Most often, the moments we remember in movies consist of catchy one-liners we can repeat with our friends over and over for days, weeks, months, even years after seeing a particular movie for the first time. Sometimes, though, a character is memorable for what they don’t say. These are sometimes referred to as mute characters, even though they’re not technically, like, physically mute. They just don’t say much. They speak more through their actions, reactions and body language. And in some cases they steal the show.
There’s a history for this in film, since the birth of movies was a silent one. Movies were a silent medium for the first couple decades of the medium’s inception, and so emphasis was put on a performer’s physicality, and once the close-up came into fashion, much was made of a character’s facial expression. Although sound came to provide dialogue and music and dancing and general loudness, moments of silence still had tremendous efficacy in on-screen storytelling. In fact, the contrast between noise and silence may have made these quiet moments even more effective.
Mute movie characters, or characters who just say very little, can therefore be extremely compelling. It makes the few words they sometimes say, or the little expressions they make if they never do get around to using their words, that much more crucial and a source of much closer attention. Here are 7 characters who have used silence to outstanding effect long after sound came to dominate the landscape of movies.