19 Major Movie Characters Who Never Actually Get Named

List Rules
Vote up the characters so memorable, they don't even need names.

Travis Bickle. Darth Vader. Ellen Ripley. What do they all have in common? They're among the most famous character names in movie history. You hear those names and you immediately know what film is being discussed. Movie names are important because they tell us a lot about the characters. Calling an unseen criminal mastermind “Keyser Soze” in The Usual Suspects adds to his mystery. At the other end of the spectrum, you have a name like “Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr,” the character played by Steve Martin in The Man with Two Brains, that lets you know the guy is more than a little on the silly side.

Then you have those characters who are never formally identified onscreen. Their names are never spoken, and the credits list them as “Man” or “She,” or something utterly nondescript. It's more common than you might think. The following movies all have major unnamed characters. In each instance, there's a very likely reason why the filmmakers did so. Even if you don't know what to call these people, they make indelible impressions, proving that names are useful, but not necessarily a requirement.

  • A lot of people think Edward Norton's character in Fight Club is named Jack because of his interior monologue, in which he comments on the action by saying things like, “I am Jack's wasted life” and “I am Jack's smirking revenge.” In reality, he's identified in the credits as “The Narrator.” His constant “Jack” talk is merely a generic expression of thought, creating a third person to represent himself. 

    Of course, it's also a ruse to conceal Fight Club's big twist, namely that The Narrator and antagonist Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) are the same person. Let's be honest - if people started calling him “Tyler” right off the bat, or if people started calling Tyler by some other name, all the suspense would be sucked out of the story. By keeping him nameless onscreen, the film is also able to suggest the dissociative identity disorder that has allowed one person to create multiple personalities.

  • In Drive, Ryan Gosling plays “Driver.” It may seem hard to believe, but he's a professional driver! Actually, he's a stuntman by day and a getaway driver by night. He transports criminals to their destination and helps them evade police on the way back. One of his missions causes him to cross paths with a ruthless crime lord named Bernie (Albert Brooks), leading to tension and violence.

    It makes sense for Driver to not have a name. Anonymity is a critical part of his side job. He doesn't necessarily know the criminals he's driving, and they don't know him. Together with his trademark leather driving gloves, toothpick, and white jacket with a scorpion emblazoned on the back, the lack of a clearly identified name adds to his air of mystery. Gosling shrewdly plays him as a guy who wants to establish his skills without drawing too much attention to himself as a person. 

  • In Christopher Nolan's Tenet, John David Washington stars as “The Protagonist,” a secret agent drafted into a mission to find the person or persons who have gotten control of technology that can invert objects. Misuse of that tech could lead to potential global annihilation. He teams up with a mysterious British agent, Neil (Robert Pattinson), to begin the hunt.

    So why does Neil have a name but The Protagonist doesn't? Lacking a moniker clues the audience in to the fact that this character is part of a very, very, very covert agency. He's the kind of guy you call for the most top secret of missions. A name might even be dangerous, as anything that could remotely make him able to be identified would compromise whatever he's working on. 

  • Ewan McGregor plays “The Ghost” in The Ghost Writer. As the title implies, his job is to covertly write the memoirs of famous people, whose names will actually be on the cover of the book. His latest gig entails writing for the former Prime Minister of England, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). In doing so, he uncovers a shocking secret about his subject.

    Dubbing the character “The Ghost” is really quite witty. Ghostwriters are not credited when they do the actual writing of someone's autobiography. In this case, the movie takes that idea to the next level. It's kind of a sly joke that the man McGregor is playing goes nameless. What could be more befitting of a writer whose career depends on remaining silently, invisibly in the background?