Top 10 Smartest Decisions in Horror Movies

by WatchMojo about a year ago in pop culture

While most characters tend to make dumb decisions, these were the smartest decisions in horror movies that helped them reach a satisfying conclusion.

It takes brains to beat a monster. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Smartest Decisions Made by Horror Movie Characters."

For this list, we’re honoring those rare times when horror movie characters break with the dumb stereotype and do something smart to survive. We’re basing our picks on a mix of resourcefulness, the genius of their ideas, and how well it works out. Given the final fights involved in our list, a MAJOR SPOILER ALERT is now in effect.

When your big bad has its own legend, it’s best to use that to your advantage. In this return to the found-footage legend of the Blair Witch, our heroes made sure to do their homework first. As James and Lisa arrive at the original Blair Witch house, they find themselves at a considerable disadvantage against the vastly overpowering witch. According to legend, however, she can only kill them if they look right at her, so they stare at the corner to stay alive, even using their camcorder to look around without getting killed. Although they’re eventually outsmarted back, at least they managed to temporarily outsmart her.

Good things come in small packages. On her own against the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface, Erin has virtually no way to fight back, so she runs into a nearby slaughterhouse to hide. Tucking herself away in a hall full of lockers, Erin covers her mouth and tries to remain silent, but she also has a four-legged friend along to help. Murderer approaching, Erin desperately holds her breath before Leatherface hears a noise and opens a locker. Distracted by the pig inside, Leatherface doesn’t even see Erin until she comes down at him with a meat cleaver, taking his arm and chainsaw off in one clever switcheroo.

Underestimating your enemy is one of the easiest ways for your plan to fail. After being invited by her boyfriend to a family reunion, Erin is caught in the middle of a murder spree when the family starts getting killed off by masked intruders. The wild card, however, is that Erin’s survivalist training means she holds her own against the murderers, even setting up traps to stop them. Making use of anything to get an edge, including using a blender and camera to kill someone, Erin appears to have been born for the genre, thinking through every encounter clearly and able to deliver brutal blows without hesitating.

Surviving a horror movie means being able to turn anything into a weapon. Chased down by the menacing Michael Myers, Laurie finds herself in the hardest babysitting job of her life, having to protect herself and the children from the seemingly invincible lunatic. Thinking quick, she fashions a blade out of a coat hanger, and stabs Myers in the eye, injuring him long enough for him to get shot by Dr. Loomis. Turns out Laurie had such a good head on her shoulders, that she finally relieves Michael of the head on his shoulders many sequels later to keep him from coming back again.

It’s rare to call anyone smart for stabbing themselves in the neck, but it might just save your life in a pinch. Hunting the Jigsaw Killer, FBI Agent Strahm stops one killer only to be caught by another, finding himself in his own disturbing trap in the process. Waking up in one of the few unbeatable traps of the series, Strahm is seemingly doomed as the box encasing his head quickly fills with water. Already beating one Jigsaw Killer, Strahm uses the pen in his pocket to perform a tracheotomy on himself, allowing him to breathe until he’s saved. Talk about thinking outside the box.

Escaping a madman takes a lot more preparation than a spur of the moment idea. Realizing Howard will almost definitely kill her, Michelle has to find a way out of his crazy bunker. After discovering a second exit hatch while fixing their ventilator, Michelle devises a plan to get out. She gets the upper hand on Howard long enough to crawl through the vents and climb to the hatch. Using compressed air to freeze and shatter the lock, Michelle dons her makeshift hazmat suit and rises to the surface, to see the outside world once again.

The gang in the Scream series knows how to survive a horror movie, even using Internet calls as far back as the 90s to save themselves. However, one thing the group was particularly ignorant of the first time around was making sure the killers were even dead. But in the sequel, Sidney Prescott doesn’t mess around. After seemingly killing Mickey and Mrs. Loomis, Sidney and Cotton take a breath before Mickey comes back, getting immediately shot by Sidney and Gale. Learning her lesson, Sidney shoots Loomis in the head just to be safe.

Home field advantages can work two ways. With her friends getting murdered around her, Nancy decides she has to take the fight against Freddy Krueger into her own hands. Realizing she can bring him out of her dream, Nancy booby traps her house and asks Don to help her once she gets Freddy on her turf. Managing to pull him out, Nancy gets Freddy into the real world and even lures him into her traps long enough to set him on fire. Not so easily defeated, however, Krueger of course returns.

The researchers in this claustrophobic horror classic are faced with quite the conundrum: how do you find a monster that can look like your friends? Using their brains, however, the surviving members of the arctic facility go about revealing the alien in the most rudimentary way possible: a simple blood test. Knowing the creature’s blood will try to protect itself, R.J. MacReady takes a sample of everyone’s blood and heats it with a copper wire. As he dips the wire in Palmer’s blood, the sample jumps from the dish and flees, revealing the alien among them.

Before we get to our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

  • Burning the Book, Misery (1990)
  • Making Weapons & Setting a Trap, The Final Girls (2015)
  • Rules & Distance, It Follows (2014)

Never doubt the resourcefulness of a kid at death’s door. Running for his life from his deranged and homicidal father, Danny heads for the hedge maze at the snowed-in and very haunted Overlook Hotel. Knowing he can’t outrun his father forever, Danny realizes he has to throw his dad off the scent, and ditches running for a better plan. Backtracking through his own steps and hiding, his father reaches the end of his trail and proceeds to search aimlessly for him in the giant maze. Following his own prints out of the maze, Danny runs into his mother’s arms, leaving dad to suffer in the cold.

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