What great performances were accomplished with few words?

Answer by Jon Ferreira:

Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter The Silence of the Lambs (1991) . — Hopkins won the Best Actor Oscar using fewer words than any other actor in the history of the Academy Awards. But when he spoke, you listened!

Marlon Brandon as Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972) — The notoriously taciturn Brando probably comes in second to Hopkins delivering his Oscar winning performance with minimal words and screen time.

Paul Newman as Lucas “Luke” Jackson in Cool Hand Luke (1967)  — Paul Newman’s Best Actor-nominated Luke may be cool, but Newman simmers in the heat of the chain gang, where it’s actually George Kennedy that does most of the talking in this film (he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar)

Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) — Although time will tell if this is worth considering one of the great performance, at least for the time being, Hardy delivers a truly underrated performance in what will go down as the least number of lines ever delivered by a leading character (despite the title role, he arguably isn’t the protagonist though!)

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave (2013) — Ejiofor’s Oscar-nominated performance simmers, as he delivers a subtle and understated performance as a free man wronged, and sold into slavery. Although Norhup is articulate and speaks eloquently, we also see him do a lot of listening throughout the film.

Jim Caviezel (Private Witt) and Cast of The Thin Red Line (1998) — It can be said that there is no protagonist in this deeply philosophical film, in keeping with the tradition of most of Terrence Malick’s beautifully photographed contemplative films. There’s very little talking, but much in the way of evocative visuals and stunning cinematography. When characters do speak, it is like poetry, and their words are deep and profound.

Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood (2007)  — Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar for playing the misanthropic and taciturn oil tycoon. Famously, the whole opening sequence of the movie is over fifteen minutes of absolutely no dialogue, as we meet Daniel, a man of few words, but one consumed by money and an unhealthy drive to find oil.

Klaus Kinski as Brian Sweeney ‘Fitzcarraldo’ Fitzgerald in Fitzcarraldo (1982) — Fitzcarraldo is a mad genius, who loves to listen to opera as he oversees the indigenous natives as they do the unthinkable — lift a 320-ton steamship over a steep and intimidating hill. Kinski doesn’t say much (unlike his last turn in Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God). This understated performance is about one man’s quiet vision,

Boris Karloff as The Monster in Frankenstein (1931) — Although question why I would list a monster that can barely speak, this monster actually does have some lines. Furthermore, Karloff delivers a brilliant performance, managing to successfully capture the angry and scary side of the monster, while also the gentle, delicate, subtle, and poignant soul of the creature. Hands down, this is one of the most brilliant portrayals of one of Hollywood’s maligned and misunderstood movie monsters, and heads and shoulders above every other actor’s portrayal of this popular character.

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien (1979) — Even before she lost her whole crew, Ripley didn’t say much. This woman of few words is all about surviving, and killing the fearsome alien preying on her and her crew. Weaver delivers a brave and tough as nails performance, truly proving to Hollywood that a woman can not only carry a movie herself, but do so while playing an action hero

Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men (2007) — Anton is frightening perhaps because he does say so little. Bardem creates an unnerving and nightmare-inducing taciturn monster, worthy of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar he earned.

What great performances were accomplished with few words?

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