film takes place with the First Order fleet pursuing the Resistance fleet whilst various characters try to devise plans to escape their enemy.

The Plot Hole – Where to start…but sticking to just one. Finn and Rose slip away from the Resistance fleet, travel to the city of Canto Bight on Cantonica, get involved in all manner of shenanigans, rescue a prisoner, get back and this chase is still going on and only a few hours seem to have passed. This already seems implausible as space is really big and travelling across it takes a long time but after a little bit of research into the Star Wars canon shows D’Qar and Cantonica are seemingly on opposite ends of the galaxy. An appropriate comparison might be if involved in a car chase in America one person gets out of the car, travels to India, comes back and gets back and the chase is still going on.

Alien – An Overly Elaborate Plan

Alien, 20th Century Fox
This will not end well // Credit: Alien, 20th Century Fox

Generally accepted to be one of the greatest films of all time Alien is the story of a commercial spaceship that stumbles across an alien lifeform that promptly wipes out most of the crew, with Ripley and the ship’s cat being the only survivors. It is revealed it was no accident that the ship came across the alien, with Weyland-Yutani engineering the situation and planting the synthetic Ash to make sure the mission is successful.

The Plot Hole – Weyland-Yutani seem very well aware of just how dangerous the alien creature is. They also know where it is and yet their plan revolves around a seven-person crew of a civilian ship with no weapons managing to transport the alien. There are so many things that could have gone wrong with this plan – from the crew simply refusing to investigate, to the crew following better procedures to ensure no crewmember is infected and/or brought back on board (this is a moment where Ash intervenes, Ripley tries to enforce quarantine but Ash opens the door). The real question is why Weyland-Yutani, an organisation of seemingly endless resources, couldn’t commission a specialist team to retrieve the creature. It would have been simpler and far more likely to succeed. Aliens carries on some of the bizarre decisions of this company who when the Nostromo didn’t return seem to have simply forgotten all about the aliens to the extent they colonised the planet!

Also Read: The Best Sci-Fi Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

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Posted by
Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.