Top 10 Terrible Movie Accents

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By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

Throughout cinema history, we have witnessed some truly terrible attempts by actors at various accents.

Whether it be Mickey Rooney’s racist portrayal in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Kevin Costner’s disappearing accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. A film can soon find itself coming unstuck thanks to an actors failure to grasp an accent that is not there own. Some manage to master it, delivering believable and engaging character performances. Yet there are plenty of examples when some get it very wrong indeed.

It’s worth mentioning that there is no Nicolas Cage in our ‘Top 10’. Because let’s be honest, we wanted variety, and he could fill all the places on his own Top 10 list! Maybe we’ll do that in the future?

So with that said, here are our picks for the ten most terrible movie accents…

10: Anne Hathaway – One Day (2011)

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Despite working from critically acclaimed source material, One Day was a commercial and critical flop. But if the film being a dud wasn’t bad enough, it is Anne Hathaway’s odd attempt at a Yorkshire accent.

Hathaway had a previous attempt at an English accent in Becoming Jane, but that now seems flawless in comparison to her attempt in One Day. The accent slips constantly throughout the film, switching from thick to non-existent.

9: Sean Connery – Highlander (1986)

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“I am Juan Sánchez Villalobos Ramírez, Chief metallurgist to King Charles V of Spain. And I’m at your service.”

In a film packed full of strange accents, it was always a brave, or strange, move to make the most Scottish man in the movie play a Spaniard of Egyptian descent but make no attempt at an accent. So in a way. Connery is on this list not because of a terrible accent attempt, but because he essentially just spoke normally. Yes, there is the occasional hint of a Spanish twang in some of his line delivery, but for the most part, he is essentially just Sean Connery.

8: Angelina Jolie – Alexander (2004)

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In Oliver Stone’s Alexander, Jolie adopts a Russian accent for the role of Queen Olympias.

It’s difficult to understand why a figure from Ancient Greece would talk like a cliche Russian spy, but that’s what we got. To be fair to Jolie, Colin Farrell’s accent wasn’t much better, but in a film packed full of questionable performances, it’s Jolie who stands out the most with a truly terrible accent.

7: Jon Voight – Anaconda (1997)

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Like daughter like father?

A giant snake, J-Lo and Ice Cube. You’d think a film could not get more absurd, well take a bow, Jon Voight, because your accent in Anaconda was simply dreadful. What the true motivation behind it was, I don’t think we will ever really know. But what we get on screen is a truly bizarre performance polished off with a disastrous attempt at a Spanish accent.

6: Don Cheadle – Ocean’s Eleven Films (2001-2007)

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Oi Oi, I’m a cockney, I’m cockney! Apples and pears and various other fruit… You get the idea.

I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to let Don Cheadle play munitions expert Basher Tarr as a ‘right cockney geezer’, but whoever did is hopefully no longer working in the film business.  It was an odd choice, and one you would think would have been addressed when they first ask him to do it. Someone should have said, “Thanks, Don, but we’ll make Basher American”. Once is bad enough, but we got this disastrous attempt for three films.

5: Jodie Foster – Elysium (2013)

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It’s hard to narrow down what accent Jodie Foster was going for as Defense Secretary Delacourt in Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium. But whatever it was, she well and truly failed at it.

Her inconsistent English-French-Dutch-whatever-else mashup was very distracting throughout the movie. Yes, the obvious dubbing drew more attention to it, but it’s hard to imagine why they would proceed with such a jarring accent.

4: Sean Connery – The Untouchables (1987)

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It’s fair to say the Irish accent is one of the best in the World. It’s charming, it’s sexy, it’s everything that Sean Connery brought to the role as James Bond. So when Connery was set to play Chicago-Irish police officer Jim Malone in The Untouchables, it was always going to go well, right?

Well, anyone who has seen the film already knows the answer. In what is probably the worst attempt at an Irish accent in cinema history, Sean completely butchers it with an array of confusing twangs and sporadic inflexion.

3: Christopher Lambert – Highlander (1986)

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To be fair to Lambert, he had only recently learned to speak English before filming began. But even still, his portrayal of the immortal Connor MacLeod was a bit of a linguistic car crash.

They tried to justify his ever-changing, consistently terrible, accents down to the fact he lived in various cultures over a period of hundreds of years. So it was always going to ‘evolve’. Ok, at a stretch you can just about buy that. But NOT at the very beginning when he delivers a truly comical Scottish accent.

2: Dick Van Dyke – Mary Poppins (1964)

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Just missing out on the top spot is Dick Van Dyke who, just like Don Cheadle, should have been told to stop after his first attempt at a cockney accent. But because nobody said anything, he actually thought he was doing a good job!

Now, it’s hard to get annoyed with Dick Van Dyke, but even still, his shockingly awful accent as jack-of-all-trades cockney Bert in Mary Poppins is truly one of the worst accents in the history of cinema.

1: Keanu Reeves – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

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Woah.

Despite his recent resurgence in the John Wick movies, Keanu Reeves will always be remembered as delivering some truly terrible accents in his movies. But the worst of them all appears in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. 

To go along with the rather wooden acting, he decides to attempt an unbelievably bad ‘Victorian-English’ accent. His “Cahhfex Ebbeh” line still makes me cringe every time.  Coppola said he was a “trier” and has always praised Reeves for his enthusiasm for the role. But come on Francis. You were there on set, surely you knew this was a mistake at the time?

So there you have it. Our picks for the Top 10 Terrible Movie Accents. Now that read our list, who would make yours? Let us know your picks in the comments below.

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