From time to time movies celebrate stupidity with the joke firmly on the characters involved. Thing is, most of the time these characters don’t realise the joke is on them…
The idiot for laughs. The stupid guy or girl who really doesn’t know they are. Hollywood has had some beauties. Here’s the top ten not so bright characters, all for laughs of course. This list will not include characters like Rain Man or Forrest Gump. You’ll get the theme in just a few minutes.
10. Spicolli: Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Jeff Spicolli, as played by Sean Penn is actually stupid by choice. There’s a scene at the end of the film where his history teacher, Mr. Hand, has just spent three hours teaching him about US history, where Spicolli actually gets it. But throughout the film, he just does one dumb thing after another. From ordering pizza in class, to getting stoned before class to not coming to class so he can surf, Spicolli set the bar for funny characters in a teen movie. It’s a shame Penn doesn’t do comedy anymore.
The classic moment in the film illustrating how obtuse he is: When Mr. Hand writes his words on the board, “I don’t know”, he tells Spicolli that these words will be credited to him so that all the students that come after him can see and know his words, to which Spicolli replies, “All Right!”
9. Ruprecht: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Steve Martin and Michael Caine were con artists in the movie. For this one elaborate con, Caine has Martin appear to be his mentally challenged head case of a brother named Ruprecht. Ruprecht wears an eye patch and when one of the victims asks why he does, Caine has her watch as Ruprecht accidentally takes his fork and plunges it into his eye….thus the need for the patch. Ruprecht isn’t real and he really isn’t dumb or stupid, but this is how he acts and for this reason he makes the list.
Classic moment in the film is when Ruprecht raises his hand at the dinner table and asks if he can go to the bathroom. Caine says “yes”. Ruprecht sits there for about 30 seconds, shuffles in his seat for a moment, and then says “thank you.”, much to the horror of the woman who is being conned.
8. Cruiser: Stripes
Cruiser, as played by John Diehl, is a young man who joined the army because his father and brother were in the army. He figured that he better join before he got drafted. When informed by his drill sergeant that the draft doesn’t exist anymore, his reply, “There was one?” This character is played strictly for laughs.
Classic dumb moment is when Cruiser is playing poker with Ox (John Candy) and asks Ox if he should try to bluff him. Ox says, yes, bet your entire stack of money and try to bluff me. Cruiser obliges and proceeds to lose all his money.
7. Harry and Marv: Home Alone
Together these two bumbling idiots manage to get their head set a flame, step on broken glass, have a nail go through their feet and get outsmarted by an 8-year-old. When they are finally apprehended by the police at the end of the movie, Marv tells the police that they are the wet bandits and that they were responsible for several other break ins in the area. As played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, they helped make Home Alone one of the highest grossing films of all time.
Classic dumb moment is when…ah hell take your pick, there are so many of them in the first film.
6. Earl Mott: Ruthless People
This is the role that got Bill Pullman noticed. In it, he plays “perhaps the stupidest man on the face of the Earth.” In the film, his girlfriend is trying to double cross Danny Devito, who is out to double cross his wife, who is a real bitch. Mott is asked to do small things like record the mayor murdering a woman. As he focuses the camera on the mayor, he is seen having sex with a prostitute, who is moaning very loudly at his request. Mott is so horrified at the “murder” that he can’t watch. Even his facial expressions throughout the film make him look less than intelligent. It’s an incredible performance by the man who got famous for playing the president of the USA during an alien invasion.
Classic dumb moment is when Mott is trying to steal some ransom from a man dressed as a clown. The police use a megaphone to tell him to give the money to BOZO. Mott doesn’t believe it is the police and challenges their authority. It leads to this exchange:
Lt. Bender: [over a bullhorn] GIVE THE BAG TO BOZO, DROP THE GUN, AND PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR.
Earl Mott: Who said that?
Lt. Walters: [to Lt. Bender] This could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth. Perhaps we should shoot him.
Lt. Bender: [over the bullhorn] IT’S THE POLICE DEPARTMENT.
Earl Mott: Really?
Lt. Bender: NO! WE’RE THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION!
5. Harry and Lloyd: Dumb and Dumber
It doesn’t get much dumber than this. These two nincompoops, in career defining performances by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels do nothing right. It’s actually amazing that they can survive. They have the intellect of two blades of grass. Dumb and Dumber is one of the funnier films about dumb people.
Classic dumb moment in the film is when Harry is on a date with the object of both he and Lloyd’s affection, Mary Swanson. They are having a flirtatious kind of snowball fight. Harry doesn’t understand this and starts to hurl snowballs at her as if he were at war.
4. Ron Burgundy: Anchorman
As played by Will Ferrell, there is nothing Burgundy does that will have you understand how the man is on television. He’s a misogynist, he’s cruel and he’s just flat out stupid. When his girlfriend tells him that she wants to make anchor one day, he literally thinks she is kidding. He tries to impress women by doing bicep curls in his office. This is a man so into his own world, that he doesn’t understand how stupid he really is.
Classic dumb moment is when Burgundy tells his date, “San Diego, discovered in 1904 by the Germans, they named it San Diego, which in German of course means A WHALE’S VAGINA” (I’m laughing as I type this).
3. Derek Zoolander: Zoolander
Derek Zoolander, the impossibly really, really good looking male model that has not even an ounce of smarts to him. He has perfect bone structure but pronounces the word eulogy “U goog-a-lee”. He thinks the world revolves around him and when he sees a design of a school for kids that can’t read, he looks at the school and says, “What is this a school for ants?” Zoolander, played brilliantly by Ben Stiller, is so over the top stupid that the film has become a classic.
Classic dumb moment is when Zoolander explains to us, “I’m sure there is more to life than being really, really ridiculously good looking, and I intend to find out what it is.”
2. Brick Tamland: Anchorman
Yep, two characters from the same movie make the list. Sure the two nuts from Home Alone and Dumb and Dumber made the list as a tandem but Brick is so deft, he had to have his own slot. Steve Carell nails this character but instead of me telling you about him, I’ll let Brick do that for you. “I’m Brick Tamland. People seem to like me because I am polite and I am rarely late. I like to eat ice cream and I really enjoy a nice pair of slacks. Years later, a doctor will tell me that I have an I.Q. of 48 and am what some people call mentally retarded.”
Classic dumb moment is during a rumble among all the news teams in San Diego, Brick uses a trident to kill a man. During their regaling of the situation, Brick tells Ron and the others, “I killed a man with a trident.” To which Ron says, “Yes Brick I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. You should find a safehouse or a relative close by. Lay low for a while because you are probably wanted for murder.”
1. Otto: A Fish Called Wanda
There are dummies in film and then there is Otto, played by Kevin Kline, who won an Oscar for the role. A former CIA contract agent who has gone rogue, this is a man who thinks he is smart. In fact he thinks he is smarter than you and me. He reads Nietzsche but has no grasp of it. He tries to use his rudimentary knowledge of the spy business on the daughter of a man who used to be in MI:6 and he gets put in his place. He uses foreign languages to seduce Wanda but as he is speaking Italian to her, you can hear him say things like “Chef Boy Ardee” and “Mozzarella” but in a thick Italian accent. Otto is the class of all stupid characters.
Classic dumb moment is when Wanda, as played by Jamie Lee Curtis finally proves to him how stupid he really is, with this exchange.
“Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not “Every man for himself.” And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.”
Written and compiled by Dan Grant.
I’m sure there are plenty of others who could have made this list. But these are the ones that have been etched in my brain.
And whatever you do, “Don’t call me stupid.”