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Stunned Silence
Azula has that effect on people.

540. A full minute of stunned silence means "My God what did you do?" not "Please continue".
Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG on the difference between type 1 and type 2

Exactly What It Says on the Tin. 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 Deer in the Headlights when someone is stunned by immediate, personal danger, and 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.


Stunned Amazement

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.
  • This is Tron's reaction to seeing Sora using the Keyblade to shut down the barrier trapping them both inside the Pit Cell in Kingdom Hearts II. Later on, Sora amazes the program again by fixing a broken piece of data that was destroyed in an accidental hit-and-run by a Magnum Loader.

  • In The Boy With The Magic Notebook, Maxwell needs to prove beyond any doubt to Battery and Assault that his notebook is as powerful as he claims. This is their reaction to when he decides to summon a Gigantic Flying Holy Chocolate Donut.

  • 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.
  • 'Godzilla' of all people gets one in the original Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. He attacks what appears to be his exact twin with his radioactive flame. Only for the thing to have metal under its skin. Godzilla actually tilts his entire upper body in shock to one side with a general sense of his body language and expression more or less screaming "What the Hell?!" Mechagodzilla gets one a few moments before when Godzilla shows up, and gets a second one near the climax of the film when Godzilla emerges from the ocean for round two. Despite being a machine, Mechagodzilla's sudden reaction to the churning water shows that this Mechagodzilla had some level of AI as it was almost as if it was startled by the noise. When Godzilla himself emerges, Mechagodzilla just kinda stands there for a few moments. One has to wonder if it would have reacted at all if the aliens who built it hadn't then told the thing to "Beat Godzilla to Death."

Live-Action TV
  • 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.

Real Life
  • Utter audience silence can be the sign of a deeply moving musical performance, and as such is an enormous compliment to the performers.

Video Games
  • In Jak II: Renegade, the titular character just looks on at the girl behind the curtain (later revealed to be Keira) in a romantic trance, with his mouth wide open, while Daxter attempts to get him to snap out of it.

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation
  • 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.

Stunned Horror

Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • 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.
  • In the Star Trek fanfic Retribution, Kirk is "surprised temporarily beyond words" when Spock confesses that he still feels guilty about nearly killing Kirk during the kal-i-fee. When he can speak again, he protests that Spock was Not Himself.

  • 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.

Live-Action TV

  • 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.

Newspaper Comics

Professional Wrestling

Real Life
  • 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.

Stand-Up Comedy
  • 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."

Video Games
  • Poker Night at the Inventory has several examples, but none more visible than during the Tycho's giraffe story, and the Heavy's Engineer story.
  • Mass Effect 3 has the ship's A.I. "EDI" get her own robotic body. One discussion leads to Shepard asking if Edi's processing power and attention might be drawn elsewhere by her new abilities to any troublesome level:
    EDI: "Do not worry, Shepard. I only forget to recycle the Normandy's oxygen when I find something truly interesting."
    Shepard: (silent facial expression of utter horror)
    EDI: "That was a joke."
  • This happens to some people who play The Witch's House and see the real ending.

Web Comics
  • Spacetrawler: Upon discovering a major spoiler , Martina takes a full three panels to absorb the information.
  • In Something Positive, this is the audience's initial reaction to the first (and only) performance of Nailed! (a frankly sacrilegious musical in the vein of Jesus Christ Superstar). Then the lighters come out...
  • Subverted in Gunnerkrigg Court. It looks like Antimony has gotten Coyote stunned silent with a revelation about Renard, but it turns out Coyote is faking, and he knew about the revelation all along.
  • Done in Girl Genius in this page.. although not for the same reason for everyone.
  • Nobody in Slightly Damned thought that Buwaro the Demon could sing, surprise.

Web Original
  • 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.

Western Animation
  • 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 lackluster 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. On one occasion 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).

New Media
  • 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

Professional Wrestling
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin had this reaction when R-Truth came out to the ring dressed as a Confederate soldier. Austin, a man who obviously never aspired to any political correctness, clearly recognized the perversity of a black man dressed up as a Confederate soldier. Considering everything that's happened in his career, that says a lot about the skit.
  • Wrestlemania 30. Just these four words: Brock Lesnar Broke The Streak. The Entire Arena was silent, and one fan's reaction even went viral; the referee and Paul Heyman even played up being shocked and there was a lengthy delay before Brock's theme music hit, just to let things sink in. The crowd was virtually dead for the rest of the night, only perking up once Daniel Bryan won.


Video Games

Web Comics
  • 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.

Web Original

Western Animation
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