In literary criticism, idiot plot refers to "a plot which is kept in motion solely by virtue of the fact that everybody involved is an idiot," otherwise "they'd immediately figure out everything and the movie would be over." It is a narrative where its conflict comes from characters not recognizing, or not being told, key information that would resolve the conflict, often because of plot contrivance. The only thing that prevents the conflict's resolution is the character's constant avoidance or obliviousness of it throughout the plot, even if it was already obvious to the viewer, so the characters are all "idiots" in that they are too obtuse to simply resolve the conflict immediately.
Reviewing Prime in 2005 critic Roger Ebert said "I can forgive and even embrace an Idiot Plot in its proper place (consider Astaire and Rogers in Top Hat). But when the characters have depth and their decisions have consequences, I grow restless when their misunderstandings could be ended by words that the screenplay refuses to allow them to utter." Alternate formulations describe only the protagonist as being an idiot.
Damon Knight, in In Search of Wonder, attributes the first use of the term to science fiction author and critic James Blish. Knight went on to coin the term second-order idiot plot, "in which not merely the principals, but everybody in the whole society has to be a grade-A idiot, or the story couldn't happen."
See also 
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