8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

People tend to be incompetent in movies -- that's how our heroes are able to make so many daring escapes. However, some plotlines are dependent on downright boneheaded incompetence.
8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

People tend to be incompetent in movies -- that's how our heroes are able to make so many daring escapes. However, there are some movies whose entire plotlines depend on characters inexplicably forgetting hugely important details about their professions and making glaring procedural errors in the jobs they supposedly do every single day.

The Pilots in Die Hard 2 Forget That Other Airports Exist

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

In Die Hard 2: Die Harder (that subtitle must never be ignored or forgotten), Dulles International Airport gets taken over by a ruthless former colonel who specializes in naked karate.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"Hey, how can we let the audience know this guy's crazy in just a single image?"

Dozens of inbound flights carrying thousands of passengers are forced to circle in an endless holding pattern, and unless his demands are met, Colonel Karateboner will use the hijacked systems at Dulles to either trick the planes into crashing or keep them in the air until they run out of fuel and nosedive into oblivion.

Or until the pilots just fly to another airport. Dulles is hardly the only airport on the East Coast -- it isn't even the only airport in D.C.

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Google Maps

For reference, all of those red dots are airports.

Every runway from Virginia to Pennsylvania could be reached by a commercial jet within two hours. What pilot is just going to keep flying around in circles until all the fuel burns up and they drop out of the sky, incinerating himself and 500 passengers? Any responsible flight crew would start contacting other airports for clearance the instant it looked like running out of gas might become an issue.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"Let's not bother any other airports with this."

Also, the flight path of Dulles intersects with those of two other major airfields -- Reagan International Airport and Andrews Air Force Base. Any plane circling Dulles would constantly be passing in and out of the flight paths of the other two.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters
Doug Francis Realty

We don't actually speak Plane Map, so we're just assuming that these colorful rectangles translate roughly to "Die Hard 2 was stupid."

Even if for some absurd reason the pilots never radioed a single other airport, they would still get hailed by Reagan and Andrews operators every time they crossed those flight paths, because that's what air traffic controllers do to prevent midair collisions. And if the planes still managed to run out of gas before touching down somewhere, there would be no need for Bruce Willis to start a fire to guide them safely down the blacked-out runway at Dulles -- any sane pilot would just glide on over to Reagan or Andrews, where all the lights are still on and there's no explosions or gunfire.

The Police in Terminator 2 Just Go Home

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

In Terminator 2, Schwarzenegger and friends blow up an office building in a massive shootout with every police officer in Los Angeles, and then crash a stolen SWAT van into an equally stolen SWAT helicopter in the middle of a freeway before jackknifing a tanker truck of liquid nitrogen (also stolen) into a steel mill that is inexplicably operating with a full staff in the middle of the night, and for some reason has its own exit just off the interstate in the middle of the most densely populated city on the West Coast. They then have a climactic showdown with the T-1000, completely undisturbed by anyone.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"Y'know what? I don't think I really care how the rest of tonight plays out."

So what happened to the police? They were actively pursuing Arnold and Sarah Connor -- they think Arnold is the same Terminator from the first film (a known cop killer), and Sarah Connor is a high-profile mental patient who just escaped from an institution (where she was put for blowing up a building). So the LAPD catches up to these two, a massive firefight ensues wherein dozens of officers are injured, Sarah Connor blows up another goddamned building, and then she and Arnold escape into the aforementioned freeway destruction derby ... and the cops don't follow them?

The police couldn't possibly have lost them -- two of the highest priority suspects in the state's history tear ass down the freeway in a police van, being chased by a police helicopter that subsequently crashes and explodes all over the road. Did nobody call this in? Or did every peace officer in the city just decide they'd had enough for the evening?

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"The city doesn't pay for overtime. After 5, law and order ain't our problem."

Speaking of cops ...

The Cops Forget They Have Weapons and Training in The Dark Knight


In The Dark Knight, the police are transporting Harvey Dent in an armored truck when the Joker diverts their convoy into an underpass and traps them in an ambush. He does this by blocking off the main road with a flaming fire truck (because irony is a form of humor and his name is the Joker).


"Get it? Get it? Oh, right. You're all dead."

Then a garbage truck boxes the convoy in, allowing the Joker to pull beside them in his tractor trailer and take his sweet time shooting progressively larger guns at Dent's truck until Batman finally shows up to save the day ...

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

Hey, why didn't that dude in the back get a mask?

... rescuing a bunch of on-duty cops escorting one of the city's most valuable public officials. This is a detachment of heavily armed SWAT officers, not a high school volleyball team. Moreover, they know full well that they're dragging Harvey Dent across Gotham specifically to bait the Joker. When the convoy inevitably gets attacked, they sit in their cars watching as a man in a bright purple suit cheerfully reloads a bazooka and do absolutely nothing. None of these highly trained officers think to fire their weapon a single time.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"Hold up. Let's see where he's going with this."

One particularly annoying policeman goes so far as to wail "I didn't sign up for this!" when he specifically signed up for this exact task. Did he and the rest of the team seriously accept the assignment and say to each other, "We'll be totally fine, there's no way the Joker is going to show up and do precisely what he said he'd do, which incidentally is the exact purpose of this mission"?

Furthermore, what about not going into the underground tunnel in the first place? The Joker's roadblock didn't exactly close off every thoroughfare in Gotham City.


The cops even make a comment about how stupid going underground is as they're doing it. The fire truck is only blocking the right side of the road -- why not just go around it, or stop and wait for the thing to be moved? They are the police, after all.

The Men in Black Never Send Backup, Ever

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

The Men in Black (or MiB, if you're celebrating the Willennium) fight dangerous aliens on an inconspicuous level with two-man teams, and only if shit gets truly loud do they send in reinforcements.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

The shit here must be deafening.

After all, they have laser guns and memory erasers, so there really shouldn't be much that one or two agents can't handle.

Except in the first film, when Agents J and K have to stop a giant alien cockroach from stealing a spaceship and leaving the planet. If the alien succeeds in escaping, Earth will be destroyed. The entire MiB organization is aware of the stakes ... but they still only send two guys to deal with it. Two people, one of whom has only been doing the job for a few days, against a nigh-invulnerable star beast and his flying saucer. If he kills J and K (which he can easily do) or simply ignores them and fucks right off into space, every living creature in the world will die.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

If not, we get Wild Wild West, which is like dying.

Is keeping a low profile really still the primary concern here? It's not like J and K haven't already torn ass through the Midtown Tunnel in a rocket car on their way to shooting down a massive spacecraft with plasma cannons. Plus, the MiB have a device that erases memories, so it doesn't matter how big a spectacle they make (in the second film, we see that they can wipe out memories on an irresponsibly large scale).

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

Congratulations. Every doctor in New York has now forgotten math.

Earlier, we see that MiB headquarters is filled with agents. What exactly are those agents doing that keeps them from pitching in to stop Star Roach? There can't be 30 other world-ending scenarios going on simultaneously that require their attention. Are they just sitting around watching SNL clips on Hulu and hoping the planet doesn't explode?

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"Why do we even have all these other cars?"

The Terrorists Allow Tony Stark to Build the Iron Man Suit

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

In the beginning of Iron Man, genius billionaire/shithead Tony Stark is captured by terrorists and ordered to construct a state-of-the-art missile. Stark agrees, but cunningly builds a gigantic robot suit instead. He then uses said robot suit to escape, blowing up or otherwise immolating most of the terrorists in the process.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"Dickhammers, I should've seen this coming."

The thing is, Tony is under continuous heavy surveillance -- his cell/workshop is lined with video cameras that are monitored even while he sleeps. The frowny terrorist leader comes in to make progress checks, and there are always guards just down the hall, if not right outside the door. There is at least one pair of eyes watching Tony work at all times.

And he is clearly not building a missile.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"Does anything about this seem ... off to you guys?"

The cameras only have one or two very small blind spots -- not enough to conceal a big metal suit. Stark even draws detailed schematics of the robot armor and leaves it out on a table for the leader to see, and CEO McTerrorist looks them over long enough to determine that they are in no way drawings of a missile. He implies that he understands this when he tells Tony to quit fucking around and finish his missile in the next 24 hours, but then just kind of leaves the room and trusts that everything will go as planned. Furthermore, the guys watching the camera feed comment that what Tony is building looks nothing like a missile, as they are looking at pictures and blueprints of the missile in question.

It's just backwards.

And stubbornly rationalizing his obvious betrayal.

They allow Tony to keep working, right up until he finishes his mechanized armor, climbs inside it and turns it on, all in plain view. Only then do they try to shoot him. But it's too late, gentlemen. Far too late.

The IT Team in Mission: Impossible Forgets Everything About Network Security

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

Be it Mission: Impossible or any other '90s movie involving hacking, it's always a matter of breaking into some superbase to reach a master computer. Once you're at the computer, everything's fine -- just log in, copy the files or install the virus or whatever, say stuff like "I'm in!" and "rerouting the server" a few times, then log back out and leave. Getting to the computer is the hard part. The computer itself is about as secure as the break room refrigerator. Tom Cruise demonstrates this beautifully in M:I by spending 30 minutes sneaking into a top secret facility and then ransacking their prime computer in about 20 seconds.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

He's wearing glasses now, so you know computer stuff is about to happen.

Now think about your job. Can you just slide over to a co-worker's terminal and start clacking away on the keyboard? Can you install unauthorized software on your computer? Can you even open emails with attachments? No, not at all. You probably can't even change the clock without two or three IT guys materializing over your shoulder. That's because pretty much any modern workplace has every computer on an internal network -- usually, IT can monitor any desktop and take remote access any time they want. If someone starts fiddling with your station while you're away, every tech guy in the building will know about it in less than a minute. Likewise, if you get a virus or if some program isn't working correctly, they step through a wrinkle in time and appear beside you, sometimes before you even realize anything is wrong.

So, how in the hell is Tom Cruise able to rappel in and steal files from a restricted computer in a CIA complex by sweatily mashing the keyboard? There is one authorized user for this computer. That user has to log in and out of the room where the computer is located, so IT knows he isn't in the room when Tom starts his master hack. Why don't the tech guys, upon seeing activity in a supposedly empty room on the most sensitive terminal in the building, sprint down the hall, hitting every alarm that comes into punching distance? Why don't they remote access the computer and shut it down, or at least click "view desktop" so they can see what's being done?


"Huh. That's probably not OK."

Either the entire IT team decided that the computer was haunted or there was a carbon monoxide leak in their office.

The Imperials Don't Scan the Millennium Falcon for Passengers in Star Wars

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

In Star Wars, R2-D2 and C-3PO are spared from vaporization when the officer on duty in the Star Destroyer tells the gunner not to fire on the droids' escape pod because a scanner reading showed no life forms aboard. Later, when the Imperials catch the Millennium Falcon in a tractor beam and tow it aboard the Death Star, they rely on the Falcon's logs to tell them that the crew abandoned ship (when Han, Luke, Obi-Wan and Chewbacca are actually just hiding under some floor panels). The good guys then sneak out and rescue Princess Leia, which costs the Galactic Empire their prized battle station and pretty much the entire war.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

Farewell, sweet Tarkin. May flights of TIE fighters shriek thee to thy rest.

Hey, what happened to that life scan, fellas? We already know that the Empire has the technology to scan a small object for life forms as it moves rapidly through space in a matter of seconds. With a ship the size of the Millennium Falcon being dragged slowly into one of their hangars over several miles of interstellar void, they should've been able to run that scan about 70 times, which is enough to read Chewbacca's future, let alone find everyone hidden on board.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"I sense many clogged shower drains in you."

Furthermore, they know that the Falcon blasted its way through an Imperial checkpoint, and Darth Vader immediately realizes that it's carrying the stolen Death Star plans. Vader even senses Obi-Wan's presence, which is the biggest red flag in history. Yet instead of scanning it, he sends a couple of entry-level Stormtroopers inside to read the fucking log (and get knocked out by Han Solo).


Also, does anyone actually believe that these guys could read?

If Vader had just run the goddamned scan, he would've captured and executed the future leaders of the Rebellion right there. Boom, the Empire wins forever. Instead, Luke and Han save Leia and bring the Rebel Alliance the Death Star plans, which are then shoved directly up Vader's ass.

Every Programmer in WarGames Is Dangerously Careless


In WarGames, teenage hacker David Lightman inadvertently triggers WOPR (an AI that controls America's nuclear arsenal) into running a thermonuclear war scenario against NORAD, bringing the world to the brink of atomic destruction. He does this by guessing WOPR's secret backdoor password, put in place by the AI's creator, Professor Falken (the password is "Joshua," the name of Falken's dead son).



Here's a quick breakdown of why everyone involved in WOPR's creation is a cosmic retard:

First, for reasons that cannot be explained, the AI that controls all of the world-ending weapons in the United States can just be dialed up by any antisocial kid searching for games to play on his adorable floppy disk microcomputer. Beyond that, the different war programs WOPR can run are kept in a list alongside actual computer games like chess and backgammon, just waiting for someone to accidentally start them.


"We don't want anyone getting bored in the middle of a war, do we?"

Why does WOPR even have games? It's designed to simulate nuclear war scenarios, and has the ability to launch actual nuclear weapons (for some reason). What military engineer decided that it would be a good idea to throw checkers into the mix? There shouldn't be any bullshit at all on that computer, and moreover all the war scenarios should be labeled with the most unappealing names in the universe so no plucky teenage computer whiz would ever mistakenly run one.

Second, in that list of games and global death exercises, Professor Falken includes a program named after himself ("Falken's Maze"). This is how David figures out that Falken created WOPR, which leads him to discover the password that nearly coats the Earth in white-hot nuclear fire -- Joshua, the source of the password, is Falken's dead son, and the most important figure in his life. Anyone who reads a few articles about Falken would learn this almost immediately, which is exactly what David does. So David very correctly guesses the obvious and types in "Joshua" as a password and is rewarded with access to the most dangerous machine ever built.


You'd expect a computer that can murder the world to require letters AND numbers in the password.

Falken, a computer genius, created the most guessable password in history (short of "password" itself), then attached said password to a remorseless nuke-wielding robot and left a trail of breadcrumbs for anyone to follow.

8 Movies Made Possible by Incompetent Background Characters

"I could change that password, but I'm far too busy not giving one boiling shit."

David is a superfly tweet machine who enjoys making stupid shirts and listing lists over at Film School Rejects, where he is a staff writer and generous lover.

For more movie happenings that don't quite make sense, check out 6 Movie Plot Holes You Never Noticed Thanks to Editing and 5 Gaping Plot Holes Hollywood Knows You Won't Notice.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 6 Most Baffling Crimes Pulled Off by Senior Citizens.

And stop by LinkSTORM to see how Cracked's terrible security allows Christina to sleep under a desk every night.

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