The List: The best silent (or near-silent) film characters

Andy Downing
Jay and Silent Bob in “Clerks 2”

With the politically charged art extravaganza “Silence Is Death” set to take over Franklinton this weekend, we thought we'd take a look at some of our favorite silent — or at least near-silent — film characters. Leaving aside some of the more obvious choices (Harpo Marx, Charlie Chaplin, etc.), here's how the rest stacked up.

10. Silent Bob

Director Kevin Smith's aptly named sideman rarely spoke, preferring to leave the dialogue to his chatty counterpoint, Jay. (Writer's note: I initially had a line about Jay verbally abusing his pal, but the more I thought about it the more I realized on those rare moments Bob spoke I usually wanted him to shut up, too.)

9. Robert Redford in “All Is Lost”

Redford was rightly lauded for his work in this 2013 lost-at-sea flick, which relied less on dialogue than the actor's ability to convey his growing desperation with his expressive face.

8. Chief

As Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” actor Will Sampson brought both ample stoicism and a hidden sweetness. The character's quiet ways would later lead Boston Celtics teammates to give equally silent center Robert Parish the Chief nickname.

7. Max in “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Tom Hardy has never shied from taking roles less-than-reliant on dialogue (see: Bane's muffled, oft-mocked speaking tone in “The Dark Knight Rises”), but his Max takes this to new extremes, favoring brooding over small talk.


WALL-E (or Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth-class) is the humble robot star of the best Pixar film (sorry “Cars,” but not really). The opening 20 minutes of the movie are nearly silent, and still completely engrossing. This one's worth revisiting if you haven't screened it recently.

5. Ryan Gosling in “Drive”

When you have a sweet scorpion jacket — and an even sweeter driving soundtrack (the “Drive” score is still unimpeachable) — you don't need to waste much time communicating with words. Such was the case with Baby Goose in this 2011 Nicolas Winding Refn film, where the usually lovable Gosling emerged as a guy you actually might not want to share an elevator with.

4. Edward Scissorhands

According to IMDB, Johnny Depp only speaks 169 words in the movie, which explains why he prepared for the role by studying Charlie Chaplin's filmography.

3. Gromit

Wallace's canine friend carries on the proud tradition of brainy-but-silent pooches who consistently bail out their owners, following in the footsteps of the aptly named Brain from “Inspector Gadget” (the animated series, not the live-action abomination).

2. Jason Voorhees

*walks slowly through the woods*

1. Iron Giant

The massive robot hero of my favorite made-for-kids-but-really-for-everyone film doesn't speak often, but the last word he utters in the film — “Superman” — shatters me as often as Colt 45 works (aka every time).