10 movie scenes that do so much without saying anything

One of cinema’s golden maxims is “show, don’t tell”, which audiences usually would rather see something than be told.

Obviously dialogue is important and all, but why bore viewers with a tedious exposition dump when you can achieve the same end result through visual means instead?

As such, skilled directors can find ways to convey character and story ideas wordlessly enough that audiences only appreciate them on a somewhat unconscious level.

These 10 movie moments, each delivered without dialogue, made their intent abundantly clear through their overall aesthetic design, from the actors’ physical performances to the environment they find themselves in, and countless other small details.

Sometimes the smallest character beat can mean a lot, immediately familiarizing the audience with an idea that otherwise would have to be worked through through mundane, tedious chatter.

There’s something to be said for the effectiveness of storytelling, and these 10 scenes absolutely nailed it, refusing to hit the viewer over the head with their ideas and massaging them subtly into the visual fabric of the film.

If only more films were so skillfully made…

Star Wars isn’t much of a franchise we associate with “show, don’t tell,” but The Force Awakens has done a fantastic job of introducing audiences to new protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley) in a significantly wordless way.

Rey’s first scene in the film is three minutes long without any dialogue, instead offering a montage of her scavenging junk from the fallen Star Destroyer on her home planet Jakku.

But those three minutes tell us everything we need to know about Rey: she’s poor and needs to recover to make ends meet, she’s brave and resourceful sneaking inside the Star Destroyer, and she’s alone because it must drag the recovered scrap metal. around without anyone’s help.

Yet perhaps the most telling moment of the whole scene occurs when Rey cleans up her trash and watches an elderly woman do the exact same thing. Nothing is said, but it is clear that Rey is desperate to avoid a fate where she is condemned to live like this forever.

Say what you will about The Force Awakens overly indebted to A New Hope, but this scene was as cleverly crafted as it was narratively effective, without any need for boring explanatory dialogue.

Andrea G. Henderson