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Non-Fictional Flags in Movies

Real Places, Wrong Flags

Last modified: 2017-12-07 by pete loeser
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Introduction: Non-Fictional Flags Used in Movies and TV

Many times the entertainment industry will use actual existing flags as props in their creations in both their television and cinema productions. Sometimes they use the correct flags, other times they use incorrect flags, and sometimes simply manufacture speculative flags to use as props for their tales and stories. Usually not noticed by the general viewer, or simply deemed unimportant, they do tend to stick out to the dedicated vexillologist or historian, and this page is an attempt to identify some of their mistakes and variants.
Pete Loeser, 23 October 2017


Flag Mishaps and Mistakes
(Real places or organizations, but wrong flags)

In this section are flags that have been identified, but are badly reproduced, anachronistic or simply the wrong one in the given context.


Animal House

Oregon    Tennessee
Images by Clay Moss

Though Faber College is in Pennsylvania, the room used during the probation-hearing scene features the Tennessee flag. Apparently, the directors first wanted to use an Oregon flag in that scene, but the "State of Oregon" printed on the flag was too obvious. So they substituted a Tennessee flag as a "generic-looking" US state flag...although, of course, few flags are more typical of "generic" US state flags than Oregon's own.
Andrew S. Rogers, 8 September 2004

I don't think Faber's location is ever revealed. The movie was filmed on a campus in Oregon, is based on a series of articles about Dartmouth College (in New Hampshire), and has a Pennsylvania...feel, perhaps, but the flag is the only pointer as to where it is.
Nathan Lamm, 8 September 2004

Odd. There is a rich vein of Web sites all indicating Faber was definitively placed in Pennsylvania. But we know how reliable the non-FOTW portions of the 'Net can be, so I gladly yield to you on this. One site seemed to imply that Faber was positively placed in Pennsylvania in the "Delta House" television sitcom that was based on the movie (that was based on the series of articles...)
Andrew S. Rogers, 8 September 2004


Black Robe

Image by Pierre Gay, 29 September 1998

     Early in the movie you can see the fort of Champlain flying a French merchant flag (white cross on blue). Beside the justness or not of it flying on "any" fort, in this particular circumstances, we have a first hand document that prove it false.
     There is an engraving in the "Voyages du sieur de Champlain"" p.187 (which he published in 1613) made from a drawing of his Abitation de Quebecq (residence of Quebec). Over the sun dial can be seen a pole with a flag flying from it. It is rather small but is bifurcated and near the hoist can be seen 3 cross-like objects (1 over 2) which one would assume to be fleur-de-lys. There are no colours, but logic would dictate either a white or blue background.
Marc Pasquin, 30 April 2005


Chariots of Fire

Image by Joe McMillan, 6 May 2003

In this movie which involves the Paris Olympics of 1924, the flags on the US uniforms have 50-stars. Not that I could count them, but they were definitely in the staggered row pattern of the current Stars and Stripes, not the grid pattern of the 48-star version of 1912-1959.
Terence Martin, 8 September 2004


Dracula 2000

Image by David Shiell

Just today I caught the very beginning of the movie Dracula 2000. In the opening scene a passing ship is flying a Red-Blue-White (Serbian National/Peoples) flag.
Milan Jovanovich, 7 August 2007

First, there's white-blue-red flag of Russia as seen here but a bit later, indeed, there's the Serbian flag which you can see here
Mariusz Borkowski, 8 August 2007

It could very well be that the Russian flag was turned upside down in distress (I haven't seen the movie, nor do I care to, but the second shot shows a crew indeed in distress, I don't know what happened in the intervening shots though.)
David Kendall, 9 August 2007

I just watched the movie, but it looks like Dracula arrived on that ship in 19th Century. They also read some old church Slavonic papers, which is weird since Vlad is from Romania.
Milan Jovanovic, 9 August 2007

Actually, that ship scene is from 1897, and Serbia did use RBW flag back then. But I think there's no use in searching for logic here, eg. that ship's name - DEMETER - was written in Latin alphabet, unlikely on a ship from either Russia or Serbia (landlocked anyway)...
Mariusz Borkowski, 9 August 2007

The arrival of the Demeter in the port of Whitby is described in Chapters VI and VII of Bram Stoker's "Dracula". The ship is said to be Russian and to come from Varna (Bulgaria). At the end of Chapter VI, a coast guard spots the ship with his telescope and says: "A foreign ship, for sure, probably Russian". There is no mention of a ensign (not in the next Chapter either), but I guess that the coast guard identified the ship through its ensign.
Ivan Sache, 10 August 2007


Casino Royale

Image by Antonio Martins, 24 April 1999

The opening scene of the movie takes place in Madagascar, and the guards outside the fictional embassy of Nambutu are clearly wearing Madagascar flag patches although I suppose many embassies around the world have local forces outside.
Nathan Lamm, 28 November 2006


Exodus

   
Images by Željko Heimer and Martin Grieve

It was quite amazing to see the ship Exodus entering Haifa Port after sailing from Cyprus, (By-the-way, the real Exodus came from Germany via France and its immigrants were deported to Germany), with very big Israel flag on the back stern, a small Israel flag on the front bow and a United Kingdom red ensign on the main mast...
Well, I guess we can't expect any illegal immigrant ship to have the correct combination of flags...
Dov Gutterman, 9 July 2005


Gettysburg

Second National Flag   Battle Flags
Images by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg and Rick Wyatt

     During the 1863 battle of the American Civil War that gave its name to the movie, you see command officers gallop here and yon over the field trailed by staff officers carrying the Second National CSA flags, which were used as HQ (Headquarters) flags in the Confederated States Army. The problem is, no Second National flags were at Gettysburg in 1863, despite the flag having been enacted by law in early May of that year . There is a single exception to this and it is the mock-up Second National flag for the 32nd North Carolina Infantry, but as they are not portrayed in the film we'll leave this out. The reason why this was the historical case was a wool bunting shortage at the Richmond Depot which made the flags for Robert E. Lee's army. We have not found a single Second National HQ flag being issued to that army before October, 1863.
     The second error is the incorrect version of the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag. Most depicted in the film are of the Fourth Bunting variety, which was not issued until May, 1864! These flags are larger in size to earlier Army of Northern Virginia flags and feature larger stars that are more spread out on the arms of the blue crosses rather than the smaller stars that are concentrated on the flag's center star.
Greg Biggs, 28 October 2002


My Cousin Vinny

Image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 22 May 2008

The setting of the movie "My Cousin Vinny" is the State of Alabama, a fact central to the plot. The state flag is seen throughout the movie in courthouse scenes (although, incorrectly, to the right of the US flag out front). Oddly, the cover of the video box shows, hanging to either side of the judge, the US flag and the flag of, of all places, San Francisco (which I doubt is flown even in courts there, state flags being used). The movie was not filmed in San Francisco.
Nathan Lamm, 7 September 2004

Pennies from Heaven

Canada   Barbados
Images by António Martins-Tuválkin and Željko Heimer

In the Steve Martin-Bernadette Peters remake of "Pennies from Heaven", the latter plays a school teacher in Depression-era America. The flag chart on her classroom wall shows the anachronistic maple leaf flag of Canada and the trident flag of Barbados.
Albert S. Kirsch, 8 September 2004


Plenty

Image by Željko Heimer, 27 October 2001

In this 1985 Meryl Streep movie, Whitney Smith's Guyana flag, designed in the 1960s, is displayed in a scene set during Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953.
Andrew S. Rogers, 8 September 2004


Seven Wonders of the Industrial World

Image by Clay Moss, 7 February 2007

Last night I saw a BBC documentary/dramatization about the Brooklyn Bridge, which showed a reenactment of the opening ceremony. I'm fairly sure a 44-star flag was shown hoisted at the opening (rows of 8,7,7,7,7,8). Yet the opening was in 1883 - that flag would have been used between 1890 and 1896.
James Dignan, 8 September 2004


Thunderball

Original image by Brian Ellis, 20 July 2009
Image rotated by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 24 October 2017

In one scene of the movie, the Panamanian flag on the villain's yacht is upside down.
Albert S. Kirsch, 8 September 2004


WindTalkers

Image by Joe McMillan, 6 May 2003

A movie about the Navajo code senders of World War II. There is one scene where the camera shows a close-up of a US flag flying on a pole and you hear the Navajo soldiers taking the oath of enlistment in the background. This takes place during World War II in the 1940s, yet the stars on the flag are in a staggered pattern as in the current 50 star flag. The full flag isn't shown, so I can't count the stars, but the lower right hand corner of the canton is shown, and the stars are definitely not in the rectangular 48 star pattern.
Michael P. Smuda, 28 October 2002


Tears of the Sun

Image of Movie version of flag by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 September 2008

     Tears of the Sun is a 2003 war film, set in the midst of a (fictional) civil war in Nigeria. It involves a team of US commandos who agree to escort a group of refugees to the Cameroon border, fleeing from an ethnic militia bent on ethnic cleansing and genocide.
     The end of the movie takes place at a Cameroonian border post, with a Cameroon flag featured prominently in some shots. However, the flag is the First National Flag used between 1957-1961, a plain tricolor which lacks the star of the present day flag (shown here), although the film is set in the present day. Also, the proportions of the flag shown in the movie appear to be about 1:2.
Albert S. Kirsch, 8 September 2004


Flags of Uncertain Veracity
(Real places or organizations, but fictitious flags)

These flags are unrecognized as legitimate flag from the places they claim to be from, but rather apparent fictitious flags for very real places. I'm not quite sure why Hollywood doesn't simply use the real flags?
Pete Loeser, 23 October 2017


Scaramouche

Speculative image by Pete Loeser, 29 October 2017

Very near the beginning of the movie we see an envoy sent by the Queen of France (it's set just prior to the revolution, circa 1780), and we get a close-up of the flag carried by the envoy. It is basically a simplified version of the French Royal Standard, but without the chain or supporters - i.e., the white seme of gold fleurs-de-lys, with a simple shield in the centre (blue with three fleurs-de-lys) topped by a crown.
James Dignan, 2 January 2005

Find attached my attempt to provide a speculative image for the modified Royal Standard used in the movie "Scaramouche" based on James' description.
Pete Loeser, 28 October 2017


Sea Hawk

Speculative image by Rob Raeside, 29 October 2017

On a black and white viewing of "Sea Hawk" with Errol Flynn, in one of the last scenes of the film, Elizabeth Regina comes to the sea port, and on board ship the flag in the background was quarterly England and France - the quarters representing France looked to be gold lilies on a white field. I suppose it could have been "light blue" - the film was black and white, remember - Anybody got a comment about that? Any chance that the "French quarters" were on a white field, as opposed to a blue one?
John Udics, 3 January 2005

Not unless it was a mistake from the prop department. The france ancien represented the English claim to the French throne, a white flag was symbolic of the Bourbon House, so would make no sense being used by an English monarch.
Marc Pasquin, 3 January 2005


Casablanca

Image by Eugene Ipavec, 09 July 2006

I have been trying to identify a flag shown in the movie "Casablanca". It is painted on a wall over the legend Ville de Casablanca and is a French tricolor defaced with a star and crescent in the center band. The film is in black and white, of course, but I assume the star and crescent are green.
Larry Holderfield, 2 January 2004

This is a non-existent flag, see Incorrect French Morocco flag.
Pete Loeser, 23 October 2017


Dark of the Sun

Image by David Shiell

This false flag was featured in the movie "Dark of the Sun"(MGM 1967). The flag is supposed to represent the Congo, and is seen in the movie flying from a car antenna and painted on a barracks wall.
David Shiell, 30 April 2001


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

[black field, white inverted Image by Marc Pasquin, 10 August 2006

     Above is the counterfactual flag of the British East India Company as seen in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest". The flag has a black field with the Company's logo in white centered. Not only doesn't this flag even remotely resemble one of its historical counterpart but I wasn't even able to match the logo itself with the company's emblem (has someone seen it before ?).
     As to why the movie makers chose to go with this one instead of the real one, baring the lack of research, I can think of 2 reasons:

  1. The black field makes the company looks more like the bad guys.
  2. Possible confusion with the US national flag.
     The first one goes without explanation as to the second, Hollywood does have a habit of oversimplifying/rewriting history when it think its viewers might get confused. The exact reason why all the British soldiers, irrespective of regiment, seem to wear red coat in US-made movies.
Marc Pasquin, 10 August 2006

[Editorial Comment: You can find futher discussion of these movie prop flags at Fictional East India Company flags.]


Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

[blue field, white inverted Image by Tyler Dykstra, 25 May 2007

     I saw something like the above flag in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. It is flown by many of the British ships in the film.
     From the initials, I assume it's an East India Company flag. Was this a real flag, or was it invented for the film, maybe because of the resemblance between the real E.I.C. flag and the U.S. flag, which would probably confuse a lot of people
Tyler Dykstra, 25 May 2007

This logo is of modern invention, not historical at all, but enjoys popular usage. (source)
Pete Loeser, 23 October 2017

[Editorial Comment: You can find futher discussion of these movie prop flags at Fictional East India Company flags.]


Taboo

Image by Pete Loeser, 20 October 2017

"Taboo" is a TV series written by and starred in by Tom Hardy. The flag of the East India Company as portrayed in Tom Hardy's Taboo, Episode One (2016), is set in 1814. The flag doesn't look accurate.
Daniele Salvoldi, 17 October 2017

I attached an illustration of this flag unsure if it is even based on an actual historical flag or just one designed as a prop for these TV programs. It appears to be fashioned to only hang vertically. I have yet to find any evidence that this design is based on any real East India Company flag.
Pete Loeser, 20 October 2017

The funny thing is, I'm not even sure they know themselves. While this emblem is very well known, and lots of people accept it as THE emblem, I can't find any source for it other than "Pirates of the Caribbean". It may well be people use this emblem because they truly believe that it's the emblem of the East-India while in reality it was made up for those films.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 20 October 2017

[Editorial Comment: You can find futher discussion of these movie prop flags at Fictional East India Company flags.]


They Died With Their Boots On

Speculative image by Pete Loeser, 23 October 2017

The movie is a 1941-vintage black-and-white Errol Flynn extravaganza sanitizing Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's life and death. In the opening part dealing with the Civil War, a Confederate cavalry detachment is shown riding into battle against the U.S. cavalry with a rectangular battle flag with the southern cross affixed in what appears to be the same dimension as the English cross of St. George - a blue vertical and horizontal affair with the requisite 13 white five-pointed stars. At least the red field and white outline of the cross seem to be in evidence. I have no idea where Jack Warner came up with letting that one slip by him, and his production chief, Hal B. Wallis, was no slouch when it came to historical research.
Bob Tobin, 19 February 2006

Since the movie is in a black & white, the flag could be one following the "Polk" design which can be seen at Battle Flags of the Army of the Mississippi.
Pete Loeser, 23 October 2017