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20 Great Movies With Unnamed Main Characters

25 February 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Andrew Lowry

movies unnamed main characters

Everyone loves a twist in a film, so why not have the twist in realising: “Hey, we never found out their name!” The common link which ties these movies together is that their main characters’ real names are actually never mentioned. This leaves the character void of an identity and creates an aura of mysteriousness. So without further ado, here are 20 great films featuring unnamed protagonists.

 

20. Layer Cake (2004)

Layer-Cake-best-british-crime-movies

Daniel Craig plays a large scale cocaine dealer/businessman who has made his fortune and wants out. Between a problem with Serbian gangsters amongst other things, Daniel Craig’s character (along with the viewer) come to the realisation that there is no retirement in this line of business.

Another film with a superb score, we are also treated to a maze-like script that has us completely gripped. Sienna Miller makes a memorable appearance in this clever and witty London gangster movie brought to us by another directorial debutant in Matthew Vaughn.

 

19. Zombieland (2009)

eisenberg_zombieland

A shy, geeky kid (Jesse Eisenberg), only referred to as Columbus, teams up with a gun-toting Zombie killer (Harrelson) along with two savvy sisters in Ruben Fleischer’s fun, gore fest movie.

Woody Harrelson is memorable as Tallahassee in this road trip across Zombie-infested North America in his search for the last Twinkie. In that search he meets Columbus, who has survived thus far using his survival rules. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin play the headstrong sisters who initially take Tallahassee and Columbus as fools and steal their ride.

Also featuring in this ‘American Shaun of the Dead’ is Bill Murray with a typically outstanding madcap cameo performance.

 

18. Antichrist (2009)

antichrist

This film brings another Danish director in Lars Von Trier to the foray as “He and She” decide the best way to cope with tragic loss is by taking in exposure therapy at an isolated cabin in the woods.

With the film intersected in four chapters this shows the stages in which He and She experience their nightmare journey to the depths of a dark, bleak and evil place. Willem Dafoe, himself a therapist and Charlotte Gainsborough, the mournful inconsolable wife, masterfully star in this brutal yet beautiful horror that will likely leave you mentally exhausted, yet gasping for more.

With scenes of sexual intercourse, self-disembowelling, self-mutilation, genital bashing and violence, beware, this film will haunt you for days.

 

17. Dogtooth (2009)

Dogtooth-still

This Greek drama directed by Giorgos Lanthimos tells the story of Father and Mother who keep their children, namely Older Daughter, Son and Younger Daughter, oblivious to the outside world.

Father and Mother along with the three siblings live in a secluded property surrounded by a large fence to prevent the children from learning about life outside the family home. Instead of regular words, the children are taught these with alternative meanings, e.g. ‘Sea is the leather chair’ and ‘Highway is a strong wind’. However, things inevitably do not always go according to plan especially when a non-family member decides to mix things up in the house leading to unsettling circumstances.

Certainly one of the more puzzling films on this list, with instances such as the seemingly everyday appearance of a stray cat (striking fear into the heart of the children), leaves you with the uncomfortable notion of the power parents have over their children and how easily they can be manipulated. This film will leave you not knowing whether you should be laughing, crying or just simply thinking ‘what did I just watch?’.

 

16. Drive (2011)

drive_2011_movie

‘The Driver’ is a stuntman/mechanic by day and a getaway driver by nightcall. Accompanied by his auto shop owner boss in Bryan Cranston, the two get involved in a heist which leads to an ill-advised love interest, an out of patience hot headed mafia boss, a blood soaked hotel room and a slight altercation in an elevator.

Ryan Gosling plays the strong and silent type perfectly. The scorpion embalmed jacket he wears evokes the use of the Scorpion and the Frog fable.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s ultra-cool Drive has Gosling as a man equally as suited to a certain Sergio Leone western trilogy and along with an electronic pop soundtrack this made Drive a hit at Cannes in 2011.

 

15. El Mariachi (1992)

el_mariachi

El Mariachi marks the debut feature film from Robert Rodriguez. Apparently shot on a budget of a mere $7000 it spawned 2 follow up films in Desperado and Once upon a time in Mexico.

Carlos Gallardo plays ‘El Mariachi’, the young musician who has just arrived at the wrong place at (most definitely) the wrong time, in the middle of a violent feud between local gangsters.

When the inevitable case of mistaken identity happens it forces ‘El Mariachi’ into a kill or be killed state of affairs, especially when the affairs involve the woman he loves and his most beloved guitar.

 

14. The Driver (1978)

driver

The Driver (Ryan O’Neal) plays a getaway driver with moral scruples. He hates guns and the guys that wilfully use them. Unfortunately for The Driver he has troubles in the form of The Detective (Bruce Dern), who is hot on his tail. When The Detective hires a captured armed robber to snare The Driver into a bank job, we get an insight into the obsession built in order to catch his ‘white whale’.

With thrilling car chases and minimalist cinematography, this underrated action-noir is up there with the most iconic films from the 70’s.

 

13. Rebecca (1940)

rebecca

‘Rebecca’ presents the master of psychological drama, Alfred Hitchcock. This gothic tale is based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Daphne de Maurier. Starring Laurence Olivier as the broken widower Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as the weak, naïve young woman who is to become only referred to as Mrs de Winter.

After a chance meeting in Monte Carlo, Olivier and Fontaine quickly fall in love and are married. The young girl now receiving the title of Mrs de Winter moves into her husband’s home and is greeted by her now servants and the domineering housekeeper, Mrs Danvers.

With Mrs de Winter unsure of the whereabouts of her husband, she becomes increasingly concerned regarding his perceived fascination with his deceased ex-wife, Rebecca. The fact that the former’s bedroom is now kept preserved, only increases her suspicions and as constant reminders are becoming apparent, we see the shocking truth finally unravelled in yet another suspenseful, haunting ending from Hitchcock.

Both Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine give impeccable performances and with Alfred Hitchcock at the helm, this much lauded classic is rightly considered a timeless masterpiece.

 

12. The Road (2009)

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In this bleak vision of a post-apocalyptic future, John Hillcoat brings us Viggo Mortensen as ‘Papa’, who is trying to bring his son to the East coast of the US in search of warmer climes and a better life.

They face a struggle and many dangers on the road, as people have become desperate and turned on each other to survive.
The bleak vision is interspersed with a shining light of hope ‘Papas’ innocent son brings with him.

Viggo Mortensen excellently plays a desperate Father trying to do best for his son in a world with no future.
Great direction from John Hillcoat brings us in to this believable and bleak world.

 

11. Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Harvey Keitel expertly plays ‘The Lieutenant’, the cop trying to investigate the rape of a young nun whilst simultaneously battling his own demons, including drug and gambling addiction.

The film opens with an illustration of how irresponsible and corrupt The Lieutenant actually is and the more we witness, the more harrowing things become. Bad Lieutenant almost becomes a character study of Keitel as we observe his erratic and out of control behaviour. His rollercoaster of emotions eventually leading to him begging for forgiveness for his sins in possibly the most moving, emotionally charged scene in the movie.

Director Abel Ferrara’s raw, nihilistic portrayal is intense, engrossing and extremely sombre yet leaves you wanting to feel a hint of sympathy for a man besieged with deviance.

Notice: not to be confused with the 2009 film of the same name starring Nicolas Cage.

 

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  • Jerome Gordon

    I always love your lists but I think you got Kill Bill wrong, I am pretty sure we learned that The Bride’s real name was Beatrix Kiddo.

    • Connor Browne

      Kill Bill 1 is listed in this review, the name is only known in Kill Bill 2 :-).

      • Jerome Gordon

        ok, gives me an excuse to re-watch :)

        • Connor Browne

          Haha. good man

  • Aniket Jaiswal

    heard about beatrix kiddo ??

    • Connor Browne

      Kill Bill 1 is listed in this review, the name is only known in Kill Bill 2 :-)..

  • Connor Browne

    In the second film, this is talking about Kill Bill 1

  • Connor Browne

    Kill Bill 1 is listed in this review, the name is only known in Kill Bill 2 :-)

  • aceblack1965

    Good list. I would add to the discussion the man known only as Harmonica (Charles Bronson) from Once Upon A Time In The West (1968).

    • JC

      Excellent call.

    • Edward J. Cunningham

      Exactly. That is a BETTER film than ANY of the Eastwood films with Sergio Leone. And if we’re going to call Bronson’s character “Harmonica”, I think it’s about time we refer to Eastwood’s character by the name that Tuco gives him in TGTB&TU: “Blondie.”

  • JC

    No love for “High Plains Drifter”, eh? The last line of the movie is even, “You know my name.”

    • Connor Browne

      Was in the 24 we started with, just didn’t happen. :-)

  • JC

    Also, Pale Rider. Eastwood’s character is only ever referred to as “Preacher” or “The Preacher”.

  • JC

    “Two Lane Blacktop” should’ve surely made this list. All the characters are nameless, and referred to only as “The Driver”, “The Mechanic”, “GTO” and The Girl”.

    • Connor Browne

      Had to cut it down to 20, nicer number.

  • Jenna Braithwaite

    Beatrix kiddos name only comes up in the second movie

    • Connor Browne

      Yeeeeeeooooooooooo!!!!!! :-)

  • Carl Peter Yeh

    The truckdriver, one of the only 2 protoganists, in Duel.

  • Carl Peter Yeh

    Is Nobody a name? (Terrence Hill in My name is…)

  • Carl Peter Yeh

    Big Arnold, only known as The Terminator

  • Guest

    the Terminator

  • Carl Peter Yeh

    Jeff Bridges, as Starman.

  • Carl Peter Yeh

    How on earth could we forget… Edward Fox as a hitman known only as The Jackal.

  • sricandra

    No Harmonica or Sanjuro? For shame