5 Biggest Usability Fails in Movies

Published June 5, 2015 ⚡ Updated on August 7, 2018 by Markus Pirker

In movies, and especially in science fiction, stuff usually works.

User interfaces in film are more exciting than they are realistic, and heroes have far too easy a time using foreign systems.

Jacob Nielsen

That’s part of the fun of science fiction movies. But unfortunately technology failure is a part of our everyday life. And once in a while creative producers add entirely new levels of complexity to technology used in movies. Enjoy the following five examples.

1. Everything is compatible and always works – or needs awful long instructions

In most movies all protagonists can immediately use any interfaces. Understandable that Hollywood doesn’t want their heroes having to deal with usability issues while fighting against the undead or saving the human race. And if some user interface isn’t setup for walk-up-and-use, long and difficult instructions are used to emphasize the complexity in operation.

Remember the Zero Gravity Toilet Instructions from 2001 a space odyssey? Imagine reading through this instructions, when you are bursting.


2. Automatic doors always open at an awful slow speed

Have you ever wondered why doors in movies alway open at an awful slow speed? Make sure to watch the Soldier on far right entrance when the door did not fully raise. Embarrassment caused by bumping his head resulted in him later missing many easy shots at escaping convicts.


3. Searching always shows bad results first

Why, when they search a database for fingerprints or suspects, do they always display hundreds of bad results on screen before the final results are shown?


4. Text appears on a character by character basis on screen.


So this was the line on line experience. Now imagine text appearing in a character on character basis, like in Hackers. Pretty efficient isn’t it?


5. Computers beep when they are displaying text.

And when someone is typing. And when nothing important is happening at all. Now imagine this scenario in an open-plan office.

Bonus: Let’s enhance it

Despite that many usability fails technology there is one piece of technology that works almost flawlessly in any movie: Image Enhancing. Have fun with this compilation of famous enhancing scenes from movies.

P.S: There is a great list of IT Inaccuracy in movies, you really should check out.

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