There's a fair number of silent characters in film, like Edward Scissorhands and Michael Myers. Mutism can happen for all kinds of reasons—they're shy, they're creepy, they're physically unable to speak words, among other reasons.
Silent characters are less common in television, given that it's a lot easier to maintain silence for the length of a film than it is to meaningfully sustain silence for an entire season or series.
Here are my picks for the best characters in television who don't speak at all—or maybe just a word or two—but still leave a lasting impact on their respective TV shows.
11. Norma in Orange Is the New Black (2013)
Norma Romano is the inversion of an anti-hero, meaning she shows heroic qualities while ultimately being an antagonist. Her anti-villain stance is enhanced by her strict silence, which adds a sort of menacing quality to her warm, kindly appearance.
Due to a severe stutter, Norma elects to be mute and rarely socializes with the other inmates at Litchfield Penitentiary. But being the "quiet one in the kitchen" doesn't stop Norma from (accidentally) starting a whole new religion in the prison.
Played by Annie Golden, Norma is serving time for manslaughter. A season three flashback episode—aptly titled "Tongue-Tied"—contains the only line Norma utters: "Son of a bitch."
There are lots of big personalities in Orange Is the New Black, so props to Norma for still being able to stand out without speaking! That said, she does have the singing voice of an angel.
10. Homeless Woman in Sons of Anarchy (2008)
This nameless, homeless woman in Sons of Anarchy holds more weight than you'd expect from her at first glance. Played by Olivia Burnette, the character rarely appears throughout the seven seasons, yet she maintains a distinct, almost supernatural presence.
The majority of her scenes are wordless, staring omnisciently at other characters, only ever interacting with protagonists Jax (played by Charlie Hunnam) and Gemma (played by Katey Sagal). When she does speak, it's ambiguous yet meaningful.
In an otherwise grounded show about a motorcycle gang in California, the homeless woman's symbolic nature had fans flocking to chat rooms in an attempt to debunk her purpose.
She appears across continents despite having no money, which adds to the Biblical motifs of the show. Some have speculated that she's Jesus reincarnated, appearing around moments of death. She even lured Gemma into a church, saying "Everyone knows me."
9. Grogu in The Mandalorian (2019)
Grogu (a.k.a. The Child or Baby Yoda) became an internet sensation when The Mandalorian was first released. Why? Because he's just so cute! Especially for a little green creature.
In the same vein as other fictional beings like Dobby and E.T.—who are simultaneously ugly yet adorable—Grogu comes from the same species of the iconic Jedi Master Yoda.
Grogu appears in almost every episode of the Star Wars spin-off, but he can't really speak. Instead, Grogu gurgles up the odd syllable and communicates mostly through facial expressions and small baby cries.
8. Tom and Jerry in The Tom & Jerry Show (1975)
Tom and Jerry technically started in a series of short films, but we're not too bothered by that. What are TV shows, anyway, if not a series of consecutive short films called "episodes"?
Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse are the two oldest characters on our list, who have been around since February 1940—long before even the hand-drawn comic strip Peanuts came out.
Directed by William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, and Rudolf Ising, Tom and Jerry first debuted in Puss Gets the Boot (although neither of them had been given names at the time).
The classic cat-and-mouse rivalry conveys everything without needing any words. That said, Tom and Jerry have occasionally spoken in their many decades on screen—but the fact that it's rare rather than never kind of makes it fun to look out for.
The original The Tom & Jerry Show cartoons started in 1975, then spun off in various ways over the following decades, including Tom & Jerry Kids in 1990 and a rebooted The Tom & Jerry Show in 2014.
7. Beaker in The Muppet Show (1976)
Beaker makes a lot of noise for a character who can't really speak. Not exactly silent, Beaker only has one word in his lexis: "Mee."
Beaker is the Russ Troll-haired assistant to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew in Jim Henson's puppet sketch series The Muppet Show, which was created back in 1955 (long before Disney took over in 2004).
Like the seagulls in Finding Nemo, Beaker communicates using a continual stream of "mee-mee-mee" sounds, and he even appears in his own song "The Ballad of Beaker" on YouTube.
The Muppet gang first appeared in Sam and Friends, which then snowballed into a multi-media family burlesque show with a bunch of movies. A handful of the Muppets are of few words—like the guttural shouts that come from Animal—but Beaker is our favorite.
6. Snoopy in Peanuts (1965)
If you've only seen Snoopy in comic strip form, you might be confused about his inclusion here because Snoopy always talks. In fact, he's super smart and very articulate for a dog!
But if you look closely, you'll notice that his words always come in thought bubbles and not speech bubbles. Furthermore, in his television appearances, Snoopy never makes a peep on screen (save for the occasional squeakes and woofs).
Snoopy might be anthropomorphic and he might be an integral part of the Peanuts crew, but he can't verbalize his thoughts. Still, that hasn't stopped him from becoming a classic character who's recognized around the world!
Creator Charles M. Schulz was inspired by his own pet dog, which prompted him to introduce Snoopy as a loyal friend to Charlie Brown. The two got their own TV series, The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, in 1983 following a host of successful television specials.
5. Kenny McCormick in South Park (1997)
Matt Stone and Trey Parker's South Park started as two animated shorts that went viral back in the late 1990s—long before "viral videos" was even coined as a term. From there, a pilot was greenlit.
South Park centers on four boys in Colorado, though you wouldn't guess they were ten-years-old by their dark humor and profane language. Well, from all of them except one: Kenny McCormick.
Kenny is an implied stoner of very few words. When he does speak, it's usually to spew curses, which hilariously dodge the censors because they're muffled by his permanently pulled-up hoodie.
There have been over 300 episodes of the satirical animated sitcom—which is still going strong today—and it inspired all kinds of adult-themed cartoons to rise to prominence. Without South Park, we wouldn't have the likes of Rick and Morty or BoJack Horseman.
4. Hodor in Game of Thrones (2011)
Hodor is undoubtedly the most heartbreaking character on this list. He can only say one thing—the word "Hodor"—which ends up becoming his name. It's a mystery, but we accept it.
From the very first episode, Hodor is introduced to us as a servant of House Stark. In season three, he becomes more important to the plot of Game of Thrones as he carries a paralyzed Bran and protects him on his journey to the North.
Played by Kristian Nairn, Hodor is simple-minded but relentlessly loyal, and when we eventually learn how he got his name, it's one of the most heart-shattering moments in TV history. Who knew so much drama could come from someone who can only say one word?
3. Maggie Simpson in The Simpsons (1989)
The Simpsons is such a great show, one of the first animated series to bridge the gap between adult content and kid-friendly content, resulting in a primetime cartoon suitable for the whole family.
Homer might sometimes forget about his one-year-old daughter Maggie, but we never could. She can't talk, but much like the rest of Springfield, she has a catchphrase: the sound of her pacifier.
The thing is, Maggie Simpson is actually really smart—a rarity in her beer-bloated town. We see this through her telling facial expressions and her arranging of toys into words.
Her lack of words is often attributed to her age, but even in flashforwards we're never afforded the opportunity to hear what she sounds like. The scenes always cut away just in time before she speaks.
The only time she does speak is in season four's "Lisa's First Word," which ironically ends with Maggie's first word: "Daddy."
2. Mr. Bean in Mr. Bean (1990)
The original Mr. Bean was a live-action comedy show that aired in 1990. Children could laugh at his silly slapstick gags while parents enjoyed British comedian Rowan Atkinson's adult undertones.
Rowan Atkinson used his own experiences with a childhood stutter to embody the immature National Gallery guard's "child in a man's body" character (though we never see him at work).
Whenever Mr. Bean does speak, it's in a low mumble we can't understand. Atkinson is a master of body comedy, relying on gags and expressions to have us in fits. He's so good that he got a CBE out of it!
1. Hector Salamanca in Breaking Bad (2008)
Who knew a character could be so infuriating with just a bell?
Hector Salamanca, once a kingpin of the Mexican cartel, is now reduced to a wheelchair and a bellhop. Why? Because Gus Fring switched his pills one day to give him a severe heart attack.
The majority of Breaking Bad is made up of revenge plots, but this one was one of the biggest. As annoying as Hector is, you have to hand it to him: he's patient, determined, and dangerous.
Protagonists Walter and Jesse think they can get away with anything in front of this silent oldie, but Hector (masterfully played by Mark Margolis) proves he's still hard as nails even without a voice box.