Physical comedy gets a bad rap, but for every Home Alone 3 or Ernest Goes To Camp (apologies for reminding you of those monstrosities) there are a bunch of geniuses who know how to do it right. As old mate Ronan Keating said: 'You say it best / when you say nothing at all.'
Of course super-verbose characters can be excellent: Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) from The Fifth Element, Mickey O'Neil (Brad Pitt) in Snatch, Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) in O Brother, Where Art Thou? are a couple which spring to mind. But many silent characters are imbued with means of communication that are sweet, terrifying or hilarious in a way that doesn't need to be verbally communicated.
The coolest thing about them is that they tap in to universal responses without the need for language to communicate the joke or sentiment. Here are the best characters out who never, or incredibly rarely, say a single word.
Gromit - Wallace and Gromit
It's not so unusual that the human in this duo - that'd be Wallace - is the driver for much of the physical comedy. His lunkheaded, boobish errors of invention are endearing but always end up with smashed crockery or biffed faces. It's Gromit's frustrated, sighing and alarmed reactions which are the awesome payoff here. The way creator Nick Park manages to make that humble cliff of a brow tell us exactly what Gromit is thinking with a few plasticine pinches is amazing.
The films (four short films and one feature length) have been translated into over 20 different languages with an especially big following in Japan, which as we know has a special predilection for kawaii characters that just make weird noises (see: Domo-kun, Totoro).
Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean
Forget the films. The original BBC series of Mr. Bean was a total victory for British comic Rowan Atkinson. Although he'd already achieved fame with the Blackadder series, which began in 1983 and encompassed four seasons and three BBC specials, its titular character relied on lots of ridiculous lines delivered in mostly deadpan style. His over-articulartion of the 'B' sound was one of his hallmarks, which Atkinson apparently developed to overcome a stammer.
But Mr. Bean doesn't say much at all, and instead utilises Atkinson's lively eyebrows and rubbery, flailing limbs to man-child perfection. When he uses his credit card to spread the butter on his sandwich? When he's clutching the edge of the diving board and the mean kid stamps on his fingers? When he spits his steak tartare into the violinist's pants? Heaven.
Pingu - Pingu
Pingu, the little clay stop-motion penguin who lives in the South Pole, is cuter than that Angelina Jolie baby photo going around. His flat orange feet make a slapping sound when he walks across the ice and he turns his beak into a big tooting megaphone shape when he yells for his mum's attention.
There are 157 five minute episodes of Pingu out there, which encompass 14 seasons (1986 - 2000). There are a few legends in the YouTube arena who've collected together great reams of Pingu episodes back-to-back, so get watching - your cold, hard, bitch heart will melt in a matter of seconds.
Michael Myers - Halloween
Horror protagonists work far better when they don't speak (except for Hannibal Lecter, obviously, but he wasn't reading Lord Byron while stabbing Clarice with a martini swizzlestick or anything - that would be ridiculous). Ghostface (Scream, 1996), Samara (The Ring, 2002), all of the zombies, Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974) - it's a long list.
But the one that makes me pee my panties is Michael Myers. Unlike your Freddy Krueger or your Pennywise the clown, he doesn't seem to have any emotions or motivations other than killing the s**t out of people. He's just silent, unstoppable, and determined. Eek.
Silent Bob - Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
This comedic pair operate similarly to Wallace and Gromit, but with way more humping, baseball caps and pussy jokes. They've appeared in a ton of Kevin Smith's movies including Clerks (1994), Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997) and Clerks II (2006), and Smith told a Reddit AMA forum this year that the duo will appear in a Clerks III at some point in the future.
As the primary recurring characters in the View Askewniverse (named after Smith's production company, View Askew Productions), Jay is played by Jason Mewes, and Silent Bob is Smith himself. Bob communicates mostly through hand gestures and facial expressions, but occasionally breaks out of his laconic default to make profound speeches or to call Jay a 'dumb f**k' when it's needed.
Where trench coats and long hair usually denote a featured sexpest on Crimewatch, Silent Bob is probably the most adorable dude in the afore-mentioned get-up I can think of.
Which film do you think should take the Best Picture Oscar?