In good works of fiction, the characters have a realistic amount of depth and intelligence. The tension that comes from otherwise intelligent characters meeting unforeseen circumstances and trying to move against those schemes are always the most memorable. And to oppose those clever heroes, it’s vital that the enemies and villains that they confront be intelligent enough to give them a good run for the money. The problem is that a lot of major films feature schemes by bad guys that really don’t have all that much thought put into the details of their plans.
Sometimes they have an unrealistic set of expectations about what their plan can do, and don’t actually think their plots through all the way. Other times, the plans rely on the heroes being complete idiots and doing most of the villain’s work for themselves. Sometimes the baddies just refuse to learn from their past mistakes, or utilize all their abilities to achieve a way easier victory over the heroes than the embarrassing loses they suffer instead. And sometimes, there’s just no excuse – the villains just messed up so bad, it forced the viewer to wonder why they ever considered that villain to be an actual threat, which is never a good thing when you’re looking back at a movie. And to make matters worse, a lot of the villains who go on about being maniacal geniuses are the stupidest of the lot. Here are fifteen “brilliant” plans by major movie villains that were actually super dumb. And fair warning, spoilers are coming for a variety of movies.
15 Loki’s Whole Plan Depends On The Heroes Bickering Like Children (Avengers)
Loki is the Asgardian God of mischief and lies, and he tries to use those skills to help him conquer multiple worlds over the course of the Marvel films. One of his greatest moments came when he almost managed to get the Avengers to end themselves while he’s imprisoned by SHIELD. Here’s the thing though: his entire scheme relies on the Avengers bickering like children. He didn’t know the specifics of how, he just went in and had faith that the natural in-fighting of the heroes would give him an opportunity to escape and wreak damage on their dynamics. He went in with blind faith, ended up giving information up accidentally to Black Widow which helped lead the heroes to figure out his plan, and inadvertently brought all the heroes together to stop him. It even cost him his brainwashed Hawkeye, who up to that point had been really useful to his schemes. Yes, the Avengers bickered like children and almost let Loki win because they’re idiots, but that wasn’t his brilliant plan at work. The Avengers were just being dumb.
14 Joker Tries To Destroy Gotham With A Parade & Prince Music (Batman)
The Joker is one of the most well known villains in all of modern fiction, appearing across all kinds of media. And he usually comes with some kind of ridiculous plan to try and beat Batman once and for all. And while a lot of them are pretty crazy stupid, the most insane might have been the plan he tried to pull in Batman from 1989. Played by Jack Nicholson, this Joker decides to lure the Gotham crowds into the streets by promising to throw out bundle of cold hard cash. And when the people of Gotham do this (and also rock out to Prince music because this movie is weird), he reveals that all of his parade floats are actually full of gas and he tries to use it to his advantage. But, seriously, how was that supposed to work? This plan could have been thwarted by a windy day, and most of the crowds manage to run back inside and avoid the gas with the power of walls. This plan worked earlier in the movie when he attacked a museum to Prince music (again, weird movie), but his attempts to expand into the outdoors was doomed from the start.
13 Xerxes Tried Reasoning With A Spartan Fighting Machine (300)
King and commander of the seemingly endless Persian army, Xerxes should be smart enough to stay far away from the front lines instead of trying to risk his own life by talking to his crazy enemies face to face. Note how that said "should." He should be smart enough to not do that. Instead, Xerxes repeatedly puts himself within spears reach of Gerald Butler and his fellow Spartans. What’s to keep Leonidas from just turning around and ending the Persian War right then and there by attacking him? That’s what Xerxes should be thinking, constantly, instead of trying to impress Leonidas into surrendering. And later, during the climactic final battle, he even almost risks his own life! It’s just stupid of the character, and the sort of thing a real person would never do.
12 Burke Was Counting On The Unpredictable Alien Being Predictable (Aliens)
What is it with morally bankrupt people becoming convinced they can control something that’s supposedly uncontrollable – and also can rip you apart with ease? It’s that short-sightedness that usually ends up risking their lives by the end of whatever movie they slime their way through, with the worst example being Burke from Aliens. Even after he’s found out to have been planning to slip the aliens onto a space ship and away from planet Earth, he keeps trying to do it. And he KEEPS doing that, even after seeing how destructive those monster aliens can be. For whatever reason, he genuinely thinks he’ll be able to sneak the aliens back to Earth before they rip apart the ship just like they have to every other spaceship they’ve been on. It’s a dumb plan, and the kind of scheme that gets makes things go completely wrong.
11 Hans Gruber Would Have Been Caught In Five Days, Max (Die Hard)
Hans Gruber is usually remembered as an incredibly clever baddie in the pantheon of movie villains. His plan to use the FBI’s own standards and practices to his advantage in a fake terrorist attack to rob a major international business seems brilliant on the outside. But his plan leaves way too many holes for him to ever completely avoided being captured by the authorities within a week of his escape. His escape plan relies on blending into the crowd of ambulances following the attack, which means he was expecting no one to notice that missing van OR see it come out of the parking garage where it clearly would be investigated. And beyond that, his plan to use an untraceable plane to escape the country would be doomed to fail, as the many people in real life who’ve tried that can attest to. He’ has no end game to his plan.
10 Silva’s Scheme Is Ridiculously Dumb (Skyfall)
Silva, as played by Javier Bardem, is an engrossing villain to contend against Bond. He is a fallen former agent of M’s who was twisted into becoming a truly powerful threat to all of MI:6 that could make for a fascinating foil to the ever loyal James Bond. But his plan to strike back at M and try to end her is so convoluted that it’s only thanks to the benefits of being in a fictional universe that it works at all. Silva essentially takes the lives of hundreds of spies and fakes an assass*nation just to lure Bond to his private island (that he apparently has) so that he could be purposefully captured and brought back to England. There, he’s able to ensure that his computer virus is better than the security at MI:6, and stage an escape. From there, he is given his planned upon police uniform, and hopes that it’ll help the six-foot-something bleach blonde disappear into a crowd for some reason. At which point, he’ll have a train almost hit James Bond, which almost somehow works. And all of that was building to the opportunity to shoot M while she stands on trial. And he messes that up! Funnily enough, using a train as a gun works pretty well, but not attacking an old lady.
9 Mal’s Crazy Plan (Inception)
Inception became the kind of cross-over hit that filmmakers and studios dream about, transcending the label of “sci-fi” or “blockbuster” and becoming a genuine cultural moment upon its release. It’s sleek, it’s slick, and it was instantly memorable, which is probably what kept audiences from thinking too much about some of the plot holes. Take for example Mal’s plan to drag our hero, Cobb, out of the dream she thinks they are trapped in. She tries to fake her demise to force Cobb into taking a leap of faith to join her again, and ends up leaping off a building. She doesn’t take into account that her falsified journals aside, none of her evidence that she was being hurt will stand up to scrutiny. Her attempts to see multiple therapists raises some red flags, and eye witness accounts will be able to attest that Cobb arrived alone. There’s also the fact that she’s thrown herself out of a window a building away from the man she’s trying to frame. Does Mal know what security cameras are? You know, those things fancy hotels like that definitely have? Apparently not.
8 Magneto Is Just Horrible At Being A Super Villain (X-Men)
Seriously, this guy spends an entire film trilogy talking a big talk, and then face planting on top of his plans. In the first X-Men, Magneto creates a machine that will let him turn people into mutants. But to test this device, he uses it on ONE dude, and shrugs when the guy throws himself out a window. If Magneto is really trying to change the world’s outlook instead of just starting all the wars by essentially nuking the world’s leadership, then he should have probably put more than one guy out as a trial run. And then there’s his even dumber plan in X3: The Last Stand, where he tries to unite Mutants on an attack against a facility creating mutant cures. This entails sending a bunch of men at soldiers who are able to just casually take his fellow mutants down. He also manages to convince evil Jean Grey, also known as Dark Phoenix, into helping, effectively turning a cosmic god loose on the world. And then he’s surprised when she turns out to be a little more than he can handle. None of his plans have any actual thought to them. It’s annoying. He deserved to lose his powers.
7 Step One: Raise Elder God. Step Two: Regret It (Hellboy)
Hellboy doesn’t get the props it deserves, what with it being one of the first mainstream hits of Guillermo Del Toro's career and led to a place where the man could become the award winning director behind movies about a woman getting with a fish man. Hellboy is a pulp inspired supernatural take on the superhero movie, where Hellboy has to go head to head with Rasputin. But Rasputin’s plan clearly wasn’t the focus of the production, as evidenced by his lackluster plan. Rasputin intends to try and use Hellboy to unleash some kind of monstrous otherworldly monster onto the Earth. But not once does he wonder what will happen if he raises him and then he is no longer needed. See, if he had considered that for a second, he may have been more restrained in his attempts to summon the monster. Instead, it appears in our reality and promptly destroys him so thoroughly that even an immortal is down for the count.
6 Voldemort Is The Worst Overlord Ever (Harry Potter)
Voldemort is often so dumb. He’s brought back to life in Goblet of Fire, restored to full power and all. He spends Order of the Phoenix as a threat in the background for most of the story, not really doing anything except give Harry bad dreams. Instead of maybe grabbing all of his people and striking when he can, he plays the long con until doing something admittedly clever in breaking his followers out of prison. We don’t know why he didn’t start there. He lures Harry to the Ministry of Magic to grab a prophecy only he or Voldemort could take. But why didn’t Voldemort just go in himself? His minions sneak in no problem, and seeing how he shows up like ten minutes later (after the prophecy is broken), it seems pointless to go through all that trouble to get Harry to do it. He soon takes over the world (and by soon, we mean an entire other movie of just waiting), and then fails to use his limitless power and influence to stop three teenagers. And two of them are dumb. He keeps failing to use all the things at his disposal, and it’s what gets him cornered and ended by a bespectacled seventeen-year-old and a stick.
5 Sauron Keeps Falling For The Same Trick (Lord Of The Rings)
Sauron is a seemingly unbeatable dark king and warlord during the Lord of the Rings. But despite his overwhelming armies and endless dark forces, he keeps falling for the same feint, to the point that it becomes obvious that Sauron has no tactical skills whatsoever. Constantly through the series, the forces he and Saruman send out into battle end up committing to an all out assault on the heroes, who then surprise attack them for the victory. It happens in Helm’s Deep, and practically knocks Saruman’s entire army out of the fight. But does Sauron learn? No, he tries the same tactic with the people of Gondor, and wastes armies on attacking a heavily fortified fortress before being surprise attacked again. You’d think he’d understand the idea of a surprise attack, and keep at least some forces out of the main battle as a back up. But you’d be wrong, as he sends all of his soldiers to confront a noticeably smaller army, and is surprised when two hobbits sneak up on him and throw the ring into a volcano. It’s like his Trojan Horse, if he’d already fallen for the Trojan Horse but kept not learning from the experience.
4 Ego Doesn’t Count On Literally Any Opposition (Guardians Of The Galaxy 2)
Ego, the Living Planet is an Elder of the universe, and in the middle of a massive scheme that will turn him into the singular being in the cosmos. But, here’s the thing – he’s got absolutely nothing defending himself from any sort of retaliation. There aren’t sentries protecting him or anything like that, leaving himself completely open for counter attack. And if not by people like the Guardians (basically eight nominally mortal and humanoid figures with some bombs), then how about those other universal Elders of the universe? Ego has too much of, well, an ego to think that far ahead, and just trusts his expanding body will do the job. It does not.
3 Bruce Willis Tries To Force A Time Paradox (Looper)
Looper is by and large a fantastic original sci-fi, showing the story of a man who’s come back to the past in an attempt to change his future. Bruce Willis is the future incarnation of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who uses his intended time travel assassination to go back to the past and try to end his eventual attacker. But by doing so, Bruce Willis doesn’t realize how his actions will change the future, and probably not for the best. The best case scenario is that Bruce Willis ends the kid who will grow up to be a major mobster, therefore eliminating himself from reality, because without the kid growing up to become a major mobster, Bruce Willis would never come back in time in the first place. And that would undo all his work, and allow for the past to instead go as it originally did. The other possible resolution is that he accidentally destroys the universe by causing a time paradox, which seems like a thing that probably shouldn’t happen.
2 The Emperor Literally Brings All His Enemies To His Front Door (Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi)
The Emperor is the ultimate big bad of the original Star Wars trilogy, an imposing figure in a dark cloak who can shoot lighting out of his hands because he’s an incredibly obvious villain. But his plans to bring out all his enemies and end them all in one fell swoop ends up backfiring in the worst possible way. His shield generator is destroyed, his Death Star explodes, and his greatest servant is turned against him by Luke Skywalker. And who was the genius that brought all of these figures together in one place and at the same time? Oh, right: The Emperor! It doesn’t matter how much lighting he shoots out of his hands, that’s the sort of thing only a true idiot can do to himself and his evil plans.
1 Snoke Can Move Planets, Can’t Feel A Lightsaber About To Get Him (Star Wars: Last Jedi)
Continuing the tradition of dumb galactic overlords from a galaxy far, far away, let’s talk about Snoke. The Last Jedi is maybe the most controversial movie in the greater Star Wars canon, with a big point of contention coming from the demise of Snoke. After giving a speech where he laid out how powerful he was (despite bringing maybe the one person who could turn his apprentice against him right to his apprentice with the use of his Force connection between the two), he expects his pupil to put up with even more abuse and end the girl he’s been connecting with. His earlier proclamations of being able to move a planet with his sheer force of will proves to be pointless, as he isn’t able to feel a lightsaber three inches away from him turn and activate – even as he’s reading the mind of the guy who’s doing it. While it’s hilarious to see such a cliché villain taken out so unexpectedly, it’s annoying that a potential big bad was dumb enough to let himself be attacked in such a way.
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