The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Rio Got the Sunrise Backwards

Those of us who really know the sky notice little things in movies and television shows that might just slide past most people.  I saw the movie Rio yesterday and noticed they had a little issue with sunrise.

Sunrise is a little different when you are south of the equator.  First, let’s take a look a a northern hemisphere sunrise. I am biased, I live in the northern hemisphere.  Here is a time lapse of a sunrise in Vancouver.

This is a nice (but random) video I found on Youtube.  Notice how the Sun does not rise straight up, but rather up and to your right (south) when looking east. Now let’s contrast that to a sunrise taken from Rio (isn’t youtube grand?)

Note how the Sun rises in the east and moves to your left (north) when you are in Rio!  As you have probably figured out by now, the time lapse sunrise they showed in the movie Rio showed the Sun moving up and to the right (south)as it would north of the equator.

Sometimes movie and television producers get lazy and will film a sunset and run it backwards to illustrate a sunrise.  That’s not so good either. When the Sun sets in the northern hemisphere, it sets down and to the right (north).  If you run this backwards, the Sun will appear to rise up and to the left (again north since the Sun rises in the east) which suddenly transports all the action to the southern hemisphere!

I know some people might think I am nit-picking a movie about talking birds and my expectations for accurate science shouldn’t be too high. But would it have killed a major plot point for them to get this one right? For sky watchers, these things jump out at us. So just get it right for crying out loud!


April 25, 2011 - Posted by | Astronomy, Sunset, Televsion/Movies


  1. Hello

    Thank you for your notes. I was thinking that I was the only person in the world that actually felt uneasy with the reversal of sunsets and sunrises. I couldn’t understand why so many movies portraying sunsets were in fact backward sunrises, or vice versa. Many american series and reality shows shows the Sun setting and rising to give the idea of the passage of time, and the sun rises and sets mostly as if USA were in the South hemisphere. It can’t be a question of lazyness. Maybe there are some technical features or it is fashionable. Or maybe it is a secret contest in which they give 1 million dollars to the first person who complains about it.

    Comment by José Fernandes | July 1, 2012 | Reply

  2. Great work. I thought I was all alone when this drove me nuts while watching a movie.
    Thanks, Tom in Jackson Michigan

    Comment by Tom Mulnix | October 9, 2013 | Reply

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