None of the following performances are bad. This is not your usual list of bad accents. If this was one of those lists, we would have Tom Cruise insisting that you like his hat. We would have Keanu Reeves telling you where the bastard sleeps. We would have Nicolas Cage… just being Nicolas Cage.
However, not every bad movie accent is attached to a bad film performance. It may sound paradoxical, but some performances are still strong despite being affected by these bad accents.
This miniature list will hopefully shed these roles in a positive light. Whether the following accents occasionally got on your nerves or they damaged your hearing for a week, it is hard to slam the performances they are attached to. Here are 10 great performances that have gotten a bad reputation because of their accents.
10. Helen Hunt – Carol (As Good as It Gets)
This entry is the lowest because it is almost unnoticeable. Helen Hunt has sadly disappeared from the limelight she once dominated. In “As Good as It Gets”, you can see Hunt in a role that mimics the same title. Her ability to play a charming waitress and instantly deliver some powerfully emotional lines at the drop of a hat is uncanny.
The thing is, she sprinkles a bit of a New York accent throughout her performance, and it is really hard to pick up at first. Once you notice it, you may be like Melvin Udall, as you will pay attention for it at every chance. The accent is almost completely nonexistent when Hunt expresses her woes in the film. All of this is luckily not a big deal. This is the lowest performance on the list, because it is by far the least bothersome; it’s just present enough to be ranked here.
9. Leonardo DiCaprio – Danny Archer (Blood Diamond)
Here is another heavily debatable entry, because in all honesty, there isn’t much wrong about Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunning portrayal of a Zimbabwean arms trafficker.
For the most part, DiCaprio nails a difficult accent pretty well, although some can argue that it is a bit forceful and not indicative of the ways someone may actually sound. The one concern that has brought this accent up as one of the go-tos for an argument on movie accents is the fact that some syllables and words end up sounding more like a general lower-African accent, whether it be South African or elsewhere.
DiCaprio’s Danny Archer, as a result, has been either praised for the commitment or brought up as some sort of confusion. This performance was nominated for an Oscar above his Boston-rat-escapade role in “The Departed”, which may have brought attention to his vocation practices. Whether you find his accent good or bad, there’s no question that his effort in “Blood Diamond” has been heavily studied since, thus taking away from his overall work.
8. Natalie Portman – Evey (V for Vendetta)
The last performance here that can be justified a little bit (we will soon step into a territory of true befuddlement), Natalie Portman has a flair for pinpointing some sort of accuracy for her accents when she takes the challenge on (her Jackie Kennedy portrayal is nearly perfect).
In “V for Vendetta”, her English accent is an interpretation of the high class, yet she is a working girl who devotes her time to a television network. Her words are extremely polished to the point of inauthenticity, and while it is always noticeable, it isn’t always distracting. Portman’s self-sacrifice in the film definitely outshines her delivery usually, but there are moments where her words will pop out as a little too forceful.
With the proper sharpening, this blunt accent could have been refined into a fairly convincing speech. As it remains, it is a voice that is posh and occasionally blaring. Portman’s Evey is far from the worst example (as you will soon find out), but it is still hard to ignore.
7. Forest Whitaker – Jody (The Crying Game)
Now we get to Forest Whitaker, who is a bit of an enigma when it comes to accents. He is either absolutely brilliant (“The Last King of Scotland”) or quite off-putting (what exactly was he going for in “Rogue One”?). While his acting is almost always top notch (you can’t expect anyone to be good in “Battlefield Earth”), his voice work can sometimes remove you from the story.
In “The Crying Game”, Whitaker puts on an accent that may seem pretty great at first, but will make you wince the more he goes on. This is the kind of performance where an actor is so hell-bent on perfecting an accent that the words sound more like impersonations than the dialect of a person simply talking. He goes for a British delivery, and every p-sound makes that abundantly clear.
It is such a conflicting role, because you feel the emotions he delivers, yet you cannot get past the preposterous pronunciations (imagine his character saying that last sentence, and you’ll get the picture). Forest Whitaker’s accent in “The Crying Game” is a crying shame, because it stood out for the wrong reasons.
6. Orson Welles – Michael O’Hara (The Lady From Shanghai)
What a spectacular film “The Lady from Shanghai” is, and what a fierce performance (as usual) by the great Orson Welles. His Irish accent, however, is a bit hard to swallow.
This feels like one of the lesser offenders on this list, because his accent is under-developed more than it is gaudy. He curls his words just a little bit to imply his character’s heritage, and that—apparently—should be enough to get by on. With that level of effort, the accent ends up either being a confusing puzzle to put together, or it disappears altogether for temporary periods of time.
This is a different entry, because each enunciation won’t punch you with obviousness, but will contain enough of a tinge to be heard. You may wish that Welles inflicted more of an Irish accent (and a slightly more convincing one at that) or that the character just didn’t have an accent at all. Don’t worry, because everything else about Welles’ Michael O’Hara is wonderful.