Silence is golden. Throughout the great moments in cinema, we often best remember the scenes that are light on dialogue and heavy on emotion. From Dorothy waking up back home to Vito Corleone weeping over his dead son, we tend to remember characters more for their actions rather than their words.
And what of the most silent figures on the big and small screen? They come from all around. Some are too cool for school, some confined to the limitations of language, some mentally handicapped, and others are…taciturn trees.
No matter their reason or background, each of these characters have a story worth hearing.
Here’s 15 Movie & TV Characters Who Barely Talk:
15. “Hodor” in Game of Thrones
Through all of its death and darkness, Game of Thrones remains accessible because of characters like Hodor. Though disyllabic and limited to a single word of expression, he has brought much needed levity and loyalty to the Stark family for years. The second episode of season six reveals a young Hodor fully capable of speaking via flashback from the greenseeing Bran Stark, calling into question the larger significance of his role in Westeros.
Fans are wondering if Hodor was once a warg who incubated too long, losing his mental faculties during his extended stay. In any case, while Hodor remains an oft-parodied character from an otherwise frighteningly serious show, he may soon play a larger role in deciding who sits on the Iron Throne. Until then, Bran will be able to confidently ask any question and anticipate its unchanging answer.
14. The Seagulls in Finding Nemo
Pixar can make you laugh and cry, sometimes in the same moment. The design team also has a knack for taking innocent looking creatures and turning them into monsters, like the beady-eyed seagulls in Finding Nemo. As Marlin and Dory traverse the oceans in pursuit of the lost one-finned clownfish, they encounter a flock of hungry seagulls ready to feed. Their vocabulary is limited but effective: “Mine! Mine! Mine!” They shout this in perpetuity, creating a constant cacophony of sound.
The only thing scarier than being a tiny fish pursued by a score of undereducated and selfish birds is imagining the recording studio of actors tasked with this dialogue. Hours of recording “Mine! Mine! Mine!” in unison surely possessed the thespians’ minds as they tried and failed to sleep. The seagulls have quite the fan following on both land and sea, making their expected appearance in Finding Dory hotly anticipated.
13. “Groot” in Guardians of the Galaxy
“I am Groot.”
If there was every any doubt people could love a talking tree with a three-word arsenal, Groot put an end to it. Vin Diesel’s voice gave Groot an eminent likability. On the whole, Guardians of the Galaxy pulled off its perfect balance of eccentric characters and compelling story with charisma to spare. Thanks to James Gunn’s steady directorial hand, tree-people like Groot move from potentially wooden (had to do it) plot devices to emotionally engaging characters.
After ensuring that everyone knew that he was Groot, the “I” switched to “We” and made for a particularly potent finale. Like Hodor, Groot has plenty of emotion trapped behind his earthy facade, plus even a few tears to shed when he sacrifices himself for the team. “We are Groot” can’t return fast enough as we anxiously await the day Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 drops next year.
12. “Hector Salamanca” in Breaking Bad
Through nothing else but a vintage bell and an eager face did Hector Salamanca survive in the cutthroat world of Breaking Bad. A victim of either a stroke or an unspecified trauma to the head, Hector served with honor in the Juarez Cartel for many years. In his old age, Hector was confined to a wheelchair with an inability to speak. He breathed only with the constant assistance of an oxygen tank and lived reliant on machines and the patient attention of others.
Hector’s only recourse was to ding the bell and have a hospital aide use an alphanumeric card to spell out his thoughts. While a truly primitive way of living for the former drug runner, Hector Salamanca brought heavy doses of ironic humor to the often chthonic Breaking Bad series. His struggle to form sentences and harass the DEA often overwhelmed his being to the point of bursting. While he went out like a badass, Hector Salamanca lives on in the prequel(ish) world of Better Call Saul.
10. “Magnitude” in Community
The king of grand entrances, Magnitude helped unite the Community with his limited but effective form of communication. Whether he’s talking about caterpillars leaving their cocoon or sacrificing himself atop an explosive paintball drone, Magnitude reveals his multipurpose expression in a variety of circumstances. Unlike Hodor and Hector Salamanca, he doesn’t suffer from a form of aphasia; he just gets his point across faster with his phrase of choice.
Even in great pain, he will say little else other than, “Pop! Pop!” Fans of Community adored Luke Youngblood’s perennially upbeat character. He was consistent and reliable, even if guys like Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) could never fully understand the appeal. Other than the occasional naysayer (“who’s Magnitude?!“), the patriarch of Pop! Pop! always got the party started. Magnitude will be missed.
9. “The Chief” in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Have you ever wondered what would happen if your dog started talking? In a nutshell, that’s the shock value of The Chief unexpectedly speaking in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Before then, he was a towering, silent threat who hadn’t spoken and was never expected to speak. Our attention is so focused on Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), that we never expect anything from The Chief (If you haven’t yet seen the movie, please remedy that as soon as possible).
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest features one of Nicholson’s most memorable performances, and a story that you’ll never forget. Set in a mental institution replete with a slew of fascinating characters, the patients are led spiritually by the rebellious McMurphy, though physically repressed by the masochistic warden, Nurse Ratched. The Chief, the big-rig Indian who feigns retardation, is a fixture throughout the film, but only opens his mouth when McMurphy slips him a piece of gum. “I love Juicy Fruit” he says, in one of the film’s most surprising moments.
8. “Timmy” from South Park
This list would hardly be complete without mentioning Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s juggernaut cartoon, South Park. Timmy Burch is an unfortunate lad, bound to a wheelchair and restrained by his limited mental faculties. Described by the writers as a character with “a strange combination of Palsy and Tourette’s,” Timmy is famous for blurting out his name at rather inopportune moments.
First introduced in season 4, Stone and Parker had to fight for Timmy to make the final cut. Comedy Central balked at the idea of portraying someone like Timmy for comedic effect, but the uber-successful and persuasive South Park creators were not to be denied. Timmy ultimately became a fan favorite, thanks to his unapologetic style of stating his name. Though he may sometimes sound like Goku from Dragon Ball Z, Timmy continues to be a fixture of South Park’s enduring success.
7. Harpo Marx of The Marx Brothers
Even with all of the technology and tools at our disposal, nothing will reach the comedic simplicity of the Marx Brothers. While each of the trio brought something unique to the fray, Harpo Marx specialized in the silent treatment. The middle child of the three brothers, Harpo seldom spoke in his acts, using the occasional whistle or horn to get his scene partners’ attention. He specialized in sneaking and shuffling while others shouted.
A venerable pantomime, Harpo was half Marx brother and another half Charlie Chaplin. His sensibilities were perhaps matched only by the Little Tramp. While Groucho Marx later revealed that Harpo struggled with memorizing dialogue, the comedic clown turned his weaknesses into a strength and built a slapstick comedy career of the first order. His favorite prop? Fittingly, Harpo chose the harp, which he immortalized in numerous acts (and played surprisingly well) over the years.
6. “Beaker” in The Muppets
Just look at that face. Beaker may be one of the most sympathetic characters in all of the Muppets. Perpetually scared and disoriented, Beaker wanders through life with abject insecurity. He’s frightened at every turn. No wonder he can’t speak much English — he’s too terrified to form a true sentence.
While some of his friends can translate his famed repeating of the phrase, “mee-moo, mee-moo!”, the greater public is typically left confused when in his company. In the 1992 film, Muppet Christmas Carol, Beaker is at DEFCON 5, imploring Ebenezer Scrooge to grant a donation for the poor. When the Dickensian miser rejects his inquiries, Beaker steadily loses his mind and bounces out of the cold Victorian house. Though Scrooge may take little offense at the bevy of “mee-moo, mee-moo’s,” Beaker’s exit goodbye seems to suggest he gets his point across in different ways. Pay close attention.
5. “Max” in Mad Max: Fury Road
“My name is Max. My world is fire and blood.”
After this brief monologue at the top of George Miller’s rambunctious dystopian epic, Mad Max: Fury Road is seen but seldom heard. A force of nature, he communicates pages of thought with a quick glance. Tom Hardy is a venerable master of the unspoken word, an actor who can do more in silence than most with a full monologue. Indeed, when he played Bane, his mouth was covered for the entirety of the film (allowing for truly touching send-ups of The Dark Knight Rises).
As the post-apocalyptic road warrior (and descendent of Mel Gibson’s originating role), Hardy rose to meet an even larger challenge. In addition to spending the first half in chains and with yet another metal muzzle around his jaw, Hardy essentially carried a two-hour long roller coaster by grimacing, grunting and groveling through the desert. Left to lesser actors, the movie simply wouldn’t work. In this case, Mad Max got a green-lit sequel and a bucket full of Oscars. Don’t let him full you: Max’s world is gold and green.
4. “Driver” in Drive
Loaded silences are a part of life. In Nicolas Winding-Refn’s 2011 sleeper hit, Drive, those silences are embedded in the film’s DNA. The Driver, Ryan Gosling’s leather-gloved and hammer-toting hero, chooses his words carefully. Whether he’s courting a lady or killing a thug, he internalizes his thoughts until they’re forced to emerge (“How about this? Shut your mouth or I’ll kick your teeth in and shut it for you.”) Just watch this scene where he takes Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son on an adventurous drive. In that two-minute span, a mere seven words play out, but that’s more than enough.
Drive is strengthened by its silences, and its impact would only have been inhibited by extra dialogue. Gosling’s Driver is certainly an enigma. If he were to talk more and brood less, he would lose some of the appeal that the silence allows. In lieu of dialogue, Drive features one of the best soundtrack compilations (along with a heap of creative visuals) in recent years.
3. “Road Runner”
When you think of Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson, you might assume they spearheaded the term Fast and Furious. While the phrase has a much older origin than Dom Toretto might think, it was actually the name of the kickoff episode for the Wile E. Coyote: “Fast and Furry-ous.” Unlike the hard-bodied drivers of the Fast and Furious movies, this Coyote never gets what he wants. Though a carnivorous wolf with the instinct to kill, Mr. Coyote always fails to catch his lightning fast, car-honking target, the Road Runner.
With a perpetual smile plastered on his face, the speedy ground bird tears up the tracks like Usain Bolt. His form of silence is competitive. Road Runner always let his legs do the talking, creating a dust storm so furious it would rival even Mad Max’s desert escapades. While Wile E. Coyote hopes to make him a meal, all he ever eats is the Road Runner’s dust.
2. “Annyong Bluth” in Arrested Development
A product of George and Lucille’s attempt to keep up with the times, Annyong Bluth was adopted out of fake altruism. Since day one, Annyong’s name has been misattributed to his penchant for repeatedly saying “hello” (“anneyong” in Korean). Every time his adoptees say it, he returns the favor, creating a maelstrom of hellos while convincing Lucille that his name is actually Annyong.
For much of his initial stay, Annyong’s lack of verbal diversity became quite a nuisance to the Bluths. How unfortunate, then, that his lazily interpreted name is just an “i” away from being Annoying. Ultimately, the boy became a loquacious Bluth when he rounded out his lexicon and started joining in the conversation. No matter how articulate he became, however, Buster always held a grudge against his adopted brother, hoping to say goodbye much more than hello.
1. “Chewbacca” in Star Wars
Between R2-D2 and Chewbacca, choosing the leading silent Star Wars character is a tossup. Someone as expressive as Han Solo needs a foil like Chewie, however, so he gets our vote. Now that our favorite rapscallion is gone, it will be interesting to see how the Wookie survives without him. One part dog-bark, one part burp (with a dash of gargle), Chewbacca’s signature sound can be recognized in every language and on every continent.
Actor Peter Mayhew imbued the Kashyyyk-born beast with the vocal expressiveness of a hirsute singer, able to evoke an array of emotions depending on the circumstances. His reunion with Han at the beginning of The Return of the Jedi may be his most comical, as he works particularly hard to answer Han’s desperate questions. Chewie engages in a full on conversation that requires his entire being, though it ultimately leaves his old pal more confused than ever. We can’t wait to hear Chewie let it loose again in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments below!
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