It would be a hell of a lot easier to get motivated at work if you had a leader like, say, William Wallace from Braveheart to shout motivational slogans in your ear. That's why movies include those inspirational leaders; it's everyone's fantasy to live in a world where the people at the top are competent and inspirational.
And then there are the characters who somehow wound up at the head of a whole bunch of people despite not being fit to lead a parade. These are those guys.
The Spartans had a pretty good plan going: Hold off the Persians at the strategically perfect Gates of Thermopylae until the Council got off their fatasses and sent the rest of the army to bail them out. So when Quasimodo Uglius Muchus showed up out of nowhere and told Leonidas about a secret path that could ruin their whole strategy, that could have been a problem.
Luckily, he was on the side of the good guys. All he wanted to do was help fight the Persians to restore honor to his outcast father. But in a move that was epic both in douchebaggery and short-sightedness, Leonidas turned him away, spouting some bullshit about how the hunchback would weaken the strict formation of the phalanx.
Look, we're no experts on military tactics or anything but it seems to us like you could just place the dude slightly outside the phalanx, have him kill a few Persians, soak up a lot of arrows, and die a hero's death. Everybody's happy.
Hell, it's not like the Spartans actually fought in a neat formation anyway. A few seconds into the battle it turns into a free-for-all where everybody starts leaping around and trying to figure out how to kill each enemy in a cooler way than the last.
Instead Leonidas tells him that he's too weak to fight and that his father will remain dishonored, which in Spartan terms would be like if someone called you at a funeral and questioned your parentage while simultaneously making sweet love to your mother. The double-whammy of an insult drove the hunchback directly to Xerxes, where he immediately sold out the good guys.
But even if that nonsense about the phalanx was right, what Leonidas actually did about the secret path was even worse: absolutely nothing. No wall of boulders to block it off, no traps to decimate the Persian troops, not even guards to send warning back to the troops. Look, even if the hunchback hadn't made like Lando Calrissian, Persian scouts might have found the passageway all by themselves. Instead of making literally any effort to stop them, Leonidas pretty much just forgets about the whole thing. We never even see him ask about the path's location--for all we know, he has no idea where the damn thing actually is.
There's a line between heroically facing death and actively courting it; Leonidas sprinted over that line and never looked back.
Specifically, he first sprinted in fast motion, then slow motion, then fast motion again.
Hoosiers, where Gene Hackman leads a team of white, small town underdogs to a state basketball championship, may be one of the best sports films of all time. But when you get right down to it, the head honcho at the center of the plot should never have been let anywhere near a basketball court, let alone made a coach.
We could point out the obvious stuff, the way Coach Dale throws temper tantrums and gets ejected every time a call doesn't go his way, or hiring the town drunk as assistant coach because he seems to like watching basketball a hell of a lot, despite the fact that that describes literally every sports fan on the planet. But there's a basic problem with his strategy, and you don't need a detailed understanding of basketball to see it.
Coach Dale stresses fundamentals, and only fundamentals. He has his players adopt a slow, defense-oriented style of play that would be absolutely ingenious if they were facing a bunch of senile, paraplegic grandmothers. They weren't; they were playing against deeper teams, with superior athletes, who had been practicing just as much and with better equipment.
And the occasional teenwolf.
So what advantage did his team have?
Underdogs win in the real world all the time, but it's almost always because they took risks that paid off. They don't have a choice. You can look at the last Super Bowl, where the favored Colts were criticized for playing it safe, while the underdog Saints turned the game on a risky onside kick after half time. Or there's this awesome example of a girl's basketball team who consistently beat hugely favored opponents via the utterly insane strategy of devoting the whole team to stopping the opponents' inbounds pass. It's the same in sports as it is on the battlefield or the business world--if you're are at a disadvantage to your opponent, you have to pull out all the stops and force them to make a mistake.
Of course, in the film, everything completely turns around when star player Jimmy Chitwood decides to join the team. Thing is, though, Dale had pretty much ignored him for all this time, and he definitely didn't win the kid over with his coaching style, so we can only assume Chitwood just got fed up of Dale's shitty brand of basketball and decided to show him how it's really done.
All the players suddenly start listening to Jimmy and not Dale, and their strategy completely changes--as shown by the fact that they start actually making baskets and winning games--until they wind up State Champs. Jimmy was the Michael Jordan to Coach Dale's Phil Jackson. Every coach looks like a genius when you've got a guy who can score any time he wants.
As the Base Commander at the Top Gun training facility, Viper is undoubtedly one heck of a pilot. But if he was any good at commanding, he would have kicked out Tom Cruise's Maverick the first chance he got.
To put it simply, Maverick was the worst possible soldier ever, as he wouldn't follow orders at all and always did his own thing--heck, it's right there in his name. "Hold up, Cracked," you say. "That was the whole point! Jerry Bruckheimer's heroes are always loose cannons, like the cops in Bad Boys! There's always an authority figure who lets them get away with it because they get the job done!"
There's a difference here. Those guys weren't in a job where one wrong move could, at best, wreck $38 million worth of high-tech aircraft, or at worst, accidentally start World War III. So here's Maverick repeatedly questioning the authority of his instructors and being insubordinate, getting his teammates and himself "killed" multiple times in mock battles, and clearly putting the lives of, well, everyone on planet Earth at risk every time he took to the air with live ammunition and Russians on his radar screen. And all he gets are a series of stern warnings.
But how do you enforce a man who doesn't play by the rules?
Incidentally, this is the freaking military we're talking about here. That whole insubordination thing is no laughing matter: Being contemptuous or disrespectful "in language or deportment toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer while that officer is in the execution of his office" is actually legitimate grounds for a court martial in the Navy.
It's cool. This is America.
If Viper needed any more convincing that Maverick was the wrong man for the job, the fucker manages to crash the previously-mentioned 38 million dollar plane and simultaneously kill one of his fellow aviators during a training exercise. Maverick then falls into deep depression--he clearly can't deal with death; not a good thing for a soldier. Viper's attempt to console Maverick is even worse: He tells the kid that the Navy covered up his dad's death, which would logically result in Maverick getting pissed at the Navy for ruining his dad's life and leaving.
Instead he somehow gets his shit together, graduates, gets into a single battle and then decides to be a flight instructor. This not only means that Viper couldn't even motivate him enough to be an actual goddamn fighter pilot, but now Maverick gets to teach a bunch of impressionable young aviators tactics that will get them all killed. Maybe this is why now we make sure to fight all of our wars against enemies who don't have planes.