It seems common sense is in short supply when it comes to horror movies. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a fine line between dumb, endearing characters and ones that are so stupid you’re surprised they’re capable of breathing. What’s arguably more interesting is when characters use their brains to combat the horrors beyond their comprehension. So, with that in mind, we thought it’d be a good time to celebrate these examples of good writing with 10 of the best horror movies where characters use common sense.
In the blackness of space, the Nostromo picks up a distress signal, and it’s the crew’s job to check things out. That’s just asking for a hostile alien to board the ship and board the ship it does before Ripley can warn the others that the signal was a warning, not a call for help. Regardless, Ripley is a bastion of resourcefulness and common sense, consistently making smart decisions to keep herself alive.
What’s kind of funny is that the movie could have ended within minutes if Ash hadn’t ignored Ripley’s order to leave the infected Kane outside the ship. What unfolds is the birth of the Xenomorph, which quietly and systematically kills the remaining crew, but not Ripley; the Xenomorph is cunning, but Ripley is far more dangerous.
Get Out (2017)
Chris Washington and his girlfriend Rose are a seemingly happy couple in Get Out, but soon her parents are calling after her to pay a visit. Right off the bat, there’s a bit of hesitation from Chris, which prompts him to ask a question that frames the entirety of the film: “Do they know I’m black?”
Of course Rose’s parents know, including every white attendee at the party they’re throwing; in fact, he’s the main attraction, but by the time he finds an opening to leave, he’s trapped. It’s through Chris’ intelligence and ingenuity that he’s able to not only escape, but defend himself from those that tried to enslave his mind and body.
The Thing (1982)
In the middle of nowhere Antarctica, a group of American researchers soon find themselves amidst bullets, Norwegians, and a dog. Shortly after such an exciting start to the day, the Norwegians die, their helicopter is destroyed, and the dog is rescued. Unfortunately, had the Americans understood Norwegian, they would’ve learned the dog was bad news.
Beset by a shapeshifting alien, the American researchers quickly devise a variety of strategies and tactics to avoid being the alien’s next host. They all keep their cool as best they can, but none better than MacReady. Despite not being a scientist himself, it’s MacReady who discovers a clever way of exposing those who are infected.
The Invisible Man (2020)
The Invisible Man is a nail-biting experience from start to finish as we watch Cecelia descend into paranoid madness. Even after the fact, she can’t help but feel his presence everywhere, like he’ll show up at any moment. You probably would too if you had an ex that was as controlling and abusive as hers.
Strangely enough, it’s Cecelia’s trauma that helps rebuild what was barely a person to begin with into a confident, cunning, and incredibly resourceful woman who uses her past experience to gain the upperhand despite the imbalance of power. Best of all, she isn’t afraid to stoop to her enemy’s level if it means getting a few hits in.
The Shining (1980)
Jack Torrance and his wife Wendy are off to look after the Overlook Hotel with their young son, Danny. It’s an opportunity to spend quality time with one another and for Jack to get some writing done. Over time, Jack grows ever more aggressive, cold, and distant—and Wendy isn’t having any of that.
At first, Wendy comes off as seemingly helpless and quite timid, but her perception is surprisingly sharp. It’s that, coupled with her parental instincts, that ultimately save her and Danny’s life. Who stood up to her intimidating husband? Wendy. Who locked him away? Wendy. She even finds a working snow machine as a getaway vehicle.
Of course, Danny’s intelligence shouldn’t be understated, either. It’s his quick thinking and trickery in the maze that seals his father’s fate.
You’re Next (2011)
Family gatherings are meant to be fun, relaxing, and wholesome—especially when everyone attending hasn’t seen each other in a while. Naturally, masked assailants crash the party, turning what should have been a quiet evening into a fight for survival. What they least expected was someone who was hiding a particular set of skills.
When the opportunity presents itself, Erin reveals she didn’t have a normal childhood considering she grew up in a survivalist compound. With her expertise, she quickly dispatches her would-be assailants, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “I’m not trapped in here with you; you’re trapped in her with me.”
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
With serial killer “Buffalo Bill” on the loose, the FBI bring in new blood, a trainee by the name of Clarice Starling. To understand what they’re up against, Clarice needs information, and who better to gather such intel than from another serial killer like Hannibal Lecter?
Hannibal isn’t some deranged lunatic, but a highly intelligent and sophisticated individual—a cannibal, but a genius nonetheless. Despite having an extensive vocabulary, Clarice is able to match him at every turn, even reading between the lines of his often very cryptic wording. It’s that attentiveness to detail that she’s able to piece together the info she needs to find Buffalo Bill and save his hostage from an untimely death.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
With the death of his wife still fresh, Jacob Fuller hits the road in his RV with his two kids, Scot and Kate on a much needed vacation. Unfortunately, this puts them on a collision course with the Gecko brothers, a pair of twisted killers. In an effort to get to Mexico, they hitch a ride with the Fuller family or feel the pain of a bullet.
After they reach their destination, a strip club, what unfolds before them includes death and vampires, so they make the sensible decision to work together. Their ingenuity in creating effective weapons is very MacGyver, going as far as to stick a stake on the end of a drill and blessing water.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Say what you will about zombies these days, but they wouldn’t have reached such prominence without the help of Night of the Living Dead. What better way to pave the road for today’s horror flicks than a likable, intelligent, and level-headed character like Ben? We like to imagine we’d be Ben in dire situations, when really we’d be in the fetal position.
In the movie, Ben is most certainly the de facto leader, and the only one who isn’t shutting down. He keeps his cool, makes sound plans, and common sense decisions. Ben even goes as far as to risk his life in order to help a dying Karen by attempting to refuel his truck and drive off to safety. In the end, Ben is the only one to survive.
A Quiet Place (2018)
Imagine our world without the hustle and bustle of cars or the constant buzz of human-beings talking. Now toss in a hostile alien creature sensitive to noise, and what you get is A Quiet Place. Anyone still alive would have to drastically change their lives, and that’s exactly what unfolds.
Survivors are typically barefoot to quiet their footsteps with sand adding additional protection, and as a contingency plan, fireworks can be used as a distraction. Everyone in A Quiet Place has varying levels of common sense, but all share a baseline understanding that sound equals death—even the beeps and boops from toys.
With A Quiet Place being the last entry, it’s time to close the book on the 10 best horror movies where characters use common sense. For more content like this, go find out the latest news on Scream 6’s release date. If it’s horror gaming you need, there’s always three ways The Callisto Protocol nails the horror genre that might tickle your fancy.
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