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"Narrow Margin is a clumsy version of the Idiot Plot, dressed up as a high-gloss chase thriller. The Idiot Plot, of course, is any plot that would be resolved in five minutes if everyone in the story were not an idiot. And rarely has there been a film in which more idiots make more mistakes than in this one."


Popularized by film critic Roger Ebert during his review of the remake of Narrow Margin, a term for a Plot that hangs together only because the main characters behave like idiots. A single intelligent move or question by any of the characters, and all problems would be resolved, which is especially prevalent when a Story-Breaker Power such as Make a Wish is involved. It's not so bad if the characters are supposed to be acting like idiots, but it's very bad if the Idiot Plot depends on a character suddenly acting stupid enough for the Plot to work.

Even worse than that is "second-order idiot plot", in which the plot can only function if every character involved, including side characters, suddenly loses about 50 IQ points. In fact, author Damon Knight originally coined the term "second-order idiot plot" to refer to a science fiction story that features a fictional society that can only exist if everyone living there is an Idiot Ball.

It is important to note that this not always a bad thing, and is sometimes the entire point of the work. Part of what can make a drama dramatic is that the characters could truly have avoided it if they had acted rationally instead of irrationally. This is often what makes a comedy so funny in the first place.

See also Idiot Ball, Too Dumb to Live, Credit Card Plot, Forgot About His Powers,Poor Communication Kills, and Stupidity Is the Only Option. Nobody Ever Complained Before is a Sub-Trope. Alternate Aesop Interpretation may result if the viewer tries to make any sense of what happened.

Examples of Idiot Plot include:

Anime and Manga

  • Angel Densetsu raises the Idiot Plot to an art form - the entire concept is that the main character unwittingly becomes the most fearsome gangster in Japan because of the whole cast's inability to communicate properly.
  • The ending of Gundam Seed Destiny hinged on the Minerva crew acting like complete idiots so that they would fight the Three Ship Alliance. The crew ignores Gilbert Durandal creating a fake Lacus Clyne and his plan to control people's destiny. They even let slide the fact that Durandal is willing to use his newly acquired doomsday cannon to blow away entire countries if they don't agree to his Destiny Plan. Actually between all of the characters the idiocy extends to most of the series.
  • Lampshaded in the Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series spinoff Cr@psule Monsters:

 Alex "Definitely Not A Villain" Brisbane: Step on the map.

Yugi: Make me.

Alex Brisbane: Oh, come on. I'll be your friend.

Yugi: Look. There's no way I'm stepping on any freaking map.

Alex Brisbane: What if I told you there was candy inside the map?

Yugi: You've got to be kidding me. I'd have to be an idiot to fall for that.

Tea: Candy? That sounds pretty good.

Tristan: Yes. Let's go get the candy!

  • Sonic X takes this to absurd proportions when everyone on the planet Fails Astronomy Forever for a couple of episodes, except Sonic himself, amusingly enough. Eggman rigs the moon to block out the sun, making it look like the moon pretty much stopped, along with the sun. Nobody finds this fishy because they've forgotten that the moon revolves around the Earth, and the Earth around the sun, not to mention the Earth spins on an embarrassingly wonky axis. Eggman takes the opportunity to try and Brainwashed everyone with the lamps he sells, only to have his plan foiled by Sonic yet again, because he was the only one not holding on to the gigantic Idiot Ball. The ball in this case being more of an Idiot Moon.
  • In X 1999 The Movie, the seven Dragons of Heaven each guard a magical barrier which serves to prevent The End of the World as We Know It. When the Dragon of Heaven protecting a given barrier dies, the barrier collapses catastrophically, and if all of the barriers are destroyed, humanity will be wiped out. So naturally, almost to a man, the Dragons of Heaven sacrifice themselves to kill the Dragons of Earth... who are trying to destroy the barriers to wipe out humanity. Then again, it's all but impossible to cram the very complicated plot in a less-than2-hours long series.
  • In Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo, Nami's sisters structurally fail to acknowledge her obvious depressed state, going so far as to kick her down even more, as Kazane does in one episode. Even after Nami's Face Heel Turn, Akiha simply tells Nami to shut up instead of listening to her during their first critical confrontation. Yeah, that really worked, now did it.
  • Yuria doesn't want to have sex with Shunsuke because if she does she'll become his life-long sex slave, being a Sex Bot and all. She's pretty sure she doesn't like that idea, even after she starts wondering if she's fallen in love with Shunsuke. That's all well and good, but Shunsuke also doesn't want to have sex with Yuria because he is bafflingly devoted to his chaste, ice-cold girlfriend who he rarely hears from and even more rarely gets to see. And anyway what kind of idiot makes a Sex Bot who is intelligent and emotional enough to decide they don't want to be a Sex Bot? (oh right, that kind).
  • My Balls.
    • Simply put, the protagonist has a powerful demon sealed in his balls and can't ejaculate for a month or humanity will be destroyed. He does away with his Porn Stash, yes, and manages to deal with the various Horny Devils going after him, but doesn't stay away from his nymphomaniac-when-drunk coworker.
    • Which gets even funnier because he does leave her. AFTER the world is safe.
  • One of the two major conflicts in the final arc of Phantom of Inferno relied entirely on one of the characters coming to a braindead misunderstanding and the protagonist not only not making any attempts to correct her, but saying whatever he could to make himself look guilty and egg on the conflict.
  • Suzuka would be about a dozen volumes shorter if Yamato didn't find a way to say or do exactly the wrong thing every single chapter.
  • Naruto:
  • "Stink Bomb", from the anime anthology movie Memories is about a salaryman at a pharmaceutical company who takes some experimental pills - thinking they're cold medicine - and becomes the vector for a chemical agent that kills everyone within several hundred meters from him. From then on, everyone just gets dumber. His immediate superiors call him out of a quarantine zone to deliver the pills to them. The JSDF try to kill him, but are so incompetent they just cause massive property damage and only exacerbate the problem. The American military screws things up even more by trying to capture him alive to get access to the chemicals. And throughout all this, the salaryman just can't figure out that he's the source of the obnoxious stink and no one EVER bothers to try explaining it to him. It's played for laughs, but galling all the same.
  • In Lost Brain the entire plot is basically one when Fridge Logic kicks in. The plot is based off Hiyama's plan of using hypnosis to remove human weakness with him controlling them having no chance at working, which any amount of additional research would have told him. The plot get even more stupid with the fact that Kuonji and the police never seems to even try to investigate Hiyama even though all the trouble happening can pretty much be linked to him.
  • Little Jumper would be a lot shorter if Chimari had thought to look up her mother's name before going back in time. But then again, the Idiot Ball is an Ichinose family heirloom.
  • Infinite Ryvius would have been resolved if they had transmitted what happened to the rest of civilization, and definitely would have if they simply landed or had somebody leave the ship.
  • In Zeta Gundam a lot of trouble would be avoided if the Argama crew could control the catapult deck traffic better.
  • Guilty Crown episode 15 suffers from this. The entire plot for that episode depends on Souta and a few other unnamed characters acting like complete idiots, which eventually results in Hare's death.
  • The entire plot of the latter half of Zoids: Chaotic Century hinges on Hiltz, the main antagonist, being a complete imbicile. His evil plot: revive the Death Saurer, Kill All Humans, ???, profit. He wages a pointless war against the heroes, giving them all the time they need to become more powerful, build the weapons and acquire the allies they needed to defeat him, when he could have simply pretended to be nice, asked Fiona to open the door to Zoid Eve, betrayed her, and revived the Death Saurer at a point in the series where nobody would have had the skill or the technology to stop it. In light of the revelations made in the Final Four, the Geno Breaker and Death Stinger arcs retroactively become padding whose only point was to sell toys.
  • The very first arc in Clannad hinged on the entire cast failing to have the common sense to question or search out a reason for why one character was being unseen and forgotten by more and more of the school and town.
  • This is how Deadman Wonderland starts, Ganta gets thrown into the titular prison, simply because he survived the brutal massacre. He pretty much gets accused of being responsible for said massacre.
  • Any pre-Unova Pokémon episode is guilty of this, as Team Rocket would show up in every episode wearing easily transparent disguises and the protagonists and characters of the day would always fall for it, then act surprised when Team Rocket tries to escape with their Pokemon.
  • Things in Romeo X Juliet would've been much, MUCH smoother if the Capulet retainers raising the clan's Sole Survivor, Juliet, had bothered letting her know that she was the last Capulet and adequately prepared her for her leadership role. Instead they kept Juliet in the dark about everything until she turned 16, and unsurprisingly she's barely able to resist the brutal pressure on her. Yes, they REALLY expected Juliet to become a seasoned and talented leader of La Resistance after hiding her heritage and her duty as the last remaining Capulet, and they had the gall to be shocked and angry when the poor girl turned out to be awfuly unprepared for it.
  • The Golgo 13 (2009) episode "Sharpshoot on the G-String" is an idiot plot for the sake of having Golgo participate in a hit. Essentially, a violinist suffers a musical instrument failure, loses his confidence, is replaced at a concert by a rival, and then hires Golgo to replicate the failure of his own instrument on the rival's violin (It Makes Sense in Context).

Comic Books

  • Supreme Power:
    • The J. Michael Straczynski reboot of Marvel's Squadron Supreme (a typically Marvel-dark riff on the characters of DC's Justice League of America), has large parts of its plot dependent on the chronic tendency (seen before in much of Straczynski's work) for virtually everyone in any kind of government-representative role to be malicious, incompetent, or both.
    • The most Egregious example is in the story of Mark Milton, or "Hyperion," the Superman-analogue: when a superpowered child falls from the sky in a spaceship, he is taken within minutes by the government and put in the custody of two dedicated agents, who pretend to be married so they can raise him as an American citizen in an artificially created (and heavily-monitored) "perfect family environment". However, with all the effort put into creating this environment, it somehow fails to occur to anyone in the project that getting an actually-married couple to play the role of Mom and Pop would be far easier on the agents, far more psychologically healthy for the child, and far safer should he ever, oh, find out about any of this. And the most egregious part of the most egregious example? The monster who originates this heartless scheme is... um, Jimmy Carter? "He's history's greatest monster!"
  • In the Wonder Woman storyline Amazons Attack!:
    • The entire Amazon race (the only apparent exception being Wonder Woman herself) carries an Idiot Ball the size of the moon. On the advice of Circe, an evil goddess who has tried to exterminate the Amazons on multiple occasions, they decide to declare war on one of the most powerful nations in the world; one that is home to many of the strongest superheroes in the DC Universe. The end result? The Amazon race is scattered across the world, the entire USA hates them, and the reputations of heroes associated with them (Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, Supergirl to name a few) are left tarnished.
    • Even Wonder Woman wasn't safe from this: one of her powers is that her magic lasso can get rid of mind control. Her mother was clearly under some form of mind control...and yet at no point does she think to use her lasso.
    • Oh, and the secret weapon they were going to use to bring the US to its knees? Giant magical bees. While awesome, a bunch of giant bees doesn't exactly measure up to jet fighters, attack helicopters, cruise missiles, anti-aircraft guns, or nukes.
    • Quoth Batman: "Bees. My God." It's a perfect Face Palm statement that sums up the idiocy of this storyline.
  • Issue #36 of X-Men. To summarize: Professor X and Banshee have been kidnapped in the Alps, and the X-Men need to get to Europe to rescue them before someone uses their powers to conquer the world. The problem? Their plane is out of gas, Warren's parents are out at sea, and the X-Men don't have access to Professor X's bank accounts. They apply for a loan, but get rejected and as they drive away the bank manager notes that they were driving in a Rolls Royce (easily valuable enough to serve as collateral for said loan). The rest of the issue is the X-Men trying to get part time jobs to raise cash. The question is, why don't they just sell the damn car? Surely it would get them enough cash to get to Europe, and hanging onto it can't be as important as rescuing their mentor and saving the world. Sheesh.
    • Was the car in Xavier's name? Can't sell cars you don't own.
  • Norman Osborn:
    • The Green Goblin is being hailed as a hero, and is now basically in charge of America's self defense. Just to be clear, Norman Osborn was outed months ago. He was convicted of mass murder. He strafed his own arraignment hearing with pumpkin bombs on live television. He is known to be dangerously bipolar, and that's when he's on his medication. He's the single most infamous example in Marvel of why superheroes need secret identities, given that he's the first MU villain to murder a hero's supporting cast * coughGwenStacycough* . This. Man. Was. Given. Every. Registered. Superhero. On. File. And. Under. His. Authority. Legally. This. Is. Madness.
    • In addition, they also disbanded SHIELD and gave Norman Osborn full authority to create and run its replacement, HAMMER. So not only have they given him his own private army and intelligence agency, they're not even maintaining the minimal control that having him direct personnel already chosen and loyalty-screened would give them. Instead, Osborn gets to recruit all his own people. Appointing Charles Manson the Director of Homeland Security would make more sense than this!
    • New Avengers #50:
      • It ended with Ronin (Clint Barton) actually going on TV and (with understandable shock) rehashing out all the above issues and just how mind meltingly stupid the people are for accepting a known psychopath as their new leader. Of course, this being the Marvel Universe, it didn't work.
      • Later Norman Osborn (in Dark Avengers) mentions this, points out the above was a criminal who helped the USSR steal Stark Tech, and gives a heartfelt speech about how he used to be all that, leaving the reader feeling that... the entire Marvel Universe is full of morons.
      • Lampshaded in an issue of Spider-Man, when in the narration he lists his reasons for why anyone would elect Norman Osborn to any public office and he states that number three on his list is that everyone in New York must be on stupid pills!!
  • Thor: Vikings by Garth Ennis assumes no other heroes are in New York to help out, but it's okay since Doctor Strange is there, but his plan relies on finding a couple people to fight an invincible opponent and his army face to face, instead of using his own powers to temporarily subdue, banish or restrain them, protect the city with some kind of force field, evacuate people, or find a more clever solution than watching and complaining about how invincible the opponent is.
  • Any plot that involves Thor or anyone else trusting Loki becomes one of these after, oh, his tenth betrayal (so, since the mid-1960s). The current mega-arc by J. Michael Straczynski would be the most recent example. It is even pointed out, in-universe, that they don't really trust Loki. He's just that good. He manages to get a good way into a plot to destroy Asgard largely by hanging around and making insinuations and perfectly true statements.
  • The entirety of the Marvel Comics Civil War storyline. Superheroes and the government lose their minds and start up a pointless brawl over laws that had no authority at the time because one superVILLAIN blew up a school.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In issue 108, Eggman, using a machine and the residual effects of Chaos Knuckles' reality-warping powers, finds a way to reconstitute the scattered atoms of his predecessor, the original Dr. Robotnik. What do these two geniuses do with this startling turn of events? Have Robotnik form an alliance with the Freedom Fighters on the premise that he escaped Eggman's control, and lure them back to the machine so the two doctors can use the process that revived him to annihilate their hated enemies once and for all. Of course! What else could they do in that situation? It's not like they couldn't have combined their respective 300 IQ to come up with another Ultimate Annihilator, or used the alliance ploy to relearn the location of Knothole and/or learn about and/or sabotage their defenses or something diabolically useful like that, right? Fortunately, the Freedom Fighters get wise to this plot from the get-go, and only play along so they can destroy the machine so Eggman can't use it again (having learned that Robotnik's revival was only temporary)...but even they don't seem to realize how much of a freaking security leak having Robotnik in Knothole was.
    • And then there's the utterly idiotic "Iron Dominion" saga. Virtually no one gets out of the debacle with their wits intact, and the only way any of the events could've happened is if everyone was written to be so brick-stupid, they could be used as paperweights. The only way to describe this saga is a long, torturous series of Forgot I Could Fly, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, Love Makes You Stupid, Red Herring Twist, Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, and Villain Ball/Conflict Ball.
  • Batman: No Man's Land:
    • While many of the stories contained are actually pretty good, this requires a number of astoundingly moronic things to occur to set up its scenario. After an earthquake and ebola outbreak the US government decides Gotham is no longer part of the US because it would be too pricey to fix, blow up all the bridges leading to it, and bans people from going to or from it. Leaving aside the immense political improbability of this, it apparently keeps out most superheroes, who don't even try to help. This includes ones who have no reason at all to respect this order, such as Green Lanterns. Superman shows up, but somehow decides he's no use there. Even though the perennial excuse for why Superman can't help with such and such a problem is that he's dealing with an earthquake or a flood or something in a Third World country, so it's pretty well established that he knows what to do in these situations - certainly better than Batman, who's never demonstrated having any experience with large-scale disasters. But no, no one helps. The entire world just writes off a major city as too much trouble.
    • In the short story where Superman shows up and somehow decides he's no use, he effortlessly defeats Mister Freeze and repairs an entire power plant with his powers and the guidance of the chief engineer. Although this restores power, the lawless citizens immediately form a new violent gang under the chief engineer's banner and flood him and Supes with more responsibility than they know what to do with. Superman takes off after Batman gives him a stern talking to. Now why Supes doesn't just fix say, the entire city instead...
    • Of course, a lot of No Man's Land's plot hinges on the fact that 1) this was practically a Lex Luthor plot in the end and 2) Batman invokes the Superman Stays Out of Gotham trope on the rest of the DC Universe.
  • When reviewing JLA: Act of God, Linkara refers to this trope explicitly.
  • One More Day. The sheer number of idiotic things that happen in it is phenomenal, and the amount of dumb that goes into both Spider-Man's decision to make a deal with Mephisto and Mephisto's decision to make a deal with Spider-Man, could fill up a page (it filled several minutes of review time when Linkara explained it); but special credit? To the ENTIRE MARVEL SUPERHERO COMMUNITY. Peter Parker's Aunt May gets shot by an assassin and is dying. Apparently the doctors can't save her. So Spider-Man runs all over the world, seeking out his dozens and dozens of superhero friends who have fantastic powers, abilities, and technologies that can save her...except they don't. Every single superhero throws up their hands and basically says that while they are capable of fighting Galactus, bullet wounds are too much for them to handle, including Doctor Strange, the sorcerer supreme, Elixir, an X-Men member whose entire mutant power is healing wounds, and every single one of the Marvel universe's impressive cadre of supergeniuses. In the words of one scans_daily member, the entire process went something like:

 Peter Parker: My Aunt May's dying from a bullet wound, but that must be a piece of cake for you to cure right?

Reed Richards: No, no, I'm sorry... this is an impossible task that is far beyond the reach of even my genius.

Peter: Wha? But...didn't you, like, build a portal to heaven, bang on the pearly gates, and yell at Jack Kirby to give Ben back that one time?

Reed: Uh... Look at the pretty bunny! Look at the pretty bunny!

  • Linkara may have made Chuck Austen's run on X-Men infamous thanks to "Holy War", but a few issues later, the revelation of who Nightcrawler's father is turns the entire thing into a farce. He's the son of a teleporting demon named Azazel (a name later co-opted into a much more interesting character in X-Men: First Class). His plan was to create enough teleporting children to get him out of the dimension he's stuck in. The dimension which he had to get out of to conceive all of these children IN THE FIRST PLACE! And yet Marvel nixed the plan to have Mystique be Nightcrawler's father and have Destiny be his mother for being too ridiculous.
  • The Death of Superman introduced Doomsday, a threat played up as so dangerous that he effortlessly killed anything within arm's reach, or throwing distance, with literally one arm tied behind his back, and handily defeated the assembled Justice League. This led Superman to ponder whether Doomsday's bony growths might, in fact, be part of his skeleton, and dying from wounds inflicted while crushing Doomsday with his own bones. This is not the true portion of the Idiot Plot, however: of all the members of the Justice League, Superman was the one present actually least capable of fighting Doomsday effectively, with each of the others perfectly capable of simply lifting Doomsday off the ground and keeping him out of arm's reach of anything, be it by telekinesis, force fields, a Green Lantern Ring, or even the winch aboard their transport.
    • This is actually lampshaded by Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, when he fully debuts. As he's wrangling the supposedly-lifeless Doosmday, he notes that people like Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter could have stopped him easily. A few years later, it's noted that Green Lanterns did try to stop Doomsday, but couldn't. Didn't help that he unwittedly stole a Power Ring and went rampaging through the cosmos with it.

Fan Fic

  • The Harry Potter fandom gives us Dark Secrets, a So Bad It's Good Hurt Comfort Fic in which the "hurt" half is provided by Ron the Death Eater, whose dark secret is discovered by his Mary Sue girlfriend, to whom he starts behaving like a total bastard and leads her to seek the "comfort" half with his mortal enemy. Yeah.
  • Also from Potterfandom we have Courting Miss Granger, about the Malfoy Marriage Curse. Said curse has been in force for several centuries, and dictates that the eldest male in every generation must marry a Witch — not necessarily pureblooded, but no more than one year older or younger than he is — before his twenty-sixth birthday, or the family fortune devolves onto a cadet branch and said eldest male will suffer a gruesome death. The Idiot Plot element comes into effect when NO ONE TELLS DRACO ABOUT THIS CURSE until his twenty-fifth birthday — when, conveniently enough, every Witch of his generation is conveniently married off ... except for one. And guess who that one might be?
  • For Your Eyes Only. The only way this AU society could exist is if everyone in it was insane.
  • Perfect Lionheart's Partially Kissed Hero definitely qualifies for this trope, as everyone but an Overpowered Harry Potter has had their IQs driven through sub-basement levels to make any plotline in the story work.
  • The first case of Brendan Namron: Ace Attorney relies almost exclusively on Night Russ's stupid lies to drive the trial. The second case is much better, thankfully.
  • Eiga Sentai Scanranger has abundant examples, but probably the best is "There's Something About Toni." The villainess's plan is to have a hate-inducing monster attack the school's Valentine's Day dance, and have a student use pent-up energy to blow up the rangers at said dance. Some problems arise 1) She doesn't appear to take any steps to make sure what the student uses his energy to blow up is the rangers 2) She doesn't take any steps to insure that the student will even be at the dance 3) She continues on with her plan to use her monster at the dance, even though she earlier used it in a flashy attack that got the rangers' attention and allowed them to discover how to reverse the effects of its powers. This end up being okay for her because the rangers seemingly forget they have this information 4) The villainess was taken by surprise when she found out another superhero would be performing at the dance, even though this was advertised on the dance's posters 5) When the monster shoots an arrow at the guest superhero, one of the rangers tries to perform a body block to save her. Even though the ranger in question's signature weapon is a shield, and moreover a shield she's supposed to be able to throw with Captain America-like skill. 6) Not really part of the Idiot Plot but still worthy of mention, the rangers waited until after classes to do anything about the monster's rampaging victims during its first appearance. Meaning also that classes were held during rioting on campus.
  • The Daria Fanfic series 'Worldburner' (which is a Crossover event of epic levels with many, many TV, film, literature and comic series) takes this to such egregious levels that it should be the Trope Codifier. In order to further the plot, Forgot About His Powers is a mandatory requirement (unless you're a Butt Monkey or a Rookie Red Ranger, in which case you're allowed to win against Daria's Evil Counterpart Judith (who is blessed with Joker Immunity) because it's supposed to be hilarious, but the Mood Whiplash that occurs when this happens and the heroes all wield Idiot Balls like weapons jut so they can end up Dying Like Animals while the plot awaits The Chosen One makes it all come across like an Audience-Alienating Premise.
  • This pretty much makes up Hogwarts Exposed and its sequels.
    • The protagonists know that a girl will be raped by her stepfather when she returns home for Christmas? Instead of just keeping her at Hogwarts, they teach her needlessly complex spells and ship her home, so she gets her clothes ripped off before saving herself. A four-year-old and an infant won't eat the food being given, while locked in a dungeon? Two of the girls magically enlarge their breasts to provide milk. Possibly one of the dumbest moments is when Emily agrees to a bet with a Muggle girl named Rosalind. The terms are that if Jamie doesn't win a race, Emily must provide sexual favors for Rosalind. Keep in mind that Rosalind is seventeen, while Emily is eleven. Instead of refusing the bet (Rosalind gives the terms before Emily agrees) or going to Hermione or Harry to deal with a clear case of sexual harassment, Emily continues to panic in private, vomiting several times, before finally telling someone about it.
    • Not to mention Hermione's kidnapping, which wouldn't have happened if Hermione herself and the rest of the Hogwarts faculty hadn't somehow managed to get themselves outwitted by Crabbe and Goyle.
  • A relativity known Kung Fu Panda fanfiction called "A Bully's Return" has a example in Chapter 12. The epic battle that comes not too long after is put in motion when the main character goes to a weapons store to buy sais. After some bartering with the clerk, he lets the main character (which mind you is only 14 or 15 at the time) buy and leave the store with them. WITHOUT ANY QUESTIONS. AT ALL. Who in their right mind lets a 14 year old buy something that dangerous and think nothing is wrong? The bull clerk should be considered Too Dumb to Live.
  • The notorious My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic Troll Fic Pattycakes has this in spades. Sure, Dash. Just let your one chance to escape go rather than risk people seeing you in a nappy. Go ahead, Scoot, confront Psychoshy alone rather than get backup. Oh yeah, and everyone in Ponyville, feel free to indulge Fluttershy's growing obsession with mindraping everyone into submission[1].
  • The whole plot of the Voltron: Legendary Defender fic Across the Multiverse is kicked off because Akira Kogane is a selfish, whiny asshole who can't see past his own nose and only cares about being reunited with his dead lover Takashi Shirogane. When the Space Goddess curses the pair to be Star-Crossed Lovers as punishment for his selfishness, Akira reincarnates as Keith and, rather than consider the curse and how to break it, chases Takashi/Shiro/Sven across multiple realities and wills himself to death every time he can't be with him.
    • Many "Keith gets poisoned by Galra-hating planets" plots are idiot plots, since they rely on Keith lacking the caution and trust issues he displays in canon along with the Paladins not taking this into consideration before visiting these planets and keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who might be trying to harm Keith. This is especially egregious with Shiro (Keith's best friend) or Coran and Allura (who have experience with interplanet relations and diplomacy).
  • Everything about the Phoenix/Maya breakup plot in the Ace Attorney fic Turnabout Everlasting. Phoenix wants to protect Maya from a vengeful Kristoph Gavin? Fair enough. But rather than, you know, telling her as such and asking her to lie low and fake a breakup with him until Kristoph is behind bars, he first asks Iris to pretend she's his girlfriend, then lies to Maya about how he and Iris are going to give their relationship another chance before he breaks up with her. The two then proceed to pine wangstily over each other over, fight, and run away from each other the course of at least 50 chapters before finally getting their shit back together. At Maya's wedding to an arranged suitor. Because the writer just had to have an epic romantic scene of them professing their love for each other.

Fairy Tales

  • Any Fairy Tale or Aesop which includes a warning not to do something guarantees the character will disobey. The worst part is that due to the Rule of Three, the character will often be warned three times not to do something, and then they go and do just that three times. Most people, even if they hadn't been listening the first time, would have caught on after that.

Films — Animated

  • Thumbelina: The heroine asks the bird to take her home several times, but he thinks it's more important to find Cornelius and keeps leaving her to wind up in more crappy situations.
  • The Simpsons Movie: Right after Springfield is sealed in the dome, Professor Frink reveals that he has a laser drill that can break through it, but it's outside the dome. The trapped Springfield residents, as they themselves say in "The Fool Monty", could have dug a tunnel under the dome, retrieved the drill, and started breaking through. Not a single person in town figured this out, even AFTER the Simpsons escaped the dome via the sinkhole in their back yard.
  • The last third of Gumby The Movie falls into this. Someone even suggests calling the police after the blockheads have Gumby and the band kidnapped, but the agent says "No time for that". While it thankfully turns out well with the blockheads tied up and the robot substitutes deactivated...They literally just leave the blockheads tied their lab...and within a meter of the controls.
  • We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story: Seriously, think about it. A scientist from the future goes back in time and collects dinosaurs, force evolves their brains so they're just smart enough to be able to speak and reason on a fourth grade level (except poor Dweeb, who's basically left functionally retarded), brings them to modern day New York and then just drops them off in the city with very vague instructions of finding a fellow scientist without any training or understanding of how modern life functions. Then a good chunk of the plot revolves around the dinos stumbling into trouble, being chased by the authorities and then trying to rescue two kids who stupidly signed a contract with an obviously creepy old man. If anybody in the movie put more than three seconds of thought into their actions, it would be a pretty short story.

Films — Live-Action

  • Burn After Reading is one of the few examples of an Idiot Plot done deliberately. And thus, it manages to be hilarious and entertaining rather than annoying, like most straight examples.
  • Lampshaded in Aliens.

 Ripley: "Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?"


 Mike Nelson: They must be having a dumb contest. It's the only explanation.

  • Face Off:
    • Keep a dangerous terrorist lunatic in a coma in a hospital that three people know about under no security whatsoever while a top FBI agent pretends to be him in a super-secret high security prison. Oh, and leave the top FBI agent's face in the hospital so the terrorist lunatic can become the FBI agent. And don't tell the agent's boss, co-workers or the prison's warden about the plan so all the terrorist has to do to make sure no one knows (except the FBI agent, who's got the terrorist's face so no one will believe him) is kill two people. And he has an outgoing phone in his room, allowing him to call anyone if he wakes up.
    • This is not even to mention that the entire plot of the movie relies on nobody noticing that Nicolas Cage and John Travolta have switched faces in a process that apparently leaves zero scarring. Just their faces. There is a scene wherein Evil Cage-As-Travolta sleeps with Good Travolta-As-Cage's wife of about, let's say fifteen or twenty years, and she flat-out does not notice that her husband's body is completely different. Tattoos, body hair, scars, moles, musculature, weight, his freaking penis, she does NOT notice. She's been with him for as many as twenty years, she has NO IDEA A SWITCHEROO HAS BEEN MADE, having apparently only paid attention to her husband's face, and absolutely zero to the fact that Nick Cage and John Travolta are built completely and utterly differently.
    • Doesn't explain why Archer's wife doesn't notice anything different when she kisses Troy, mind, let alone sleeps with him.
  • X-Men: The Last Stand:
    • It features a triple idiot plot. The government hears that Magneto is raising an army to attack the mutant cure laboratory on Alcatraz. In response, they arm the guards there only with mutant cure dart weapons in plastic dart rifles, thus leaving them totally defenseless against an attack with conventional weapons (Magneto could easily take care of firearms, but the dart rifles should be able to use the Instant Sedation darts seen in the second movie). Then, Magneto's army attacks, and no one in it brings along any weapons. Magneto and his army are attacking an island compound in order to kill the mutant being held within, as his blood is being used to make a mutant cure. In order to get there, Magneto rips up the Golden Gate Bridge and hovers it over to the island, with his entire army standing on the bridge. This looks very cool. However, rather than dropping the bridge at the entrance to the island and then fighting a pitched battle to get to the mutant, Magneto could have literally dropped the bridge on the mutant.
    • The whole thing is full of "it's not as if" moments — Magneto is surprised to realize that the guns are plastic, partway into the fight, but it's not as if he had some kind of ability to sense metal at a distance that had been highlighted in the plot about fifteen minutes ago.
    • And then there's Magneto's apparent decision that he's playing chess rather than fighting a war during the attack by sending in the "pawns" while the queen sits around doing abso-frigging-lutely nothing. Apparently Magneto was so focused on scheming the rest of his war that it took up 90% of his brain cells. The "pawns" are mutants, the very people who Magneto has made perfectly clear are the superior form of humanoid life. Yet he sends them off to be killed and stands around watching it happen. Some mutants must be more superior than others.
    • At the end, the heroes need to stop the Phoenix, a mutant of great power in this continuity, but still a mutant. They have custody of another mutant who can neutralize other mutant powers just by standing close to them. So, of course, they take him AWAY from her.
  • The ending of the original Oceans Eleven movie. How stupid could the team have to be to put the money in a coffin and not make sure that it wasn't cremated. If the coffin in question was a regular burial coffin, and not the flimsy version used for cremation, then we either have a classic case of Did Not Do the Research, or a legendarily stupid operator at the crematorium (the other reason is that the film couldn't show a gang of criminals getting away with it).
  • Spider Man 3:
    • Much of the tension could have been relieved if Mary-Jane had asked Peter "You do realize my role in the play was replaced, right?" Or if Peter would have taken a deep breath and talked things through with her after "killing" Harry. On the other hand, he was under the effects of the evil suit, but it felt like he forgot her entirely after getting his revenge. In fact, there were a lot of problems with that movie's plot, many of which were pointed out in a HISHE episode.
    • Don't forget the admittedly in-movie (but treading actual What an Idiot! territory) stupidity of, on a whim, publicly giving an open-mouthed kiss to his lab partner at the same time he was still going steady with Mary-Jane. "Special kiss" in and of itself or not, and not even going into fidelity issues, it doesn't take a sociologist to realize that that is going to raise some hackles.
    • Harry gets his memory back, and then threatens Mary Jane, telling her that he would hurt Peter unless she breaks up with him. Both Harry and Mary Jane somehow forget that Peter is just as strong as Harry, and has had far more experience dealing with superpowered people than Harry ever has. Mary Jane proceeds to break up with Peter, and forgets to tell him that Harry got his memory back, is once again dangerous, and that he threatened her.
    • Harry's butler tells Harry that Peter did not intentionally kill his father. Either the truth about Harry's father's death slipped his mind for several years, or the writers retro-actively made the butler an idiot to advance the plot, and make Harry and Peter friends again. (Word of God is that the butler is a hallucination which makes no sense since there is a scene where Harry talks to the butler in front of Peter and he doesn't notice anything off!)
    • Scientists detect extra mass in their experiment (which has to take place in a pit open to the environment for some odd reason), but rather than actually go check, they assume it's a bird (a bird with the mass of a man?) and keep going with the experiment.
    • Not to mention that Sandman, a man with ability to easily move an infinite amount of sand, decides that the best way for him to make money with his abilities is to be a criminal. It's not as if there are places with tons and tons of sand that need moving, perhaps to access a valuable resource of some kind.
    • Outbidding the guys who created the World Archipelago by a few million dollars would've netted him in excess of several billion. Even if we presume that such uses would be too boring for him, and he wants to be where he can hurt people with his sand; it's not as if the United States was not currently fighting a war, in a desert. Or as if families of active duty military did not get unlimited free health care. (Granted that he's currently a fugitive from justice, still, if the man can't convince the US government to trade one free pardon in return for a guy who can single-handedly kick the ass of the entire city of Fallujah without getting scratched, he's just not trying.) Hell, even if he just supplied sand to the construction industry he'd probably be doing better than robbing banks.
  • Chain Letter:
    • It is about a Serial Killer who sends a chain letter to teenagers and kills them if they don't send it to five others because he was tortured by insurgents for having a government-issued cell phone. If the creators were trying to send a message that technology is bad, they did it in a fucked up way.
    • Also why does he only target teens? Don't adults use cell phones and computers too? And shouldn't he be targeting government officials, not harmless teenagers who had nothing to do with his torture?
  • Into the Blue hinges almost entirely on the main character, Jared, being nosebleed-inducingly dumb at every possible turn. Why does he drive his girlfriend away by refusing to tell her that her life is in danger because of his dumb deals with the gangsters? Why doesn't he try to tell the gangsters why there's been a delay in the plan instead of getting into a firefight without a weapon? Why does he leave his girlfriend tied up at the mercy of the gangsters to dive in the water WITH his hands tied behind his back? Why does he destroy the drugs when they're the only thing the gangsters are interested in? Why does he randomly tell them all they need to know about the giant treasure?
  • Hellboy II the Golden Army:
    • This movie is rife with these. Beside the usual "I'm pregnant but I won't tell him as to maximize the angst" plot, the heroes rapidly capture one of the McGuffin the Big Bad needs to awake the titular Golden Army. Now, they realize that they have no particular need for that item or the Golden Army, but rather then destroying it by giving it to the one team member who can melt anything, they leave it with Abe's Shallow Love Interest, who told them explicitly that she acts as a magic homing beacon for the Big Bad. Guess what happens?
    • There's also the fact that Nuala seems completely unaware of the fact that she ought to actually warn the Paranormal Investigation team about stuff. She just stands there with her mouth hanging open when her brother drops the Forest God seed, not telling then to keep it from water until it's two inches from a drain. She then oh-so-casually tells Abe that her very dangerous, psychotic, human-hating, murderous brother will be able to find their hide-out because they are mentally linked and thus he knows everything that she knows. Apparently this wasn't worth mentioning before bringing her there, so they could find some way to hide her without her figuring out where it is? Or that she only thinks to hide the map and crown piece when her brother is right at the door, breaking in? Or Abe deciding to get drunk and sing love songs after being told that Nuala's brother would be showing up for blood instead of warning the team?
  • Open Water 2 Adrift concerns six people who sail a luxury yacht into the middle of nowhere and decide to go swimming. It would have been nice if one of them had remembered to lower the boarding ladder first. The one hydrophobic woman who didn't want to go swimming gets thrown overboard by her 'friend' trying to cure her fear of water. So now we have six people trapped in the water and an infant alone on board. Believe it or not the stupidity level increases from there.
  • The three protagonists of Frozen are this trope, over and over again. Parker doesn't know a thing about how to ski, yet she acts all Damsel Scrappy and ruins her boyfriend's and his best friend's skiing weekend and setting in motion a catastrophic chain of events that ends up with the deaths of both men. Not that they're entirely blameless either; they decide to bribe a ski lift controller for a last ride. When the resort is going to close for five days. With a snowstorm approaching. They deserved everything they've got. Dan is to blame too, for having brought his shrill of a girlfriend along when she clearly should've stayed elsewhere.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier:
    • Sybok's Evil Plan is pretty dumb and only works because everyone else in the galaxy is apparently an idiot. He takes a Federation officer, a Klingon and a Romulan hostage so that a starship will be sent for him and his primitive followers to hijack. This plan relies heavily on only one of the three most powerful governments in the galaxy bothering to make a rescue attempt, that they sent one ship rather than a whole fleet, and that that ship would not have functional transporters.
    • Hilariously, Sybok is outraged when Kirk and company attack Paradise City, saying he didn't expect violence to result. Yes, how dare the Federation take the forced overthrow of Nimbus III as a hostile act! And that's to say nothing of how the Klingons or Romulans would treat it...
    • Taken cynically, it makes a bit more sense. Nimbus III was a marginally inhabitable wasteland populated largely by individuals that can be charitably described as scum. Any officers assigned there probably pissed off their superiors, and the Federation, being the only one who would care about its citizens would send a ship, but since Nimbus III is a worthless backwater, they wouldn't want or need to commit all that much.
    • Let's not forget that the Enterprise-A is malfunctioning mess that even Scotty is having trouble with. Nonetheless, Starfleet decides to send her into the conflict to save the day. Kirk himself asks why another ship isn't sent given the obvious problems with his. An admiral responds that there aren't any other qualified captains on-hand. So why not just loan Kirk and company a functioning ship?
    • This is especially ridiculous as an exterior shot shows the Excelsior in the same dock as the Enterprise! Or, what, is the engine STILL sabotaged from whatever Scotty did to it over a year ago?
  • Con Air:
    • It starts off with an Army Ranger meeting his wife in a bar, and her getting hit on by a drunk guy who later tries to beat him up in the parking lot, along with two friends. The drunk guy had to rip off the lead's ribbons-several rows of 'em-before starting the fight. Poe, of course, rips 'em a new one, culminating in the first guy pulling a knife, whereupon Poe gives him a strike to the head that accidentally kills him. Cut to the courthouse, where his lawyer advises him to plead out so he can get a reduced sentence. The judge disagrees, citing the fact that Poe should be held to a higher standard because he' Army Ranger. (Which should have given him a trial in a military court to begin with.) Given that he was wearing a uniform before the fight, and the assailants tried to rape his wife and kill him, he should've gotten off with self-defense. The lawyer doesn't even have him dress in a spare uniform--or even rent a suit--at the trial. The rest of the film can be excused by Rule of Cool.
    • His wife implies that he was a hellraiser before he joined the army ("You were almost 'that guy' again"), Poe's wife runs before the knife comes out, and the guys' friends take the knife with them as they flee. This might make a self-defense claim risky...if there hadn't been dozens of witnesses in the bar to prove that the other guy started it earlier in the evening. The Idiot Ball was bouncing off every character in that courtroom.
  • Twenty Eight Days Later:
    • Monkeys infected with a deadly and highly contagious virus, that makes them super aggressive and can spread by the slightest scratch or bite are held in steel frame cages? Check! A scientist discovers activists trying to release the monkeys, and tries to get them to stop by cryptically telling them the monkeys are infect with "Rage" and leaving it at that? Check! Said activists see said scientists getting all panicked about it, but don't bother finding out what he is so afraid of? Check, check, and double check!
    • Jim, walks into an abandoned gas station, alone, because "we don't have any cheeseburgers." His companion Selena reminds him that they have plenty of food, but by God he wants those cheeseburgers. Surprise surprise, Jim finds a zombie in the store and has to fight it off on his own. At this point, everyone is holding the idiot ball. Jim is risking not only his own life, but everyone else's as well. What happens if he gets turned? Meanwhile, Selena, instead of restraining him or telling him he can't go in, shrugs her shoulders and walks away. This particular episode is Egregious because it doesn't even drive the plot, only some minor dialogue later in the story. A soldier tells Jim that there's no way he could have gotten this far without killing someone. Well, he could have if he and his buddies weren't all holding the idiot ball.
  • Twenty Eight Weeks Later:
    • The so called "shelter", where people are crammed in at the first sign of trouble without first checking whether the zombie that started the trouble is inside or not! And then demonstrate how the doors to this impenetrable shelter can be breached by zombies and panicked humans alike from inside - had no-one in the military heard the saying "don't put all your eggs in the same basket"?
    • That's not even the start of it. For no reason whatsoever, they turn off the lights which not only lowers visibility and harder to see the (so far) lone infected coming, but greatly panics the civilians before it even shows up. Wouldn't it have been easier/safer to tell everyone to stay in their rooms? And what's more, the infection started because a man tried to see his wife (who was an asymptomatic carrier of the virus) was able to enter the room. The room was completely unguarded, despite the military being well aware that she had the virus.
    • There's also when, after everyone in that shed get infected, the soldiers have gotten orders to shoot everyone in sight. Including people trying to hide, drive away, avoid gunfire; if they weren't such idiots, they would have figured out that zombies would not be doing any of those things.
  • Comedian Richard Jeni had an extended bit on the massive Idiot Plot that was Jaws the Revenge.
  • In Sliding Doors, so much trouble could have been avoided if James Hammerton had thought to say to Helen Quilley on their first date 'Oh, by the way I'm separated from my first wife and we're getting a divorce, but don't worry, it's all amicable'.
  • Bride Wars.
    • The entire plot is driven by everyone involved being petty, self-absorbed, vindictive, and above all stupid. Granted, it's a decent satire of wedding preparation insanity...
    • In his review, Film Brain notes that the entire reason for the movie - that the two women want to have their weddings on the same day, at the same hotel, is pointless, since the times of the wedding are still different. They could still both have their weddings on that day and at that place. The only handwave we get is the weak excuse that they don't want to have weddings on the same day. Somehow, just putting on a brave face and dealing with that isn't less difficult and more mature than completely trashing and ruining their lives and each other's lives.
  • Mamma Mia:
    • Movie reviewer Eric D Snider felt that the film version had an Idiot Plot. Sophie invites all three of her possible fathers to her wedding, believing she'll just know which one is actually her dad when she sees him. And then when they individually figure it out and each tell Sophie that they're giving her away, she just goes with it.
    • That whole idiot plot could easily have been solved by a DNA test.
    • Of course, Sophie eventually figures out that it was a pretty dumb plan and her fiancée gets really upset with her for it, so yeah. One has to wonder why Donna didn't start to suspect Sophie having any hand in it though, especially considering that it was her wedding coming up at conveniently the same time all three men did and she gave an outburst about how sucky it is for a child to grow up without a father.
    • And then there's the fact that the entirety of Donna's angst over Sam is simply because he has to wait the whole damn movie to finally say two words: "I'm divorced."
    • For the record, that's the plot of the original stage musical too.
  • Star Wars:
    • Return of the Jedi. The idea of the Rebel scum falling into the Emperor's neat trap and only overcoming it because the strike team finds and allies itself with an unsophisticated but forest-capable warrior culture would work pretty well if those allies were Wookies, as was originally intended. Heck, judging by Chewbacca, the results could have been too brutal for that kind of movie. But when the furry aliens are instead Ewoks, short and cuddly teddy bears, the Imperial legions can only be defeated through the utmost incompetence, the officers losing 50+ from their IQs, and all the soldiers forgetting what "coordination" means. Top award goes to the officer who gets tricked by Han Solo into opening the bunker door.
    • Pretty much everything that happens in The Phantom Menace. Darth Sidious orders the Trade Federation to secretly kill the Jedi ambassadors when his whole plan hinges on the Federation's blockade being highly visible to stir up discontent in the Senate. When Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are trapped at the film's beginning, the Trade Federation sends in the battle droids instead of keeping the Jedi locked in a room filled with poison gas. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan split up and take separate transports down to the planet's surface without any way of knowing if they'll land remotely near each other. The Trade Federation lands its forces on the other side of the planet from their target. The captured queen is sent for "processing" rather than being held in the secure, occupied palace. The reason they need the queen in the first place is to force her to sign a treaty "legalizing" the invasion and occupation. Qui-Gon hatches a convoluted scheme involving betting on a slave boy entering a pod race to win spaceship parts (using the Force to cheat) instead of trying to get the parts from anther vendor, trading the ship in for a new one, buying passage on another ship to get where he needs to go, or just stealing the parts since he's willing to break the rules. The Trade Federation blockade is somehow devastating an advanced, civilized planet, and sends away all but one of its ships for the final battle. The Chancellor needs to send a committee to verify the testimony of the Jedi he personally sent to investigate a situation. When faced with reports of a Sith Lord running around, the Jedi council sends a whopping two Jedi to deal with him. The good guys commit to a ground war with the Trade Federation when all they needed to do was sneak some pilots into the hangar and shoot down the droid control ship, neutralizing the enemy army. And even after Anakin saves the day, nobody does anything about his still-enslaved mother.
    • Attack of the Clones. Obi-Wan impulsively jumps out a window to grab a droid without knowing where its going or what its armed with. A bounty hunter hired to kill Padme subcontracts to a second assassin instead of doing the job himself. When pursued into a nightclub, the assassin attempts to ambush and kill the pursuing Jedi warriors rather than getting the hell out of Dodge. The Jedi send the young, rash Anakin to guard a woman he already had emotional bonds with and was clearly flirting with. The safest place for the endangered Senator is evidently picnicking in romantic, wide-open areas on her home planet. Obi-Wan is told that the clone army was ordered years ago by someone impersonating a dead Jedi, but nobody investigates where this suspiciously convenient army came from.
    • Everything about Anakin's training. In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn is established to be a bit of a Jedi Hippie, defying the Jedi code. Qui-Gon Jinn discovers a 9 year old slave boy who has great potential for power. Qui-Gon goes through ridiculous lengths to free the boy (which itself is part of another Idiot Plot) and presents him to the Jedi Council to request to take him on as his apprentice. The Jedi wisely tell him to fuck off, telling him that he's too old and his attachment to his mother and his past as a slave (which would be traumatic for any child) make him dangerous and a possible threat. Even Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon's apprentice and best friend, tells him that the kid is dangerous. Some shit happens and Qui-Gon gets killed by a Sith Lord, who is swiftly killed by Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon's dying wish is for Obi-Wan to train Anakin, based on some ancient prophecy that says someone would rise to bring balance to the Force... despite the fact that there are only ever two Sith Lords at a time (no more, no less) and that Obi-Wan just killed one of them, and the fact that all things considered the Force is pretty balanced. Ignoring the fact that there is a good chance Anakin will fall to the dark side, ignoring the fact that there is a Sith lord out there no doubt looking for a new partner (remember, no more or no less than two), and ignoring how the kid is clearly troubled, sweating and scowling during his examinations, Yoda decides to let him become a Jedi anyway. Essentially, all these Jedi Masters' instincts keep telling them what a bad idea training Anakin would be, and they repeatedly mention how they don't trust him, how he's dangerous, how sending him off on these missions is risky - but they do it all anyway, so Darth Vader can happen.
    • No reason is ever given as to why the Separatists would follow Sidious. In the second movie the Trade Federation only follows Dooku because he claims to be opposed to Sidious after he betrayed them in the first movie. All of Palpatine's plans seem to rely on every leader of both factions being completely incompetent, to the point of leaving obvious clues that the Separatist leadership commissioned the clone army specifically to be used against them. A lot of the problems in the trilogy could be explained as him making things extra convoluted for his own amusement, just because he could get away with it. His hologram doesn't even hide his face or change his voice.
    • Red Letter Media points out many of the above problems, and paraphrases Palpatine's addresses to the Senate in Revenge of the Sith as follows:

 Oh, and I just also happen to look and sound like a monster that wants to take over the world now. Don't mind my creepy black cloak, my horribly evil sounding voice or my terrifying face. Also don't mind the fact that I'm yelling about creating a galactic empire run exclusively by me. No, no, no, you see it's the Jedi that are trying to take over. That warranted them all being executed by the army that is controlled by myself without any kind of evidence to prove what I'm saying is true. Yup, we just killed them all, even the children. Then we burned down their temple, and you're all just gonna have to take my word for it. Trust me, look at my face. Would this face lie to you? (cut to a poster saying "Vote Palpatine, 3036, or else!")

  • Transporter 3.
    • The villain uses an elaborate setup to force the transporter to do a job, including bracelets Made of Explodium. The villain also has literally hundreds of Mooks positioned along the route to keep the pressure up on Frank. The job: Drive a girl across Europe. It's never explained why they need Frank badly enough to justify the fuss about him or even why this big and well-organized crime syndicate needs an external expert for moving a person from A to B.
    • A different idiot plot point revolves around the whole plan to get the girl's father to sign this agreement in exchange for his daughter's return when any contract signed under duress wouldn't hold up in an international court of law. Might as well just forge the signature or forcibly move his hands to sign it for all the legitimacy it would bring.
    • The part where he saves himself from drowning by filling an inflatable dinghy by letting out the air from the car's tires. All the while breathing the same said air himself.
  • In Idiocracy the point of the plot is that everyone is an idiot except for two average people from 2005, and even then Joe is very naive and panicked by his situation.
  • Paranormal Activity; basically the whole reason the demon keeps getting stronger is Micah, who is practically suicidal with stupidity. When an expert on the occult tells him to not aggravate a supernatural and malevolent demon, what does he do? He taunts it constantly. His perpetual skepticism about the demon flies in the face of ON CAMERA, concrete evidence that yes, it exists. He's so stupid it's a relief when the demon finally murders him.
  • The Strangers; if the two leads had a brain cell between them, the movie would've been a lot shorter and NO ONE would've died.
    • Subverted in Ils (aka Them), the French film from which The Strangers cribs its premise. The two leads may be frightened, but they're not idiots, and they do pretty much everything right. It still doesn't save them in the end.
  • A Sound of Thunder, which the Agony Booth's recap describes as an "Idiot Plot fractal".
  • Orphan:
    • The only one in the movie who wasn't a complete idiot was the mother. Esther breaks her own arm in a vise to frame her, and the doctors somehow believe that the mother was able to do it one-handed. Daniel (her son) decides not to reveal Esther's violence until he has evidence, even though the mother had already asked him about it and would believe him anyway. But Maxine (the deaf daughter) swept the medal podium at the Too Dumb to Live Olympics. Maxine watches Esther break a young girl's leg and murder a nun, but covers for her out of fear. Okay, I'll buy it, even adults can be cowed by threats. But then Esther tries to murder Maxine herself twice, tries to murder Daniel at his treehouse (Maxine at least intervenes), and then succeeds (in certain cuts of the movie) in murdering Daniel at the hospital - Maxine never tells a single adult.
    • Throw in the fact that Esther was a little creeper right from the start. Maybe the family really did want a slightly different child, but surely there were less morbid ones at the orphanage?
  • In Best Laid Plans, the entire plot is moronic, but the viewer doesn't learn this until near the end. It starts with a deadbeat kid (Nick) learning that he's inheriting nothing from his dad (he'd expected to get a tidy sum of money so he could move away and start a new life). Nick meets a girl (Reese Witherspoon). They hit it off and become a couple. A co-worker asks Nick to help him rip off a drug dealer. Nick would get $10,000 just for driving. Nick agrees, they pull of the job, but end up getting caught by the drug dealer who demands Nick pay him $15,000 in return. Nick then plots to steal a valuable artifact from a house where his friend is house-sitting. To keep his friend from reporting the theft, he sets up a scenario where his girlfriend has to sleep with his friend and she threatens to charge him with rape. The friend panics and cuffs the girlfriend to a pool table and calls Nick. Nick pretends to kill his girlfriend and puts her in the trunk of his car. The drug dealers steal his car, then let him walk home where they're waiting for him, so the reason for stealing the car is beyond me. When they ask him for the money, he finds out it was all a scam because there are peanut shells on the floor and his supposedly-dead friend eats peanuts. He realizes they weren't drug dealers after all. They were college graduates who set up the elaborate scam to pay off their student loans. Aside from the other intricacies of the plot, four guys committing numerous felonies and faking the death of Nick's co-worker hardly seems worthwhile when the payoff is only $3,750 each, which would only make a small dent in most student loans. Plus, their reasoning was overly optimistic. They had thought he had inherited some money, but then assumed he would turn right around and pay the $15,000 on demand.
  • Tim Burton's Beetlejuice.
    • The entire series of escalating problems encountered by the main characters (almost culminating in their destruction) stems from their inability to comprehend the Handbook for the Recently Deceased which was provided to them, and failing to heed the advice of their caseworker. Clearly the handbook itself was not incomprehensible, because every character in the movie except the Maitlands seemed able to understand and make use of the book's contents. The running gag was "this thing reads like stereo instructions." Adam quotes one part of the Handbook, "Geographical and temporal perimeters: Functional perimeters vary from manifestation to manifestation."[2](slaps book shut in disgust, spraying dust in his face) Lampshaded (and arguably justified, since it was the reason he picked them) by the title character, whose first scene has him reviewing the obituaries, seeing the Maitlands, and saying, "What have we got here? The Maitlands, huh? Cute couple. Look nice and stupid, too." Truer words were never spoken.[3]
    • Everybody here's a Turn of the Millennium troper who can confidently use and troubleshoot computers and text editing software at the basic level at the very least. Remember The Eighties joke about how only geniuses could program VCRs? The Maitlands were Country Mice - a small-town architect and a housewife. The Deetzes were yuppies - and so were the caseworker and her fellow afterlife bureaucrats!
  • The main reason Fritz Lang's Woman in the Moon is remembered for its accurate rocket launch sequence and nothing else is because the rest of its overlong running time is a melodramatic idiot plot. The most glaring example is that the heroes take the villain along on the mission, fully knowing his evil intentions. Yes, he threatened to blow up the ship if he didn't go with them, but did it occur to none of the crew that they could knock him unconscious and leave him behind just before liftoff (or better yet, have him arrested) and go to the moon and he would be helpless to retaliate? The entire third act would've gone much smoother, especially since no villain would have meant no gunfight which means no bullet hole in the oxygen tank which means no depleted oxygen supply which means everyone could have happily gone home with their gold, the end. But no, they had to be idiots.
  • The NeverEnding Story 2 - The Next Chapter.
    • Bastian has an item that will grant an unlimited number of his wishes. No further commentary is really needed here, but for the sake of it, we'll go a bit further: He spends the first half or so of the movie being inexplicably reluctant to make any wishes at all despite repeatedly being confronted with deadly situations and surviving at the last second through other means. At one point he accidentally creates an incredibly destructive dragon, and then has to spend a chunk of time hunting it down and lucking into it being blown up instead of just wishing it became nice or any number of similar solutions. He then discovers that any time he makes a wish, an evil witch uses a machine to steal one of his memories. His wishes are now limited by the number of memories he has left. It never occurs to him to simply wish for all his memories back, and for the machine to explode, and the witch to vanish, or any big picture solution at all until he's down to his last wish.
    • It's worse then that. Bastian easily gets a confession out of the villain that she's the one responsible for all the bad things going on(after seeing the monsters guard her castle). Her and her bird-boy lackey(who makes no attempt to pretend he's not working for the villain) have been urging Bastian at every opportunity to make wishes. Bastian, who has held out pretty well until now, starts making wishes like crazy, because it never seems to occur to him that doing what the bad guys want you to do is a bad idea. He also starts getting really chummy with the villain, doing what she says, despite the fact she's supposed to be HIS prisoner and even believing Atreyu is plotting against him (despite the fact he knows and should trust Atreyu far better), because the villain says so. What's incredibly sad about all of this is that Bastian is supposed to be a very well-read kid (in the first film he rattles off a list of classics he's ten years old) so you'd think he'd be a bit more Genre Savvy.
    • Then there's also this part: Bastian is trying to climb up to the top of a tower. Problem: He's outside and the walls are too smooth to grab on to. So he decides to wish for steps in the wall on which he could climb (not very stupid). At about the half way point, the steps stop and Bastian can't get higher unless there are more. While a normal person would just wish for there to be enough steps to make it to the top, Bastian does something that takes more time and was much more harmful to him. He wishes for more steps. INDIVIDUALLY. That's right, he makes 20 or so wishes that are the exact same thing, "I wish there was another Step! And another! ..." Even if Bastian DIDN'T know that he was losing his memories at that point, he still wasted valuable time and wishes doing something a five year old would have been able to do more competently.
    • The villain Xayide also acts like an idiot. She can summon giant killer robot monster-things, teleport anywhere at will, and who knows what else. She could just zap to Bastian's location, surround him with monsters, kill him and take Auryn for herself. Of course, she does no such thing.
  • Drop Dead Fred seemed to move along only because Elizabeth was clearly insane, and not a single character called her out on it until halfway through the movie.
  • In Zack and Miri Make a Porno two friends who are Platonic Life Partners decide to make ends meet by creating a porno. Together. With each other. The question that just popped into your head? Yeah, that happens.
  • Mars Attacks. Admittedly, it's a parody, but it doesn't make watching almost all of the characters make stupid decision after stupid decision any easier. Especially because a lot of the scenes are filmed in the style of a straight drama.
  • Fright Night features a boy who tells everyone that his new neighbor Jerry is a vampire. Including the vampire's henchman. He is then surprised when it appears nobody believes him, and further surprised when said vampire tries to kill him. Vampire Jerry, for his part, is stupid enough to get stabbed through the hand by a sharpened No. 2 pencil.
  • Played intentionally and lampshaded in Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.
    • Nothing would have happened if Kumar had the patience to wait until their plane touched down in Amsterdam, where weed is 100 percent legal, to start lighting up. And that's just the beginning. Similar to the original, the severity of their situation is only heightened by the stupidity (and, often, racism) of all the people around them.
    • Further Lampshaded in the Choose Your Own Adventure-esque feature on the DVD ("Dude Change the Movie") where if you have Kumar instead choose to not smoke on the plane the entire movie plot is discarded. (In it's stead you get Harold and Kumar Go to Amsterdam which is, tonally, very different from Guantanamo Bay.)
  • The 2004 Disney Channel Original Movie Stuck in the Suburbs follows the life and times of a teenage girl who accidentally switches cell phones with a celebrity pop singer and proceeds to royally screw with his life for teh lulz. The entire plot hinges on the assumption that a famous musical artist wouldn't cancel his phone service and buy a new device as soon as he discovered the mix-up, or at least get someone who works for him to.
  • Die Hard 2:
    • The planes are shown having nearly two hours of reserve fuel, with that much they could easily divert to dozens upon dozens of airports. Even the ones on fumes should easily reach Reagan National, BWI, or Andrews AFB - all of which are required to accept an aircraft in distress (One of the other airports in the area was explicitly stated to have been shut down due to the weather, but that still doesn't change the fact that at the time the planes were instructed to circle, Holly's flight had enough fuel that they could have diverted it to JFK International in New York if they wanted to). At one point, the engineer even gets on the radio and tells the pilots about the threat but doesn't divert them to new airports. The airport police continue to accept "employees" at face value after being outright told that the terrorists are infiltrating secured areas. The villains take a 747 and fly off without a single hostage meaning that there is literally no reason why the Navy wouldn't blow them out of the sky. Not that it matters, because McClane destroys the plane - creating a large fire on the runway which the other planes use to land visually. Something the heroes could have easily accomplished at the very beginning of the movie.
    • In addition, the plot is happening because the Department of Justice was having a high-profile prisoner delivered to Dulles. On Christmas Eve. They were having a high-profile prisoner flown to a civilian airport during one of the busiest travel times of the year. Between people waiting for flights, people coming off of flights, and people picking travelers up, there were probably thousands of people there, making securing the place for a prisoner transfer pretty much impossible. If they had been flying the General to Andrews AFB - a military airfield that is much easier to secure - the story wouldn't have been possible.
  • Ebert's review of Key Exchange gave us the (possible) origin of the term: "The movie comes dangerously close to exhibiting an Idiot Plot, defined as a plot that would be over in five minutes if everyone in it were not an idiot."
  • Dennis the Menace US Strikes Again:
    • Mr. Wilson being constantly swindled by a pair of very obvious conmen played by Brian Doyle-Murray and Carrot Top. At one point we see a long montage of these same conmen conning Mr. Wilson many times in a row in different disguises. While it's pretty believable that Carrot Top's disguises would fool him, Brian Doyle-Murray has a very distinctive voice.
    • Margaret tries to win Dennis's heart by pretending to like bugs. Rather than actually getting real bugs, she makes obviously fake giant bugs, and Dennis and all his friends except Gina fall for it. Later, they get back at Margaret by dressing Ruff up as a very obviously fake giant bug and she actually falls for it and gets scared.
  • A lot of films by The Coen Brothers also depend on characters being idiots. But most of them are acting in-character, as such it works. Some even manage to subvert it, like in The Big Lebowski: Walter figured out the whole plot from the beginning.
  • No Country for Old Men -The movie should have been over in about 10 minutes were it not following this trope in spades. Llewelyn is initially shown to be a somewhat crafty and aware veteran, but makes two horribly stupid mistakes that serve no purpose other than moving the plot forward.
    • 1. After successfully taking the money from the botched drug deal with no witnesses, he returns to the scene of the crime probably at least six hours later to bring a bottle of water to a man on the verge of death. Not only was it incredibly risky, it seems somewhat pointless because the man would likely have been dead anyways. This idea is so bad that even the character admits he's about to do the stupidest thing he's ever done. You can practically hear him say, "but if I don't do it, how else is this movie supposed to go on?"
    • 2. After going on the run with the bag full of money, he doesn't look in the bag and find the transponder for several DAYS, as he wonders why he keeps getting found. So, he never decided to count the money, see if there is anything else in the bag like guns, drugs, etc. Once again, had he simply looked in the bag from the start, the movie would have been over.
    • Aside from Llewelyn, everyone who deals with Chigurh loses 50 IQ points. After pulling him over and handcuffing him, a deputy simply holds an entire phone conversation with his back to the man and gets strangled. The Sheriff realizes that this hired contract is running around killing people and going after Moss, and instead of contacting federal authorities, other law enforcement officials, etc.....he basically does nothing and just retires. Also, an idiot ball to anyone who works with Chigurh as he apparently is quite willing to off any employers or associates if it strikes his fancy.
  • Fernando Meirelles' film adaptation of Saramago's Blindness has a brilliant premise but doesn't make much sense.
    • There is an epidemic across the city that renders people blind. The people who are blind are almost immediately thrown into concentration camps despite no one knowing anything about the virus. While hysteria and quarantines would be expected, the movie decides to crank Humans Are Bastards and Humans Are Morons Up to Eleven by having the blind tossed in prison and forgotten. There is never any attempt to learn what the virus is or how to cure it. Julianne Moore is the only woman in the camp who can see. She goes along in order to help her husband but decides to pretend to be blind to both the inmates the few guards that come by. Since she is immune to the virus, she could easily be an asset in finding a cure. She doesn't help at all. As for the inmates, they stop caring about hygiene for whatever reason, going so far as to take dumps in the middle of the hallways of the prisons. The stupidity doesn't stop there. A guy sneaks a gun into the prison. Apparently, when he was arrested and placed there by government agents, no one decided to search him, nor did the man decide to start shooting. So the guy with the gun holds the entire prison hostage and even rapes the women... including Julianne Moore. You might remember that Moore's character can see perfectly fine while the GUN MAN is totally blind. You might also remember that he has no idea that she can see. Before you ask, no she isn't too scared to act. She openly defies him and even threatens him while he has the gun. She also has no problems sneaking around him and could have snagged the gun at any time, so her choice not to fight back can only be chalked up to lazy writing and drama. She does eventually stab him to death, which renders her past inaction even more of a wall banger.
    • It is an Idiot Plot because the politicians in the novel and the sequel SEEING ARE idiots. Fortunately, no real politician would act like them.
    • Oh, and the filmmakers are of the belief that not only do people stop caring about hygiene when they go blind but they will be reduced to crawling around and acting like animals.
    • It should be noted that, in ALL of those aspects, Meirelles was merely being faithful to José Saramago's novel, and Saramago's point is exactly that society is a very fragile structure and can easily collapse into chaos. Moore's character is exactly an anti-heroine, and a big plot point is exactly how hard it is for her to accept her role and her responsibility. Also, nowhere is it implied that the blindness is caused by a virus. Basically, the "stupidity" described in this item are, at least according to Saramago, only human nature. It something should be condemned for this, it's the book, not the film.
  • In Johnny Mnemonic, the bad guys looking to suppress the data stored in Johnny's head[4] are, for some reason, bent on specifically cutting off Johnny's head and cryogenically freezing it, even though suppressing the data would be as simple as killing him and destroying his head (which is even easier and only requires a gun and a bullet to achieve). Johnny also gets the bright idea that the data in his head is "worth a lot of money," despite that among the two factions who want the data, one doesn't want to use it for anything at all and the other wants to give it all away for free; nobody is in any position to get any money or make any money from the data.
  • Unknown: A GM corn company hired a team of assassins for industrial espionage. They assumed that the head of the project would have a copy of the genome on his laptop, and most likely that it was the only copy. They trick an insane assassin into getting rid of a piece of evidence, when they could easily have done it themselves.
  • Played for laughs in Mystery Team.
  • A fine example of this trope not being bad is the Creepshow segment "The Lonely Death of Jordy Verril." Everything that goes wrong in that segment is a direct consequence of Jordy being an ignorant idiot, which is how he's characterized from the first frame.
  • In its last third or so, Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy rapidly becomes an Idiot Plot. By the end of the film, only two characters remain sympathetic: Banky, who started off as an idiot and becomes slightly less of one; and Hooper, who spends most of the film pointing out the idiocy of others.
  • The spread of the disease in Outbreak is only made possible by repeated instances of utter stupidity on the part of several characters, many of whom are supposed to be qualified professionals. An outbreak of a virulent disease is discovered in Africa. A biotech company illegally transports an infected monkey back to United States. Then, an employee steals what he knows to be an intended test animal to sell in the black market. When he fails to find a buyer, he sets the monkey free in the wild. As if this wasn't enough, a lab technician who was working with the blood of one of those infected by the monkey manages to break a vial and infect himself.
  • The whole plot of Speed 2 Cruise Control is predicated on the cruise ship passengers being unable to jump off the ship, as they'll supposedly be sucked into the ship propellers. Wha--?
  • Underworld Evolution features what is intended to be a crack squad of elite troops trained in killing vampires and werewolves. At the climax, they must seek out and destroy a lair of werewolves before they can unleash the Big Bad. They are surprised to find this lair is only accessible from an underwater entrance, but that's fine — they have scuba gear. Oh, wait. They forgot the silver ammo for their werewolf hunt, so if they go in, they're incapable of doing any damage to the enemy before werewolf bites turn them into werewolves. So they go in anyway.
  • The Comic Strip Presents: The Supergrass would have been about 15 minutes long had the police actually bothered to investigate Dennis and find that there was no truth to his claims of being a drug dealer. It's the Comic Strip, after all.
  • In Star Trek: Insurrection, Picard learns about a plan by an under-the-table Starfleet, working with an alien race, the Son'a, to move another race, the Bak'u, off their homeworld so they can take advantage of their world's fountain-of-youth powers, so Picard decides to stand against them to protect the Bak'u. Except there's no need to move the Bak'u anywhere. IT'S A FREAKING PLANET! The Bak'u are comprised of only six hundred people, so Starfleet could easily set up colonies far beyond the reach of the Bak'u. And if it got overcrowded, they could set up stations in orbit of the planet without the Bak'u ever discovering them.
    • It's made clear in the movie that they are not setting up long term colonies but plan to explode the space around the planet making it uninhabitable for centuries. Or rather, that's the villain's plan, because, they are too close to death to become immortal by the natural effect of the planet. Why the Starfleet people went along with that — when the natural healing effect is already enough for any non-villainous purpose — is never brought up.
  • Night of the Lepus: "We have to stop this insurgence of rabbits, so let's inject one with a serum I know absolutely nothing about. That should do the trick!"
  • The Grey: The entire plot is started by Liam Neeson's character, in defiance of any survival guide such as this one, decides the group should start walking away from the crash site. This is also in spite of the fact that the crash site has shelter, fuel, and materials to make weapons with.
  • The Woman in Black: Harry Potter is a grieving lawyer who travels to a small village to sort through the paperwork of a recently deceased woman who lived in an Old Dark House. Rather than taking the paperwork back to town and looking through it, he decides to stay there. He spends most of his time wandering around and looking at creepy things without doing anything at all. Message on the wall written in blood under the wallpaper? Huh, I'll go wander around more. The one thing he tries to do doesn't work. He also doesn't get a lick of paperwork done.
  • A Little Piece of Heaven. A guy just lost his parents, needs help with the farm, doesn't want his mentally handicapped sister to be lonely, and sees a little girl getting beaten. The smart thing to do would be to hire helpers, invite kids to the farm normally to meet his sister, and call the authorities, respectively. Instead? He drugs and kidnaps a black kid, then the abused girl, convinces both of them they're dead and that his pig farm is Heaven. And then he's shocked when his plan starts falling apart and he has to take the kids and run.
  • The entire plot of The Brady Bunch Movie exists because movie Mike mistakes Cindy's legitimate report of wrongdoing (she tells him the Dittmeyers are stealing the family's mail) for childish tattling and proceeds to lecture her for it. Later, when she tells the other kids about the problem so they can do something about it, he scolds her for tattling again. It's no wonder that when Jan runs away she's reluctant to say anything.
    • The sequel is even worse about this. Roy Martin aka Trevor comes to the Brady house pretending to be Carol's assumed-dead husband, and makes up a bunch of lies to explain to his daughters why he looks and sounds different. The family buys it hook, line, and sinker, and it takes him kidnapping Carol for the Bradys to spring into action and learn the truth.
  • Quintessa in Transformers: The Last Knight wants to revive Cybertron. Simple enough but Optimus has the Matrix in his chest, and the Matrix, per Word of God, has the AllSpark's energy contained within in it. Why can't that be used to revive Cybertron?


  • Angels and Demons has a huge gaping hole that not a single character sees. Great care is given to say how undetectable the antimatter containment is. The protagonists even go so far as to wipe out power to entire city blocks so that they can look for the containment device without any background noise. Yet no one thinks to look for the camera pointed at the containment device "that is actively broadcasting". Since they are receiving video, there is a signal. Since there is a signal, it can be triangulated.
  • Left Behind is full of this, especially in the early books.
    • A nuclear assault on Israel ends in no casualties. You'd think that evangelists of every religion would be trying to link it to their own, there would likely be a large amount of conversions, and hard-core atheists would be trying to desperately come up with explanations as to how it could be a natural occurrence. Instead, everyone seems to just go about their business as if it hadn't happened.
    • Every child in the world disappears in the rapture, but some adults do too. All of these adults are "real true Christians." Somehow, this exceedingly obvious pattern is not noted.
    • Carpathia's Techno Babble explanation for said disappearances is apparently accepted readily. Apparently all the scientists who would rebuke it for its inaccuracies forgot everything they knew.
    • Most of Carpathia's machinations require this to work. Asking countries to destroy most of their nuclear weapons and give the remainder to him? And they fall for it?
    • Honorable mention should also go to the Global Community Faith. Carpathia gets some religious leaders together, they hold a press conference announcing that as of now, all religions are now united into a new, only vaguely defined, faith. And everyone except newly converted PMD Christians and the Jews are happy to go along with it.
  • Mentioned in one of Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers stories: One character mentions he's having trouble writing his story without it turning into an Idiot Plot, and was trying to find a way to prevent characters from asking the obvious question that would resolve the mystery. Their guest then causes another Idiot Plot in much the same way.
  • Tom Godwin's short story "The Cold Equations" was originally a brutal, much-needed subversion of early 1950s Science Fiction and its omnipotent men of SCIENCE!. That trend is over and done with, so attention is instead drawn to the idiotically negligent design and procedure choices of the ship builders. This results in a Broken Aesop.
  • Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time:
    • It is so full of potentially lethal errors in judgement by both the protagonists and antagonists that a strong argument could be made for the series consisting almost exclusively of Idiot Plot, particularly in the latter books.
    • Strong argument? More like absolute truth... the self-absorption and patronising behavior of almost every single ridiculously misandristic Aes Sedai, female politician, noblewoman and varied other females is one of the most famous things about the Wheel of Time books.
    • The greater majority of the protagonists problems are caused by their own lapses in judgement and failure to communicate, to the point that it would take hours to list them all. They refuse to work together, they run off by themselves in secret (repeatedly), they almost never ask for help, and even those that *should* trust one another withhold secrets for no good reason. Not only does it allow the antagonists to win many of their conflicts, it also prevents the heroes from gaining the strength they need to oppose the Dark One. Fortunately, the antagonists also have this failing.
    • The White Tower rebellion plotline has turned into this. One side of the conflict has rediscovered several lost spells, has a large army led by a famous general, and has surrounded the White Tower, preventing most movement. The other side, inside the tower, are at each other's throats, constantly in-fighting, and are vastly outnumbered due to their leader being Too Dumb to Live. Not to mention the fact that the Chosen One will never make a treaty with the Tower because their leader ordered his kidnapping, and beating. Granted, the Black Ajah is doing its best to foster these problems, but one would think that the Tower's ruling body would, at some point, notice that they are in a ridiculously weak position, their leader is a fool, and remove her from power. And all this is going on with the final battle over the fate of the world just around the corner...
    • The whole thing ends with the White Tower raising Egwene and only because Elaida was captured by the Seanchan followed by Egwene calling the entire tower Aes Sedai disgraces because only Sylviana had the balls to do what was right.
  • Twilight.
    • If Bella were smart enough to stay away from Edward, there would be no series, period. For the first book specifically, almost every plot point is introduced because Bella does something idiotic. About the only plot point not directly caused by Bella is Tyler's death van, which was just a flimsy excuse to get the story running.
    • Bella's decision to wander Port Angeles alone, as it got dark, and in the back alleys, is how The Reveal is set up. A particularly gifted level of stupidity was required for her to do so, since Port Angeles (not a large city) is notably deficient in back alleys. Roving gangs of rapists are also uncommon.
    • Bella's decision to lead an innocent boy along to gain information is how the Love Triangle is set up.
    • Bella's decision to go to a meadow, alone, with an admitted Serial Killer, and let him wander around behind her, is how the great romance is begun.
    • Bella's decision to do as James said - regardless of the likelihood of him actually had her mother or the fact there were two more-than-capable vampires with her who could have at least given some advice - is what causes the climax.
      • The James plot could have actually been resolved even easier if the Cullens had just fought him earlier. The odds were seven-against-three in their favor. Oh, what's that? James' ally Laurent wasn't willing to fight for him? Okay, seven-against-two. Laurent goes on about how the Cullens are sure to lose because James is such an amazing fighter, but in the end, it only takes Jasper and Emmett to kill him anyway--if the whole Cullen family had attacked him and Victoria in Forks, they could have easily won without Bella getting horribly beat up beforehand.
    • In the film version of Twilight, Bella feels insulted when Edward doesn't talk to her so she spends weeks (possibly even a month or more) waiting to tell him off for being a jerk. As pointed out by Riff Trax, a normal person would've moved on after a few days or so.
  • In New Moon:
    • Bella's decision to go cliff-diving without any prior experience, anyone else to help her out or save her, and any knowledge of how deep the water she's jumping into is, is how the climax of the story is set up to bring Edward home.
    • Arguably most of the second and third act of New Moon fits this. Edward has spent all of Twilight and the beginning of this book talking about how he loves Bella more than anything in the world, but is constantly terrified of something bad happening to her. She is then nearly killed by Jasper at the party. Then Edward tries to tell her that he doesn't love her anymore (in order to keep her safe) before leaving. Bella spends the rest of the book completely believing this, without ever once considering that he lied to her or attempting to talk to him about it. Even when she knows that he curled up in a ball and didn't do anything while they were apart, even when she knows that he left to commit suicide when she supposedly died, even when he hugs and kisses her and clings to her when she shows up alive, even when he returns to America with her, she still is either convinced that he's putting on an act for her or doing it out of guilt, or that she's dreaming.
    • Also from New Moon: Despite living in the present and having enough money to have every form of technology ever, Edward immediately takes Jacob's word for it that Bella has died, rather than check his email/phone for any messages about it, check Forks' newspapers for Bella's obituary, call anyone else to confirm what he heard, etc.
    • Not to mention--Jacob never SAYS that Bella died. He says that "[Charlie Swan's] not here. He's at the funeral." Which he is. He's at Harry Clearwater's. Edward is the one who jumps to the conclusion that Alice's vision of Bella's death has to be accurate...even though most funerals do not take place on the day of the person's death. Edward doesn't even call back and ask Jacob whose funeral Chief Swan is attending.
    • Which is even worse when you consider that Alice was the one who had the vision and he had Alice's cell phone number!!! There was no reason he couldn't have called Alice directly! Alice herself doesn't help though, as she apparently thought it was a grand idea to hang around with Bella for a few days, instead of calling Rosalie and Edward and telling them "Never mind, Bella's alive after all".
    • Not to mention the fact that Bella was still alive and, upon realizing Edward had left the country, went into a deep depression that had her bedridden for months. Her father, for some bizarre reason, didn't even bother to do anything (e.g send her to a psychiatrist) even though she was having severe night terrors and wouldn't leave her bedroom for months.
    • Or rather, he didn't try very hard. He brought it up to her once or twice that she might want to consider seeking professional help, but backed down when she demurred. Charlie's quite the milquetoast for a sheriff.
    • Not only is Bella an idiot, she's actually a human Idiot Ball! Anyone who comes into contact with her (most notably Edward) starts making random, ridiculous decisions and being generally Too Dumb to Live. Even the villains. Lets face it, how many of their thoroughly inept "wicked schemes" would have came close to working if the good guys hadn't been a group of shambling, dunderheaded simpletons?
  • In Eclipse:
    • The Cullens know that there's at least one newborn tearing up Seattle and they know that Victoria has been trying to kill Bella since the previous book. They then learn that there is a newborn army being built in Seattle and that a vampire has apparently broken into Bella's room and stolen one of her shirts. Common sense would dictate that Victoria had the newborn army made and ordered the theft of Bella's shirt so that the army could track her down and kill her. It's not until a good number of chapters later that they figure out that Victoria was behind the theft of the shirt and it's not until the actual climax that they realize that Victoria was behind the army of newborns.
    • This is particularly stupid given that Edward can read minds and Jasper can influence emotions. Logically, Edward could have gone to Seattle, read the minds of at least some of the newborns and/or their victims and determined who was behind this army, while Jasper projected calmness on the newborns that Edward discovered. The army members would have been identified, their secrets uncovered and their attacks rendered useless with comparative ease--and no one ever considers this. Not even Jasper, who is canonically the strategist.
  • The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner only gels with the plot of Eclipse because the characters have all been severely lobotomized. Despite the fact that Bree knows that Riley is kidnapping teenagers to become vampires, that he makes no effort to protect them once they've become vampires, and that (as she later remembers) he kidnapped her himself, breaking her arm in the process and terrifying her. It's not until the very last few pages that she actually gets it in her head that he's a bad guy. This novella also makes Breaking Dawn into this trope, because Bree mentally gives Edward her knowledge of the events leading up to the battle, which includes how the Volturi were willing to turn a blind eye to Victoria's plans, in the hope of the Cullens being killed. This means that Edward at least was well aware that the Volturi were actively trying to get his family killed...but in Breaking Dawn, he was quite shocked at the idea of the group being so corrupt.
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula:
    • The title character would have never sunk his fangs in Mina's neck if the heroes had remembered anything they'd learned about vampires during their ordeal with Lucy. Especially since Mina was displaying all the symptoms of being a vampire victim that Lucy displayed earlier... Exacerbated by the fact that Mina was with her when Lucy was first attacked and started displaying those symptoms. And they had Van Helsing with them the whole time.
    • The way Lucy's mom undermines every effort to save her. Really looks like she's doing it on purpose.
    • Also for an all powerful vampire, you'd think Dracula would have had more common sense. Such as taking Lucy with him after fully vamping her rather than leaving her behind. Not only did he give the heroes an example of what a vampire was like and what they could do - he practically led the heroes straight to him. What's the point of making undead women if you're not going to use 'em?
  • Another vampire example, the entire plot of Barb Hendee's Hunting Memories depends on the heroine's (using that term loosely, since she is a mass murderess) stubborn refusal to even consider the possibility that the villain (arguably, he is just defending himself) has completely given up after the end of the first novel, and will never try again, even though he was clearly a fanatic. One of her companions, who knew the villain much better, didn't think he'd just give up.
  • The Draka stories by S.M. Stirling.
    • There's this empire in Africa which conquers everything it can grab (talking about whole continents here), enslaves pretty much everyone, has an extremely supremacist ideology, plus supreme technology, acts like it's independent even while being a British colony, but no one - whether Nazis, Communists or good democrats - decides to do anything to stop them.
    • The premise is that the Draka are a sort of Evil Twin society to the United States. Historically, no major nation decided to stop the US from becoming powerful from 1812 up to World War Two. The catch, and this is where the idiocy comes in, is that the US wasn't deliberately expanding into the spheres of interest of countries powerful enough to stop it, except for a few minor border clashes with the British Empire over a river valley here and there. Whereas the Draka do, especially during their alternate version of World War One.
    • There's more idiocy to that, because during much of their power grab the Draka are still a British Dominion, and not once does the British Empire even attempt to slap them down despite repeated brutal, hostile and illegal actions.
    • There's an attempt at justifying it in the story, arguing that the British Empire was so traumatized by the loss of Canada in the War of 1812 that it didn't feel powerful enough to impose its will on the colonies. (In Real Life, the British Empire at the height of its power barely won a war against two insignificant republics in a small part of what's now South Africa - it's an open question how it would have fared against a heavily militarized, technologically advanced power controlling a large part of a continent.) The Draka are also very careful not to tread on Britain's toes until they are powerful enough to get away with it.
    • Completely left unaddressed is the presence of France in the presumptive Drakan empire. The French presence in west Africa was well-established by the time the Draka get there, and France is almost as powerful as Britain during the 19th century (they have the second-largest navy in the world, and the largest modern army, during this period). Why there wasn't a more generalized conflict between Britain and France over a rogue British colony impinging upon the French sphere of influence (or why the French didn't just send the Draka home with their asses firmly kicked) is an exercise for the reader.
    • This site does a good job of pointing out most (though not all) of the flaws in logic, not to mention the blatantly illegal things done by the Draka while they are still firmly under British rule (illegal under 19th century British rule that is).
  • Pretty much everything that PG Wodehouse ever wrote, but the man was so incredibly good at it, you barely notice. Plus, let's face it; when you're dealing with characters like Bertie Wooster, what else do you expect?
  • Being There, both novel and film, is a satire that uses an Idiot Plot to help make its point. The whole story hinges on how people who believe themselves to be sensible and intelligent nevertheless jump to their own, desired conclusions time after time in their dealings with Chance the Gardener, never asking the questions most people would be tempted to ask based on what he says. This is partially because he appears to be a sensible, intelligent person himself, but is in fact an imbecile who doesn't understand what's going on and thus isn't able to correct others.
  • The entire Dutch novel Descartes' Dochter (Descartes' Daughter), which revolves around the discovery of a lost manuscript of Descartes. When the main character Henriette returns home to her girlfriend Maartje in a coat covered in blood, Maartje gives up trying to find out what happened after a half-assed attempt at questioning, and the two proceed to make love. Later in the story, when Henriette murders her own mother, Maartje does not go to the police, does not get the hell away from Henriette, but e-mails the French professor she has been corresponding with about it. Who responds with only some vague philosophical stuff about "the gift". Later on, Maartje converses with a German professor about a lost manuscript of Kant that has turned up. When the German professor hears that Maartje has also been corresponding about it with that French guy (the actual French philosopher Jean Luc Marion), she exclaims: "Oh no! A Catholic!" and takes a train to Holland straight away, where she is immediately murdered by Henriette. Later, Henriette lures Maartje into the toilet on a train and then kills her. Serves her right for being too dumb to live.
  • Tristan and Isolde is a juggling convention of Idiot Balls. Most egregious examples:
    • Tristan is finally allowed to marry Isolde after a bunch of totally epic adventures ending in winning her heart while he's naked in a bath even though she had sworn to kill him. So he decides she'll marry king Mark instead. She hates him for it.
    • They accidentally drink the Love Potion meant for Isolde and Mark. They don't even consider asking king Mark permission to marry or anything. Granted, an oath is a pretty big thing, but so is permanent magic, and it's not like Mark cared that much.
    • Tristan meets another woman (also named Isolde), is asked if he wants to marry her, and says "OK" completely out of the blue in a Diabolus Ex Machina. He immediately regrets it and refuses to have sex with her, making her jealous. Then the first Isolde also gets jealous, despite knowing the effects of the Love Potion are permanent and exclusive.
  • Kathy Reichs' Temperance "Bones" Brennan novels depend strongly on this trope for about half the plot, and nearly every major climax. This is particularly true when the climax involves the main character, who seems to pick up the Idiot Ball on nearly every possible occasion. Particularly when it would get her into yet another life-threatening situation by going somewhere alone and unarmed, no matter how many people are telling her not to, which she does in the majority of the novels. When other characters do this, it's either because they've picked up her Idiot Ball, or because they're Too Obsessed/Absent-Minded/Naive/Fluff-headed To Live.
  • Digital Fortress is a particularly bad example. Even if you ignore the fact that the plot relies on every single person in the world not knowing the very basics of cryptography, it still doesn't make much sense.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird:
    • The Tom Robinson trial only hangs together if every white person in town save the Finches totes an Idiot Ball into the courtroom. When presented with obvious, incontrovertible proof of his innocence, neither the Prosecutor, Judge, or the Jury is smart enough to acquit him. 'Cause they're racist. Unfortunately, very much Truth in Television at the time.
    • Tom's real crime in the eyes of the town is not the rape, of which he's obviously innocent, but that he admits to feeling sorry for Mayella. The way the prosecuting lawyer leaps on that heartbreaking slip of the tongue says it all. Most likely he would have been found guilty anyway, but the fact that a black man admitted to feeling sorry for a white woman meant that most of the characters didn't even feel bad about it.
  • Pretty much all of the fifth Magic Kingdom of Landover novel is a textbook Idiot Plot. Due to writing himself into a corner at the end of the fourth book, the author ended up having a situation on his hands where his main cast had every reason to suspect that the main focus of the book (the main characters' daughter getting kidnapped by the series' recurring Big Bad Nightshade and being turned against them) was going to happen. So they end up absolutely discounting the possibility with the exact same excuses several times, all of which are based around the assumption that a Diabolus Ex Nihilo called Rydall of Marnhull is telling them the truth. Even though they openly express skepticism that he's ever telling the truth and all evidence from day one suggests that he is not. And it takes them the entire book to come to the conclusion they would have reached in 5 minutes had the plot not required them to discount it.
  • "Dismissed with Prejudice" by J. A. Jance. Let's see, the back cover tells us about a Japanese businessman found dead of an apparent suicide. But an error in the ancient ritual pointed to... murder! The actual problem, according to a Japanese-American investigator, is that the scene is "totally wrong" for the ritual suicide. But we have a Caucasian medical examiner persist with his theory of suicide. A couple days later, we discovered that the victim was indeed murdered — bludgeoned over the head. "We couldn't see it until after we moved the body."
  • The protagonist of Vollidiot (Complete idiot), a novel by German writer Tommy Yaud is.. well... Played for Laughs, though.
  • House Rules is often criticized for this. Many reviewers note that the entire premise of House Rules depends on absolutely nobody asking Jacob whether he committed the murder or not. His mother and lawyer immediately organise an insanity defence instead. This is particularly glaring because one of the traits of Jacob's Asperger's is that he's terrible at lying. The plot would also be over in fifty pages if Theo didn't sit through his brother's arrest, jail time and trial, and all the strain this causes on his family, without telling anyone that he broke into Jess's house on the day of the "murder" and saw her fall down and hit her head. All right, maybe he's frightened of being charged with causing her accidental death, but when he finally owns up that doesn't seem to have occurred to him.
  • Classic of Russian SF Ivan Efremov's Andromeda is a perfect example of Idiot Plot. Starship crew was trapped on the planet of Iron Star because watchkeepers just didn't want to wake their commander (despite they knew that he wanted to drive the ship in this area himself). On the planet they've found another Earthian starship, abandoned because it's crew was terminated by local agressive fauna. The last member of dying crew left a record, which contained nothing helpful - except the advice not to leave the ship, never (considering the fact that this record could be picked only by one who had already left his ship, advice is more than senseless). And it is just the beginning...
  • Blacklisted by Gena Showalter has a mild version of this. The Alien Investigation and Removal agency hunts down and arrests high schooler Camille and her crush Erik. First of all, why would she follow him, when he apparently seems to be a drug dealer? Even if you hand wave that to blind love, why would AIR not just ask her if she was with him or not? As seen in the companion book, their policy is to keep civilians out of their business. Instead they assume that she a drug dealer too and shoot and arrest her.
  • The Fetch Quest that forms the plot of Hothouse Flower and The Nine Plants of Desire would never have happened had Lila not told Exley about the titular plants, which he stole. The protagonists' lack of foresight also adds complications to the plot.
  • "The Deadly Mission of Phineas Snodgrass". So a man travels back in time and pretty much literally Gives Radio to the Romans. Okay, that's not the Idiot Plot. The society which this man creates develops the scientific method much more quickly than it arose in Real Life, and as a result is fully-modernized by around the sixth century and is practically Raygun Gothic by the Middle Ages. And the writer expects us to believe that in all that time no one in that scientifically-minded society ever noticed the massive overpopulation problem that was arising or took any steps to mitigate or prevent it? You'd think that, with no religious restrictions against such things, that reliable birth control would be invented as soon as their society advanced enough to discover modern medicine and learn what causes reproduction. It pretty much stretches Willing Suspension of Disbelief that the only way this advanced society could think to save themselves from an overpopulation-induced catastrophe was to send another person back in time to prevent their society from being founded. What are they, suicidal? It's also a colossal Did Not Do the Research, as the Romans had a cultural lack of compunction about Offing the Offspring, as well as already understanding several modern birth control methods.
  • A debatable one in Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu. Lucy is the daughter of a compulsive hoarder who comes home one day to find her mother dead under a stack of junk. She starts to dial 911, but panics and doesn't dial. She was afraid that her friends might find out about how messy her house was and pity her. In the end, she burns the house down. She only calls her brother once, and gives up. Instead, she tries to clean up the house so it at least looks presentable. If she had just called 911 after cleaning up the house somewhat, she probably could have been better off. If she had even called her brother a second time, she probably could have avoided having to burn the house down.
  • Harry Potter: The minor side-plot that gives name to the sixth book rests entirely upon it. It's traditional in British schools for teachers to keep their favourite moth-eaten, scrawled on textbooks in the book cupboard with the books normally passed out to the children who forget their books, resulting in plenty of amusing anecdotes about the fights kids get into to avoid being the one stuck with that torn copy despite the fact it's often the most useful book to end up with. Rowling clearly played on this, right down to Ron and Harry fighting over who got stuck with it, and yet somehow they were both completely incapable of ever wondering if it belonged to either the current or past Potions Master. Not even Hermione was capable of wondering what really should have been an obvious first suspicion for a British kid in a British school system to have. Of course, if they had jumped to the logical suspicion, the sixth book reveal would have happened at the start instead of the end - although that would not have changed the overall plot of the book in any significant way.
    • In the Muggle British school system. Whether or not Wizarding schoolteachers do it is an open question.
    • Continuing with the problems with Harry Potter, you really have to question why Dumbledore just didn't keep Harry in the loop. Some claim he didn't tell Harry everything as some sort of test to prove himself, but why? Or he wants to give Harry a normal childhood so he tries to protect him from it all, but Harry's evidently never going to get to be a normal kid since he ends up running into Voldemort practically all the time, so why keep sheltering him and never telling him anything? Why risk Harry getting killed if he's the only one who can kill Voldemort? Dumbledore does so little to prepare Harry and after Dumbledore's death, Harry has absolutely no guidance and can't talk to anyone except two other students. Dumbledore knew he'd be dying in advance so why didn't he leave him something more than a few cryptic clues? You also have to question Dumbledore's wisdom in telling all the students at the start of the first book, among them Fred and George, whose curiousity will almost certainly be piqued because of the warning, not to try to get past a certain door. A certain door that can be unlocked with an alohomora charm and has an enormous, extremely dangerous multi-headed dog behind it, ready to maim anyone, adventurous student or not, who gets near? This is only one of the Idiot Balls flying around. Voldemort takes his own turn by never killing Harry when he has the chance. If he had, the books would have ended far sooner.
    • You also have to wonder why Dumbledore didn't just confront Draco the minute he learned the kid was trying to kill him. The case can be made that doing so would have wrecked Dumbledore's plan to have Snape kill him and win favor with Voldemort, but c'mon....does Rowling really expect us to believe that Dumbles KNEW Draco would smuggle Death Eaters into the school at the end of the year?
  • Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos doesn't just abuse this trope, but positively runs on it in its entirety. The book is basically nothing but the characters acting like utter morons and the author dropping a Contrived Coincidence in their way all the time.

Live-Action TV

  • In Falling Skies, despite the fact that the aliens are swarming over the Earth like locusts, marching everywhere in patrols and having ships scouring the skies - they are apparently unable to see large groups of humans wandering down streets in broad daylight, accompanied by noisy trucks, tanks and motorbikes, or to spot even larger groups camping in tents, again in broad daylight, right out in a huge open field, without making any attempt whatsoever to hide themselves. Also, after the alien invasion, women's abilities seem to have shrunk to the point where they are only able to cope with looking after the kids or dishing out dinner. 99% of the resistance fighters are male and the one woman seen so far who is a scout is clearly seen as an exception to the rule and an oddity.
    • This show is a classic of stupidity. They capture an alien and then discover that it can speak through a once enslaved human. So do they try to interrogate it? No. They don't even ask one question.
  • Pretty much every episode of Three's Company.
  • Also Married... with Children, although the characters are all so deliberately cartoony it may actually play in the show's favor.
  • Lie to Me had an episode in which Cal Lightman had to determine whether or not a gang leader imprisoned for murder and awaiting a parole hearing was truly remorseful. Lightman and his team shared an Idiot Ball that caused Genre Blindness when the victim's mother testified at the hearing that she believed he was truly reformed, but they knew she was lying. They determined she wasn't being coerced, then scratched their heads until dramatically figuring out her motive at the last minute. Yes, a wizard did it. No, she wanted him free SO SHE COULD KILL HIM!
  • Lost Tapes. Characters often forget that videocameras have a VCR function that allows them to see what they just taped.
  • Ditto for virtually every episode of The Secret World of Alex Mack.
  • Primeval too. When half the plots wouldn't happen if the main characters didn't think they had to evade their security team, and everyone is convinced the Deadpan Snarker is a villain without any evidence...
  • The entire premise of I Dream of Jeannie. Major Nelson wears the Idiot Ball around his neck for the first five seasons.
  • Smallville:
    • Episode “Whisper,” in which Clark gets super-hearing and everybody's IQ drops 30 (desperately-needed) points. Even the villain!
    • Another glaring example is “Action,” where super-secretive Clark Kent stupidly rents his farm to a film crew for the Movie-Within-the-Show, "Warrior Angel". This is especially idiotic because only a few episodes previous, Clark's Super Powered Cousin, Kara, arrived and she's far less careful about keeping her secrets than Clark is, increasing the chances of being found out tenfold. Also, why a big-budget movie is being filmed on a goddamned Kansas farm rather than in California, or, better yet: Canada is never made clear.
    • Once the plots got a little longer and more complicated than finding out who the Monster of the Week is and having Clark throw them thirty feet, this has been happening all over the place. Mostly because Clark is so powerful he could stop everything bad from happening if only he would get off his ass.
  • Heroes has so many examples of forced Railroading that this trope page may as well be called "Heroes Plot".
    • Near the end of the season, Claire has several Damsel Scrappy moments, fleeing from people who obviously had her best interests at heart and into trouble on more than one occasion. Ando's deciding Hiro would give up if he had one more conversation with his dad, and thus going to take on Sylar(!) alone (!!), isn't much better.
    • In “Landslide,” Peter Petrelli telepathically eavesdrops on Sylar's plans to enlist the police's unwitting aid in attacking Ted Sprague… and then does nothing when he's subsequently arrested.
    • In “How To Stop An Exploding Man,” Mr. Bennet warns Parkman not to confront Sylar because “he'll kill you” – but one would think just telling him Sylar is telekinetic and has Ted Sprague's powers would be more viscerally persuasive.
    • The idiocy of the Company in controlling their superpowered prisoners seems pretty key. Depowering Sylar was a good idea, but leaving him alone and guarded by only one person, whom he wanted to kill anyway with no means of knowing their condition, is roughly the worst idea imaginable. And Adam? Oh, let's just keep him in a cell. Next to the impressionable idiot with god-like powers. It's not like Adam has had decades to plan his escape or anything. There are so many more, it would probably be easier to list plot points that weren't pure stupidity.
    • Also from Season 1 regarding the big threat of the season, kind of. Peter knew that if he went to Kirby Plaza, he would wind up absorbing Ted Sprague's ability, and he'd seen that he was the one who caused the big boom in New York on that November night. Does he then decide to stay away and ensure that there is no way he'll gain the power to become a nuclear bomb? Oh no… he goes right to the one place he shouldn't and boom, gains the power which will blow up New York in a matter of days.
    • In season 3, a group of supposedly Badass freakjob villains escape. Their big plan? Hurt people and rob a bank. Joker they ain't.
    • Also from season 3, basically anything to do with Mohinderance and his impromptu reenactment of The Fly.
    • Basically every time Peter shows up on screen and forgets that he can teleport or read minds (ie, always). Notable examples include not bothering to mind-read the villainous Adam to find out if he can be trusted.
    • Most of the things that have gone wrong in the series, have been either directly, or indirectly caused by Hiro. Actually, everything was indirectly caused by him, since he caused the formation of the company.
    • Also, Peter Petrelli meets his father, Arthur Petrelli, who was presumed dead despite the fact he hasn't seen him in years and is the head of a shady organization, does not stop to read his mind to understand what the hell was going on, and why he had disappeared for so long. Instead, he runs to give him a hug, and loses his powers (all of the ones he absorbed) to his father (who took in a lot of powers to begin with), launching the latter ever closer to A God Am I status, and the former being telekinetically thrown out a window by Sylar, as Arthur's way of saying "thank you" to his son. In fact, Sylar spared him death even if his idiocy didn't suggest so.
    • Arthur Petrelli is easily the stupidest villain ever. He absorbs every power Peter ever absorbed, which is a hell of a lot of powers, including teleportation, phasing, many, many ways to blast somebody to pieces, and healing, so they can't really hurt him back. In short, there's nothing to stop him from going over to Primatech and kicking everybody's ass. What's he do? He sits on his ass, drawing the future, and sends out his incompetent mooks to fail at doing his dirty work. Furthermore, he draws a future where Claire is dead, and he needs her alive. He could teleport straight to her, capture her, and teleport back to ensure her safety. What's he do instead? He sends out his two most psychopathic followers to capture her, and is surprised it didn't work. What an Idiot! indeed.
    • As stupid a villain as Arthur Petrelli is, his wife, Angela, may well surpass him. Deciding that the best way to fight Arthur was to send Hiro to fetch Adam was just one of a long string of extremely questionable choices she has made over the course of the series.
    • The latest season finale (Volume 4) takes the cake. Having finally rendered Sylar helpless, do they finally kill him? No. They need Nathan to convince the President to end the project, and Nathan's just been killed by Sylar. So they use Matt Parkman to brainwash Sylar into believing that he's Nathan, and using his shapeshifting to support this. And the episode ends with Sylar having been left in this imposture for weeks. Angela Petrelli, Noah Bennett, and Matt Parkman are just having Sylar walk around in Nathan's role and life permanently and expecting everything to be OK. Why? Why not at absolute minimum dispose of Sylar the instant he's finished with what you needed "Nathan" for? Better yet, since Peter had already absorbed/mimicked the shapeshifting power from Sylar, why not just have Peter pretend to be his brother for a little while, convince the President, and then pretend to go missing or die? And above all else, why not at least tell Peter, Claire, et al that "Nathan" isn't actually Nathan, so they don't trigger inevitable disaster via their ignorance next season?!?
    • The newest season's finale certainly qualifies. After living through the events of volume 4, which were the result of the government learning about people with abilities, and hearing her dad plea on his deathbed that he wanted her to stay hidden and not reveal herself, Claire is compelled to jump off a Ferris wheel to do just that in front of national television. No reason is given for this decision, other than pissing off her dad who had poured his heart and soul out to her roughly ten minutes ago. Meanwhile, every other character in the series simply stands there gawking and dropping forced dialogue such as "she's going to change everything!", even though half of them had the power to stop her without making nearly as much of a scene (looking at you, Hiro!). After spending several episodes building up how much Claire-bear loves her crazy daddy, they have her just throw it all away for no apparent reason while the rest of the "Heroes" stand around and prepare for a repeat of volume four.
  • Star Trek:
    • A lot of the conflicts on Enterprise seem to stem from the entirety of Starfleet being so dumb that they don't even bother with establishing protocols for dealing with even a single, solitary thing the crew might have to deal with, up to and including first contact and planetary exploration, two tasks they were specifically sent out to do!
    • "Spock's Brain" in Star Trek: The Original Series. It pretty much required Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and the whole fucking crew to act like they had the collective IQ of a parking meter.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Datalore". Picard sends Wesley on Data and when Wesley says that Lore is disguised as Data, everyone suddenly decides to go down the "Not Now, Kiddo" route where as Wesley had previously been regarded as an equal to them all. In "Identity Crisis," the crew know that LaForge has an affliction which cause him will to turn into an alien and flee the ship, so the crew leave him alone on the holodeck. Guess what happens next.
    • "By Inferno's Light" in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which the plot hinges on a captured Federation runabout being left unsecured and fully operational outside of a Dominion prison camp asteroid, close enough for transporter range, yet far enough away to make a getaway. Later lampshaded in the episode "Inquisition", in which it's used as evidence that Bashir is a Manchurian Agent.
    • Too many episodes of Star Trek: Voyager to count, but it occurs in Star Trek: Enterprise, too. Either the main characters have to act like morons for the sake of "conflict" or "suspense", or the crew runs into some stubborn Aliens Of The Week who behave like belligerent jerks or fanatical idiots solely so that there will be a conflict of interests.
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • One episode had some people rob a bank of gold and then put themselves in suspended animation (which one of the robbers invented) for years in order to avoid getting in trouble for it. Had they just patented and sold the invention not only would they have probably made more money than they did in the bank robbery, it also would've prevented them from having to worry about the law in the first place. As the above-linked trope indicates, this is actually the problem with a LOT of villainous inventors.
    • One of the villains decides to increase his share of the take by killing one of the other robbers by deliberately destroying their only means of transportation.
    • Not only that, but when they decided to put themselves into suspended animation, they chose a cave for their hideout. None of them ever considered to put something over their chambers to block the potentially-falling rocks, which end up killing one of the men.
    • And on top of all that, when they wake up in the future - and all end up dead - a way of creating gold on demand has been invented, so it was all for nothing anyway!
  • The dual pregnancies from the first season of Glee:
    • Quinn has to tell Finn that she got pregnant when he ejaculated in a hot-tub with her in it, which is completely crap, when the reality was she slept with Puck. Instead of lying about the hot-tub, she should have just had sex with Finn the moment she found out, and waited a week or 2 before revealing she was pregnant, and told Puck the baby wasn't his.
    • Terri has a hysterical pregnancy, and at first tries to get pregnant for real, but it fails, so she starts wearing a fabric baby bump. Instead of faking a miscarriage, she continues the ruse for fear of losing Will, her husband. Eventually she hits upon the idea of adopting Quinn's baby, when it's likely that everyone in the Glee club would be around the birth, and it'd be damn near impossible to hide the fact she now has Quinn's baby. There's also the question of exactly how far along the 2 women are. If Quinn was even a month behind, it'd mean the baby would be massively overdue. An even smarter solution would be to fake a miscarriage with her doctor, then offer to adopt Quinn's baby properly. Of course, it all comes crashing down, spectacularly.
  • ICarly has a few of these. In iGive Away A Car they believe a random kid who shows up on their doorstep, and claims to be the son of a local car dealership who wants to give them a car to give away as a prize on their webshow. They never thought to actually call or see the guy's father to check out the car that was supposedly on offer. In the end Nevel nearly gets their webshow shut down as a result of this.
  • Lost. Although there may be a number of instances, one that comes to mind is in the episode "The Variable". The protagonists are pretending to be (entry-level) members of the Dharma initiative. Daniel Faraday returns, and persuades Jack and Kate that he needs to visit the hostiles to speak with his mother. With some insane stretch of logic, they decide that it's dangerous and they'll need guns. So, they'll attempt to steal guns from the Dharma initiative so they can... what, use the guns to have a conversation with the hostiles? Wouldn't the guns just be more likely to make the hostiles shoot them on sight? As bad as an idea this is in theory, it pretty much turns out worse in practice. The Dharma Initiative catches them stealing the guns, and gunfire results. The three somehow manage to sneak up on the hostiles' camp, and with the largest stroke of luck, Daniel Faraday actually brute-forces his way into camp with his gun. However, the stupidity gets worse as he threatens Richard with the good old "I'm going to count to three" unless Richard tells him where his mother (Ellie) is. Seeing their leader was being threatened, Ellie comes up behind Daniel and fatally shoots him. It may have been a whole lot easier to simply go to the camp WITHOUT stealing the guns and just try to peacefully parley with them.
  • CSI: Miami.
    • Many, many times. When the main cast aren't being idiots for the sake of contrived personal issues, the case of the week inevitably depends on everyone else being idiots.
    • Not to mention the series can't go two episodes without having some form of Strawman Political. So not only do we have idiots, we have smug idiots.
  • Scrubs:
    • In one episode, JD is distraught about turning 30 without having accomplished anything on his "Things To Do Before I Turn 30" list. Understandable enough. Two days before his birthday, he finds out that a couple of the hospital's sad sacks are competing in a triathlon; very convenient, as "finish a triathlon" is one of the things to do on his list. You can guess what happens next. This would be a perfectly acceptable, if thoroughly silly, sitcom plot, if one of the other to-do list items wasn't "learn the difference between 'Senator' and 'Congressman.'" Five minutes with the Constitution or, even worse, 30 seconds on Google would have given him a solution and an end to his angst.
    • And when Dr Cox refused to go to Elliot's wedding with Keith. At first it seems a pretty Coxian thing to do, but things start to get stupid when Elliot refuses to give Dr Cox a piece of equipment - that could determine whether a patient lives or dies - unless he goes to her wedding. At least he had the courtesy to point out she was only marrying Keith for the sake of getting married, which started the train of events in which Elliot called off the wedding.
  • Veronica Mars:
    • Season one ends with Veronica finding the tapes that implicate Aaron Echolls and then, rather than immediately going to one of the many state troopers who would certainly have been present in the house, since the governor was attending a party there, she drives away all by herself except for the full-grown man she somehow managed to avoid noticing hiding in the backseat of her Chrysler LeBaron. (The entire last third of that episode was more like a horror movie than a detective show, complete with a Made of Iron Big Bad.)
    • Don't forget the season finale where she singlehandedly went after a very powerful organization with absolutely no regard for the consequences. She doesn't even check for security while breaking into their mansion headquarters so of course she gets caught on tape. When another character states she just made some powerful enemies, she just handwaves it away with "It wouldn't be the first time." No, you idiot: This time you pissed off the kind of people who can make you disappear and the fact that this is America isn't going to save you. At the end of the episode, the head of the organization states quite clearly to a shocked Veronica (who literally thought she had won) that he's decided to make her life a living Hell because he knows she's responsible. He does.
  • In an episode of CSI New York, an escaped convict's plan to flee to Canada involves hijacking a commercial airliner flying out of New York and landing at an abandoned airstrip in Montreal. Leaving aside the writers apparently not realizing that Canada does, in fact, have police who would respond to a hijacked plane entering Canadian airspace, there's also the stupidity of the plan given that the bad guy could have taken a bus or train to upstate New York, gotten off, and found someplace to quietly walk across the Longest Undefended Border in the World.
  • The BBC remake of Survivors has 99% of the global population killed by a plague. The survivors apparently suffered massive brain damage given their behavior. In episode #6 the protagonists head into Manchester, now a cesspit of disease populated by scavengers and countless unburied dead, to try and find a runaway teenager who doesn't want to be found. And they do this while being hunted by one of the local colonies who is trying to take them in by force under the pretense of being the new government. Naturally they make no attempt to protect their meager supplies from the desperate survivors who remained in the city. From the way they act you'd think nothing had changed and it was just another day out in the city.
  • In The Sarah Jane Adventures, Mark of the Berserker, there's a serious issue. Rani gets the bright idea of leaving an Artifact of Doom alone, unguarded in the room, Sarah Jane shut down Mr. Smith while she was out, Clyde decides to spill all his secrets, Rani, when she starts to act, forgets to grab the Artifact of Doom. Clyde also, you know, spills his secret to his iffy father.
  • The miniseries Kingdom Hospital is about 80% Filler. The hero is hit by a car, whereupon a monster appears and tells him that he won't die, if he helps them. An ambulance then takes him to the titular hospital, where he talks to ghosts and other presences. The reason he got taken there is because they want him to break their curse. Of course, they don't mention how, and he doesn't figure it out until the last few minutes of the finale. To top it off, the task at hand - drawing a fire extinguisher which becomes real in the dreamworld, and using it to put out the mill fire that killed the children which started the curse - takes all of two minutes.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In a season 5 episode, the titular heroine goes on a vision quest in the desert. Meanwhile, Spike has ordered a robot replica of her to use as a sex toy. Buffy's friends stumble upon said robot and cannot figure out that the eternally cheerful vapid robot having sex with Spike is, well, a robot, and not their friend. All the wacky hilarity that ensues depends on Buffy's best friends not being able to figure out the difference between her and a robot, even though a few episodes earlier, it took them all of five minutes to detect that a woman they had never met before was the same kind of bot.
    • When Buffy is struggling to make money in Season 6, first trying to get a loan and later becoming an employee of the Doublemeat Palace, no one even once suggests that Willow and Tara could pitch in, despite them living in her house. It's probably because Willow and Tara, unlike Buffy, were in college, but there is such a thing as a college student with a part-time job.
    • Of course, the whole latter half of Season 2 is dependent on the gypsies who gave Angel his soul as a punishment deciding that if he becomes happy and stops being punished... he'll lose his soul and turn back into a psychotic killer with ambitions to destroy the world. Which not only guarantees he won't be being punished anymore, it's also kind of, um, dangerous.
  • Speaking of Angel, when the above incident of soul loss and reensouling concludes, what does Angel do? Does he ask to the powerful witch that reensouled him if there's a way he can keep his soul permanently? Nope. Do some research or travel the world looking for a way to keep his soul forever so he can go back to his sweetheart? Nope. Thus, an entire series is born from, and partially running on an idiot plot.
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • The Series Finale was a major Idiot Plot. First, the control chair for the Ancient outpost gets destroyed because it was, at the International Oversight Advisory's insistence, moved from the outpost in Antarctica to Area51 in Nevada, despite the fact that the IOA was created specifically so that America wouldn't have sole control over advanced alien technology, and the non-American members have long been paranoid about exactly that happening. This is explained with the ridiculously flimsy premise that international treaty requires Antarctica to be demilitarized, ignoring the fact that a prehistoric structure could in no way be covered by the treaty. Later in the episode, when Atlantis tries to dial Earth and instead reaches a Stargate inside the Wraith ship attacking the planet, their response is to send a small team through to infiltrate the ship. Obviously, anybody who's not carrying the world's largest Idiot Ball would've just sent some Jumper drones through. That example also illustrates a recurring Idiot Ball in both Atlantis and the original. Dear Bad Guys, GUARD THE GATE!
    • The Goa'uld in SG-1 at least sometimes put some guards at the Gate at their major outposts, and sometimes they even bother to set up a BFG or two rather than just foot soldiers! The Wraith in Atlantis? Not so much.
    • Only Good Guys (humans, and Ancients) ever have an Iris. This may have been justifiable at the start as a “really clever idea” on the part of humans, but it's shown that the Ancients had one installed in their cities. And not a single civilization ever thought to copy this?
    • The entire retrovirus plot, especially in the Season 3 premiere, can be seen as one of Atlantis' crowning moments of idiocy. A pair of Wraith ships are on the way to Earth (the location of which the expedition themselves made accessible to them.) Their intercept strategy? Send the most advanced ship Earth has ever found into battle with no shields and make no real effort to defend it. At the end of that battle they have a strategically-priceless hive ship and a handful of Wraith prisoners. So they decide to give them all the retrovirus and stick them on a planet. It didn't end well the first time, so go ahead and do it again. Naturally the prisoners all rebel, they end up losing the hive ship due to their own stupidity and nobody seems to care.
  • Stargate Universe:
    • In the premiere, they can't seal a leak in the spaceship because somebody has to be inside the leaking compartment to push the button to close the door. Meanwhile "Kinos", floating remote controlled cameras, feature prominently in the show. Nobody thinks to tape a pencil to the front, drive it into the compartment and push the button thus saving the day. This would prevent sacrificing a minor character to save the ship.
    • A few episodes later, they combine dozens of Kinos to make a cargo-carrying hover sled, underscoring the earlier idiot plot.
  • To use just one arc from Home and Away:
    • Aden's utterly traumatized because his father Larry's drinking problem left him open to sexual abuse from his grandfather. After a collision leaves Larry concussed and kills another cast member, he's suddenly on the run from the police. At about this point, Aden and his (then) girlfriend Belle come across him in this state, and he persuades Aden to get him "one more drink for the road". So Aden drives off to the Bottle-Oh, and Belle, instead of staying to watch and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid, goes off with Aden. This provides Larry with the perfect opportunity to torch his own car and do a runner, leading, eventually, to a point where Aden just snaps and holds Larry, Belle and Rachel hostage while waiting for his father to die (it all works out fine in the end).
    • In fact, Aden and Belle held the Idiot Ball… pretty much the entire time they were together and most of the time they were apart and sometimes hand it to people in their immediate vicinity. The rest of that storyline consists of Larry not paying his mortgage because he's a wanted felon. Aden has been living somewhere else for months and would be no worse off if the house was repossessed but for some reason Belle decides to give him all her life savings so he can keep up the repayments, on the spurious ground that he could sell the house (which he couldn't, because he didn't own it). Then then go upstairs to have sex, leaving the money lying on the kitchen table. And because no-one locks their doors on the show, Larry steals it. Then it transpires the entire local police force have the Idiot Ball because Larry's secret hiding place is... his house. Where Aden finds him quite easily, leading to his attempt at patricide when his father turned out not to be as badly injured as he hoped. Then, when Rachel goes missing, the police question a suspect who they think kidnapped her. Said suspect knows that Rachel went to see Aden and has no reason to hide the fact but apparently it never came up in conversation... Oh-and the whole thing is resolved by a court case that says "It's okay to try and kill someone if you've been abused, just clean a couple of walls and we'll forget about it."
  • In the Mad About You episode "The Caper", several different couples go into the Buchmans' neighbor's apartment to fetch food. Each couple, when they return, comments on the neighbor's gorgeous painting. When the painting goes missing, each couple in turn is accused of having stolen it while they were fetching the food — despite the fact that the later couples reported it was still there when they saw it.
  • One episode of the Dawn French anthology series Murder Most Horrid sees her as a scientist who kills her nice but clueless husband after his bizarre and seemingly unmotivated behavior interferes with her attempts to invent time travel. Later, after serving a jail sentence, she returns home and completes her machine. She goes back to the day of the murder and, despite being apparently one of the smartest women on Earth, overlooks a number of fairly simple ways of preventing the tragedy; as a result, she ends up causing the bizarre behavior that results in the murder.
  • Some episodes of Friends, such as "The One With The Sharks". Monica walks in on Chandler having A Date with Rosie Palms, causing him to jump and change the channel from porn to a documentary about sharks. Seeing which programme was on the television, Monica reaches the only logical conclusion: Chandler has a fetish for sharks.
  • There are a few in Charmed:
    • Like for instance in "Hyde School Reunion", Phoebe said a poem out loud causing an accidental spell. After several years, you would think that she would not say anything that rhymes out loud. And at the end, when the mortal held a gun at Phoebe's head, a mortal that knows about magic. What did Paige do? She killed him via demon rather than just simply orb the gun.
    • There are far more than a few in Charmed. In an early episode a reporter sees Prue using her powers and begins to stalk her to gain evidence of this. Not only do the sisters not try to find a convenient memory-erasing spell to get rid of the problem but when he sabotages Prue's car she agrees to tell the truth on camera. To make it worse, she never seems to consider calling the police to report him.
  • Spooks series 9. The series arc revolved around Lucas North not being who he said he was but being an imposter. The whole problem could have been avoided had Mi5 done his vetting after meeting him face-to-face for his interview and not before.
  • Little House On the Prairie: In the episode "For My Lady", everyone thinks Charles is cheating on Caroline because he's doing some work for the attractive Widow Thurman. Every major character gets his or her turn with the idiot ball to make this plot work. Only Harriette acts like herself, but this helps the plot. Early in the episode, Widow Thurman gets some new China and offers her old China to Charles in exchange for some work he did for her. Mary is there and hears the conversation. Later, Charles gets the idea to do some additional work for the widow in exchange for the China. Here are the idiot balls:
    • Mary is the biggest offender. When she hears Pa is hanging out at Widow Thurman's after work, she should realize he worked something out with her for the dishes. Instead, she and Laura are convinced Pa is cheating on Ma.
    • Charles is not innocent, either. When he needs time off work to do the work for the widow, he tells his boss, Mr. Hansen that he needs to take some time off to take care of some things. Hansen is trustworthy. Charles could have said, "I'm going to do some work to earn a surprise gift for my wife." Instead, he's mysterious, which doesn't help when Caroline starts asking about Charles. Charles also tells a series of white lies that make him sound like he's up to something.
    • Caroline gets suspicious when she asks Charles what he's been doing. Charles comes right out and tells her he's been working for the widow. Caroline asks what the job pays. Charles says he doesn't know yet. This conversation makes all the previous lies unnecessary. If he was just going to admit to Caroline that he was working for the widow, why act like he was at the mill the whole time? In the end, it all works out.
  • LazyTown:
    • No-one ever realises the person causing trouble in every episode is just Robbie Rotten in a silly outfit. This is especially hilarious because his cover is blown at the end of EVERY episode, yet the townspeople will still fall for his Paper-Thin Disguise in the next episode.
    • A particularly hilarious example is when Robbie impersonates Sportacus. The other characters can't tell the difference despite Robbie being, among other things, 4-5 inches taller and a lot less muscular than Sportacus. The episode would be a very touching Aesop on friendship if it wasn't for the simple fact that Robbie and Sportacus look nothing alike, and they should have been able to tell them apart by looking at them.
    • Then there's the episode 'Double Trouble' where Robbie impersonates the mayor, and once again everyone falls for it, despite the fact that Robbie looks nothing like the mayor.
  • The MASH episode, “Operation Noselift” has Private Baker convincing the doctors to arrange a nose job for him. Cosmetic surgery is against regulations. If Houlihan and Burns find out, everyone will be in trouble, so they have to concoct a plan to keep them from finding out. Instead of pretending Private Baker breaks his nose and needs surgery, they come up with a more complex and unnecessary plan. Private Baker is seen leaving the base on a two-day pass, then sneaks back to get the operation. Meanwhile, Father Mulcahey pretends to break Radar's nose with a baseball, all in front of Burns and Houlihan. Radar is rushed into the OR, the plastic surgeon arrives, Radar swaps out with Baker. The doctor performs the operation. Afterward, Burns sees Radar and questions him because his nose is fine. Burns realizes something is up and says he's going to get everyone in trouble, but just about everyone in camp is wearing a bandage on their noses, making it impossible to tell who had had the surgery. The problem with this is that it was completely unnecessary in the first place. They could have pretended Baker got hit with the baseball instead and that would be the end of the problem. This, however, wouldn't have given them so many opportunities to mess with Burns.
  • House is pretty rife with these, though 99% of the time it's the patient being the idiot. Many of the caes could be solved in two seconds if the patient didn't lie, deliberately hide parts of their past, or simply forget things that might be relevant. One that was on the doctors was when a patient died because one of them didn't ask all the proper questions regarding the patient's past, missing one that is a pretty damn big question. House doesn't do anything about it though because, really, how often is that gonna happen?
  • Two episodes of Fear Itself exude this: Chance (see YMMV section in the article for an elaborate breakdown) and to a lesser extent In Sickness and In Health.
  • In the 1995 The Outer Limits episode Birthright, the evil conspiracy insists on doing everything the hard way. The protagonist is a US senator, who winds up in the hospital after a car accident. In the course of the story, it is discovered that he is actually an alien masquerading as a eco friendly human senator, in an attempt to get a fuel additive added to fuel supplies, that appears to be eco friendly, but in reality causes pollution over a long period of time: this pollution is what his alien race needs to survive, and will let them colonize Earth easier. The problem is that he has forgotten this, sincerely believes that he is human, and as a result, goes out of his way to stop the alien invasion plot. The idiocy starts at the very beginning: the senator's ground crew know that he is an alien, and yet have no contingency plan for the event that he should be injured in such a way that he is involuntarily taken to a hospital. When he is taken to the hospital, it is clear that he really believes that he is human, which is counter to the aliens' plans. To deal with this, they drag him to a dark, shadowy room, and begin interrogating him about his mission, threatening him with execution if he doesn't give the right answers. Of course, facing imminent execution for what appears to him to be no reason, the senator attempts to bug the hell out, and eventually escapes from his captors. His captors correctly state that their attempts to interrogate and then execute the senator have caused him to go over to the other side. At this point, 30 minutes could have been saved, had his staff simply stayed in character as humans, asked him to voluntarily come to a private location for further examination, and then asked him about their very important mission to colonize Earth, after which they could execute him at any sign of bewilderment or amnesia. This stupidity is compounded by the ending, in which the senator is confronted by the head of the EvilCorp spearheading the invasion, and is told that they know what the senator is suffering from, why it happens, and how to treat it. It's highly likely that said person was lying to the senator about having a cure, but there's no reason to disbelieve the rest of what he is saying, which leads to an idiot's fork - if they had a cure, and knew that he had the condition, why not exploit the condition to get him to willingly submit to the "cure" (IE the plan discussed earlier, only replace execution with cure). If there is no cure, then they should have executed him in the manner described earlier, instead of berating him to get his mind right when it couldn't be done. Honorable mention goes to the doctor who becomes privy to the alien and invasion plan, yet doesn't figure out that she has gotten herself on the "loose ends to be tied up" list until the head of EvilCorp out and out says this.
  • Doctor Who. As Clara Oswald points out, several episodes could be incredibly shorter if the Doctor simply parked the TARDIS closer to the action or used it to get around instead of relying on motorbikes, vans, or buses.
    • Rose's departure in "Doomsday" is a massive one. The Doctor outright says that everything that passed through the Void (like he and Rose) will be sucked into it once he opens the breach. While he and Rose use magnetic clamps to anchor themselves, Rose's fails and she's only saved from being trapped in the Void Between the Worlds with millions of Daleks and Cybermen thanks to her alternate father saving her. However, as many a reviewer pointed out, the TARDIS passed through and wasn't affected. The two could have entered and triggered the breach remotely.
      • Really the entirety of the Tenth Doctor's era counts. If he hadn't been such a smug arse who loved showing off to Rose in his first three episodes; namely deposing Harriet Jones or pissing off Queen Victoria; the Master would never have risen to power and Ten wouldn't have regenerated.
    • "Kill the Moon" could easily have been a quarter of its length if Twelve hadn't been so needlessly obtuse.
  • The Flash is pretty much built around the Science Hero team grabbing the Idiot Ball for dear life. Trusting people they really shouldn't? Being Wrong Genre Savvy? Not calling Supergirl to wrap up their problems in one afternoon? They do it all with pride.
    • As is frequently said, the title character is the fastest man alive. If he didn't politely stand there and allow villains to beat him up, he could wrap up the plot in the first five minutes of every episode.

Newspaper Comics

  • Newspaper comic Watch Your Head had a long-running subplot about Handsome Lech Quincy's impending marriage to his pregnant girlfriend Erika. Whenever Quincy was in focus, we would hear about preparations and get evidence that the less-than-brilliant Quincy saw no reason to give up his womanizing ways. After about a year of this, the entire thing comes crashing down at the altar when local Jerkass Omar points out that the bride has been allegedly pregnant for over a year and has not even gained an ounce of weight in that time!
  • 9 Chickweed Lane is only able to work as well as it does because all the major players are imbeciles; we start with the incompetent fool OSS colonel who set everyone up to fail and end with the idiots who kowtow to his deception, bullying and idiocy.


  • Phantom of the Opera, when looked at closely, proves to have a rather idiot plot. Why does Christine, after finding out that the Phantom is not the Angel of Music, fall for it again? Why doesn't Raoul just kill the Phantom when they're in the graveyard? Why don't the owners of the opera house ever investigate this "ghost" to whom they have been paying 20,000 francs per month?
  • Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors. Antipholus of Syracuse has been looking for his long-lost twin brother, and comes to a town where everyone seems to know him, including someone claiming to be his wife. Somehow, neither he nor anyone else manages to come to the obvious conclusion that this is where his twin has been living.
  • Same with Plautus's The Menaechmi, upon which The Comedy of Errors is based.
  • Romeo and Juliet. The whole tragedy could've been averted had the eponymous characters (and others) bothered to think rationally for a few moments rather than emotionally. Which was arguably the point of the play.
  • Pretty much any of Shakespeare's plays fit this arguably, although like mentioned above, that can be the point of the play. For example, in Othello, Desdemona probably wouldn't have died if Othello had just flat-out asked her "Were you having an affair with Cassio?" or waiting to point fingers until after Iago brings the "occular proof" that he had asked for. (Assuming Othello would have believed Desdemona.)
  • In Thirteen, everyone seems to be holding the Idiot Ball because they believed Lucy during "it can't be true".
  • In Clare Boothe's preface to her play The Women, she notes that if Mary, the principal character of her play, were a reasonably intelligent woman, she would quickly have found a different play to be in.
  • The opera la Sonnambula, by Bellini. Sure, she's in a compromising position... but it's completely out of character for her.

Video Games

Video Games really can't get away with these, as they can cause brutal Gameplay and Story Segregation, but developers try anyway. If the player character is the idiot, see Stupidity Is the Only Option. Plot-essential NPC stupidity can go here. [5]

  • The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series is really guilty of this. Most of the time your clients are in a pickle because they won't talk.
    • Apollo Justice:
      • There is a case where the protagonist must figure out how a magic trick is performed, not because it has any relevance to the case but simply because the judge wants to know. Despite the fact that everyone else in the courtroom has figured it out, including your client and your assistant, no-one will help because "you can't tell a magician's trick". The case of the prosecution rests on the idea that a frail, fourteen-year-old pianist with no firearms training could fire a 45-caliber pistol without injury, despite the fact that it is constantly stated that the recoil would be enough to dislocate the arm of a grown man of average build.
    • Gumshoe in Ace Attorney Investigations Case 4 gives false testimony and implicates himself because he refuses to admit that he shared a cookie with the young Kay Faraday, who broke her promise never to take anything from strangers. He only cracks when Edgeworth not only deduces the entire sequence, but also the reason he wouldn't spill.
    • The thing is, all Ace Attorney examples are either Justified Tropes, not proper examples, or are very debatable. When ever this DOES happen, if not played straight out but is rather parodied and all other times its justified in that the person generally has a reason too be an idiot.
  • The Bards Tale:
    • The modern version had an idiot plot, that only revealed itself to be an idiot plot at the end. It turns out the Distressed Damsel is really an imprisoned demon queen and the Druids not only did not warn The Bard that he was being manipulated to unleash a great evil (not that it would be the first time the Bard did it). If anyone stopped to explain anything, then well, there goes the whole game.
    • And that the cute little dog that the Bard adopted wouldn't have been killed in the game's major Kick the Dog moment.
    • And with the kind of things he does pull while conscious of his actions, Finstown and the Nuckelavee for example, one could argue that he'd make things worse, or possibly just go through with it anyway since you'll find that the evil ending is one sweet deal for the bard, while being good gets him nothing. The bard is a self-serving liar and crook, hardly a hero in any case.
  • Much of the conflict from Sonic Adventure 2 comes from the fact that people can't tell Shadow and Sonic apart. Although the two are fast, the same height, and share similar facial features, their color patterns are vastly different (Sonic is blue, Shadow is black and red, and the two aren't mirror images of each other, such as Shadow's chest hair vs Sonic's stomach) and their spines are shaped differently, making it very easy to see the difference between the two, and Shadow is clearly seen on a news report that Robotnik is watching.
  • Similarly, Mario and Shadow Mario in Super Mario Sunshine.
    • Shadow Mario looks like he's made of dark blue water, while Mario is Caucasian with a red shirt and hat (although the overalls are blue).
    • Of course, even worse is the fact that Mario wasn't even on the island when the crimes he's accused of were committed, and there were numerous witnesses right there who could attest to that.
    • Add in to Super Mario Sunshine that the point of the game is that the inhabitants of the Isle Delfino are in a panic because of the disappearance of their Shine Spirites...and a good chunk of said Shine Sprites are in the possession of said island inhabitants. If the various people would just give Mario the damned Sprites instead of making him win the watermelon contest or bringing them a pinapple or breaking all of the crates in the room, or forking over blue coins, the game would be over a lot faster.
  • A very, very good example is the entire plot of Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. It's not an exaggeration to say that everything, every single thing in the plot is the result of rampant stupidity on the parts of the characters. The examples from Princess Elise alone would take multiple paragraphs to explain. It got so bad that SEGA was forced to fire the then-current writing staff (which has worked out pretty well for them).
  • The plot of the original Sonic Riders begins with Dr. Eggman appearing on public TV screens worldwide, announcing he's holding some races where entrants need to give him a Chaos Emerald. In what can only be explained as this, Eggman manages to get all seven of these all-powerful jewels, one of them from Sonic himself, in this manner.
  • Sonic Lost World cranks up the numbskull dial to give us a second-degree plot of worldwide foolishness. Sonic himself is such a hidebound individual, he releases creatures that really deserved slavery under his nemesis, who he IMMEDIATELY tag-teams with to stop a threat he has no clue about beyond their control of Badniks (in other words, more of the same basic enemies Sonic has been fending off for eight whole stages) and his buddy Tails gets all primadonna on everyone.
  • Another really good example is Tales of the Abyss. A very large portion of the plot can be credited to most, if not everyone involved being either hypocritical, self-centered and short sighted, or astonishingly stupid.
  • Mega Man.
    • 9 Dr. Wily, the villain for the last 9 games, appears on TV to declare that Dr. Light, the man who helped put him away the last 8 times, is the true villain. He then goes on to ask for money to be transferred into his Swiss Bank Account, so that he can fight Dr. Light himself. For some reason, a planet full of idiots falls for this, and Dr. Light is arrested.
    • 7 gets special notice in that once Dr. Wily was finally arrested after the events of 6, he was imprisoned in the middle of the city. Dr. Wily, the man who's undoubtedly caused billions in property damage and has killed thousands, if not millions, because he feels slighted by the world and tried to take it over 6 times, is imprisoned in the middle of the city. As opposed to executing him immediately because he's too dangerous to be left alive. With no explanation why they did that.
    • In 10:
      • Many robots are infected by a computer virus that makes robots violent. No one is able to make a cure because humanity doesn't have the support that robots provide. No one, not even Dr. friggin' Light himself, decides to either just cut their losses, back up as much data as possible, and reset the robots to factory settings to purge the virus. Hell, this game points out how stupid humanity is since they followed Dr. Light's example and made the robots that friggin' complicated in the first place.
      • 10 also gets a special notice in that it's the third time Dr. Wily has gotten something of his to Dr. Light's lab. The first was when Dark Man kidnapped Dr. Light in 5's intro. The second time was Bass infiltrating Light's lab in 7 so he could steal Mega Man's Rush Adaptor. Instead of piloting his flying saucer himself Dr. Wily could've flown it by remote with a bomb inside and turned Mega Man into a crater. Heck, just shooting Dr. Light at any point in 5 would've saved Wily so much trouble.
    • Every Mega Man game is full of idiots. In Mega Man X, humans actually thought it was a good idea to build robots with free will, and then give them a massive amount of built in weapons, and then keep producing them till they outnumber humans. And later on, they make them godlike by giving them copychips, which allow them to transform into anyone else. And they put the thoughts of the main villain Sigma, into the chips.
  • Mega Man Battle Network:
  • Many of the Story Arcs in City of Heroes, especially when Nemesis gets involved. A lot of it involves blatantly misplaced trust in blatantly villainous organizations with proven track records. None of it quite compares to the free comic books involving the Freedom Phalanx, however. They are depicted as total caricatures of their in-game selves, completely incompetent to a level that makes one wonder how they could have become the premier superhero group. They also get defeated by opponents that, in-game, would just go squish in a single attack from them. It has to be seen to be believed. It still bothers a majority of the players that these comics are, sadly, Canon.
  • The Dungeons and Dragons computer game Death Knights of Krynn featured a stunning moment of idiot plot. For most of the game, the party have been accompanied by Sir Durfey, a veteran knight and expert undead hunter. Bear the latter in mind. During the penultimate dungeon (an evil tower in this middle of undead-infested countryside), the party rescues Lenore, a (very large and muscular) serving girl who is blatantly Kitiara (minion of the Arch-boss) in disguise. Durfey immediately volunteers to leave the party and escort her home on his own. Repeat: The expert undead hunter wants to lead the thinly disguised henchwoman home through undead country. He leaves (the player can't control this; he will leave the party regardless) and is, unsurprisingly, ambushed by the undead, killed and bought back as a zombie to fight the party. Note that he's only two rooms ahead of the room that he left from. That's right, he was killed, bought back as a zombie and positioned with an army of minions to fight the players in the time it takes to cross two rooms. Imagine a Necromancer Nascar Pit Crew. Able to zombify a person in 12 seconds.
  • Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks
    • Made especially Egregious when you realize it's an action-adventure remake of Mortal Kombat 2, where our heroes aren't nearly as moronic. Whereas our heroes' foolish actions in MK2 is forgivable due to their unfamiliarity with Outworld and distractions of other important things (like taking revenge for the death of an entire shrine or rescuing a fallen comrade), Shaolin Monks everyone are so brick-stupid as to fall for a Gambit Pileup that could've only succeeded if they weren't smart or perceptive enough to realize their "friends" are not themselves. Well...Johnny Cage retained enough Genre Savvy to realize what was going on, but his keen insight unfortunately didn't rub off on anyone else.
    • In particular is the fact that "Raiden" makes a big point of the fact that Shang Tsung grows more powerful the more people die and yet sends Liu Kang and Kung Lao to go kill a bunch of powerful warriors - that should have been a huge red flag on its own when dealing with a shapeshifter, but it gets even dumber when you consider how often he got angry at the two for asking any questions whatsoever and actively worked to turn them against each other.
    • Also Deception, the plot of which basically happened because Shujinko was so gullible.
  • Code Veronica.
    • In his spectacular Let's Play, The Dark Id takes colossal fuck-up Steve Burnside to task - noting that the game is significantly longer due solely to his screwing up...
    • He refuses to hand over gold-plated guns needed to open a door unless you can give him "something fully automatic" - which sends you on a wholly unnecessary Fetch Quest.
    • Not to mention, taking those gold-plated guns triggered a death trap. When Claire did it, she was smart enough to put them back and escape. Steve is too stupid to figure this out and requires you to save him. After that, he still won't give up the guns!
    • When he has an opportunity to shoot the unarmed villain, he completely freezes up because it turns out said villain is a transvestite (at least, that's what it looks like; he has a good thirty seconds to pump the guy full of lead and doesn't). This gives him time to set the self-destruct system and force you to go to Antarctica when you do escape.
    • While trying to escape Antarctica, Steve screws up operating a crane and flooding the room you're in with poison gas. Because (ready for this?) he's too busy staring at the player character's butt.
  • Clock Tower 3. Alyssa gets a message from her which amounts to "Whatever you do, don't come home for your fifteenth birthday." Go ahead and take a guess what she does. When she arrives, an obese cadaver-looking man hints that he's killed her mother and basically threatens to rape her. Her reaction? "I have to save Mum!" Later, when the Big Bad is revealed, things get ever more idiotic, such as Alyssa's grandfather's name apparently being Dick. Not Richard. Dick. Someone actually named their son Dick Brown. And this leads him to believe in a totally ridiculous set of myths which require him murdering his granddaughter with no real hope of reward. The Dark Id has quite a lot to say about this one too. Mostly invectives.
  • Valkyria Chronicles. Almost every problem in the second half of the game that isn't strictly the war itself could have been easily solved by someone, anyone, looking at Alicia's Valkyria abilities and the effects they would have on her from an objective standpoint, instead of making assumptions based on the bad example set by Selvaria and her first traumatic power eruption. Welkin only manages to come close by tying it in with his love confession, and of course this only happens at the most dramatic moment possible rather than taking her aside to reassure her when she first expressed how overwhelmed she was. By the time she decided to attempt the Suicide Attack on the Marmotah, Alicia had clearly gained control over her new abilities, and could use them as much or as little as she chose. Everyone could have avoided a lot of trouble if someone had just pointed that out early on and attended to her emotional state for five minutes, instead of Welkin waiting until the last minute while everyone else ignored her repeated cries for help.
  • In Legend of Dragoon the major town in the second act has a castle under generally heavy guard. The chapter would be SO much easier if the king in your party would just come right out and say, "I'm King Albert, here's my proof, and I can vouch for these people." But he never does. Oddly enough he even comes right out and says he will not bring up his royalty to get around, despite the rather massive stakes.
  • Suikoden I. For fuck's sake, they straight-up call it Robber's Tea! Even if the Heroic Mime main character is suspicious, the Boisterous Bruiser will still drag him along. It all wouldn't be so bad if the Boisterous Bruiser in question didn't usually seem to be so clever as to be utilizing Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. The game would be much, much shorter if everyone wasn't busy eating dangerous types of mushrooms given out by a stranger who happens to be Fawful. In games when he isn't the Big Bad (and sometimes even then) Bowser's always portrayed as a bit of a moron.

  Bowser: “TOO MANY WORDS.”

  • The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind expansion, Tribunal. It would take too long to explain everything, but to summarise it involves taking orders from somebody who admitted to trying to kill you (multiple times), switching sides for no adequately explained reason (multiple times), and never questioning why somebody needs these immensely dangerous artifacts that you're grabbing. Oh, and terrorising an entire city, for entirely "benevolent" reasons.
  • Final Fantasy IV.
    • The Crowning Moment of Stupidity comes when one of your party members blows himself up for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
    • The above example only hints with what's really wrong with FF4: the game's tendency to make too many of its heroes commit acts of self-sacrifice, simply to shuffle new characters into the mix. With Tellah (who died trying to summon meteor to kill Golbez) and The Black/White Mage twins (who turned into stone to stop moving walls from crushing the heroes), those acts made sense. But when later characters do the same thing with increasingly arbitrary methods, players have a very hard time suspending disbelief. Exactly how does a monk with no experience with technology manage to stop an exploding computer, or how does a mechanic bombing the entrance to a world seal it away? To make the entire thing even dumber, with the exception of Tellah, all of the dead heroes came back, having survived their near-death experiences .
  • One has to wonder about the Pokémon world.
    • Very rarely does anyone find the teams suspicious, even when they're clearly stealing things (like Teams Magma and Aqua, who are so obvious that it's almost painful). It's never explained why few people other than some ten-year-old Pokémon trainer ever bother to do anything in a world that is full of people who have been using Pokémon for much longer. It's understandable that apparently said ten-year-old is apparently a prodigy (since all other Champions are at least five years older), but someone other than Lance, Cynthia, Looker, and Steven should have at least noticed.
    • That brings us to the Forbidden Land of Orre, which is a bit of a mixed bag. Sure, the police are bloody failures, but Cipher heeds the First Rule of Warfare - "don't let the enemy know what you don't want them to know". The only way the player character (a rogue Snagem goon in the first game, a prodigal agent in the second) can learn anything is to engage Cipher firsthand, and everyone else is left in the dark. As one troper said, a Plasma Grunt said that Teams Rocket and Galactic failed because they were too overt; Cipher would be a dream team for them.
  • In Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep:
    • Plot only really keeps going because the main heroes are idiots that lack common sense and social skills. Terra and Eraqus are the worst examples, Eraqus even gets taken out for his role in starting the mess but Ventus and Aqua aren't much better. (The former mostly has denial issues and the latter is a little TOO willing to call Terra out.) By the time they wise up enough to take on the Big Bad, it turns out to be too late and their stupid decisions catch up to them leading to a Downer Ending.
    • To give one a view of the tree of lack of communication that keeps the plot going: Aqua immediately believes Maleficent's claim that Terra removed Aurora's heart, even though the person telling her that is, well, Maleficent [7]. Terra, we should note, believes in just about every Disney villain he comes across (save one or two exceptions), and has his journey driven by the words of Master Xehanort. You could say he isn't guilty of trusting Xehanort, and that is true, since Eraqus didn't give him any reason to not do so... but he should have; Eraqus for whatever reason never seems to mention that Xehanort kind of tried to commit genocide for shits and giggles, instead opting for presenting him to his pupils as a righteous, good Master. The plot moves along because the good guys never, ever seem to stop and tell each other why they are doing what they're doing, or what have they found out about their particular quests, which increasingly accumulates doubt and grievances among them. Predictably, it doesn't end well for any of them.
  • Bully. At least during chapter one, Gary was giving Jimmy a couple good reasons to trust him and didn't openly stab him in the back until the end of Chapter one. However; had Jimmy simply looked for Gary to get revenge instead of trying to get the other cliques to respect him in chapter two, he could have avoided most of the game.
  • Saints Row The Third.
    • The prequels were intentionally over the top, but at least things made sense in the bizarre world where police reality shows involve chainsaws and gang conflicts are solved with radioactive waste. The third game does away with realism altogether and relies on every NPC being an idiot.
    • At one point the military get involved. They occupy the city, erecting roadblocks and conducting a large scale search of the city to find you. Where are you? Maybe at the wheel of the luxury car that is blatantly painted in Saints gang colours. Or maybe in one of the obvious strongholds with the obvious fleur de lis logo on them. The only anonymous stronghold is the one that actually gets attacked.
  • The plot of Magna Carta 2 is driven by the fact that everyone believes everything that the villains say without question, even after it becomes bloody obvious how evil they are.
  • Heavy Rain has a whole lot of it, broken down by character plot:
    • Ethan Mars: He somehow convinces himself that he could be the Origami Killer during blackouts, even though the dates don't match and several trials involve someone remotely confirming what he is doing in real-time. He can also escape pursuits several times because the police have no idea how to corner a suspect. In the finale, he can be forced to pick an address from multiple possibilities and bemoans the lack of time, but he never considers calling the police, Madison, or his ex-wife to check any of the other possibilities for him.
    • Madison Young: She discovers an unrelated serial killer and escapes his clutches. Not only does she not call the police on this one, she doesn't make the obvious logical leap that he could himself be the Origami Killer. Upon learning the O.K.'s identity, she scoots off to his apartment without telling anyone or even bringing a gun.
    • Norman Jayden: He (in some variants) helps Ethan escape police custody after clearly implicating himself in it, but nobody so much as questions him. He is also (potentially) killed when confronting an enormous violent felon alone in his junkyard, after discovering that he had murdered another cop that the police didn't even know about.
    • Scott Shelby: His entire plotline involves going to the Origami Killer's previous victims' parents and collecting evidence that either the police never asked for, or the parents inexplicably didn't reveal. Later, he attacks a wealthy man's home, murders all his security guards (and potentially the man himself) and saunters away on foot without ever being questioned. And there is so much more.

Web Comics

  • Sonichu has several.
    • Sonichu #1: Rosechu could have escaped on her own, considering she is just as powerful as the title character. But no, she willingly became the Distressed Damsel.
    • Sonichu #4: If Chris-Chan hadn't done... whatever it was... that got him suspect of solicitation, this issue wouldn’t even have a premise, let alone a plot.
    • Sonichu #8: All of it. Whether it’s Sonichu confusing drawings with reality, Rosechu trying to counteract 4-cent garbage’s pornographic drawings with her own pornographic photographs, or Magi-chan’s inability to warn Blake ahead of time the danger he was in, everybody has dropped quite a few IQ points this issue and that’s saying something.
    • Sonichu #9: Dating Education, starting from the fact that the title concept doesn’t make any sense and only going worse from there.

Western Animation

  • Virtually every episode of Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes involves a catastrophe either A. started when Reed Richards' latest invention malfunctions, B. triggered by Johnny Storm's stupidity, or C. set off when Johnny Storm's stupidity causes Reed Richards' latest invention to malfunction.
  • The entirety of The Grim Adventures of the Kids Next Door was just one big Idiot Plot that involved all kinds of KND and Billy and Mandy characters falling for some of the most pathetic Paper Thin Disguises in fictional history. We can expect this thing from those minor Billy and Mandy characters but every single KND moon base operative too? The only ones without an Idiot Ball attached were Mandy, Grim, Numbuh Five, The DCFDTL, and (most of the time) Numbuh One. Billy, on the other hand, is an idiot ball, so he doesn't count.
  • As mentioned above, this is standard fare for The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, to the point where few episodes begin without being catalysed by Billy AKA Idiot Ball incarnate and Grim and Mandy stupidly giving in to his demands. Sure, Grim is their best friend/slave forever, but one expects better from the relatively Genre Savvy Mandy.
  • You'd think Scooby, Shaggy, and the rest of the gang would have the common sense not to run from every monster they see after so many frauds.
    • Some incarnations (particularly Mystery Inc.) justify this by making the monsters total psychopaths who are perfectly willing to commit murder and widespread destruction if someone gets in their way. They may be frauds but that doesn't mean they're not dangerous.
  • Happens more than it should to poor Eddie Spenser, Jr. on Filmations Ghostbusters. It doesn't help that he gets a few episodes where he's quite capable of busting ghosts along with the best of 'em.
  • Many plots in The Real Ghostbusters resort to becoming this, in order to fill the half hour. Some of the entirely preventable contrivances that the Ghostbusters engage in include:
    • Not using their proton packs for no obvious reason.
    • Going into areas where they know there is dangerous ghost activity, without their proton packs, for no obvious reason.
    • Forgetting that they have ghost traps and can trap ghosts.
    • Forgetting that they have alternate modes of transportation.
    • Forgetting that their vehicles have separately powered proton packs that are equal, if not superior, to their handheld versions.
    • As a bonus, another common theme is various hucksters trying to compete directly against the Ghostbusters by using scams, even though it is clear that ghosts do in fact exist in their universe. Said scam artists should have zero expectation of success, and yet everyone involved is often surprised when their scams fail, and the Ghostbusters are called in to clean up their mess.
  • The various Super Mario Bros cartoons were often driven by the characters being suddenly weakened to the point where they walk into or can't escape traps that they would have easily dealt with before. Some ridiculous examples include them just standing and watching as Harmless Villain King Koopa tosses Chain Chomps at them, which latch onto their ankles like makeshift manacles and leave them easy to capture and, in the Super Mario World cartoon, they get forced to jump into a warp pipe leading to a Magikoopa's haunted house HQ when he threatens to throw Bob-ombs at them"!
  • Almost any given episode of Superfriends. Seanbaby elaborates here.
  • One Chaotic episode involves Kaz's science teacher receiving scans from the UnderWorlders in exchange for the technology to travel between dimensions. Did he not stop to consider that if Chaotic was invaded, all his scans would be worthless? (It Was All Just a Dream though.)
  • What's with Andy? is a walking Idiot Plot as you'd have to be a complete idiot to fall for ANY of Andy's pranks.
  • Transformers Animated:
  • Every single episode of Thundercats relies on the titular characters being as thick as possible. Lion-O, with a firm grip on the Idiot Ball, is the worst offender, though since he's a kid in an adult body it's somewhat excusable. Occasional episodes, however, will have him pass it off to the others, usually Tygra who gaily runs with it straight into trouble.
  • On Phineas and Ferb, the incredibly awesome Fireside Girls are trying to raise money to protect an endangered critter. They ask P&H's help because their attempts at making money, like running a lemonade stand, ended in disaster. Unlike other instances of sudden ability lack on the show, it is not presented as ironic or even pointed out that these girls have been a race-pit crew, mission control on a space flight, and rebuilt a time machine despite faulty instructions. Yet they cannot run a lemonade stand.
  • 2 Stupid Dogs - this IS the plot of this entire show. Still awesome.
  • The Fairly Odd Parents.
    • The Idiot Plots don't detract from the show since they're a large part of what drives it along, but they're there nonetheless (and, as stated, are a HUGE part of what drives it along). The only reason nobody discovers Timmy Turner's fairies is because of the stupidity of everyone else. Even when they're disguised as ordinary objects, with obvious faces, and they speak while in this state, in front of large crowds. Timmy's parents (and even random people on the street at times) will, instead of questioning Timmy's various talking possessions, simply remark that "That [object that clearly should not be speaking but did] is right!"
    • Even more obvious is how most of Timmy's bad wishes that fuel episode plots could be easily resolved with one counter-wish. (Usually handwaved with "Magic can't effect [antagonist]!")
    • One of the worst specific example would be the episode where Timmy joins the circus. The entire circus plot would literally have not happened had Timmy not overheard his dad talking about him, or more correctly would have not happened had his dad decided to phrase his opinion in literally any way that wasn't basically "Timmy is a worthless little prick who should have been a girl and then I would be much much happier... [Timmy walks out of earshot, sad, to go make preparations to run away] the exact opposite of how I really feel!"
  • DCAU:
    • As awesome it was, it was not immune to Idiot Plots from time to time. One notable example is the Justice League episode "War World". Though closely adapted from a popular DC Comics storyline from the early 80s, "War World" is easily the weakest episode of the first season of Justice League, in large part because of its flaming idiot plot. This World's Finest review says it best:

"Ebert defines an "idiot plot" as a plot that could be solved in 5 minutes if the characters did not act like idiots. We get this in the very first scene, when Superman, J'onn and Hawkgirl are trying to detonate an asteroid. Something goes wrong with the explosion and Supes and J'onn are left stranded in deep space. We never get a full explanation for what exactly went wrong and who was at fault, a sure sign that the writer, having made one of the heroes an idiot, is trying to avoid pinning the blame on anyone. But if this person had not screwed up, we wouldn't even have a story. Nor is this the only occasion when someone acts like an idiot: Why are GL and Hawkgirl gassed in part two? Because they're arguing like idiots. In the fights on War World, why doesn't Superman just fly away from Draaga? Because he's an idiot."

  • And then there's the JLU episode "Clash", which relies entirely on Superman acting like an idiotic jerkass for the story to work. Heck, even Batman points out Supes is acting rashly and out of character and Superman ignores him.
    • The Batman Beyond episode The Call only happens because nobody in the Justice League is required to take their shirt off for a physical anymore.
    • The JL episode A Better World happens primarily because every single member of the Justice League believes the story of the Justice Lords at face value, and goes to their universe at the same time, and no one stays behind to try to verify the story or provide backup just in case. In contrast, in the DC movie Crisis on Two Earths, when presented with a similar scenario, Batman stays behind and keeps the JL auxiliary on speed dial.
  • Futurama:
    • The first movie had the entire population of the Earth falling for spam ads and obvious Internet scams. Apparently spam filters have become Lost Technology.
    • Bender even has a virus scanner which catches the spam, but looks at it anyway.
    • Then again, most characters in Futurama are deliberate Idiot Balls. The ones that aren't usually end up getting plenty of crowning moments of stupidity too.

Leela (checking e-mail): Spam, spam, junk. (GASP) The very last pygmy rhino is going extinct?! Unless it gets my credit card number?!

    • The third Futurama movie, Bender's Game, features an idiot plot set into motion and resolved by Professor Farnsworth in one of his "less than worthy of being a professor" moments. Because fuel prices are higher than they were before, he reasons that the world would be better off if he and his crew went on a difficult quest to destroy the source of that fuel and then replace it with something almost the same... but infinitely inferior, effectively crippling society as they know it. This plot is made even stupider when another character, Bender, becomes so insane that he cannot distinguish fantasy from reality. He eats a (literal) shitload of radioactive waste that transports all of the characters into his dream, wherein they still try to accomplish the professor/wizard's idiot plot.
  • The Weekenders: Usually a good show, but "Tish's Hair" hinges on Lil Tish (the smart chick of the clique, mind you!) reading a sign that's supposed to say "Your hair is the pits" as "Your hair is it" and not notice that it's been obscured by a tree, and hearing Carver's sister's comment "That's the worst I've ever seen" and thinking it's referring to Carver's shirt instead of her 'do.
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad had Toad and friends breaking into Toad Hall to get the deed from Winkie and the Weasels to verify Toad's story. They don't seem to realize that the very presence of the Weasels in Toad Hall would be enough for the police to suspect Toad's story was true and search the place for the deed. Get a constable to see that Toad Hall is "ablaze with lights!" and see whatever Badger saw.
  • Invader Zim‍'‍s whole series is based on this--the story could be resolved instantly if any human except for Dib noticed that Zim was obviously an alien. Their sheer stupidity is part of the humor, though. Even Zim and Dib themselves hold the Idiot Ball a lot, so a lot of specific episodes fall under this trope.
  • Every episode of Beavis and Butthead is this.
  • This is the premise of the "Chicken Boo" segment on Animaniacs. Chicken Boo is dressed in a painfully obvious costume yet still manages to fool everyone (except for one person) each time.
  • A few episodes of Jimmy Two-Shoes revolve around this.
  • X-Men: Evolution:
    • 'Joyride'. To put it simply, Villain Avalanche joins the X-Men to get into Kitty's pants. Scott doesn't trust him. Meanwhile, the New Recruits start taking the X-Vehicles out for joyrides. When it becomes obvious someone is taking the vehicles out for a joyride they start to suspect Avalanche. Two ways this could have been avoided: Lance could have told them it wasn't him and that he saw the New Recruits sneaking around, or Xavier could have checked their minds/Logan could have used his advanced senses to smell the cars and detect who had been using them. In the end Avalanche takes Kitty with him when he realizes they're taking the X-Jet, thanks to their presence, Jubilee accidentally fries the control panel, and they're nearly blown up by the US military. Avalanche then quits because life at the mansion is too hard.
    • Also, with all of the security at the mansion, things were really flimsy enough that a group of kids who couldn't properly beat a training simulation could crack security and sneak off in the various cars and jets? Surely after it became apparent that someone was using the vehicles, the team would think to at least put a better lock on the garage.
    • Also, the entire Romance Arc for Lance and Kitty, not to mention that very plot, could have been avoided (along with a lot of heartbreak for both) if she had realized that he was still villainous, since the event that made her think he was nice was because he saved her from a falling statue, a falling statue that HE CAUSED.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The episode "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" of had a lot of logical conclusions; in fact the "happy" ending the episode had wasn't the best posible solution.
    • Especial mention of the Flim-Flam brothers who could have won a lot of money if they weren't so greedy and Granny Smith who caused all the problem to begin with since the Flim-Flam brothers could´t force them to participate in the competition.
    • Also, the Flim-Flam brothers left the town because they couldn't sell cider, but only sold the "bad" cider; they had a lot of good cider and even could make more.
  • "The Nasty Patty" episode of SpongeBob SquarePants where Spongebob and Mr. Krabs thought they killed the health inspector, when all they did was knock him out. When the police arrive and they confess, the health inspector walks out of the freezer, dazed, leading Spongebob, Krabs, and even the police to believe he is a zombie! It was all intentional, however, and the narrator even lampshades it at the very end.

  Narrator: Yes, they are all idiots aren't they?

  • Ben 10:
    • Destroy All Aliens arguably has this bad. The Omnitrix is clearly malfunctioning, but Ben does not tell Tetrax nor anyone else that could deal with it until the halfway point of the film. It doesn't help that, because of these errors in communication, Azmuth, who was visiting to fix the Omnitrix's malfunction, ends up being turned into an angry, incredibly dangerous To'kustar, causing his father to assume that Azmuth died, causing him to attack Ben, whose watch absorbed the To'kustar. This, again, can be traced back to Ben not telling anyone he can trust about the watch, to see if something's wrong with it, as well as admitting he was really grounded.
    • Ben 10: Omniverse:
      • "Rules of Engagement" only works because Ben didn't think to pause a video game when he got a phone call or simply said that he'd call Julie, his girlfriend, back. Instead, she interprets his anger at the video game as anger at her and they broke up.
      • In "Food Around the Corner", the Plumbers are mediating the war between the Appoplexians and the Lewodans. Both sides only agreed to meet if the Plumbers got a Galilean, who are said to be wise and patient beings, to be the mediator. For some reason, rather than getting an actual Galilean, the Plumbers just had Ben transform into Gravattack who still acted like an immature 16 year old.
  • "Quagmire's Mom" in Family Guy. Quagmire may have slept with an underage girl but she lied about her age to him. As Chris, of all characters, points out, why the hell isn't she in court? All the cops have to go on is an anonymous tip and some pics Quagmire texted to Joe which don't give any indication of how old the girl was.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The residents spend most of the episode "Radio Bart" oblivious to the possibility that their problems could be solved with an old-fashioned town hole digging (Willie asks himself why he didn't think of that), and it is a guest star (Sting) who is the best digger.
    • Springfieldians just are not very smart, especially when it comes to digging holes, since moreover in "Homer the Vigilante" they dig themselves into a hole and their plan for digging their way out is to "Dig up, stupid."
    • "The Old Man and the "C" Student". For some reason, as Chalmers furiously calls him out on, Skinner thought it a good idea to allow Bart to perform a hilariously offensive and politically incorrect routine in front of the Olympic committee, costing Springfield the games. Worse is that he cut off the President of the Committee before Springfield would have gotten the Olympics to allow Bart's racist act.
  • Every episode with Lila Rossi in Miraculous Ladybug depends on:
    • Everyone, even Marinette's best friends, suddenly not trusting Marinette and believing Lila's Blatant Lies.
    • Not one person remembering that Google exists and that everything Lila says can be easily fact checked. Her lies about Jagged Stone are particularly bad as the class has met Jagged Stone and should know Lila is lying out of her ass. And Rose apparently never thought to ask Prince Ali about their mutual friend, Lila.
    • The school not following basic rules to monitor Lila, taking everything she says at face value. Even Lila's mother doesn't actually think to verify her daughter's claims that the school is constantly closed.
  1. and this is the good interpretation - the alternative is that they're very much aware what they're doing and are simply evil
  2. Translation: Different ghosts have different boundaries.
  3. Interestingly, the Maitlands are the only main characters who don't appear in the TV series.
  4. That they have no intention of using in any way themselves
  5. However; at the same time, doing something that's Too Dumb to Live is usually given a game-over scenario.
  6. Someone thought that maybe Lan received updates since his PET appears to have been updated and likewise the old chips probably wouldn't have been useful anymore
  7. that was only very partially true