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Every fourth movie that I watch has a suitcase full of money, money in stacks, money being thrown into the air.

While I can imagine that if its a stack of money, maybe only the top bill is real. But what when they show a bank explosion? The bills flying around look real - in a glimpse. There are also cases where they show close-ups of a large amount of money. And its looks absolutely real.

All this loads of fake money doesn't lead to trouble? What if someone tries circulating it?


2 Answers 2


It's usually too dangerous and/or expensive to use any real money in films, especially if its getting thrown around where people could steal it or it could be damaged or destroyed.

The stage money you see in films and TV looks real, but only from the particular way its being filmed. Real money isn't actually printed on paper, it's usually cotton and it's very easy to tell the difference between cotton and paper when you hold it. Furthermore, prop money never attempts to be exactly accurate to the original design to prevent them being accused of actually attempting to print money illegally.

In cases like the screenshot from Breaking Bad, the money in that scene isn't moved around or examined, and it's most likely only printed on one side, as it would be cheaper for filming. For example, RJR Props offer a $10,000 stack of bills similar to the one shown: the version where only the top and bottom bills are shown is $35 each, versus $45 each for the version where every note is printed on both sides.

You can also see from the photograph they provide that it has some small "This note is not legal, it is for motion pictures" written on it where the signature of the Secretary of the Treasury would be located on a real bank note:

Fake $10,000 wad

Furthermore prop money will always lack the security features most real currencies have, for example:

All these factors make it trivial to spot the difference between real and fake money which would make it unlikely that someone could trick someone into accepting it, though certainly you would be arrested if you tried.

  • It doesn't always have to be physical money. A lot of things shown in movies can just be CGI. If you can create a CGI-explosion with flying debris and other stuff, why not add money-particles to it?
    – PL457
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 10:33
  • 1
    @PL457 "It doesn't always have to be physical money." -- Physical money is much cheaper in the long run. You buy a quantity of fake bills/stacks, and then you can reuse them over and over, and in differing quantities and scenarios with no problem. CGI, however, stands a high chance of incurring additional costs (code maintenance, software changes, etc.).
    – Charles
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 1:49

The buy/rent the fake money from prop shops. This fake money has to pass legal requirements of not duplicating the image exactly among other restrictions (making it easy to spot as non-authentic if inspected closely).

If people try to circulate it, the secret service steps in. It has happened before, one example is when they shot the Rush Hour 2 movie.

  • I am worried about even a small stack that is circulated. Its so easy, right? How on earth do you stop it. One small stack out of the whole bunch lying in the picture I have posted.
    – Man
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 18:04
  • I assume the material is not the same as a real bill. It should easily be detected as fake using one of the counterfeit marking pens/machines.
    – Colin D
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 18:07
  • Most people can tell when they're handling a fake currency in bill form. It's likely that the money used on set is printed on generic paper, because when filmed from a distance the viewer likely won't even notice unless they're really trying to notice. Further, special pens and lights are available to quickly and easily identify fake currency. The markers work by remaining a light color on real currency, but changing to a dark color on fake currency. You can pick them up at any office supply store: bit.ly/1pf1Vhz
    – MattD
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 22:23

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