10 Movie Scenes That Do So Much Without Actually Saying Anything

These movies found incredible power in wordless moments.

X-Men 2
20th Century Fox

One of the golden maxims of filmmaking is "show, don't tell," that audiences generally prefer to see something rather than be told it.

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 the audience might only appreciate it on a somewhat unconscious level.

These 10 movie moments, each of them delivered without dialogue, made their intent perfectly clear through their overall aesthetic design, from the physical performances of the actors to the environment they're in, and countless other little details.

Sometimes the smallest character beat can mean a lot, immediately familiarising the audience with an idea that would otherwise have to be laboured through trite, tiresome chit-chat.

There's something to be said for efficiency in storytelling, and these 10 scenes absolutely nailed it, refusing to bash the viewer over the head with their ideas and instead subtly massaging them into the visual fabric of the movie.

If only more films were this skilfully made...

10. Rey's Introduction - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

X-Men 2

Star Wars isn't really a franchise we associate with the "show, don't tell" principle, but The Force Awakens did a fantastic job of introducing audiences to new protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley) in meaningfully wordless fashion.

Rey's first scene in the movie goes three minutes without any dialogue whatsoever, instead offering up a montage of her scavenging scrap materials from the fallen Star Destroyer on her home planet Jakku.

But these three minutes tell us everything we need to know about Rey: she's poor and needs to scavenge to make ends meet, she's brave and resourceful by skulking around inside the Star Destroyer, and she's on her own as she has to drag the salvaged scrap around without anyone's help.

Yet perhaps the most telling moment in the entire scene occurs when Rey is cleaning her scrap and looks over at an elderly woman doing the very same thing. Nothing is said, but it's clear that Rey is desperate to avoid a fate where she's condemned to live this way forever.

Say what you want about The Force Awakens being overly indebted to A New Hope, but this scene was as smartly conceived as it was narratively efficient, with no need whatsoever for dull expository dialogue.


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.