There is a certain allure to a mysterious main character that has developed over the years which has escalated to the point that some characters don’t even get named, which can sometimes turn the allure into frustration among movie fans that has inspired a number of fan discussions and even theories.
In some cases, the lack of a name doesn’t detract from the main character’s place in the story or their mission, but in other cases, it’s used as a device to tease and taunt the audience or even highlight the themes of the film.
10 Marilyn Monroe Was Known As “The Girl” In The Seven Year Itch
Main characters going without names is not a modern invention of Hollywood, as classic movies like 1955’s The Seven Year Itch featured movie starlet Marilyn Monroe in an unnamed role credited only as “The Girl.”
Monroe played a beautiful but mysterious new neighbor who becomes the object of a married man’s affections after he develops fantasies for her fueled by an old wives’ tale that says a married man will cheat after seven years. While the character went unnamed, a joke made in the movie does reference the fact that The Girl could be Marilyn Monroe herself.
9 Clint Eastwood Starred In The Man With No Name Trilogy
Sergio Leone wrote and directed a trilogy of spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood that became known as The Man With No Name trilogy that began with A Fistful of Dollars in 1964. Eastwood returned as the unnamed cowboy in 1965’s For a Few Dollars More before closing out the trilogy with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in 1966.
The character was technically credited as “Joe” in the first movie, though that has proven to be just one of many nicknames he’s been given over the years that also include “Manco” and “Blondie.” This further highlighted his silent and mysterious nature that continues to be imitated by modern-day westerns.
8 Daniel Craig Teased Viewers About His Name In Layer Cake
Matthew Vaughn’s 2004 directorial debut was Layer Cake starring Daniel Craig a couple of years ahead of the latter’s takeover of the James Bond franchise, though his role in the 2004 movie never received quite as well-known of a name.
The life-long drug dealer who wanted out of the game never actually received a name, which was teased throughout the film and finally by Craig’s character himself when he taunted the audience, claiming they would already know his name if they were as clever as he was. He was even credited as “XXXX” to further mystify the character.
7 The Mexico Trilogy Starred The Desperado Known Only As El Mariachi
Carlos Gallardo first portrayed the unnamed character in El Mariachi from director Robert Rodriguez in 1992 before Antonia Banderas took over the role for 1995’s Desperado, which was followed years later by Once Upon A Time In Mexico to close out the trilogy.
While viewers came to know the weaponized guitar-case wielding musician quite well over the course of the series as he sought vengeance after a tragic case of mistaken identity, his true name is never revealed which only made El Mariachi’s legend grow even larger.
6 Most Characters Weren’t Humanized With Names On The Road
2009’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road from director John Hillcoat followed the book’s decision to remove names from almost every character, focusing instead on the Man and his Boy as they make their way through a post-apocalyptic world trying to escape the looming cold.
One character played by Robert Duvall does give the name of Ely in the movie, though the main characters never refer to each other by name over the course of their long and hard trek down the titular road.
5 Ryan Gosling’s Character Is Known Only As The Driver In Drive
Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 Drive starred Ryan Gosling as an unnamed driver who made a name for himself as a criminal getaway driver who also worked with cars in his day jobs as a mechanic and a stunt double.
He finds himself caught up in the lives of his neighbor and her child that sees him uses his particular set of skills to deal with a failed heist and vicious mobsters, all without revealing a name beyond Driver to even his closest friends.
4 The Mariner Was Only Given A Name In Waterworld’s Ulysses Cut
Kevin Costner starred in 1995’s Waterworld from director Kevin Reynolds, which became known as one of the most expensive movies ever made that earned flop status despite a decent box office, which has earned the movie a place in cinematic history as well as a dedicated cult of fans.
Waterworld followed a mutant drifter with gills who sailed the post-apocalyptic seas and attempted to help a group of surviving humans find the mythical Dryland. They initially referred to him as The Mariner, though he was said to not have a name so that death couldn’t find him. He was later given a name in the extended cut that ultimately led to its title of The Ulysses Cut.
3 Willem Dafoe & Charlotte Gainsbourg Went Unnamed In Antichrist
Lars von Trier’s haunting and shocking exploration of grief, depression, and marriage in Antichrist starred Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as grieving parents who attempt an extreme form of exposure therapy after the loss of their infant son with an extended visit to their cabin retreat known as Eden.
The main characters are known only as “He” and “She” which further tie into the biblical themes of the movie as He begins to experience traumatic visions and She struggled with a previously known mental illness that resulted in a number of truly hard to watch scenes that will make most fans forget about their lack of names.
2 Fight Club Features A Narrator Of Many Assumed Names
David Fincher directed the 1999 adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club starring Edward Norton as the Narrator who frequently relates to the name “Jack” based on a series of articles that were written by organs in the first person (and is also how he is credited in the subtitles of most versions).
The movie’s biggest mostly known twist also revealed that the biggest name in the movie – Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden – is just another personality of the Narrator that he used. “Jack” did it all in Tyler Durden’s name, though viewers never actually learn the Narrator’s true name because he followed the first rule of Fight Club.
1 The Self-Proclaimed Protagonist Was Left Unnamed In Tenet
Christopher Nolan’s fast-paced mind-bending time-winding Tenet was released in troubled theaters in 2020 and starred John David Washington as the unnamed CIA agent who finds himself recruited by an organization with access to futuristic technology that allows them to move backward through time.
While the titular organization and other characters are explored and introduced, it takes the agent’s own realization that he is the leading character of the story that finally gave fans something to call the Protagonist of Tenet.