With all of the big budgets and experts on set, you’d think that Hollywood could do a better job at accurately depicting the act of tattooing, but nay. I, for one, am simultaneously disappointed and entertained. Let’s talk about the movie and TV scenes and what they get wrong.

The Expendables

This one is a doozie. Let us count the transgressions:

  • No shave
  • No paper towel in sight
  • No stencil

Ironically, Sylvester Stallone has been tattooed extensively and must know better. Here’s the clip:

House of Cards

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a clip of this scene, but it was wrought with solemn intensity and meaning. Jackie is a seasoned war vet getting a side piece of poppies on a chain of barbed wire. In the scene she sneaks out of her house, incognito in sweats and a hoodie, and asks her tattooer to add another poppy. Despite the flowers being about 2 square inches in area, her tattooer warns her that it will take a long time and asks if Jackie is sure that she can handle the pain. Jackie replies that she likes the pain.

Jackie, the liar. She doesn’t like the pain.

Rib tattoos are no picnic, but the writers of this scene obviously don’t understand how long tattoos take. The tattoo in question:


The Office

This scene isn’t too bad actually. You don’t see any stencil put on, but let’s just assume they cut that scene. As awkward as the tattooer obviously feels, maybe the most unrealistic part of this is how well he’s taking everything so well – the entourage, Andy’s de-robing, and the very last minute design change. That tattooer is a champ.

Eastern Promises

So, full disclosure – I haven’t seen this movie. But Josh has, and he says that the Russian Mafia is no joke. From a tattooing standpoint, this scene looks legit! Obviously, they aren’t using your standard tattoo machine, but at least the dude is wearing gloves, and the tattoos themselves look pretty real.

Maybe the most unrealistic thing is how well he’s taking that direct drilling to his kneecap, but he is entering the Russian mob after all. (Turn on the closed captions if you want to understand what they’re saying.)

Milky Way Commercial

Believe it or not, we didn’t get our name from this infamous commercial, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t put it on our list. Fortunately for the tattooer here, it looks like that tattoo has been healed for quite some time. So, I guess she was just eating a candy bar and not tattooing at all.


I have nothing negative to say about this. I just love Moana and think it’s great that they featured traditional Polynesian tattooing in the movie.

And as promised, here is your bonus video, complete with ill fitting gloves and a message that we just can’t quite wrap our head around.

We hope you don’t hold the above video against Chris Isaak. In fact, go watch the original video of his original song for some actual sexiness.

That’s all we got for this time around. Thanks for listening, and be sure to subscribe to No Regerts: A Tattooing Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Leah (& Josh)


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