We understand that, sometimes in the world of movies, characters make some pretty illogical choices. It’s all part of creating conflict and driving the plot, and at times you have to just kind of roll with it, even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Then, there are those other times, when characters behave in ways no human being actually ever would. These are the characters who behave in perplexing ways solely for the sake of, as Roger Ebert used to call it, serving the "Idiot Plot." Without these characters and their dumb decisions, the running times for these films would be about 15 minutes:
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Look, we’re not going to pretend there isn’t a lot wrong with the Twilight series. But for this particular moment, we’re going to focus on the second entry, New Moon.
In New Moon, the persistently glowering (and glittery) Edward Cullen realizes it’s too dangerous for his human lover, Bella, to be around him, because she got a paper cut at a birthday party and, nice vampire or not, he’s still a vampire and blood will never not be yummy to him.
To "save" her from himself, Sir Angstalot takes Bella out into the middle of the woods, breaks up with her, and leaves her there. He then flees the country to get as far away from her as possible, because that’s a totally normal, healthy portrait of teenage love. His foster sister Alice — who is also a vampire but far less somber and can also see the future — gets a vision of Bella being reckless, and interprets it as her possibly dying. Edward decides he can’t live without Bella, despite being thousands of miles away from and having cut off contact in the first place, and plots to kill himself in an elaborate, sparkly way.
So, the obvious question is … do they not have phones in the Twilight universe? A single phone call to Bella’s house would have easily clarified everything. Either she or her gruff, police officer dad with a fantastic mustache answers — either one can let Edward know that no, Bella is not, in fact, dead. Instead, Edward goes all-in on the absurdly vague vision, setting off the chain of events for the rest of the movie. The lesson, as always: teenagers, even of the undead variety, are really dumb.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Speed is one of the greatest action movies of all-time. It’s become something of a high octane classic, right up there with Die Hard in terms of the pantheon of action films and thrillers. But to be totally honest, a lot of it makes … less than a lot of sense.
For probably the best example of this, let’s focus on our intrepid hero, Jack Traven. Jack’s a fantastic action hero, through and through. He’s bold, daring, selfless, and kind of an idiot. Really, look at how he reacts after learning of the plot to bomb the bus, which will explode if it drops below 50 MPH. Of course, it first has to reach 50 MPH. When Jack finds it, it’s going slow enough that he’s able to run alongside it for a bit. Jack, a decorated police officer, could simply pull out his badge and show the driver, who would then stop the bus. Instead, Jack’s first instinct is to punch the door of the bus so hard, it nearly shatters. He doesn’t pull out his badge once while keeping pace with the bus, and never gets the point across that he’s a cop until after the bomb has been activated.
Now, would Hopper’s character potentially have a contingency plan, if Jack stopped the bus before the bomb was armed? Maybe. He may have simply detonated it right then, but then he wouldn’t get his money, and also there’d be zero movie. So instead, we get a police officer who’d previously been shown as impulsive-but-resourceful, making a dumb decision simply so the bomb gets activated, and then he’s got no choice but to jump aboard to save the day.
Con Air might be the ultimate turn-your-brain-off movie. After all, this is the film where an Army Ranger winds up in prison, only to find himself on a single, jumbo prison transport plane with the very worst criminals America has to offer. Now, we can accept that — it’s a big, dumb, loud action movie starring Nic Cage, not Citizen Kane. We know what we’re in for when we press Play.
That still doesn’t excuse the hilariously stupid way that Cage’s character, Cameron Poe, winds up in prison to begin with. Early in the movie, decorated war hero Poe returns home to his wife, who is working as a waitress in a bar. The bar is full of patrons, who all see Poe and his wife passionately embracing and dancing. They also see the drunken rednecks who confront Poe and sexually harass his wife. So when the three drunks corner the couple in the parking lot, clearly looking for a fight and quite possibly worse, beating them to death should be pretty a pretty clear cut case of self-defense, right?
Instead, Cameron’s lawyer decides the best course of action is to … take a plea and accept jail time? It makes you wonder if anyone actually investigated the incident, even a little. There had to have been some witnesses who could testify that the drunks were intent on harming Cameron, and you’d think a decorated war hero and his wife would be given even a little bit of benefit of doubt.
At the end of the day, the entire movie never should have happened, because Cameron Poe never should have been in prison in the first place. Unfortunately, he seems to have gotten the world’s worst, laziest lawyer, appointed by the honorable Judge PlotMover because no one else was available.
No Country for Old Men
While a resourceful man, No Country for Old Men "protagonist" Llewelyn Moss isn’t the brightest bulb in the crayon box. It’s his lack of brainpower that, ultimately, drives the entire plot of the film and gets him killed (er, spoiler alert?).
At the beginning of the film, Llewelyn stumbles across the scene of a drug deal gone horribly, horribly wrong. Bodies and bullets are strewn everywhere, and there just happens to be a bag with a couple million dollars sitting there, waiting to be taken by whichever lucky dude happens by. Naturally, Llewelyn takes the money, and rides off into the sunset to create a better life for himself and his wife.
Ha no, of course that’s not what happens. Llewelyn, coming across a badly wounded man on the verge of death, begins to feel guilty about leaving him there in the hot desert sun. Never mind how he’ll be dead before nightfall — our hero decides it’d be a swell idea to return to the scene of the massacre to bring some water to a corpse, driving his own truck there, and ultimately leaving it when some other drug dealers come looking for either the drugs, the money, or both. A simple act of misguided kindness leads to Llewelyn abandoning his truck — and therefore, giving the drug dealers his identity.
But Llewelyn isn’t done being a dope just yet. See, he could still presumably disappear with the money … only he doesn’t realize there’s a transponder in the bag, allowing remorseless killer (and Dorothy Hamill enthusiast) Anton Chigurh to track his every move, in an effort to both recover the money and murder him. Any sensible person would likely have taken the time to search the bag: first to try to figure out how much there was, but more to make sure there was nothing else in there with the stacks of cash. Any sensible person would’ve seen that transponder, chucked it into the river, and safely made off the money.
But Llewelyn is not sensible, and that’s why he winds up dead in a crappy motel room.
Ghostbusters is one of the most classic comedies of all-time, and it ranks right up there among supernatural/science fiction films of the 1980s, as well. The story of three scientists, and some guy who literally walks in off the street, taking down the greatest supernatural disturbance of the 20th century has some surprisingly effective scares, plus and a heaping helping of incredible one-liners. It also features one of the sleaziest villains of the 1980s in Walter Peck.
Only, there’s really no reason for Walter Peck to have been a villain … right? Sure, he’s kind of smug, and he’s highly skeptical of what the Ghostbusters are doing. But when he first arrives at Ghostbusters HQ, despite those two attributes presenting themselves early on in his conversation with Peter Venkman, he very politely, and cordially, asks to see the team’s storage facility. After all, he works for the EPA, and it’s perfectly reasonable for him to want to make sure there’s no hazardous or toxic material being stored in the mysterious basement that Venkman refuses to give him access to. In fact, Venkman is needlessly rude and short with him, when simply allowing him to check out the storage facility (supervised, of course) could have prevented everything that unfolds after from happening.
Instead, because Venkman needlessly antagonizes Peck (was it because Peck called him Mr. Venkman instead of Dr. Venkman? That’s it, isn’t it?), he returns with a court order (that Venkman baited him into getting) and has the containment unit shut down. That sets off the chain of events leading to the near destruction of the world, which the Ghostbusters are fortunately able to thwart. But they never should’ve had to thwart anything in the first place! It just goes to show you that, sometimes, simply being nice to people matters.
Back to the Future Part II
The beauty of time travel is that it removes any possibility of having deadlines. As long as you have access to a time machine, you can always go to any point, at any time, whenever you want. There’s no need to rush, and you’ve (literally) got all the time in the world to meticulously plan your plans. Don’t tell that to Doc Brown, though. Apparently, he’s under the impression that if you want to change an event 30 years in the future, you have to go right this second.
It’s nice that he cares so much about Marty, he becomes desperate to save his future children. But when he arrives at the end of Back to the Future/beginning of II, his frantic decision to push Marty and Jennifer into the time machine and leave right that instant makes zero logical sense, other than to serve the plot. Until that point, Jennifer never knew about the time machine. Yet for some reason, Doc decides he needs to arrive at Marty’s house at that exact moment, and then quickly leave again immediately. And the question becomes … why?
For starters, did they even need to travel into the future to prevent Marty’s son from making a huge mistake? That future isn’t set in stone. Marty has a full 30 years to dedicate to ensuring his son doesn’t become a screw up. Just tell Marty what’s going to happen, and he’ll make sure to prevent it. Problem solved. And even if you are intent on going to the future to fix it, why leave right then and there, and why bother taking Jennifer with you? Doc could certainly have arrived at a time he knew Marty would likely be alone — or better yet, he could arrive at his own place, and give Marty a phone call to keep the time machine a secret. Instead, we get shenanigans in the distant future of 2015, and the promise of hover boards that still have not been fulfilled, Mattel.
28 Weeks Later
You could make an argument that the opening scene of 28 Weeks Later is the single most heart-pounding, intense, terrifying scene in any zombie movie ever made, and you’d have a point. That said, the real bulk of the plot gets into gear through a series of horrendous decisions by the American military. Like, just preposterously stupid.
It’s discovered that a woman found in London may have immunity to the zombie virus — she’s, of course, taken back to military HQ to be poked and prodded, in hopes of finding a cure for the rest of the world. But then, they make boneheaded mistake number one: somehow, a guy who’s basically a janitor is allowed to just wander in and see her, with no guards present, despite her carrying the rage virus. Considering the woman is his wife, and the virus is transmitted by bodily fluids, it seems like it’d be a good idea to keep someone who may want to swap spit with her right the hell away, or at least kept under guard. But ultimately, swap spit they do, and he turns into a zombie. Keep in mind, he is the only zombie on the loose in this entire facility.
Yes, the virus spreads quickly, so he’s certainly going to infect one or two other people. Or, he’s going to infect the entire population, which is what nearly happens when the military, for some inexplicable reason, decides to round up every civilian and lock them in a single room. Yep: instead of isolating people to try to prevent the virus from quickly spreading, they pack everyone into a dark room, and then lock them in. Now, when the lone zombie breaks through the door and bites someone, the disease that only takes about 10 seconds to spread, spreads like wildfire, and London is soon overrun. All because the military decided to make it super easy for the virus to spread as quickly as possible.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
There are bad parents, really bad parents, and then there are the McCallister parents. But believe it or not, as much as we think the McCallisters are lousy parents, they’re not even the only ones to take the blame for Lost in New York.
For one, let’s take a long, hard look at American Airlines. Specifically, the gate workers who apparently just cannot be troubled to do their jobs, even when a child’s welfare is at stake. In a mad dash to make their Florida flight, Kevin’s family just straight-up loses the poor tyke. He sees a man who looks vaguely likes his father, and follows him to a gate where a flight to NYC is about to take off. Astonishingly, the gate attendants let Kevin board the flight simply because he said he thinks he saw his dad run down the jetway.
Now, stop and think for a second. If you’re that gate worker, what’s the first thing you’re going to do? You’re going to check the kid’s ticket, right? You have records directly in front of you, that tell you who’s supposed to be aboard the plane. More importantly, you know exactly where the flight is headed. One look at Kevin’s boarding pass, and poof, the movie’s entire plot goes away. The gate worker sees Kevin about to board the wrong flight, notes where his actual flight is departing from, and either gets him to that gate or — in case they can’t get there in time — books him on the next available flight to Florida. There (bringing things full circle), hopefully CPS agents would be waiting with his parents in handcuffs for being so bring so brain-dead as to do this crap to him again.