The Silent Type: Hollywood Stars Who Said Very Little in Big Roles

Hollywood's Men of Few Words

For an actor, memorizing dialogue can be difficult – especially if a movie has long speeches that need to be recited precisely for maximum effect. Most actors won’t complain about having to memorize dialogue since it’s one of the basics of acting, but for some roles, they get off easy. Especially in movies that rely more on visuals like action and horror films, actors might end up playing characters who speak very little.

On the other hand, playing a character with few lines poses its own challenges. While memorization isn’t as much of an issue, the actor still has to convey that character’s personality through expression and body language. Even before Clint Eastwood showed actors just how much they could do with just a squint there were actors who learned that silence sometimes says more than words.

While there are countless movie characters who say little or nothing in their films–like Kevin Smith’s aptly-named Silent Bob in Clerks and its various spinoffs–this list focuses on actors and lead characters of movies who said very little–but in most cases, they didn’t need to.

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Honorable Mention: Darth Maul in 'Star Wars: Episode I' (1999)

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Though generally considered the worst of the Star Wars series, the first Star Wars prequel features one of the most memorable characters in the entire series: the villainous Darth Maul. Despite his vicious look, Maul is almost an entirely silent character. He only says 34 ​words in just three lines of dialogue in the entire film.

Curiously, Maul says much more in a voiceover for a TV commercial for the movie, though none of that dialogue appears in the actual film. Even though Maul isn’t the main character of The Phantom Menace, many fans believe he should have gotten a more significant role in the prequel trilogy and, as a result, also be given the opportunity to say more.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger in Various Roles

The Terminator
Orion Pictures

Despite being a world-renowned bodybuilder, actor, and politician over the past forty years, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s thick Austrian accent when he speaks English is still sometimes difficult for audiences to decipher. Earlier in his career, his accent was even more difficult to decipher–in fact, in his first film Hercules in New York (1970) Schwarzenegger’s lines were dubbed by another actor. Even a decade later his lead roles kept speaking to a minimum. In 1982's Conan the Barbarian, Schwarzenegger only has 24 lines of dialogue as the title character. In fact, Conan only says five words in the entire film to Valeria, his love interest (or probably more accurately, "love conquest.")

Schwarzenegger’s most famous role is playing the Terminator, and it’s not surprising that a robotic killer sent from the future says as little as possible. In 1984’s The Terminator, Schwarzenegger only has 14 lines of dialogue. The Terminator was a bit more verbose in the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Still, in that movie, the character says a total of 700 words.

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Kurt Russell in 'Soldier' (1998)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Though a box office bomb upon its release, Soldier is something of a cult hit–it is actually set in the same universe as 1982's beloved sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Star Kurt Russell does his best Schwarzenegger impression in the film. Though he is in nearly every scene in the movie, he says only 104 words. Because Russell plays the titular soldier, responding "Sir" to his superiors takes up a sizeable number of those words.

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Ryan Gosling in 'Drive' (2011)

Drive Movie Poster

Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive is a throwback to infrequent-speaking daredevil drivers in 1970s movies. In fact, one of the main influences is 1978’s The Driver, which features Ryan O’Neal in the title role speaking just 350 words. Gosling’s character (also just known as “The Driver”) is similarly quiet – in Drive, Gosling speaks just 116 lines. Even more surprising? About a tenth of the Driver’s entire dialogue in the movie is said by the character in just his opening monologue.

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Tom Hardy & Mel Gibson in 'Mad Max: Fury Road' (2015) and 'Mad Max 2' (1981)

Mad Max 2
Warner Bros. Pictures

Like the Terminator, Mad Max is another cinematic character who is known for being a man of few words. In 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Tom Hardy’s Max has 52 lines of dialogue – many of which come in Max’s opening voiceover. But the film in the series that really proves that Max is the silent type is Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. In the film, Max, played by Mel Gibson, has only 16 lines of dialogue. Even more surprisingly, two of them are “I only came for the gasoline.”

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Henry Cavill in 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' (2016)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Warner Bros. Pictures

Though Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is officially a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, the fact that “Batman” comes first in the title should clue you into the fact that this superhero film is more of a Batman movie than a Superman one. Though Batman is often thought of to be a more silent character than Superman, he has far more to say in this movie than the Last Son of Krypton. Fans were surprised that when they counted Henry Cavill's Superman/Clark Kent has just 43 lines of dialogue in the entire movie.

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Matt Damon in 'Jason Bourne' (2016)

Jason Bourne
Universal Pictures

Jason Bourne was always a man of action in his first three films, but in the fifth film in the Bourne series, Bourne lets his fists do the talking for him. Bourne has just 45 lines of dialogue in the film (a total of 288 words), a significant portion of which are overheard in the film’s trailers. Star Matt Damon may have earned a half million dollars per line.