Great memorable movie moments can come about in so many different ways. Many times a director will include a wink or a nod, a tiny reference to a bit of classic film, or to one of his earlier works, if you manage to be quick enough to catch that you get the “Aha! I see what you did there.” kind of vibe.

Other times, great moments can be more subtle, more subdued, when the actor so fully embodies his character and loses themselves so completely within the role, that it can’t help but make for a compelling cinema. These scenes add up over the course of the film to make for a filmmaking masterpiece. The following list provides examples of these types of small moments.

Here are three times when characters evoked true emotion without needing to use words.

1. About Schmidt

About Schmidt could have made this list on account of the of two scenes, both of which show exactly why Jack Nicholson is such a master of his profession, able to silently communicate a whole host of emotions, to tell a whole story without even needing to speak.

The first scene occurs midway through the film, Nicholson’s character finds a box of his departed wife’s things tucked away in a closet. He is moved, at first, by the idea that she saved all of his letters and correspondence with her. But, as he begins to read one of the letters, his countenance changes.

The realization dawns on him that this lovingly crafted letter is written not to him, her husband, but to another man, with whom she had been having an affair. We see his emotional state change from loving remembrance, to surprise, confusion, then outright rage as he ponders the reality of her betrayal.

The box, which he had so tenderly been sifting through just moments prior is discarded wholesale, as the scene ends with him leaving to go confront the other man.

The second moment occurs at the very end of the film. Our story, to this point, has been told through the perspective of letters he has written to a small boy in Africa, whom he has been sponsoring as a way to give his life meaning post-retirement.

He returns home one day, despondent over the state of his wife and family, his feelings of failure and ineptitude. There, mail from Africa waits him. It is from a nun at the orphanage where the boy lives.

She explains that the boy cannot speak English and is unable to understand anything he has written, they are all grateful for the love and support he has shown. Included with the letter is a picture, drawn by the boy, of the two of them standing together, holding hands. Nicholson’s character has his whole perspective changed as he views the picture. He begins to weep silently as the film ends.

2. Foreigner

Jackie Chan absolutely makes this movie. He turns what would otherwise be a mediocre Pierce Brosnan spy flick into something truly amazing.

My favorite scene occurs right near the beginning of the film. Irish terrorists have bombed a building in London where his daughter, through no fault of her own, had happened to be.

Jackie sits, silently, in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, on a curb just outside all of the carnage. His wordless, soundless heartbreak and the aura of loss, anger, rage, and confusion he exudes encapsulates perfectly the feelings of a father who has just had his entire world stolen from him and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the film.

3. The Graduate

Dustin Hoffman and Elaine Ross’ performances in the final scene in this movie elevate it from just another romantic comedy to a true cinematic classic.

This is made all the more remarkable by mere fact that it happened almost entirely by accident. Initially, the film was to end on a high note, with the two characters gaily running off into the sunset.

Fortunately for us, that is not the ending we got. The director had forgotten to say “cut”, so, ever the consummate professionals, the two leads kept right on acting, without breaking character, and this version of the scene is the one that was incorporated into the final cut.

The film ends with Hoffman arriving at her wedding. She dashes down the aisle, out of her own wedding, to meet Hoffman, and they laughingly board a bus to begin their new lives together. But the camera lingers. We cut to the rather somber faces of the other passengers of the bus as they ponder the presence of these two happy intruders.

Cut back to Hoffman and Ross as they sit, at first, smiling, but then, as the seconds tick by, they grow increasingly serious, seeming to slowly grasp the enormity of the choice they have just made together. Their smiles fade and they begin to sit and stare meaningfully as Simon and Garfunkel’s excellent 'Sound of Silence' begins to play, and credits start to roll.

This one scene completely alters the tone of the entire film and is nearly perfect in every way, making it the ideal candidate for the top spot on this list.