has that effect on people.
Exactly What It Says on the Tin
540. A full minute of stunned silence means "My God what did you do?" not "Please continue".
. Someone is shocked or stunned into silence.
There are two major types: Stunned amazement or stunned horror.
Often, stunned amazement causes the performer to think the audience's initial silence means they dislike the performance. The truth becomes apparent when they burst into applause. Often will lead to a Slow Clap
. If in comedic fiction, bonus points if the sound of cricket chirping is the only audible thing.
Stunned horror can be further divided into stunned by stupidity or stunned by surreality. This occurs when a character says (or does) something so stupid or off the wall other characters are rendered unable to talk or limited to a single world, often a Flat "What."
. See also Chirping Crickets
, Loudspeaker Truck
, Face Fault
, and Idiot Crows
See also Shutting Up Now
for a possible follow up. If this happens during a radio broadcast, it can lead to Dead Air
Compare Change the Uncomfortable Subject
, and Visible Silence
Anime and Manga
- Bleach: After Ichigo failed the asauchi battle test and had to go in search of his roots, when he returned to the test, every single asauchi quietly knelt before him the moment they saw him. Nimaiya, the asauchi creator, is left speechless.
- Happens at the final performance in Cats Don't Dance, before the audience bursts into applause. Somewhat justified, as the audience had taken considerable abuse during the show.
- In The Lord of the Rings, when Sauron falls the main characters who are fighting at the Black Gate are literally stunned into silence. It makes more sense in the extended editions, because it is revealed that the Mouth of Sauron told everyone Frodo was dead (or in the books, captured and awaiting death); it's to be expected that his victory would bring on a "Holy freaking crap, Frodo's alive!" as well as a "Holy freaking crap, we actually won!"
- Happens at the performance of Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare in Love before the audience bursts into applause
- In Sherlock Holmes, Holmes is seen participating in a barefist boxing match watched by a crowd loudly and savagely baying for blood. However, after Holmes — who has previously been holding back — completely beats the crap out of his opponent within the space of a minute in response to his opponent's ill-advised decision to spit at the back of Holmes' head, the crowd immediately goes silent with shock, except for one chap who indignantly mutters, "Where the hell did that come from?!"
- It wasn't less than a minute. The mental plan Holmes comes up with plays through his head in slow motion, then he turns around and delivers an epic beatdown in six seconds.
- At the climax of Johnny English, Johnny ends up accidentally being crowned king. He, along with everyone else, spend a long time completely stupefied.
- The ending of Babe has the entire crowd silent after watching Babe herd the sheep perfectly. They then erupt with a thunderous applause.
- In the Doctor Who Series 4 finale, the tenth Doctor has been shot by a dalek! You know what that means! He'll regenerate, and change into a completely different person! The Doctor's companions, Rose, Donna and Jack back away as he begins to glow and change- only for him to redirect his energy and just stand there, smiling, looking completely the same. They just stare in stunned amazement.
- Angel: An effective use of both tension and comedy at the same time is found in the Series 4 finale. For several long moments at the start of the episode, absolutely no-one speaks. The camera pans around all six characters as each one shifts position or opens their mouth as though about to speak, but no-one does. It's clear the entire cast is absolutely stunned by whatever Lilah has just said. Lilah herself doesn't speak just waits, smug and amused, as Angel's team try and gather their wits and find their voices. Word of God reveals that it was deliberately timed to coincide with the length of time it takes for the credits to scroll across the screen as they'd once observed how long it takes and thought it would be funny to have absolutely no talking for that long if they could ever think of a plot. They thought of one.
- Pinball Magic incorporates this into a mode: "Silence the Critics".
- In "The Mountain Whippoorwill", a poem by Stephen Vincent Benet, Hillbilly Jim gets no applause because the crowd is stunned by his fiddle playing. He's that good.
- Utter audience silence can be the sign of a deeply moving musical performance, and as such is an enormous compliment to the performers.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, when Fluttershy demonstrates her knowledge of sewing, after Rarity keeps asking for her honest opinion on Fluttershy's gala dress, Rarity's reaction is to stare, slack-jawed and speechless, at Fluttershy.
- In Total Drama Island, the Gophers are struck speechless when the RCMP comes for Izzy.
Anime and Manga
- Even Palpatine gets such a moment, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Sith Hunters, when Anakin tells him Darth Maul has returned.
- This happens multiple times in Oh God, Not Again!. One of the more notable instances is when Harry mouths off at Voldemort several times while he's at his mercy and surrounded by Death Eaters, who just can't believe what they're seeing.
- In the Total Drama story, Legacy, the contestants (but not Chris or Chef Hatchet) are dumbfounded when the killer slashes his victim.
- Mission Control in Apollo 13 after Lovell reports that "we are venting something into space" and everyone realizes just how bad the situation is.
- "Springtime For Hitler" in The Producers.
- A "stupidity" example in The Princess Bride after Buttercup and Westley enter the Fire Swamp.
Westley: It's not that bad.
Buttercup: [turns her head and stares unbelievingly at him]
Westley: Well, I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.
Buttercup: [continues to stare at him]
- In MacGruber, Only Sane Man Piper has this reaction when listening to MacGruber's backstory of him and the villain, learning that the latter's grudge against the former is all too justified.
- “The Ring must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came. *beat* One of you must do this.” It’s almost jarring not to hear crickets in the silence that follows, as the camera pans out to observe that no one in the council is moving a muscle.
- In RoboCop (1987), during the scene when Robocop attempts to stop Emil (one of the criminals who killed him) from robbing a gas station, and Emil realizes that Robocop is the police officer they thought they killed. Robocop, who has no memory of his death, is so shocked he doesn't even react to Emil firing at him.
Robocop: Drop it! Dead or alive, you're coming with me.
Emil: ...I know you. You're dead. We killed you. (fires gun) We killed you!
- A Leave the Camera Running example is featured in Funny Games after the couple's child is killed and the killers depart. The parents sit motionless and in silence for over a minute.
- Happens in The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore. Wulfgar wins a one-on-one fight by crushing the guy's skull with his bare hands. After the fight a herald was supposed to step in and proclaim the winner. Instead, everyone just stands around staring at what he'd done.
- Friends: "Ross? I'm pregnant."
- In The Conditions of Great Detectives this is Tenkaichi's reaction to having his summation and reveal of the murder's identity interrupted by the murder killing herself. After the full confession and death Tenkaichi walks slowly out of the room and asks the chief if he can go home as he can no longer have his dramatic moment.
- The West Wing: "Josh, your father died."
- Game of Thrones: In the episode "The Rains of Castamere," Catelyn Tully has this reaction when her son Robb is killed. The silence is stretched through the entire credits sequence with a total lack of sound or music.
- According to Rolling Stone, after Michael Jackson played the entirety of the just-completed second disc of HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995) — the Darker and Edgier product of a Creator Breakdown, as opposed to a Win Back The Crowd collection of catchy dance tunes they and he really could have used in the wake of his child molestation scandal — to a boardroom full of Sony Music executives, all they did was file out of the room in silence, driving him to tears.
- ECW once did a storyline involving Raven tying The Sandman to a wooden cross, then placing a crown of barbed wire upon his head. This marks the only time the ECW mutants were ever not cheering, chanting, or screaming for blood. Definitely the "silent horror" variety. They had to send Raven (who was supposed to be the bad guy in all this, keep in mind) out to apologize to the crowd afterwards.
- Used effectively by honor guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. If someone/a group of people is disrespecting the tomb or area around it in any way, they will break from their walk and address them directly in a loud shout, "It is requested that everyone maintains a level of silence and respect!" Technically it's less of a horror aspect and more of a shameful/embarrassing one, but it gets the job done just as well.
- Ron White: "I got kicked off the high school debate team for saying 'Yeah?! Well, fuck you!!' I thought I had won. The other kid was speechless."
- When Linkara reviewed Cable #1, he mentioned a panel showing part of the world trade center blown up. His face showed that Harsher in Hindsight didn't even begin to cover it.
- When Todd in the Shadows reviewed Chris Brown's "Deuces", Kevin McCall's line "Like Tina did to Ike in the limo, it finally hit me" caused this. And follows by asking how it remained on the song (complete with a mock conversation where Brown asks to remove the lyric because they compare him enough already with Ike Turner).
- In Suburban Knights, when the main villain, an Evil Luddite wizard who wants to destroy all technology turns out to have an iPhone, everyone just stays silent for a moment (then The Nostalgia Critic calls out on him... discovering the bad guy is even more of a hypocrite than he seems!).
- In a crossover review of The Incredible Hulk Returns, when Thor says to Donald Blakenote "I like you, Blake, but only when you're asleep!" Nash and Film Brain can only deliver horrified expressions.
- Early on in Marble Hornets, Alex gets stunned in the middle of a rehearsal for his student film upon seeing Slender Man standing on a porch down the street. This leaves his two companions rather annoyed, as he never explains what has him so spooked.
- In the 2nd installment of Spooning with Spoony, the Nostalgia Critic, having woken up in a bed, with Spoony, spends the entirety of the segment with his mouth wide open in silent horror, never making a sound. Angry Joe, also waking up with them, is only silent for a moment before attempting to attack Spoony.
- In Monsters, Inc., Roz reminds Mike Wazowski about his paperwork. Apparently, Mike forgot, leading Roz to comment, "Your stunned silence is very reassuring."
- Beavis And Butt-Head: For a couple of videos (Vanilla Ice and Milli Vanilli), all they could do is stare in horror for several seconds before wordlessly changing the channel.
- Not sure if this is true, but apparently this exact same story happened to both Star Wars and Transformers. When they were first shown in Japan, the audience left the film in complete silence. The producer/director, concerned about the lacklustre response, asked their Japanese counterpart if they didn't like it. The Japanese counterpart then responded that the audience was giving the film their greatest possible compliment: for a Japanese audience, being silent means you're devoting your entire attention to that movie.
- There is a similar anecdote about Star Wars in America. When people saw the first spaceship come into view, they cheered. When they saw the second one (the Imperial Star Destroyer, which never seemed to end in that shot), they all went silent.
- In Clerks II, this happens after God-fearing momma's boy Elias explains to Randall that the reason he's never had sex with his girlfriend is because all girls have a "pussy troll" that prevents them from having pre-marital sex by biting off the tip of any offending penis. Randall, a veteran snarker, is absolutely speechless◊.
- Meet the Feebles has this happen as the audience reaction to The Sodomy Song, which is about what it sounds like.
- The Sex Pistols' final concert in Winterland, USA. After their rendition of the horribly tasteless "Belsen was a Gas" the audience sat in stunned silence for a few seconds before applauding.
- A subversion: Beethoven believed that his 9th Symphony got disapproving silence as a response. Instead, the crowd was going nuts; he, being deaf, couldn't hear them.
- Until, according to legend, one of the soloists turned him round so he was facing the audience. At which point they went even more nuts.
- Truth in Television: A particularly moving piece of music gets silence from the house. Can be a powerful, powerful compliment. I saw one occasion where a clap began, but most of the house didn't join in, and it subsided again. (It was a tribute to a dead member of the orchestra, and applause just didn't seem appropriate)
- Long ago, there was a YKTTW entry with this name which described the way dramatic arguments in shows would end: one person would raise their voice and deliver a final cutting line, then simply walk out, leaving the other in stunned silence.
- On the stupidity side, someone really doesn't understand how memory works
- Stunned silence variety appears in Something Positive after a couple of musicals/plays the main characters put on. One of them ended with the audience pulling out their lighters and setting fire to the place.
- El Goonish Shive had an episode in the gaming shop. See what happens with background phrases in the last panel and Grace's expression? She sometimes have such effect on people.
- After Tanna's rant at Rolan in Ears for Elves came out wrong, the various Elven ladies are [shocked into silence at the idea of her being pushed to the ground by a high-born male elf. This is indicated in the comic by the artist not drawing their mouths in the Beat Panel.