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The 10 Worst Movie Accents of All Time

21 March 2017 | Features, Other Lists | by Julia Troy

Mastering a foreign accent is an incredibly difficult challenge, and when actors pull it off the results can me tremendous. Meryl Streep’s Polish accent in Sophie’s Choice and Don Cheadle’s Rwandan accent in “Hotel Rwanda” come to mind as excellent examples of fake accents done right, and both actors got well-earned critical acclaim for their efforts.

However, for every Streep and Cheadle there are many instances of film accents that fell flat despite some valiant attempts by actors.

 

10. Anne Hathaway – One Day

No one can accuse Anne Hathaway of not giving every role her all, and in fact she is often maligned for appearing as though she’s trying “too hard.” Unfortunately, her efforts did not pay off in this 2011 tearjerker that required her to adopt a Yorkshire accent to match the book’s UK setting.

Hathaway appears to jump between various (possibly made-up) British dialects with her hodgepodge accent, and it doesn’t help that she’s paired with Britain-born Jim Sturgess in almost every scene, which highlights how fake her accent sounds.

It does appear that Hathaway was prepared for what was coming to her, telling BBC America’s Tom Brook in 2011 “This book has so many fans that I felt like when I was preparing the accent that I had a dam of criticism just waiting to come down on me at the slightest misstep, so once I got comfortable with that then you just let go — and let it happen. But it was a big challenge.”

Thankfully, Hathaway spent most of 2012’s Les Miserable signing with a slightly British twang rather than speaking with a full-on accent, which may have helped her land the Oscar. It does leave us to wonder though, why was it so important for Hathaway to attempt a British accent in this film about two students, one of whom easily could have been America without majorly upsetting the plot, yet it wasn’t important for her to adopt a French accent for a film about the French Revolution?

 

9. Tom Cruise – Far and Away

If there’s one common theme in this list, it’s that pulling off a spot-on Irish accent is tough for even American’s biggest stars. Tom Cruise’s accent in Far and Away, while more forgivable than Richard Gere’s attempt in The Jackal, is pretty atrocious. Cruise plays a 19th century Irish farmer in this heavy-handed film alongside Nicole Kidman.

Kidman, for her part, also dons a pretty weak brogue, but it’s not nearly as ridiculous as Cruise’s over-the-top, stereotypical accent that often drops out when he raises his voice. For an excellent example, check out the “say you like my hat!” scene, where Cruise screams at Kidman to say she likes his hat, and completely loses his accent in the process, morphing into his character in A Few Good Men berating Jack Nicholson.

Negative reviews for the film pointed out not only Cruise’s bad accent, but also the film’s thin plot and the poor chemistry between Cruise and Kidman, who ironically enough were married at the time. Roger Ebert praised the films lavish set and impressive cinematography, which may have inspired director Ron Howard to direct the infinitely better Apollo 13 two years later.

 

8. Johnny Depp – Blow

Blow

Blow is a film that almost all die-hard Depp fans adore. A gritty, heartfelt portrayal of famed cocaine kingpin George Jung, Blow is definitely a strong showcase for Depp’s raw, emotional talent, but one thing that’s hard to ignore is his overdone, stereotypical Boston accent.

In fairness to Depp the Boston accent, even when done perfectly, often still comes out sounding ridiculous. However, Depp really misses the mark here by over-exaggerating every word and tossing out any attempt at subtlety, which has helped other actors sound more authentic (see Leonardo Dicaprio in The Departed).

The issue may have been less noticeable if it weren’t for the fact that a large portion of Blow is narrated offscreen by his character, which really shone a spotlight on his subpar accent without the distraction that comes from watching Depp do some superb acting. Thankfully, he seemed to learn from his mistakes and returned in 2015 with a stronger and more believable Boston accent as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass.

 

7. Richard Gere – The Jackal

The Jackal is a ridiculous film, filled with crazy Bruce Willis wigs and Jack Black cameos while simultaneously trying to pass itself off as a serious dramatic thriller. That being said, it’s a fun watch, made all the more interesting by Richard Gere’s baffling Irish accent. Gere is a tremendous actor, but in his role as an ex-IRA terrorist working with the FBI he chose to go with a Lucky Charms leprechaun-sounding brogue in some scenes, while shifting to a British or even American-like whisper in others.

What’s more, Gere’s accent isn’t even the only bad one in this 1997 critical flop. American actress Diana Venora is also featured as a chain-smoking Russian MVD operative, and she lays it on way too thick, calling to mind classic “Boris and Natasha” cartoons.

 

6. Nicolas Cage – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)

There was more than one Nicolas Cage performance that could have made this list. His notorious southern accent in Con Air comes to mind, but at least that seemed to fit the campy, over-the-top style of that movie. What makes Cage’s terrible accent in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin so unforgivable is that this is a film that is trying desperately hard to be taken seriously, yet with each word spoken by its title character we move further away from the plot.

Set in Greece during World War II, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was meant to be a sweeping war romance epic, and Cage’s Captain Corelli supposed to be epitome of Italian charm. Instead, what we get is a stiff Cage doing some sort of Mario brothers imitation. To quote The Washington Post’s Rita Kemply, “Cage’s ancestors may have come from the Old Country, but he’s no more Italian than Franco-American SpaghettiOs.”

The film was a major flop in the U.S., netting only $25,543,895 domestically with a budget of $57 million. While it managed to do slightly better overseas, many fans of the book left disappointed by both Cage’s poor accent and the liberties the director took with the novel’s original plot.

 

 

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  • Trent Eon

    John Malkovich’s Russian accent as Teddy KGB in Rounders often shows up on lists like this, but for me it is one of the best parts of that movie.

    • It’s like Pacino’s Tony Montana, far more entertaining than accurate

  • bluesborn

    Nick Cage took waaaay too many roles away from far more deserving actors.

    • He’s still fantastic when he isn’t mailing it in (check out “Joe”). Why don’t people make a fuss about the shit Morgan Freeman does? Or John Cusack these days. A lot of talented actors out there making stuff just to get paid, and you can’t fault them for it. Cage is still very talented.

      • Abhishek

        Yeah, as Ted said. The black guy in every movie Morgan is! Haha

    • sailor monsoon

      Why does nic cage still get shit?
      Nobody shits on John Travolta or Bruce willis, who’s been phoning it in for a decade

  • 莊自得

    Robert Downey, Jr. as Wayne Gale in Natural Born Killers. I had seen this film several times when I was rather surprised to read that the Wayne Gale character was supposed to be Australian. (I’m Australian, but I had always thought Wayne Gale was English.)

  • Harrison Ford, “K-19: The Widowmaker”

  • Abba Makama

    WILL SMITH CONCUSSSION

  • oSorin

    all lines of romanians speaking romanian in western movies – exception, Bogdan, the chief of car wash from Breaking Bad

  • Le Blanc

    Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Kevin Spacey in Ordinary Decent Criminal.

  • Domagoj Jurisic

    John Travolta, “Killing Season”

  • cristina willigs

    i loved the sheriff of nothingham throught

  • Lars Franssen

    All ze Djermans’ accents used to be terrible all the way up to the 2000s, but I guess if all their characters were monodimensional Nazi minions, anyway, who cares. Thank God for Thomas Kretschmann, Bruno Ganz, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Brühl and all the other Germans (and Austrians) who finally get to play German roles these days.

  • fantail31

    Audrey Hepburn – My Fair Lady!

  • fantail31

    Robert Downey Jnr – Natural Born Killers – Never attempt an Aussie accent!

  • Magus

    Benedict cumberBatch in Black Mass

  • Grace Skerp

    Sean Connery, The Hunt for Red October.

  • Rafael Tondi

    No V for Vendetta?

  • Lugh

    Matt Damon, the Great Wall.

  • Veronica Clarke

    I didn’t realize Kevin Costner was trying for an English accent in Prince of Thieves!

  • Giorgio Palmas

    Don Cheadle in the Ocean remakes. Went to the Van Dyke east ender school. Bloimy guvna!