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The Ghost / Film

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Movie characters who are perpetually offscreen.


  • The infamous Man in Bambi is only represented by ominous music, but his actions lead to the on of the most traumatic deaths in cinema history.
  • Finding Nemo: Sandy Plankton is considered among his classmates to be the purveyor of great knowledge. His fun facts are almost right. He and the information he shares are only mentioned as he is never shown, probably considering he is "plankton" and it might require a microscope to see him.
  • Frozen (2013): The brothers of Prince Hans are only mentioned, but never appear in person due to him visiting Arendelle alone. They technically "appear" in A Frozen Heart where four of them are named and both their mother and their father are introduced, but the book has no illustrations. Their only official appearance is artwork for a video for Frozen — Live at the Hyperion that reuses concept art that's been tweaked for each brother, though it's unknown if this would be their official appearance or just placeholders. To date, the main characters have not met them.
  • Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge has Shinnok mentioned throughout as Quan Chi's goal is to free him, but he doesn't actually appear — but that didn't stop the credits from listing Robin Atkin Downes (who voiced Kano) as his voice actor, though Downes did voice Shinnok in the sequel, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms.
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost, in spite of serving as a Fully Absorbed Finale to The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, dispenses with Scooby's nephew Scrappy-Doo aside from a brief mention of him by Flim Flam.
  • In Turning Red, Mei's cousin once removed Vivian is mentioned but never seen. Similarly, Mei's friends mention their parents but they are never seen.


  • 28 Hotel Rooms: The man's girlfriends, the woman's fiancé and then husband along with their daughter are never seen nor heard, though frequently spoken of between them.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man Series:
    • Norman Osborn gets this treatment in the first film. We never get a clear look at him and all we hear about is that he founded Oscorp, he's dying from an unknown disease, and he is linked to Peter's parents somehow. The Stinger suggests that he may know more about Spider-Man and everything else going on than he lets on... We finally see him in the sequel, shortly before his death from the disease.
    • J. Jonah Jameson is this as well, in both films. In the first, it's at least implied that Peter works for The Daily Bugle, which Jameson is presumably the editor of; in the sequel, he actually talks to Peter by way of email.
  • Claude Daigle, the boy Rhoada murdered from The Bad Seed, is only referred to in past tense, though he may have been glimpsed at the school picnic.
  • In The Bad Sleep Well, Iwabuchi has a superior at the Unexploited Land Development Corporation with whom he talks on the phone sometimes. The superior is never seen.
  • The Big Lebowski: Walter's ex-wife, Cynthia. She is mentioned a few times, Walter even takes care of her dog, but she is never seen or heard.
  • The Big Night has Andy's girlfriend Frances, whose absence at George's birthday party is commented on, even though Andy tells George not to worry about it. Her absence hangs over the film like, well, a ghost, until George learns that she is dead: Driven to Suicide by Andy's refusal to marry her.
  • In Blackthorn, Eduardo Apodaca supposedly stole $50,000 from Simón Patiño, a powerful Bolivian industrialist and mine owner. The posse chasing Eduardo and Blackthorn is believed to have been sent by Patiño, but Patiño himself never appears. Eventually Mackinley tells Blackthorn the $50,000 Eduardo stole was not from the powerful mine owner, Patiño, but from the mining families who recently took control of the mines.
  • Dark Heritage: Mr. Jordan, the owner of the newspaper Clint works for, gets mentioned a lot, and it is his idea to send a team to spend the night in the Old, Dark House, but he never appears onscreen.
  • In the George Cukor classic Dinner at Eight, many threads of the plot are driven by the anticipated presence at the title event of English aristocrats Lord and Lady Ferncliffe, whom main characters Oliver and Millicent Jordan befriended while visiting England the previous year. However, the Ferncliffes never appear, cancelling their stay in New York in favour of going to Florida instead.
  • Downfall (2004): In Adolf Hitler's final days, many historic characters are mentioned but never seen due to being outside of Berlin, which is under siege by the Soviet Union. The most prominent are the generals tasked to launch a counterattack against the Red Army and relieve Berlin: Felix Steiner and Walther Wenck. Hitler hopes that their intervention would turn the tide of the war, only to suffer a Villainous Breakdown when he's informed by his staff that Steiner had refused to intervene because he had no army left.
  • The Enforcer (1951): Smiley, the assassin who Duke says forced him to murder Nina, has been killed by his superiors in a fire for letting Duke get away when the police go to arrest him, and he never appears in any of the flashbacks.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off has a few Ghosts, the most prominent one being Morris Frye, Cameron's father. All we know of him is related or implied by Cameron or Ferris, and none of it is pretty. Some film scholars have argued that he, not Rooney or Ferris, is the true villain of the film despite never physically appearing.
  • In Hereditary, the main threat of the film is a cult worshipping an Eldritch Abomination named Paimon, heavily implied to be the very demon king described in the Ars Goetia. He's never seen on-screen besides possessing mortals and manifesting as strange, shimmering beam of light that occasionally manifests even in dark places. It's likely that this may be the only part of his body the human characters can comprehend.
  • In Hook, the Indians are mentioned by Hook and Smee, but do not appear. This was likely to avoid racist stereotyping, which has led to them being excluded from many later adaptations of Peter Pan.
  • In Imperium Augustus, Augustus' wife Scribonia is never shown onscreen. His marriage and divorce with her is only briefly mentioned in the aging Augustus' narration. This is despite the fact that one of the movie's main plot points is Augustus' attempt to rise to power by marrying her for money and later leaving her for Livia.
  • We never see (or even hear) Dwight Eisenhower in Into the Storm (2009), despite him having some bearing in the plot. The same also goes for Adolf Hitler and Mussolini, neither of which ever appears in the movie, but bear heavily in the plot.
  • The Generalissimo is mentioned throughout Invisible Avenger, and is the driving force behind the events, but he never actually appears, and is mentioned as having been killed in the off-screen revolution at the end.
  • This was the general idea for the Mandarin in Iron Man. He's alluded to as the leader of the Ten Rings terrorist cell, and through them has a hand in the plots of the first two movies before appearing in the third. Except that that Mandarin is just an actor hired by Aldrich Killian, who claims to be the real Mandarin. However, according to the One-Shot All Hail the King, the real Mandarin is still out there, unhappy that someone pretended to be him, so this trope was still in effect until Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, in which the real Mandarin is slated to finally appear in person.
  • In the James Bond movies, most of the other 00 agents qualify, with one notable exception. Not counting Thunderball, where they're all seen in the background, at best they're only seen when dead or three seconds from dying. 008 in particular is never seen onscreen, though M always threatens to replace Bond with him if he keeps disobeying orders.
  • In the 1997 informative video The Kids Guide to the Internet, Lisa and Andrew's mother drops them off and is heard honking to pick them up, but doesn't come in and talk to the Mom and Dad.
  • Kiss Me (2011): Mia's mother is mentioned more than once but never seen.
  • General Kemidov in The Maltese Falcon, who at one time had the Falcon, or so the bad guys believed. When they examine it and find out it is a fake they decide that Kemidov must have tricked them. Kemidov never appears onscreen.
  • In A Man Called Otto, Chris, the son of Anita who moved to Japan for a job, is never seen onscreen, only mentioned.
  • Mistress of the Apes:, Susan's husband, who disappears in Darkest Africa before the story starts. Susan mounts an expedition to find him, only to discover he has been murdered.
  • Despite having the film named after him, Mohammad never appears in Mohammad, Messenger of God, for very obvious reasons. While the film does show his point of view a few times, the closest the viewer ever gets to seeing him is getting glimpses of his sword, staff, and camel, respectively.
  • In Monkey Business, Maurice Chevalier is said to be on the boat, as the Marx Brothers stole his passport and try to use it to disembark, but he never actually appears on-screen.
  • My Dinner with Andre is full of them. The cast literally consists of two guys, a waiter, and a few extras. Throughout the film, Wallace talks about his girlfriend Debbie, and Andre talks about quite a few people. The closest we ever get to seeing any of them is a single black and white photograph of a Polish woman Andre worked with one time.
  • In The Nail Gun Massacre, Old Lady Bailey, who owns the house, is mentioned a lot, and at one point the sheriff suspects she might be the killer. Despite this, she never appears on screen. (And the sheriff apparently never bothers to interview her, despite her being his chief suspect.)
  • Sam Ferris in No Name on the Bullet who Lou Fraden is convinced hired Gant to kill him, and the Governor, who Judge Benson suspects hired Gant to kill him.
  • Patton does this with General Eisenhower, both on purpose and by accident. They couldn't find an actor that looked enough like Eisenhower, so they decided to have Eisenhower be an unseen, ominous figure.
  • Al Capone in Road to Perdition is referred to a number of times, but he never appears. A scene was shot with him, but it was cut out to make his presence more abstract and ominous.
  • Mrs. Ferrars, in Ang Lee's adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, never actually appears onscreen (though she does appear in the book). Her influence is still felt, mostly as the means of making her son Edward's life rather difficult, but the audience never sees her.
  • Since You Went Away is a film about life on the American home front during World War II, with Anne Hilton and her two daughters getting along after Anne's husband Tim goes away to the army. Tim Hilton is a presence throughout the film, via his pictures, messages from him, and constant talking about him, but he never appears onscreen.
  • Slave of Love: Maksakov, the lead actor in Olga's troupe, who has elected to stay behind in Moscow and join the Bolsheviks. Olga resents him for this.
  • Stag is set at Victor's Stag Party. Victor's fiancee, while not present, is mentioned a lot, but the audience never even learns her name.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope had two Ghosts: the Emperor and Jabba the Hutt. Jabba was originally supposed to appear in the film, but his scene was cut, and his character was reimagined as a giant, slug-like alien. His scene was restored in the Special Edition with a CGI version of Jabba inserted over the original actor and his dialogue dubbed over with Huttese. Though Emperor Palpatine briefly appeared in the following film, it wasn't until Return of the Jedi that Jabba finally appeared onscreen. A variant for Palpatine is that Darth Sidious only appears to the Trade Federation he's commanding in The Phantom Menace as a hologram — a Phantom Menace.
    • In one scene in Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine mentions Darth Plagueis the Wise, a Sith Lord of legend who discovered a way to cheat death with the Force. The implication in the film is that Plagueis wasn't an ancient Sith, but instead Palpatine's late master, and that Palpatine is framing the story as an ancient legend in order to manipulate Anakin. This was confirmed in the Expanded Universe, but the new canon has yet to address the story.
  • Through Black Spruce: Suzanne never once appears in the film (although her disappearance sparks its plot), aside from her modeling shots. The same goes for her boyfriend Gus.
  • Prince John is mentioned frequently in Up the Chastity Belt, but never actually appears; despite him taking over the country in Richard's absence.
  • In Underworld U.S.A., the bookkeeper Menkin, who is threatening to inform on the mob to Driscoll and the Crime Commission, never appears on screen but has a major influence on the plot.
  • The Usual Suspects: Agent Kujan repeatedly threatens Verbal with the wrath of Ruby Deemer, a local loan shark who has some sort of grudge against him. Ruby never appears or factors into the narrative.
  • In Waiting for Guffman, the characters spend the entire movie preparing for the arrival of Broadway talent scout Guffman. During their performance, a distinguished man arrives late and takes Guffman's seat, but we later find out that he's just a random guy. Guffman never appears.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Present-day Diana receives her memento photo from Wayne Enterprises and corresponds with Bruce Wayne, but he himself does not appear even once.
  • Yield to the Night, a British crime drama, was about Mary Hilton (played by Diana Dors), a woman sentenced to die for murdering her boyfriend's other lover. The victim shows up in the opening scene, when the murder is shown, and a few other times in flashback, but her face is never completely visible to the camera. (The movie was loosely based on the case of Ruth Ellis, and in an odd coincidence Ellis had actually been in another Diana Dors movie, Lady Godiva Rides Again, as a beauty pageant contestant.)
  • Zero Dark Thirty's Osama bin Laden. He's never seen, as well as his The Dragon, Abu Ahmed. At the end, both are shot and killed in a raid.