Idiot Plot

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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."
Roger Ebert in his review of Narrow Margin (1990)

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 carries an Idiot Ball.

It is important to note that this is 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 are listed on these subpages: