Factual errors

When Catherine Martin drives into the parking area, the killer looks right into the headlights of her car while wearing night-vision goggles, but he isn't blinded. Goggles of that time might have been permanently damaged. Newer goggles have automatic protection mechanisms.

Revealing mistakes

As Forensics comes to take photos of the victim's body, the "corpse" visibly blinks as hands touch its face.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs

During Clarice's first visit to see Hannibal, she wore a skirt with belt on the waist when she was in Dr. Chilton's office and before entering the final corridor leading to Hannibal's cell. The belt was gone when she entered the corridor. She probably had to remove her belt before entering the maximum-security area, particularly if it had a metal buckle.

Errors in geography

When Hannibal is imprisoned in Memphis, the sign outside the Shelby county courthouse is shown, in dim light, to be a museum.

Miscellaneous

In the closing credits, thanks is given to The "Behavorial" Science Unit. The correct spelling is behavioral.

Revealing mistakes

When Clarice is researching Lecter in Quantico by reading old newspaper articles on microfilm, the same text regarding developments at some vague governmental conference appears over and over again surrounding the Lecter articles in all four separate newspapers she views.

Continuity

During the discussion Clarice has with Hannibal in the cage, she says "Now, please listen to me. We've only got five..." and Hannibal is supposed to interrupt her but it there is a brief pause before Hannibal speaks. It is clear that she stopped talking without being interrupted.

Audio/visual unsynchronised

When Clarice opens the music box, it plays and winds down. As it winds down, the musical pitch lowers. The music should slow down, but the pitch should stay the same.

Factual errors

Although a human skin garment is implied, most of the sewing examples are blatantly wrong to anyone experienced in tailoring. For example, while Clarice stands in the first victim's sewing room, she recalls the diamond-shaped pieces of skin removed from the girl found in the river, and thinks of the darts commonly used to reduce fabric bulk in the waistline, making a garment more fitted. The problem is, the dart shapes cut from the skin resemble the unwanted pieces of fabric that are wasted. Later it shows him sewing on one end, single thickness. He's not sewing anything to anything else, and he's using a piece that is typically cut off and discarded during garment construction.

Character error

When Clarice visits the entomologists to identify the moth pupa, they say while examining the chrysalis that it must've been specially raised from imported eggs and fed "honey and nightshade". Deaths Head moth larvae, like most caterpillars, eat only vegetation; the adult moths eat honey.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs

U.S. Customs has a record of Buffalo Bill bringing the moths, found only in Asia, from Suriname, in South America. He may have used a re-shipper to disguise the shipment's origins.

Factual errors

Crawford tells Clarice that Miggs died by swallowing his tongue after Hannibal said something that made him cry. Literally swallowing one's tongue is impossible. However, an unconscious person's tongue may sag backwards and block their airway, leading to suffocation. This is what is usually referred to by the phrase. It is not a voluntary act.

Continuity

As Hannibal escapes, he kicks the cell door onto the guard, causing the door to be in between Hannibal and the guard. Yet in the very next shot, the guard is right in front of Hannibal so he can bite him.

Character error

The autopsy scene contains at least 8 errors. Among them, the body was fingerprinted without collecting evidence under the victims fingernails, and the ink would have destroyed the evidence. You cannot get fingerprints off a body in that condition.

Crew or equipment visible

At the end of the film, when Hannibal tells Clarice about having "an old friend for dinner", a camera crew can is reflected in Hannibal's sunglasses.

Continuity

At the end of the movie, when Clarice Starling is searching Buffalo Bill's basement, she approaches a door with the doorknob on her right, indicating it would open to her left. When we see the door open from the opposite side, it opens to her right.

Factual errors

The FBI is unable to find a pattern in the killings because the first victim was the third corpse they found, and it is not until Clarice goes over Lecter's notes that she realizes that Buffalo Bill must have known his first victim, something the FBI apparently never thought of. However, the FBI generally assume that serial killers start by killing people they know.

Continuity

The body Clarice discovers in the basement, presumably Mrs. Lippman, is lit almost entirely by sunlight. Moments later, Buffalo Bill kills the power and whole room turns pitch black.

Factual errors

West Virginia State Police uniforms have been forest green since the early 1900's. Their vehicles are blue, with Old Gold and the State Seal on the door. The director asked the WV Department of Public Safety to use some State Police in the movie, but he didn't like the colors of their uniforms. When he asked them to change into the Brown uniforms, they refused and left the set.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs

When Buffalo Bill cocks his gun, the shadow of Bill's hand holding the gun is clearly visible on Clarice's back as he raises it to shoot her. Although it might be thought that there are no shadows in pitch blackness, Buffalo Bill is using night vision goggles, not thermal imaging. Either his device amplifies what little light there is, or it is shining infrared (invisible) light on the scene and converts the image to a visible light equivalent. In either case, shadows are possible because the image is produced by reflected light. This can be seen because Clarice is clearly recognizable, which she would not be with the thermal imaging that does not have shadows.

Factual errors

The film refers to "iron sulfide, also known as 'fool's gold'." Iron sulfide, more specifically, iron (II) sulfide or FeS, is an unstable chemical compound that's usually brown or black. The fool's gold they refer to is commonly known as pyrite, and its proper name is iron (II) disulfide (FeS2). Even if Agent Starling and Dr. Lecter knew enough about chemistry to know the chemical composition of fool's gold, she would have known it as either pyrite or iron disulfide.

Errors in geography

In the cut to the scene outside the Memphis Police headquarters, after Lecter has escaped, an ambulance with Hamilton County tags roars across the screen and stops. Memphis is in Shelby County, 400 miles west of Hamilton County.

Character error

Clarice says she double-majored in criminology and psychology at the University of Virginia. UVA has never offered a criminology major.

Revealing mistakes

When Clarice is talking to Buffalo Bill in his back room, a moth is filmed landing on a cotton reel. After the moth has settled, a thread is visible attached to it. Presumably the shot was filmed in reverse, and the moth was yanked off the reel.

Audio/visual unsynchronised

In the final phone call, as Lecter says "I have no plans to call on you, Clarice. The world's more interesting with you in it", his facial movements don't match the spoken words.

Crew or equipment visible

A black string is attached to the back of the moth that lands on the red roll of string at Buffalo Bill's house. It's clearly visible in high definition.

Errors in geography

The red herring house is supposed to be in Calumet City, Illinois, but mountains are in the background. The closest mountain to Calumet City are the Appalachians, roughly 400 miles to the east.

Revealing mistakes

Nearly all the vehicles in the film have inspection stickers in the windshield indicating registration in Pittsburgh, PA, where none of the action takes place.

Revealing mistakes

The military aircraft heading toward Calument City has California Air Guard on the side, which is not likely for planes coming from Virginia.

Character error

Dr. Lecter says that Buffalo Bill has probably applied without success to all three major centers for sexual reassignment surgery. One does not apply directly to such a surgical center. First, one must get an appointment with a gender clinic, where, after evaluation, a psychiatrist could diagnose them with gender dysphoria and recommend that they begin the transition process, which may include dressing as the opposite gender and beginning hormone replacement therapy. Only after at least a year of doing so would a doctor recommend a patient for surgery, which requires a letter from two psychiatrists.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs

Lecter correctly refers to the moth pupa as a "chrysalis". Many moths, including the one in the film, pupate inside a chrysalis. "Cocoon" refers to a type of silky case spun by many types of insects, not just moths.

Character error

Jack Crawford says Clarice graduated magna cum laude from UVA, but UVA does not award that distinction to psychology majors.

Character error

Dr. Chilton, presumably a Psychiatrist, would not refer to Hanibal Lecter as a Psychopath, particularly to someone who allegedly majored in Psychology. Psychopathy is a term popularized by media and lay press. Lecter would be better classified as a Sociopath or as having Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Additionally, he would not necessarily be considered psychotic (commonly confused as the correct Psychiatric term for Psychopathy) as psychosis involves alterations of perception (e.g. Halluicinations).

Continuity

When agent Starling has her first interview with Hannibal Lector she is wearing colored nail polish. A shot of her hands after she runs out of the prison shows she is no longer wearing the nail polish.

Revealing mistakes

The same newspaper clipping from the National Inquisitor with the headline "Bill Skins Fifth" appears on the wall of Jack Crawford's office at the beginning of the film, and on the wall of Buffalo Bill's trophy room at the end. The text of the article is actually not about Buffalo Bill at all: it is the story of how Hannibal Lecter was arrested for a "brutal murder" in which "reportedly acts of cannibalism were a factor in the death". The victim, named as Stuart Heart, is inconsistently described as a museum curator, as an entymologist, and as the creator of a liver disease drug. The story includes a quote from "Special Agent Jack Crawford".

The story's text can be seen in its proper place during Clarice's research on the microfiche, in the Washington Dispatch story headlined "Renowned Psychiatrist Charged in Murder".

Plot holes

Both Dr Chilton and Paul Krendler from Justice are shown speaking to the media about knowing the identity of Buffalo Bill and needing to apprehend him, while Catherine is still missing. This would be a huge mistake since if Buffalo Bill was watching the news, he would know they were close to apprehending him and more than likely kill Catherine and disappear.

Revealing mistakes

When Clarice is interviewing Lecter, a padlock on his cell door goes from locked to unlocked between scenes.

Character error

Sgt Tate tells an officer to call in the SWAT team. Memphis has no SWAT team, but it has a TACT team.

Errors in geography

The plane carrying agents to Calumet City banks over mountainous terrain that looks like nothing near northern Indiana or northern Illinois.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs

Gumb's basement, while larger than the "red herring" house in Illinois, is proportional to his house in Ohio.

Continuity

After Dr. Lector unlocks his handcuffs and puts them on Lt. Boyle, he then bites Sgt. Pembry just to the right of Sgt. Pembry's nose, leaving a noticeable wound. Later when Dr. Lector is in the ambulance wearing Sgt. Pembry's face, the wound is not there.

Character error

During Lecter's escape, when the SWAT team officer steps up on the step ladder, and prepares to open the elevator roof, he points his pistol at the trap door. The pistol is a Browning Hi-Power, which is a single action pistol, meaning that the hammer must be cocked for the pistol to fire. The hammer is not cocked in the scene.

Continuity

When Starling tries to get into the self-storage facility, the gloves disappear from her lap.

Character error

When Jack Crawford describes who will be escorting Starling at the asylum, he calls Dr. Chilton "Dr. Chilnet."

Factual errors

The biologist identifies the moth found behind the murder victim's soft palate as Acherontia styx, the Deaths Head moth. The Deaths Head moth used in the poster is actually Acherontia atropos. (A third Deaths Head moth is called Acherontia lachesis.) While A. styx is native to Asia, as identified by the biologist, A. atropos is native to the Middle East and Mediterranean.

Continuity

When the FBI team is preparing to deliver the flowers, the ribbon is on both the upper and lower sections of the box. In the next shot, the ribbon appears only on the upper section of the box.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs

When Clarice is shown in Belvedere, Ohio, she is on a bridge. Belvedere is not on a river, but Cross Creek runs through the town.

Errors in geography

Clarice runs a course on a Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA, which is also home to the FBI Academy. The Endurance Course is about 5 miles long throughout the Quantico highlands, in the Marine part, not the FBI part. At the cargo net obstacle, she was nearly at the end of the course, about 2-3 miles from the FBI Academy. A road is to the left on the screen, and nothing but miles of woods is on her right, when the FBI agent comes out and says that Crawford wants to speak to her. It would've been faster and more logical for her to finish the course, not run 3-4 miles back through the woods to the FBI academy.

Factual errors

In reality, Clarice would not have been allowed to go see Dr. Lecter alone, as trainees must have a trained agent with them on interviews.

Revealing mistakes

After Hannibal escapes from his temporary cell in Memphis, the police believe Dr. Lecter is cornered, injured and unconscious, on the top of an elevator. The officer is told to shoot him, non-lethally, in order to determine whether he is alive or not, and wounds him in the back of the knee with his police issued 9mm handgun. The body showed no reaction to the shot, so they decided he was dead. Even a dead limb would move away from the direction of the shot.

Continuity

During the autopsy scene, they remove the bug cocoon from the victim and insert it into a small jar with the bug antenna pointing to the bottom of the jar. The next next shot shows Clarice pouring fluid into the jar with the antenna pointing up.

Character error

At the Memphis airport, Lt. Boyle introduces Sgt. Pembry to Dr. Lecter as "Sgt. Petry".

Revealing mistakes

During Lector's escape, the "swat" team arrives and jumps out of the police car at the courthouse with their Ithica 37 shotguns. All of them are shown chambering their rounds except the the officer on the right, who pulls back again on the fore stock and asks "ready?" That should've ejected a shell and left the gun unloaded.

Continuity

Jack Crawford's collar pops in and out of his vest during a conversation with Clarice Starling.

Continuity

When the cop holding the flowers is at the front door of the house in Illinois, shadows change direction on the doorframe between shots.

Factual errors

In the novel "Hannibal", it is said that Clarice is 32, if that holds true for the movie that means that Clarice would have been 22 in "Silence of the Lambs", as this movie takes place 10 years before the "Hannibal" movie. Clarice would have been a year too young to apply for the FBI, as you must be 23 to apply.

Continuity

The ring of sweat on Clarice's sweatshirt as she is running on the Quantico course in the beginning of the movie covers her body almost from shoulder to shoulder. When she gets called into Crawford's office, it is significantly smaller.

Revealing mistakes

When Clarice crawls under the door at the self-storage shed, the camera pans along the large unlighted interior. Although self storage units typically do not have windows, sunlight pours through windows on the far wall.

Continuity

As Clarice is looking through the microfilm, the pen in her mouth switches places several times.

Factual errors

An Acherontia styx pupa is found behind the soft palate of Bill's 6th victim, The actual species depicted is Acherontia atropos.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs

Jodie Foster has blue eyes. When she is at the funeral home she has a flashback and sees her father in the casket. Clarice as a little girl is supposed to be going to see her father in the casket. The little girl's eyes are Hazel, not blue. Adult Clarice could wear colored contacts.

Character error

In their first encounter at the Asylum, Lecter makes his "fava beans--Chianti" crack, then slides the connecting tray back to Clarice with Crawford's questionnaire in it, rejected. But Clarice rises from her chair with her bag and starts to exit--without retrieving the questionnaire first.

Revealing mistakes

When Sgt. Pembry is preparing to handcuff Dr. Lecter to the bars of his cell while bringing in his requested second supper, he has Lecter sit with his back to the bars and his arms thrust behind him in order secure the shackles. It's obvious that Dr. Lecter has been waiting for a fair amount of time between his first meal and his second serving because his drawings and magazines are spread over the entire desktop surface. A closeup of the Lecter's arms shows red, discolored wrists.

Continuity

After Lecter is transferred to Memphis to the freestanding cell, Clarice delivers his drawings left behind in Baltimore. As Chilton and the police are escorting Clarice out and she flies back to Virginia, the scene pans across the desk in Lecter's cell revealing a drawing of Clarice with a Lamb. Either the drawing was done before he left Baltimore (before he knew about the 'screaming of the lambs') or he did the complete and extensive drawing in less than a few hours.

Character error

Hannibal sounds genuinely scared of Buffalo Bill when he describes his pathology to Agent Starling. But Hannibal is a Psychopath, and would be indifferent.

Continuity

Clarice tells the spooked cop who thinks that Dr Lecter is a Vampire that "They don't have a name for what he is." The first thing that Dr. Chiltern told Clarice was that Dr Lecter is a Psychopath.

Continuity

When Agent Terry uses tweezers to remove the bug larva from the West Virginia murder victim's throat, part of the larva is briefly visible protruding from her mouth before he puts the tweezers much deeper in her mouth to retrieve it.

Continuity

when Clarice is chasing Bill through the house the audience can hear the girl in the hole screaming "I'm down here", how did she know someone else was in the house, Clarice never announced herself until after she heard the girl screaming...