This seems to be commonplace in action TV series in movies: our hero talks to the villain, there is some exposition and instead of facing each other as civilised people tend to do, the villain will face the window (somewhat understandable), a picture on the wall (manners, villain), or the dark empty corner of the room (who would do that?).

Last example I have seen was in SPECTRE, where I remember characters like Oberhauser or Max/C going out of their way to show their back to Bond or M. Avengers are common offenders, they will routinely talk to the back of someone. Richelieu (Peter Capaldi) in the BBC series The Three Muskeeters seemed to take delight in showing his cape to people while talking. That's a few random examples.

I have noticed that for many years now, and every time it happens it makes me cringe, as it feels so unnatural (and it happens more and more). Is there any reason why this has developed so much? Does it come from theatre where both actors may have to face the audience?

I understand the basic goal of the scene, to make it more dramatic or ominous but I think the effect achieved is counter-productive, so I'm looking for a more detailed explanation if anyone has one.

  • 3
    Probably because that way the audience can see both of their faces at the same time. (On a personal note: I don't get why this bothers people so much. There's so much in movies etc. which could be considered "unrealistic", simply because things are done that was for dramatic purposes. They're not documentaries.)
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 10:55
  • Well the thing is that we end up seeing two backs instead of two faces most of the time. I would understand it more if it was the other way, as it could happen in theatre
    – drolex
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 11:59
  • May just be a British thing. They put such high price on manners. I bet the villains didn't even offer them a cuppa when they turned their backs.
    – cde
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 18:21

2 Answers 2


Facing someone who speaks to you is done out of respect, interest, or out of a practical function of hearing the sound, and seeing the body language, and face expressions. All of that helps with communication and understanding.

When someone is turned away while spoken to, it is supposed to demonstrate the listener's contempt, disinterest, discomfort of the person speaking or what they are saying. In some cases what's being said is uncomfortable, unwanted and the listener simply does not want to "face the truth".


I don't think it's unrealistic. We always do this when we speak with someone we have a problem with. This body expression signals our hate or at a lesser extent our disappointment to the other person.

Back to the cinema, it's not only when a hero speaks to a villain or vice-versa. Even a beloved wife and husband can speak to the back of each other when they go to a cold argument.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .