16 Well-Made Movies That Don’t Rely on Dialogue

We often marvel at the brilliance and depth of a beautifully composed script. We cannot deny the power of the written word, and it’s astounding when actors bring those to life. But films are a unique medium. Unlike books or stage plays, a movie can present a rich and deep tale with very few or no spoken words. Images, instrumental music, and characters’ expressions and actions can also tell a compelling story.

Need a break from the constant chatter and lengthy monologues of wordy epics? Consider streaming one of these brilliant, dialogue-light movies.  

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Tom Hardy and Riley Keough in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

When you have a roadshow of epic proportions, there isn’t much need for exposition and chit-chat. That’s not to say there isn’t some dialogue in George Miller’s return to his iconic series, but what’s in the movie is so short and to the point. Tom Hardy’s version of Max barely spoke, and if not for Immortan Joe’s wives and the overexcited War Boys, very little would have actually been said throughout the duration of Fury Road.

Fury Road thrives on its setpieces, and Miller worked wonders to make it an engaging and immersive film without a lot of dialogue. Working in his favor were the incredible practical effects, the film’s intensity, and the way relationships developed with little more than a grunt and a nod. Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Max barely exchange a full sentence throughout the movie, yet viewers can see the respect they have for each other by the time the credits roll.

2. No One Will Save You (2023)

Kaitlyn Dever trapped under a bed with alien legs nearby
Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Chances are no one had Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever starring solo in a thrilling, near-dialogue-free movie on their 2023 BINGO card. Who could have predicted that the creator of very loud movies like Underwater (2020) and Insurgent (2015) would completely flip, or rather remove, the script for No One Will Save You, a Hulu-exclusive extraterrestrial thriller?

Dever stars alongside vicious CGI aliens as she struggles to survive an ongoing invasion. With no one to play opposite of, all of her emotion and intensity comes out through her facial expressions. For the entire 93-minute run, there are only five spoken words of dialogue. That may sound boring, and it definitely could be, but Dever is a joy to watch and No One Will Save You’s aliens are often terrifying enough to make you forget no one has said a word in over an hour.

3. Cast Away (2000)

Cast Away Tom Hanks
Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Cast Away tells the story of Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), the lone survivor of a plane crash on a deserted island. He remains there for years, struggling to survive and bearing the harsh conditions with tremendous fortitude. In moments of triumph, despair, hope, and determination, we witness the strength of the human condition. 

While the film does have segments with talking, the bulk of the film takes place on the island, where the only dialogue is Hanks speaking to himself or his imaginary companion to maintain his sanity—a blood-stained volleyball named Wilson. The lack of dialogue and musical score is extraordinarily effective and reflects Chuck’s loneliness and isolation. With an astonishing performance by Hanks, this compelling film entrances and sweeps the viewers away. 

4. A Quiet Place (2018)

A Quiet Place Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds
Image Credit: Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures.

The premise of A Quiet Place is implied in the title. The film is set in a future where aliens attracted to sound have killed much of the population. The few remaining on Earth live on what little food they can find and find places of refuge, staying as quiet as humanly possible. The lack of dialogue in the film is necessary for the character’s survival. But it gives the film a unique opportunity to showcase a family’s love without words.

Dialogue is few and far between. Most communication is done via language because the family’s eldest daughter is deaf. The film is, indeed, quiet, as well as melancholy and riveting. With expressive performances, we never doubt the love the family shares with only a few words spoken.

5. The Artist (2011)

The Artist (2011)
Image Credit: The Weinstein Company/Warner Bros. France.

Silent films are obvious choices when thinking about movies without dialogue. So it may be cheating to mention The Artist. But this modern silent film holds a significant distinction; plus, it’s delightful. The Artist features all the elements of a silent-era movie: black-and-white film, visually dynamic actors, and a simple story.

In this case, it’s the tale of a matinee idol and an up-and-coming actress during the onset of talking pictures. The movie is upbeat, fun, and thoughtful and enchants the audience the same way silent films did in the 1920s. There is one key difference, however. The movie ends with a bright and energetic song and dance that transforms the silence into sound, reflecting that pivotal moment in cinema history.

6. WALL-E (2008)

WALL-E Ben Burtt
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

WALL-E revolves around a bleak future where humans have left Earth, and what remains is one little robot. The world is overrun with trash, and WALL-E spends all day diligently compacting it into cubes and watching an old, worn-out tape of Hello Dolly. When the reconnaissance robot Eve arrives on Earth, literal sparks fly, and the two robots fall in love.

WALL-E proves that a film can captivate an audience with primarily images and music. The dialogue in the film is very sparse, yet we are thoroughly enthralled with WALL-E and Eve. Their quiet story is moving and shows that love transcends words and that there’s always hope for humanity.

7. The Bear (1988)

The bear 1988
Image Credit: AMLF.

The Bear is a uniquely remarkable piece of cinema. The French film is a work of fiction but more closely resembles a nature documentary. It follows an orphaned bear cub who comes upon an adult grizzly bear. The animals embark on a journey together as the grizzly teaches the cub survival. At the same time, two hunters pursue them across the wilderness. 

Because it primarily focuses on the two bears, dialogue is minimal. But the film is still thoroughly engaging. It’s an exceptional feat in filmmaking as both bears were incredibly trained and filmed to create one of the most moving nature films ever.

8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Stanley Kubrick’s bizarre and iconic film is not to everyone’s taste. But there is no denying the cultural impact of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The premise and visuals are the focus as the story follows space exploration, artificial intelligence, and the fate of all humanity. Specifically, it’s about how a monolith affects evolution, showcasing humankind’s earliest days and the year 2001.

The film proved highly influential because of its unique and revolutionary style of storytelling, which includes a minimalist use of dialogue. Indeed, in the 2-and-a-half-hour runtime, there are only approximately 40 minutes of spoken words. The movie’s beginning and end are bookended with transcending segments with no dialogue but entrancing images.

9. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Image Credit: Criterion.

When we think of a film with no dialogue, the French masterpiece The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is an uncommon but beautiful choice. The story is a melancholy tale of two lovers torn apart by war and circumstance. The stunning visuals, with exquisite pastel colors, create a magical-looking world.

This movie does not employ a traditional use of dialogue but instead music. But it’s not a typical musical either. The entire film is sung through, more closely related to an opera. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is an extraordinary piece of artistry.

10. The Revenant (2015)

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The Revenant follows a man struggling to survive in the harsh wilderness after a brutal betrayal. Set in the 1820s, the fur trapper Hugh Glass is mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions. Sustaining severe injuries, alone, and suffering in the bitter cold, Glass tries to find his way back home and avoid the Native Americans who are hunting as well. 

The Revenant is a stunning example of a movie not always needing words to convey emotions or create a riveting story. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a tour-de-force performance. We feel every ounce of his physical and emotional pain, with almost no speaking.

11. Fantasia (1940)

Fantasia
Image Credit: Walt Disney Productions/RKO Radio Pictures.

Walt Disney was always attempting to break new ground and achieve greatness. Fantasia does this amazingly and is a film unlike any other. It features individual animated segments combined with classical music. These segments range from whimsical to enchanting and menacing, with glorious animation and musical pieces that perfectly match the visuals.

With no plot, each sequence has a story of sorts. But the only dialogue comes from conductor Leopold Stokowski as he introduces each vignette. It’s a uniquely beautiful film that shows how captivating music and images can be.

12. The Tree of Life (2011)

The Tree of Life
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Filmmaker Terrence Malick takes a page out of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey book with his gentle and mesmerizing film The Tree of Life. The movie features three clear acts connected by abstract themes, emotions, and concepts involving love, family, spirituality, nature, and grace. The most conceptual segment is a long sequence that chronicles the beginning of life on Earth- and there is zero dialogue in the entire section of the film.

In the film’s beginning and end, we follow a family, their complicated relationships, and how we deal with grief. And while there are voiceovers and dialogue, it’s sparse. Words a minimal but are used with purpose and meaning in this unusual and touching film. 

13. All Is Lost (2013)

All Is Lost Robert Redford
Image Credit: FilmNation Entertainment.

Robert Redford stars in this compelling tale of a sailor whose yacht collides with a shipping container and destroys his navigation equipment. He must deal with a severe storm, sharks, lack of nourishment, and the harshest elements of the vast ocean as he struggles to survive. It’s further proof of a film’s ability to convey emotion and captivate audiences without the benefit of words.

Indeed, All Is Lost is remarkable in that Redford is the sole actor in the film, and the script is a mere 32 pages long with practically no dialogue. It’s enthralling entertainment with a quiet strength.

14. The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows (2016) Blake Lively
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

The Shallows shares much in common with two other films on this list: Cast Away and All Is Lost. The movie focuses on a young surfer (Blake Lively) who fights to return to safety after a great white shark attacks her.

The attack is shocking but brutal. And despite being close to shore, her attempts to call for help are futile, and her pathway back is fraught with obstacles. While dialogue is present, most of the movie is about her perilous fight for survival in the shallow waters, and it’s absolutely gripping. 

15. Gravity (2013)

Gravity Sandra Bullock
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Alfonso Cuarón’s mesmerizing film follows astronaut Ryan Stone’s (Sandra Bullock) journey to return home safely. After a spacewalk goes wrong, her mission partner Matt (George Clooney) is lost. She is left stranded in space, cut off from Mission Control communications with her only chance of survival being to reach another space station with the little fuel she has left. 

Gravity explores isolation, mortality, and the strength of the human spirit with gravitas thanks to Bullock’s expressive performance. Not much is said, but we deeply feel every intense and solemn moment.

16. Benji: The Hunted (1987)

Benji: The Hunted (1987)
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Much like The BearBenji: The Hunted captures our hearts with a tender story of animals’ journey. In the film, an accident at sea leaves the faithful dog Benji separated from his trainer. Reaching shore, Benji sees a cougar shot by a hunter and takes it upon himself to help her cubs and bring them to safety. 

Benji: The Hunted is a sweet film with an incredible portrayal of the beauty, courage, and resilience of animals. This isn’t a cutesy story, however. It’s tender-hearted but realistic in depicting genuine threats and dangers to their lives. It’s a movie for nature enthusiasts everywhere.