Best Movie Idiots: A Breakdown of the Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest - Rolling Stone
Home Culture Culture Lists

Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: A Breakdown of the Best Movie Idiots

Braindead blackmailers, head-bopping bozos and a man named Brick — we rank the movie characters who give stupidity a bad name

ph

When people eventually look back at 2014, they will remember it as the year that Hollywood paid a lot of respect to geniuses. There’s The Theory of Everything, a biopic about the noted cosmologist, physicist and black-hole theorist Stephen Hawking. There’s the upcoming The Imitation Game, which tells the story of Alan Turing — Britain’s cryptanalyst who cracked the Nazis’ Enigma code and singlehandedly shifted World War II in Allies favor. There’s even Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s fictional sci-fi headscratcher that nonetheless demands a new Renaissance of wonder and exploration. These are films that champion brain power, showcase society’s full potential and put smarts on a pedestal.

But what about the not-so-smart guys? Shouldn’t audiences know that for every Hawking and Turing there’s a Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas? This week, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ dimwits return in Dumb and Dumber To, a movie ready to dump cheese-doodle slapstick all over Oscar season’s fine cuisine. Sure, Hawking has helped explain the very fabric of the universe, but Harry and Lloyd produced the most annoying sound in the world. That’s still a discovery.

So, in the spirit of 2014’s high-minded dramas, we look back and take a quantitative approach to some of our favorite examples of cinematic stupidity. Just how dumb are the screen’s most famous idiots, buffoons and nincompoops? Read on.

ph

Bill S. Preston and Theodore Logan, ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ (1989)

These time-traveling slackers don't smoke weed, don't surf, and barely know how to shred on an electric guitar — yet they encompass all the stereotypes imbued to said dimwitted recreational personae. It's not a bad thing; Bill and Ted stand apart from other movie dum-dums by not having a negative impact on the world around them. They just speak slowly and utter "whoooa!" all the time. These guys don't know much. (Their reference point for the Old West is Disney's Frontierland.) They don't overthink experiences — heck, they can't overthink them. But why Bill and Ted may be literal airheads, give them some credit: They're trying to fill that void with something! These not-so-bright San Dimas High students are self-aware enough to identify with a Socrates quote they dig up in an encyclopedia: "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."
Dumb Factor: 2

ph

Inspector Clouseau, The ‘Pink Panther’ Movies (1963-1978)

A high-ranking French police inspector, Clouseau's obliviousness somehow triples the gravitational pull around him, causing this clod to tumble over most stationary objects. His curiously strong accent combines with an inability to comprehend English pronunciation ("Moths?" "Yes Murths!"), giving way to "Who's-on-First?"-style dialogue circles. Though Clouseau becomes a more destructive klutz as Blake Edwards' Pink Panther films progress, the sleuth's recognizable deductive skills keep him from a high dumb-factor ranking. Still, his attempts to stop crimes land him with misdemeanor charges, whether it's for public nudity or selling balloons without a license. Clouseau is also under the false impression that his hands are lethal weapons. They are not.
Dumb Factor: 3

ph

Romy White and Michele Weinberger, ‘Romy and Michele High School Reunion’ (1997)

This pair of twentysomething shopaholics makes the Clueless girls look downright ascetic, and the duo's valley-girl quirks —  criminal amounts of upspeak and use of the phrase "you know?" — only scratch the surface of their unique ditziness. Still comparing themselves to the cool girls from high school, Romy and Michele live under the impression that mononucleosis is "the best diet ever" and that eating gummy bears, jelly beans, and candy corn for six days straight is admirable discipline. The real world is their sleepover party, with dress up games (playing businesswoman dress-up) and lengthy arguments over who's the Rhoda and who's the Mary in their friendship. By the end of the movie, they learn important lessons about being true to themselves…for better or worse. "It's like I've given birth to my own baby girl," Michele says of a friend they've "saved" with fashion. "But she's a big giant girl who smokes and says 'shit' a lot."
Dumb Factor: 4

ph

Lt. Frank Drebin, ‘The Naked Gun’ Movies (1988-1994)

Drebin is a member of the elite "Police Squad" and a man who doesn't play by the law — because the law is sensibly crafted by cognizant, literate individuals. He has a Midas touch for harming his partner Nordberg, the previously injured, and/or elderly women, occasionally all at once. He's prone to forgetting the point he's trying to make during hardboiled narration, and once mauled a Shakespeare in the Park ensemble ("I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards!"). Drebin may embarrass the badge he wears by belting opera while urinating, but dammit, he gets the job done. If only this crack detective could detect correct word usage from their homonym counterparts.
Dumb Factor: 5

ph

Steve and Doug Butabi, ‘A Night at the Roxbury’ (1998)

Spawns of a Saturday Night Live sketch, the Butabi brothers engage in daily club-hopping that can only be described as social masochism. Every night ends the same way: female rejections and forceful exits courtesy of a bouncer. But hey, that's part of the game! Eventually, they think, their story of meeting Emilio Estevez or an excessive use of crass pick-up lines (including Steve's patented ambulance impression: "…the sight of you stopped my heart…") will work on someone. During the day, they're terrifying proto-millennials stomping around their parents' mansion in their leopard-skin underpants. By night, they're would-be Donald Trumps, committed to their genius plan: A nightclub where the inside looks like the outside and the outside looks at the inside. Remember, kids: Head-bobbing to Haddaway's "What Is Love" will cause permanent brain damage.
Dumb Factor: 6

ph

Navin Johnson, ‘The Jerk’ (1979)

Ignorance is bliss; therefore, Navin Johnson must be the most ecstatic guy in the world. Unable to fathom his own Caucasian exterior, the lead idiot in Steve Martin's classic comedy tends to resort to spastic faux-karate when encountering America's deep-seeded racism. There's no one he can't hear out, including his dog (who feeds him false information about a motel fire, because Navin can definitely speak dog). Yes, he causes more property damage than Superman in Man of Steel and is so untouched by the horrors of reality that he's convinced a sniper trying to put one in his brain is really an aluminum can-related phenomenon. Without being that dumb, however, would Navin have Invented the Opti-Grab or wooed a woman named Marie (Bernadette Peters) with his rendition of "Tonight You Belong to Me"? Never mind the film's title: He's the best kind of stupid.
Dumb Factor: 6

ph

Derek Zoolander, ‘Zoolander’ (2001)

Derek Zoolander, male model extraordinaire, has a tough time with language. And human interaction. And, okay, most things. His minimal vocabulary is a particular sticking point, from pronouncing "eulogy" as "eugoogooly" to spelling "day" as "d-a-i-y-e." Still, why talk when you can professionally pout better than any man alive? (Big up the Magnum and Blue Steel!) And who needs brains when you're "really, really, ridiculously good-looking?" Still, next to his rival, Hansel, Zoolander may seem like a genius. And judging by his runway work, the man isn't just dumb, he's numb; no man with a nervous system should be able to self-wedgie the way Derek does on the catwalk.
Dumb Factor: 7

ph

Chad Feldheimer, ‘Burn After Reading’ (2008)

There are a lot of outrageously moronic dumb-asses on this list — but Chad is a frighteningly real idiot, which somehow makes him more terrifying than your average screen doofus. Idiots are a Joel and Ethan Coen staple, but while only appearing in half the film, Brad Pitt's fitness-obsessed, gum-chewing gym rat solidifies himself as the best/worst of the brothers' braindead bunch. Chad's true colors shine when he picks up a disc of confidential data. Or, he thinks it's confidential, because long lists of numbers and dates must be top secret government files that are all long lists of numbers and dates. Obviously. His blackmail plot is fit for a seven-year-old, complete with victory dances (performed alone and for present company), a "serious" voice, and a well-oiled plan that boils down to "give us money?" When he's caught in his lie, Chad makes a great point: "Appearances can be… deceptive."
Dumb Factor: 7

ph

Stanley Stupid, ‘The Stupids’ (1996)

Stupid — it's a tough surname to live with. A squeaky clean, 1950s father transplanted to modern day Hell, Stanley (played by Tom Arnold) lives up to his legacy by "exposing" the conspiracy behind the weekly theft of his trash. Spying on "garbagemen," he poses as a shrub, realizing that he may be the first shrub to have arms and legs. As a postman, he delivered mail directly to street-side mail slots a.k.a. storm drains. Stanley exists in another universe, where someone would think to revive his car battery using mouth-to-mouth. John Landis' ode to idiocy may be the least known title on this list, but the longer you watch these jaw-droppingly dumb characters go about their daily lives, the more you realize they've earned the right to be here. Especially Stanley: splice the dad of Family Circus with Homer Simpson, and you have the Stupid patriarch.
Dumb Factor: 8

ph

Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas, ‘Dumb and Dumber’ (1994)

Harry and Lloyd represent the intellect, maturity levels, and horniness of two 11-year-old boys stuffed into the dorkiest manchild packaging. When they're not on road trips, they're sub-Jerky Boys pranksters taking joy in the others gastrointestinal misfortunes. (OK, that applies to the gents when they're on road trips too.) The brothers from other mothers have somehow weaponized their stupidity — just ask any state trooper or the traveling companion they sing "Mockingbird" to — and there isn't a frozen ski-lift poll they wouldn't lick. Even if they butt heads, another stupid move resolves their differences. When Lloyd swaps their van for a minibike, Harry screams, "Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this — and totally redeem yourself!" Harry and Lloyd are a ying and yang of brainlessness. Accept no substitutes.
Dumb Factor: 8

ph

Brick Tamland, ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ (2004)

Doctors claim that Brick Tamland has an IQ of 48 and is what some people might call severely mentally challenged. Maybe it's true, but frankly, it's hard to put anyone else in whatever psychological category he's carved out for himself. This is a person who introduces himself by professing his love for slacks. When he hears loud noises, he'll join in by screaming, "loud noises!" He once murdered a man with a trident. Somehow, he became a weatherman, obsessed with sunny San Francisco and referring to the Midwest as the "Middle East." Being a loyal colleague of Ron Burgundy has likely diminished what was left of Brick's intelligence. This is a man who was shocked to learn that baby pandas don't come from storks (they come from mother pandas — a miracle he witnessed first hand). Brick is in a class of his own— the posterboy for guys who love lamp, a walking, talking non sequitur, and the dumbest character ever committed to screen.
Dumb Factor: 10

In This Article: Brad Pitt, Jeff Daniels, Jim Carrey

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.