7 thoughts on “What’s the Most Egregious Case of a Character Carrying the Idiot Ball in a Movie?

  1. There are so many examples in horror and/or slasher movies, that most spoofs are able to lampshade this with only slight exaggerations or simply calling attention to it. You could fill a top 20 with these genres alone.

    Same with James Bond villains (or Indiana Jones villains). Austin Powers had a field day with these.

    For a classic example, how about Alfred Hitchcock’s “BIRDS.” Everyone is safe in a boarded up room when Melanie decides to head upstairs for literally no reason (where she’s promptly attacked). Even actress Tippi Hedren supposedly questioned the motivation here, and Hitchcock said the reason for her venturing upstairs was “your salary.”

    For a nostalgic example, how about “ERNEST SCARED STUPID”? The only person who can return Trantor the Troll to life is Ernest P. Worrell himself, and he has to say a precise incantation at one tree in particular. So why in the world did Old Lady Hackmoore tell Ernest the exact incantation in the first place? You can’t even blame his comedic stupidity, because the film establishes that Trantor cursed the Worrell family with lessoned intelligence in every generation, which Hackmoore would know about!

    For a more recent example, how about Evelyn from “THE INCREDIBLES 2?” Her entire scheme involves mind-control goggles, which can easily be removed from a subject, or broken. She easily could have made it a helmet, or something. She also never tries to control Elastigirl, explains her plan after she captures her, and then kicks Elastigirl while falling to her death, making her own rescue impossible.

    Willie Scott from “INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM” may be a human embodiment of it. She’s virtually an idiot at every turn, even for a “damsel in distress.” Even an owl sitting on a branch minding its own business freaks her out.

  2. Most of Prometheus was non-stop idiot balls, though special mention should go to the biologist who, upon seeing an alien creature that looks like a cobra and is HISSING AT HIM, decides it would be a good idea to try and pet it. Not a big surprise when he doesn’t make it much further into the movie. (And he’s only in that room because he and another guy were trying to get out of the structure but got lost. The other guy was the guy whose job was to map the place. No one else seems to get lost throughout the rest of the movie, either. Morons.)

    Of course, there’s always the standard “bad guy explains the evil scheme right before putting the hero into a death trap, so the hero can escape and thwart the bad guy’s plan” trope. And the “hero is the only one who can stop my plan, so I better send someone to kill him, thus alerting him to the fact that there’s an evil scheme going on at all, whereas if I left him alone the plan would progress without interference”. Really, SO many villains do more to sabotage their own plans than the hero could have done on their own. (“I did it 35 minutes ago” was such a good reversal of that.)

  3. I have the PERFECT one for TV if you do a TV version of this post. It came up in my FB memories today and I rolled my eyes again.

  4. The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

    The character that is described as an EXPERT on living among wild animals… who is described as knowing how to camp downwind… who describes on camera the size of the olfactory canals of a T-Rex… WALKS AROUND ON THE ISLAND FOR AN ENTIRE DAY WEARING A VEST COVERED IN BABY REX BLOOD!

    No excuse of panic, or they were on the run, or there was no time to think. No excuse even of parents not wanting to disappoint their child and assuming he would be smarter like in a Quiet Place. (Still dumb, but not dumb with a PhD in knowing better in this specific instance. lol) Hell, the big game hunter character even stops her to check if she’s okay when HE notices the blood and she KNOWS it’s baby rex blood.

    And she didn’t realize it was a problem until the sound of approaching Rex footsteps a full day later wakes her up from sleep. She realizes it… 5 seconds before the Rex’s head is in her tent sniffing at the stupid vest.

    Most idiot ball moments can be at LEAST excused by the stress of the situation people find themselves in in action movies, but they WALKED across the island, incident-free except for one guy killed off camera they were unaware of, then stopped to set up camp and a nice tent. AND the other person we would assume should know better ASKED about it and NEITHER of them did anything.

    To me, that’s the biggest idiot-ball moment I can think of.

  5. Return of the Jedi has Chewie carrying the idiot ball on Endor. Throughout the trilogy, Chewbacca came across as probably the more calm and cautious of his duo with Han (in ANH, being wary of the trash compactor; in ESB, fixing the Falcon under extremely stressful situations), but when there is a piece of roadkill hanging in an obvious trap, it’s Chewie who falls for it because he’s “always thinking with [his] stomach.” Even as a kid, it seemed out of character for Chewie to fall for that trap.

  6. For those of us fossils who were around then, at least once a season, every cop/detective/crime show of the 1960’s kicked off an episode with the following sequence:

    An accountant or safety inspector or some other low-level position-holder who works for or answers to the Big Boss marches into said Big Boss’ office. The low-level employee is disturbed, or even outraged.

    “I know what you’ve been doing!” says the low-level employee, sometimes pounding on the Big Boss’ desk. “I’ve just finished going over the books (or “checking the purchase invoices”, or whatever), and I found out how you’ve been embezzling from the employees’ pension fund (or “purchasing unsafe materials for the bridge construction project”, or whatever)!”

    The Big Boss sits there unperturbed. Usually, he has a big, stone-faced personal henchman who stands there saying nothing.

    “Who else have you told about this?” the Big Boss asks, finally.

    “No-one!” replies the employee. “But, as soon as I leave here, “I’m going to the police!”

    The Big Boss then gives his henchman a knowing look . . .

    Even if the employee makes it out of the office, it’s a sure bet, the character is dead before the first commercial. Often, he’s dead before the opening credits.

  7. Commander Benson, this type of scenario is part of the reason I love the movie “Last Action Hero.” This specific scenario doesn’t pop up, but they take so many clichés like this from cop shows and action movies and play with them. I’ve always been surprised that that movie didn’t do better considering how smart and self aware it was.

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