Nute Gunray. You'd Expect: The guy who is running a Trade Federation consisting of what would be the equivalent of hundreds of billions of credits of equipment, fleets, robots and manpower wouldn't blindly follow the orders of a hologram of a man he's never met or even seen the face of. Even if he knew Palpatine as behind it all, Palpatine couldn't give him any favors considering his position. Instead: Not only does he do so, but he continues to be involved in a losing effort in a role that just screams expendable fall guy.
While from the very beginning, the invasion of Naboo was orchestrated by Palpatine, it still requires the Trade Federation to do some really stupid things. You'd Expect: The Trade Federation to be smart enough to realize that a treaty signed under pressure would be rendered void. Not to mention all the legal consequences of attacking Naboo for shits and giggles. Instead: The Trade Federation invades Naboo and occupies it. You'd think stunts like that are bad for business.
Nute Gunray has Queen Amidala under his control, and sends her off to be processed at a prison camp called Camp Four. You'd Think: Gunray would assign a large and elite escort to send Amidala prison camp. Preferably one with Destroyer Droids, since the first time we saw them in action, they were able to fight two Jedi to a stalemate. Instead: He sends her with a few droids who are outnumbered by their prisoners two to one (what?!) despite knowing that there are two Jedi in the area, unaccounted for and looking for the queen. (WHAT?!) Guess what happens.
A large army of Gungans mass outside the city. You'd Think: The Trade Federation would take advantage of having a fortified position and simply wait for the Gungans try to penetrate it, firing from behind the walls which are a few dozen feet high and look sturdy. Instead: They decide to leave the city, split their forces, and wage war on an open field negating any sort of tactical advantage they might have had. It also acts as a wonderful distraction for the Jedis operating in town. Sun Tzu, these guys ain't.
Darth Maul has Obi-Wan down for the count. Confident that he prevailed, Maul waits for Obi-Wan to fall into the pit. However, Kenobi force jumps above Maul and force pulls Qui-Gon's lightsaber. You'd Think: Maul would continue using his superior skills to defend himself. Or to push Obi-Wan off the spot where he hangs with the Force again. Instead: He stalls in shock for Obi-Wan to land behind him and thus gets cut in half. Even with his initial moment of surprise, he had more than enough time to react due to having Force-enabled Super Reflexes.
Senator Amidala is marked for assassination and has already survived one attempt. You'd Expect: Anything but what she ends up doing. Seriously, anything. Instead: She doesn’t use a decoy, even though that plan alone has worked for her multiple times already. She stays in her designated room, which apparently every dog in the city knows about. She sleeps in a room with a huge window overseeing the city, that a small droid can cut through with a laser. She turns the surveillance cameras off, so that Anakin cannot peek on her sleeping, which even with his creepy behavior, seems a bit of a stretch, and it doesn't occur to her to simply make him promise not to. Additionally, what is R2-D2 doing? Droids don't need to sleep, and since Padmé trusts it enough to stay in her room, why can't R2 keep a lookout for suspicious activity? Also: Anakin takes Padmé to wide open spaces on Naboo, exposing her so much that a sniper would cream his pants at such an easy shot. Additionally: The suggested explanation that Padmé wanted to lure the assassins out by using herself as a bait is an example itself. The assassins have already demonstrated that they don't need to reveal themselves to make an attempt, and in that world of highly advanced weapons and droids it's unlikely they ever will, which is exactly what happens, and the plan only works because, as noted below, the assassins themselves are idiots. Regardless, Obi-Wan was placed in charge of Padmé's security and was strongly opposed to the idea of them seeking the assassins. You'd Expect: That since he couldn't be unaware of all the aforementioned idiocy, he would've promptly put an end to it and arranged accomodation for Padme that was actually secure. Instead: He just goes along with it.
Jango Fett instructs an assassin, Zam Wessell, to kill Padmé, using a flying droid that can drill a hole in her bedroom window. This comes after they nearly killed her at the start of the film with explosives and neither of them know that Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) wants her in danger but alive so he can use her to manipulate Anakin. You'd Expect: This droid would fire a bomb into Padmé's room, then self-destruct to eliminate any connection to the assassin. There's no need for subtlety: everyone knows that somebody wants Padmé dead due to an earlier assassination attempt. Instead: Jango gives Zam a couple of venomous creatures to place in Padmé's room; they linger there long enough for Obi-Wan and Anakin to sense them and kill them. The droid then flies back to the assassin, giving the Jedi a lead. Lampshaded thoroughly in thisDarths & Droids strip.
The Jedi have just captured Zam, and start questioning her. Her employer/accomplice Jango Fett decides to kill her to stop her spilling the beans. You'd Think: Jango would kill Zam by shooting her with a blaster, which would not provide any leads. Instead: He uses a toxic dart, giving the Jedi another lead.
To protect her from further assassination attempts, the Jedi Council decide to send Padmé back to Naboo. Since Padmé represents her home planet in the Galactic Senate, she'll need to get someone else to be the representative while she's gone. You'd Expect: Padmé would pick someone who's competent, doesn't let themselves be pushed around, and preferably supports her beliefs of non-militarisation. It's not hard to imagine Naboo having such people, and it shouldn't be too much of an issue to fly them to Coruscant. Instead: She picks Jar-Jar Binks, a guy with virtually no experience in politics. Jar Jar subsequently ends up being manipulated into convincing the Senate to approve the creation of the Grand Clone Army of The Republic, the last thing Padmé would have wanted. The only good thing that does come out of it is that Obi-Wan does managed to get rescued later, and he would eventually go on to train Luke in Episode IV, but as for everything else, not so much.
During the Battle of Geonosis, Anakin and Obi-Wan's gunship spots Dooku escaping on his speeder bike, accompanied by a couple of Geonosian fighters. Anakin orders the gunship to shoot Dooku down, but the pilot says, "We're out of rockets, sir.". You'd Expect: Anakin to order the pilot to use the gunship's laser cannons and laser beam turrets (that were seen blasting droids away during the extraction from the Geonosian arena) and blast Dooku and his Geonosian fighter escort away with them, problem solved, the Clone Wars doesn't have to happen, the end! Instead: Anakin completely forgets that the gunship has blaster cannons and orders the pilot to just follow Dooku, without any attempt to use the laser cannons to blast Dooku away. Dooku then orders his fighter escort to fire on the gunship which knocks Padmé overboard, and eventually, the fighters shoot down the gunship after Anakin and Obi-Wan track Dooku to the hanger, and get into a lightsaber fight with him and lose, leading to the below moment.
Yoda is duelling with Count Dooku. Realising that he might not win this fight, Dooku decides to flee, and uses the Force to cause a giant metal cylinder thing to fall towards the wounded Anakin and Obi-Wan, in the hope of distracting Yoda. You'd Expect: Yoda to use the Force to quickly pull/push Anakin and Obi-Wan out of the way of the metal pillar, or push the metal thing out of the way without slowly grabbing it, before turning his attention back to Dooku. Instead: He grabs the metal thing, moves it so it's not above Anakin and Obi-Wan, before dropping it. It takes him several seconds to do this, and as a result, Dooku is able to escape. Cue the Clone Wars.
In one of the worst Strangled by the Red String moments in recent memory (also pointed out by Red Letter Media), Anakin and Padmé's interactions throughout the film. From the moment he meets her as an adult, Anakin comes off as very unprofessional and creepy. He makes inappropriate and arrogant remarks whenever he's around her, openly defies her authority on at least one occasion, makes bizarre, leering gestures towards her, shows open support for dictatorships (stating that politicians who don't agree should be "made to"), and attempts to justify his massacre of the Sand People - including women and children - to her (with her reaction making it look like she's incredibly freaked out by this revelation). You'd Expect: That, after all that, she'd politely cut off ties from him after the threat is over and avoid him as much as possible, seeing as he's already proven multiple times over that his actions are incredibly inappropriate. Or, if she's attracted to him, wait a few years so the horny nineteen year old boy can be a more mature adult. Instead: She not only flirts with him by wearing revealing clothing (and toys with him by saying that she can't love him because she's a senator), but she marries him at the end of the film!
Anakin goes to see Master Yoda after having a terrible dream (possibly a premonition) about Padmé suffering and dying. You'd Expect: that the wise and compassionate Master Yoda would explain the nature of self-fulfilling prophecies and recommend that Anakin not go to dangerous extremes even to do something so noble as save the people he cares about. At the very least, he would say something to placate him. Something like, "Always in motion is the future. Do not be reckless." Instead: Yoda quite callously tells Anakin to let go of everything he loves, never mourning their loss or even missing them. As a result, Anakin stops listening to the Jedi and starts listening to Palpatine.
Speaking of the above dream, that Padmé will for an unknown reason, die in childbirth, Anakin is convinced that it will come true unless he does something about it. Understandable, due to him once having a similar dream about his mother, who did die. You'd Expect: That Anakin would ensure that there's no chance of Padmé dying, using methods he should know and understand. He could try and convince Padmé to have an extensive medical check, in case the cause of death is a pre-existing condition they don't know about. He could also arrange to have her give birth and recover from it in secret, if he thinks someone will try to assassinate her when she's having the kid. Instead: He decides to join up with a Sith Lord, who claims that the Sith have the ability to save people from dying, and that if he follows his orders, which at a very early point include MURDERING CHILDREN, Padmé will be saved. And Anakin remains convinced of this throughout and never asks himself what any of this has to do with saving Padmé.
Palpatine keeps acting and behaving suspiciously around Anakin, like knowing things about things like the Sith that he shouldn't, prompting Anakin to kill defenseless captives, suggesting he abandon Obi-Wan needlessly to his death and making broad comments about how the Sith were able to prevent people from dying. You'd Expect: Anakin to take a hint. Instead: Palpatine does everything but scream in Anakin's ear "I'M A SITH LORD!" before tricking him - not seducing him, but tricking him - into following the Dark Path, to the point where Anakin does everything including killing young children. And then Palpatine tells him more and less that he lied about bringing keeping people from dying and utters some bullshit about "finding out together" how to do it. You'd Then Expect: Anakin to take the time to either gut Palpatine like a fish or return to the Jedi Council and admit his mistake. Instead: Anakin continues to do Palpatine's business for him and tries to murder Obi-Wan, despite everything Palpatine told him was a blatant lie.
Near the end of Revenge Gunray and other separatists are hiding on a distant planet. Their mysterious... ally?... master?... employer?... benefactor? (seriously, what were their relations with Sidious?) ...contacts Gunray and promises to send his apprentice to them, who will "... take care of them." You'd Think: Gunray would say "Thank you" to Sidious, end the communication and immediatelyget the hell out from there. You'd have to be Too Dumb to Live not to pick up on that hint. Instead: They just sit on their butts until Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) arrives and... well, takes care of them. Even Worse: In the non-canon video game adaptation, they get holographic footage of Anakin killing a couple Nemodian aides and several guards, and make the guards try to stop him, and even then, they don't try to escape until Anakin is about to enter the room they're in.
Obi-Wan discovers that Anakin has turned to The Dark Side, fights him and ends with having him without legs and one hand, burning, and sliding into a river of lava. He senses that the Emperor approaches and has no time to climb down the slope to finish Anakin off. You'd think: That he'd hurl a lightsaber at him or Force push him into lava, thus granting him a quick death. Even though Obi-Wan is a Jedi, the least you could do is put the person who was formerly your friend out of their misery, so that the death would not be as painful. Instead: He leaves him to a painful death, assuming that it would be left to the will of the Force.... and has to deal with the consequences.
Vader and the crew of his Star Destroyer have captured the Rebel Blockade Runner with Princess Leia and the stolen Death Star plans aboard. An imperial gunner and his commanding officer detect a jettisoned escape pod with no life readings aboard. You'd Expect: That they'd blast the pod just to be on the safe side, or at least have it tractor-beamed into an empty cargo bay and send in some Stormtroopers to check it. After all, data is not alive. Leia could have tossed the plans inside and jettisoned it for the Rebels to find later. Or there might be droids aboard! (Imagine that.) Instead: The officer orders the gunner to just let it go. Turns out that the plans WERE in there, and they ultimately make it into the hands of the Rebels, giving them a way to destroy the Death Star.
Admiral Motti boasts that the Death Star with its giant, planet-killing laser cannon is "the ultimate power in the universe." Vader admonishes the Admiral for such hubris by saying "the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force." You'd Think: Motti would smile and nod and avoid saying anything at this juncture that might anger the Dark Lord of the Sith. Instead: He kicks things off by insulting Vader and his religion right in front of everyone in that meeting room. That alone was highly uncalled for and would very likely get you fired in real life. As if he hasn't already committed an act of monumental douchebaggery at this point, he then insinuates that Vader is incompetent because he has yet to "conjure up the stolen data tapes or find the Rebels' hidden fortress.", which leads Vader to strangle Motti, saying that he "finds his lack of faith disturbing". He's only saved from being telekinetically strangled to death when Grand Moff Tarkin orders Vader to stop.
When the Imperial fleet gets the info that the Rebels are on Hoth they get going there. In command of the fleet is Admiral Ozzel. You'd Think: Ozzel would have the fleet come out of hyperspace at a good distance that is not too close to the Hoth system, that way, the Rebellion wouldn't be alerted to their prescence. Instead: He has the fleet come out of hyperspace far too close to the system, which alerts the Rebels, and allows them to buy a little bit of time of preparation for evacuation. The Result: Darth Vader strangles Ozzel to death with Force choke for this act of stupidity.
The Rebels have a plan to destroy the second Death Star (which has Emperor Palpatine on it): The shield around the Death Star must be disabled. To that end, they plan on landing a strike team on the surface in a stolen Imperial shuttle to sneak onto the planet. But little do they know that Palpatine leaked the info to create a trap in an attempt to cause the death of the Rebellion. You'd Expect: The Rebels to have a Plan B on turning the shield off, in case the "shuttle landing Han's team" thing doesn't work out and the shield is still up (i.e. Have the GR-75 medium transports that are with the fleet loaded with ground battle reinforcements to get through the shield beyond Endor, land on the surface, and help Han's team out and get the shield complex destroyed by force). That way, the battle could be won quicker. Instead: They go ahead with the plan without so much as a backup plan, confident that the "shuttle landing Han's team on Endor" will work in time for the fleet to arrive and be able to destroy the Death Star. Unfortunately, the plan doesn't work, Han and Leia's team gets ambushed, and the shield is still up when the fleet arrives, falling right into a trap, and the Rebellion almost gets destroyed!
During the Battle of Endor, on the surface, Han and Leia can't get into the bunker, due to the code being changed. She calls Artoo to come over here and lend a hand. As he tries to open it, a stormtrooper blasts Artoo, incapacitating him. You'd Expect: Either Han or Leia to fix Artoo and try again. After all, Artoo is Leia's droid, so I'm sure she would know how to fix him. And granted, they're under fire, but, I'm sure using a fixed Artoo would be a better solution than hot-wiring it. Instead: Han opts to try to hot-wire the doors to open, which in his attempt takes a long-butt time, and when he thinks he got it, it didn't work, and the other set of doors close.