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Not Named in Opening Credits

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In which Boris Karloff does an Alan Smithee.

If you want to surprise the audience, you don't put the name of the actor for the surprise character in the opening credits.

This is not to be confused with actors who aren't listed in the OBB for reasons of space when a show has lots of characters.

Contrast Spoiler Opening (when something in the opening of the show ruins a surprise) and Spoiled by the Cast List (when the actor for the surprise character is listed in the credits).

If the actor isn't mentioned in any credits, it's an Uncredited Role.

See also Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer and Character as Himself.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class is a rare anime example. A character was introduced in episode 6, but he was given an one-line speaking role in episode 5. In that episode, he was only listed as "Grade 11 Student — M.S."
  • In the anime series Baccano!!, the Young Conductor is left nameless in the opening sequence. Oh, and he dies in Episode 2, which means he's totally insignificant and unimportant, right? WRONG. As it turns out, not only does the Young Conductor live, but he's actually Claire Stanfield/Vino/Rail Tracer — an Ax-Crazy Psycho for Hire Torture Technician who snapped and has basically been responsible for doubling the dead body count on the train. And, if you're wondering, that body we thought was his in Episode 3? It was his victim's.
    • Another way to look at the above: "Claire"/"Vino" is mentioned early on in the anime, but appears to be mysteriously missing from the opening credits, leading the viewer to wonder who that person is. Bonus points to the FanSub for translating the gender pronoun referring to him as "she" because they assumed "Claire" would be a female.
  • Closing credits, rather, but straight after the narrator shouts "Who is this mysterious youth who has just cleaved Freeza in half with one strike of his sword?" in Dragon Ball Z in his debut two debut episodes in July 2 and 9th of 1991, the credits that follow tactfully list him as "The Young Man" (Though still listed as played by Takeshi Kusao), rather than "Trunks" as he will be in all episodes that follows after his identity is revealed in the next episode to Goku.
  • In the Baccano!!'s Spiritual Successor, Durarara!!, Mika Harima is left nameless in the first opening to add to the mystery surrounding her identity. After episode 12 reveals that she is in fact Mika, and not Celty's head on Mika's body, her name appears in the subsequent opening sequences just like every other character's.
  • Atsuko appears in several episodes of the Animated Adaptation of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, but she remains uncredited until S1E11, when it is revealed that there is a reason why Atsuko and Sophia are voiced by the same person—Sophia is Atsuko's reincarnation.

    Comic Books 
  • The first issue of Void Rivals omitted the comic's copyright notice from its opening credits page, since identifying Hasbro as the copyright holder would have given away the First-Episode Twist that the seemingly original series was really the start of a new Transformers and G.I. Joe continuity. The copyright notice and the Hasbro logo are instead shown as part of Robert Kirkman's afterword at the end of the issue.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Deadpool movie takes this to an extreme as a gag, substituting snarky comments in place of the names of those involved. The only person or group actually named is Twentieth Century Fox.
    • They repeated the joke in Deadpool 2, until the credits broke the fourth wall.
  • John Doe in Se7en. Kevin Spacey insisted on this to avoid spoiling the killer's identity. The producers had wanted to give him top billing, so as a compromise, his name is the first thing shown in the closing credits.
  • In Kingdom of Heaven, Edward Norton, who plays King Baldwin, didn't want his name linked to the film in order to maintain the mystery around his character, whose face is never seen due to the full-face mask he wears. He was actually not credited at all in the version of the movie that was shown in theaters, but his name was put back into the closing credits for the film and DVD releases.
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock did not list Leonard Nimoy as an actor in the opening credits, though it did mention him as the director. What they did do in the opening credits was, since Nimoy's name had always directly followed Shatner's, simply leave a gap for several seconds where Leonard Nimoy would have been listed, showing no name at all before moving on to DeForest Kelley and the other cast members. (And the gap consisted largely of a white screen, so one might imagine Nimoy's name is there, in white-on-white.)
  • In the movie Tropic Thunder, the heavily-made-up Tom Cruise isn't mentioned anywhere until the final credits roll. Neither is Nick Nolte.
  • The opening credits of the 1991 film version of Oscar with Kirk Douglas in an opening and meaningful cameo role as Eduardo, Snaps Provolone's elderly father, who urges Snaps to go straight and give up his life of crime before he dies.
  • The 1931 film version of Frankenstein famously omitted Boris Karloff's name in the opening credits. Instead, the Monster is billed with a question mark.
    • In turn, the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein bills "The Monster's Mate" with a question mark, and only gives Elsa Lanchester credit for playing Mary Shelley in the prologue.
  • Jack Nicholson in Broadcast News. He chose to go uncredited for the opening credits and the promotional material in order not to steal attention away from the film's three leads (William Hurt, Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks). He is billed only in the film's closing credits.
  • Sleuth was probably the only example in cinema history to do the exact opposite of this and pad out the opening credits with false names. The remake did not bother with this move, in what has to be the dumbest revealing of a spoiler ever.
  • Gary Oldman in Hannibal. He chose not to be credited after his request for above-title billing was rejected (since Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore already had it and MGM didn't want too many names above the title) but he was billed third in the closing credits for the video release.
  • Morgan Freeman in The Bonfire of the Vanities. After being denied above-title billing (which Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith all had), Freeman chose not to be billed.
  • In The View Askewniverse movies, Jason Mewes is always billed as Jay, but Kevin Smith is never billed as Jay's Heterosexual Life-Partner Silent Bob (the only exception was, understandably, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back where they were both billed).
  • It was MGM house style in the 1930s that if actors played dual roles in a movie, they'd only be credited for one role. So in Smilin' Through, Fredric March is credited as Kenneth Wayne and Norma Shearer is credited as Kathleen in the main narrative, set in 1915. The credits do not mention that March plays Kenneth's father Jeremy and Shearer plays Kathleen's aunt Moonyean in the extended 1868 Flashback.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) omitted a name from the movie's closing credits, as it was for a character who only made a cameo in The Stinger that hadn't been shown yet. A "created by" line crediting the character's original comic book creators appears after the Stinger, effectively saying "Yes, that just happened. You really did just see Howard the Duck." (Seth Green)
  • Medium Cool doesn't even list any actors in the opening credits, to help maintain the illusion that we're watching a documentary.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 has done this three times, twice for recurring villains.
  • The X-Files often did this, at least twice with Nicholas Lea (Alex Krycek), who often popped up at surprising points late in episodes, and one notable time with the not-quite-dead Cigarette-Smoking Man (William Davis). In one unusual case, it was done with Chris Owen (Spender) who actually appears throughout the episode but his character is horribly scarred to the point of being unrecognizable, with his true identity not revealed until late on.
  • The seventh season premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer did this with the surprise cameos of the former Big Bads at the end (actually the First Evil). Additionally, Buffy subverted this by adding the name of a character that would be killed off in the same episode to the opening credits for a single episode.
    • The unexpected reappearance of Giles in the penultimate episode of season six was kept from the opening credits, and even the narrator of the Previously on… was changed, giving the impression the character was gone for good.
    • James Marsters was uncredited for the original airing of season 4's "The Harsh Light of Day" to make Spike's return a surprise. However, he is given credit in all later airings and home video releases of the episode.
    • Michelle Trachtenberg isn’t credited for the fifth season premiere, so her first appearance as Buffy’s sister Dawn is a surprise to the audience. She is added to the opening credits from the following episode onwards.
    • Angel took a different approach: the character in question had made several appearances in flashbacks but hadn't appeared in "the present" for over two seasons. Thus, viewers were associating her name in the opening credits with "there will be a flashback in this episode" instead of "she will appear in the final minute of the episode to shock us all."
    • Angel also played it straight on at least five occasions - Darla at the end of Season 1, Faith in the opening episode of season 2, Drusilla in Season 2, Willow in the final episode of season 2, and Lindsey in Season 5.
  • Doctor Who
    • The classic series frequently used pseudonyms to disguise appearances of the Master, or (in at least one instance) Davros.
    • Averted in spectacular fashion for "Journey's End" twice! The Radio Times (The BBC's own Listings Magazine!) published a cast list with David Tennant playing the lead for the episode, four days before the episode was set to broadcast. This could have been easily handwaved by saying that the regeneration cliffhanger of the previous week's episode was so secret the Radio Times didn't know until it was broadcast and then there was no time to alter the listing before publication. Yet the listing acknowledges the regeneration and still prints Tennant's name under the lead role. Then when the episode airs they recap the last episode, complete with a cliffhanger, then show the title sequence, still with Tennant's name in it, then resolve the cliffhanger.
    • Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker do not get credit for their post-regeneration appearances in their predecessors' final episode.
      • Patrick Troughton still gets no mention in the credits, seven—hundred—and—nine episodes later for his post—regeneration appearance where footage from his predecessor's last episode is reused.
    • Tom Baker doesn't get credited for his (archived) pre-regeneration appearance in his successor's first episode.
    • Peter Capaldi doesn't get credited for his appearance in his predecessor's penultimate episode.
    • Famously averted to the point of inversion. William Hartnell's contract stipulated that he would be credited in every episode, yet no mention was made of him having to appear in every episode. So, in "Mission to the Unknown", when all the regular actors had the week off and the episode was entirely populated by guest roles played by guest actors, Hartnell got the lead credit despite having no screen time in the episode. The actors playing the companions had no such stipulations in their contracts.
    • Played with in "The Rescue": It isn't revealed until the second episode that the villain, Koquillion, is actually Bennett in disguise. As a result, the actor was credited simply as playing Bennett in the first episode, with a pseudonym used for Koquillion.
    • Billie Piper's return in the fourth series through a series of tantalizing semi-appearances (fizzing into the air, breaking through a televised transmission, always unseen) was kept under painstaking lock and key by the BBC: the screening of the first episode "Partners in Crime" cut out her scene until the air date, and didn't include her name in the credits at all. The last five minutes subsequently set whogasms squeeing and conspiracies rearing.
  • J. Michael Straczynski had intended to do this in a third season episode of Babylon 5 wherein Capt. Sheridan's Only Mostly Dead wife (played by Melissa Gilbert, wife of Bruce Boxleitner who played Sheridan) reappears on the station in the final seconds of an episode. Gilbert's contract, however, required him to list her as a guest star. However, the credit referred to the character in question without her family name, so the wham effect was maintained for those who didn't make the logical leap.
    • Again, Straczynski wasn't able to do this for the episode in which Na'Toth turned out to be Not Quite Dead - and in this case, the character only had one name, so the credit had to read "Julie Caitlin Brown as Na'Toth", spoiling the surprise.
  • In "Crossroads, Part 2", the season three finale of Battlestar Galactica (2003), the name of actress Katee Sackhoff, who plays Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, was put onto the end credits, instead of the opening credits or also-starring credits, so as to not spoil her "HOLY SHIT", back-from-the-dead reveal at the end of the episode.
    • They did it again in "Sometimes a Great Notion", to hide The Reveal that Kate Vernon's character, Ellen Tigh, was the fifth Cylon.
  • Stargate Atlantis Did this when Repliweir first appeared.
    • Much earlier, its parent show omitted Peter Williams' name in the opening credits of the episode where Apophis comes to Back from the Dead in the last few minutes.
    • Stargate Atlantis did it again during "The Kindred, Part I". When Carson Beckett appeared at the cliffhanger, the guest credit for Paul McGillion was placed in the ending credits to maintain the surprise.
    • Except that in some teaser trailers, the end of the episode was shown, so you are just wondering when it will take place.
  • The season two finale of Supernatural did this with John Winchester. The name of the actor who played him was the very first credit at the end.
    • Supernatural did this again in season six: in the episode where it is revealed that Crowley is still alive, Mark Sheppard is not credited in the opening sequence.
    • A much more recent episode featured the return of Bobby as a ghost after dying several episodes earlier. Jim Beaver was left uncredited in the episode to keep the big return a surprise.
      • And done again in the eight season when Sam encounters Bobby in Purgatory to save his soul from Crowley.
  • Twin Peaks did this for the return of Andrew Packard.
  • Inverted with the House episodes after his team had quit in the season 3 finale, but were still prominently featured in the opening credits in season 4. Guess what? They were back within three episodes.
    • But played straight by House when Amber returned as Wilson's new girlfriend late in season 4.
    • And when House has hallucinations of both Amber and Kutner in the last few episodes of Season 5.
  • This was broadly inverted in the first few episodes of the final series of Monty Python's Flying Circus. John Cleese had decided against continuing with the television version of the show, and did not appear, but was nonetheless credited for some sketches that had been reworked from earlier Python projects. Of note, the second episode was based on an early draft of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • They did this with Fionnula Flanagan in Lost.
    • François Chau is always uncredited for playing Pierre Chang, even after he became a major recurring character in season 5.
    • Greg Grunberg was not named at all for his cameo in the pilot.
    • Variation: Press releases for the season 3 finale and various season 4 episodes intentionally left out Malcolm David Kelly and John Terry so as to not spoil their sudden, brief reappearances. They were credited on the episodes proper, however.
    • Hugely inverted for the finale, where every single former cast member and recurring guest character who appeared in the episode was credited in the same sequence as the main cast, leading to a whopping 28 actors credited as 'starring'.
    • They inverted the trope in their handling of Harold Perrineau in season 4, crediting him for every episode even though he didn't appear straight away. The fact that Michael would reappear and his reason for doing so were revealed shortly before he was first seen onscreen, but his name in the credits before that gave it away.
  • Inverted in the closing credits of Part 1 of the two-part Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode "The Tale of Cutter's Treasure". One mysterious in-story character's face was never shown to add suspense, but his name is revealed in the cast credits. This wouldn't be a problem if the character wasn't one of the two reoccurring ones. Fans of the show would likely recognize his voice, but it ruined the reveal in Part 2 for anyone who watched the credits.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Heart of Stone" did this for Salome Jens, since the Female Shapeshifter was (unknown to both Odo and the audience) impersonating Kira until very near the end.
  • Not necessarily a case of a surprise character but a series regular: William Devane has left out of the credits of the 1993-94 ABC sitcom Phenom at his request after he campaigned to get starring credit in response to his Star-Making Role in Knots Landing (trying to get either top billing or second billing in the cast, between co-stars Judith Light and Angela Goethals) but was rebuffed by show producers and ABC because they felt that emphasizing Light as its star (although both Light and Geothals' characters were the primary focus of the show) and giving her top billing would draw in female viewers and fans of Light's previous series, Who's the Boss?; Devane eventually told the producers that if he didn't get a billing change, he'd rather not be credited for being on the show at all.
  • CSI: NY did a variation of this during its crossover in an attempt to keep viewers uncertain about the fate of Mac's girlfriend. Megan Dodds wasn't listed in the credits of the synopses and press releases for the New York half, though most viewers did surmise she'd be there and the ruse attempt didn't work well.
  • Revenge has done this a few times:
    • First season finale "Reckoning," with Margarita Levieva to hide the surprise of her character Amanda being back and pregnant with Jack's child.
    • Second season premiere "Destiny," with Emily VanCamp given "starring" billing and Madeleine Stowe absent until the closing credits, to keep it a surprise when Victoria Grayson turned out to be just hiding instead of blown up.
    • Second season finale "Truth, Part Two" with Dilshad Valsaria, hiding that the recording of Padma made before her death surfaces. Undermined in versions of the episodes with the Previously on… segment, which showed Padma sitting in front of the camera.
    • Third season episode "Secrecy" with Amber Valletta; the final shot of the episode is Lydia, presumed dead since the first season finale, stepping out of shadows.
  • Arrow does this in "State vs Queen", not to spoil the surprise appearance of Malcolm Merlyn, believed to be dead at the hands of the Vigilante.
  • When Harry is apparently killed in Budapest in Silent Witness, his actor does not appear in the opening credits to hide the fact that the body was of someone else.
  • One episode of Batman (1966) features the villain False Face. A Master of Disguise mostly wears a semitransparent plastic mask, but is so good that whenever he disguises himself as other characters, he's played by their actors. And since no one knows what he really looks like, so he's only credited as a question mark in the opening credits. He was played by Malachi Throne, who allegedly asked not to be credited because he was dissatisfied with the performance he gave (though he still enjoyed working on the show regardless.)
  • The fourth season of Xena: Warrior Princess began with uncertainty over Gabrielle's fate in the third season cliffhanger. In an attempt to heighten the suspense, Renee O'Connor's name was omitted from the opening credits of the first two episodes. (In fact, she did not appear at all in the first one and only a picture of her face in the second.) However, before the two episodes aired the effect was spoiled by Entertainment Tonight, which ran an interview with Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor that had been taped on location in New Zealand during the filming of a later fourth-season episode. Both wore their usual costumes. Fans correctly interpreted this to mean that Gabrielle had survived her ordeal.
  • Much like the Guardians of the Galaxy example above, the Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series infrequently employ this trope for big reveals in the final scene before showing the actor's name at the start of the closing credits. Examples include:
    • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. first invoked this in Season 1 Episode 2 when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) appeared and chewed out Phil Coulson for damage done to the brand new Bus. It happened again in Season 5 Episode 16 (really a deleted scene from Season 1 Episode 22) with Ian Quinn (David Conrad) and Raina (Ruth Negga) in a flashback scene from four years earlier showing Raina opening the Gravitonum case and Quinn being absorbed by the element, which became sentient after absorbing Dr. Franklin Hall earlier in Season 1. This is used to hint at how Carl Creel is hearing voices in his head after he tried to absorb Gravitonium in this episode.
    • Agent Carter did this in Season 1 Episode 8 when Johann Fennhoff is thrown in prison with a mask over his mouth to prevent him from talking people into hypnosis, only for the reveal to show that his new cellmate is Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), who asks Fennhoff about his interest in developing HYDRA's mind-control program.
    • Daredevil also used this in Season 2 Episode 8 when the just-convicted Frank Castle is led to the prison rec yard and who does he see but Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio), who had been MIA from Season 2 until that point after playing a prominent role in Season 1, who used Castle to help himself take control of the prison.

  • In The Woman in Black, the actress who plays the titular character isn't credited in the program, which makes it out to be a two-man show. Therefore when a third actor comes on as the ghost...
  • When Naughty Marietta was first produced, "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life" was omitted from the program's list of musical numbers. It wasn't that the famous song hadn't been written into the show yet; it was because it was only sung in full at the finale.
  • In Irving Berlin's U.S. Army revue This Is the Army, "How About a Cheer for the Navy?" was omitted from the list of musical numbers to keep it a surprise.
  • In The Doughgirls, the last names of Edna, Vivian, and Nan were not originally listed in the program. This avoids spoiling the major plot point that none of them are actually married.
  • In The Bat, the final character in the Dramatis Personae, by order of appearance, is "An Unknown Man," who turns out to be an amnesiac who has forgotten his name. His true identity is revealed when the Bat is exposed as his impostor.
  • It is customary in Chicago to only use the first initial of the performer playing Mary Sunshine because she's played by a man.
  • Rachel Bloom's stand-up special Death Let Me Do My Show is advertised as a one-woman show, with the one other actor not mentioned in the playbill. He appears early in the show posing as a heckler in the audience before revealing himself to be Death, kicking off the show's shift in tone. The other actor's credit is instead posted outside the theater with a notice not to share the poster elsewhere.

    Video Games 
  • In The Caligula Effect Overdose, the credits list a new character called Lucid with merely a series of question marks for their voice actor. This serves two reasons, the first being that Lucid has no spoken lines, and the second to avoid spoiling to any player that didn't choose to go the newly-added Musician Route that Lucid is the Musician name for the protagonist.
  • Mitsumete Knight has two openings, the first showing the main heroines, the second the enemy Generals: only the first has the seiyuu (voice actors) written under each character. The probable reason behind this is to avoid busting The Reveal about the General Salishuan the Spy being Raizze Haimer, since they obviously have the same seiyuu, Yumi Touma.

    Western Animation 
  • In What If…? (2021), this is done twice to good effect:
    • In the third episode, it's a thrilling mystery of who is killing off the Avengers Candidates and threatening a war between Earth and Asgard due to the death of Thor. The opening credits list every voice actor's name except for Michael Douglas, in order to preserve the Shocking Moment that is the reveal of the serial killer being a deranged Hank Pym, mentally broken by the death of his daughter Hope while she was on a mission for SHIELD, causing him to swear revenge on Nick Fury and target the Avengers to do so.
    • In the penultimate episode of Season 1, Uatu faces off against Infinity Ultron but is eventually overwhelmed and nearly killed before escaping. The opening credits deliberately exclude Benedict Cumberbatch's name so that the Wham Shot of Uatu retreating to Strange Supreme's pocket dimension in order to forge an alliance is kept intact.