15 Most Atrocious Movie Accents

Cinema's worst serial accent offenders

 

In the world of movie accents, there are many brogues that'll burst blood vessels in your brain with their ill spoken and inaccurate execution.

Among these atrocious accents, there are a handful of performers who, refusing to learn the lessons of ridicule, return to ruin native tongues with often alarming regularity.

And so it has fallen to us at totalfilm.com to name and shame these consistently confused characters who keep throwing caution to the wolves and butchering brogues.

This means there is no place on our list for some of cinemas most famously atrocious accents; Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, Julia Roberts in Mary Reilly, Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's - because these criminals against language were only one-time offenders.

Join us then for a look at the 15 Most Atrocious Movie Accents from folks who should know better;

 

Nicolas Cage - Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)

Going For:

Non-Regional Italian.

Actually Is: Joe Dolce singing “Shaddap You Face” in an advert for Ragu pasta sauce.

Cage plays the Captain Antonio Corelli of the title, an irrepresibly jovial chap who livens up parties by pulling out his tiny instrument and strumming it to the delight of the crowd.

He falls in love with Penelope Cruz's dazzling local beauty, who is engaged to a local fisherman, played by Christian Bale. John Hurt is in it too, begging the question; weren't there any actual Italians available?

Phonetic Phrasing: "Bella bambeeenah at-ah two-ah o-clock-ah" (1:05 in the trailer) he sounds like this the whole way through. You've been a-warned-ah.

Other Offenses:Con Air (Southern American) – “Put the bunnay bayck in the bawx"

Next: Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise[page-break]

 

Brad Pitt - Seven Years In Tibet (1997)

Going For: Austrian

Actually Is: A child who bit off his own tongue trying to recreate a scene from the Allo Allo repeat he caught last night.

The obvious choice for famed German mountaineer, explorer and all-around Aryan poster boy Henrich Harrer was the guy from the Levi's ad. You know the guy.

Sick of starring in solid american thrillers like Seven and Twelve Monkeys, Pitt was looking for a challange, something to make the critics stand up and respect his abilities as an actor... this was not that something.

Phonetic Phrasing: "Shat aap" (0:40 in the clip) - If he dragged those vowels out a bit, he'd be a cockney hooligan.

Other Offenses:The Devil’s Own (Oirish), Meet Joe Black (Jamaican?)

 

Tom Cruise - Far And Away (1995)

Going For: Working Class Irish

Actually Is: The Leprechaun from the “Lucky Charms” cereal commercial, as directed by Ron Howard.

Every actor in the Hollywoods can do an Oirish accent. Tom Cruise is one of them. Of course, it sounds nothing like real Irish, but they won't be convinced otherwise. Nope, they can all do it. It's easy... riiight.

In this tale of Irish immegrants looking to make a better life in the good old U.S of A, Cruise proves that the only Irish accents he's ever heard are the ones mangled by other Hollywood actors.

He is successful though, in making every other non-Irish actor in the film sound half-convincing. Thank Hubbard for small, Cruise-sized victories.

Phonetic Phrasing:"Dees peepol arr mye kynd o' peepol" (0:05 in the clip) - on the strength of this we're half expecting him to shout "Top o'the morning to ya" then do a jig. Oh yeah, he does.

Other Offenses:Valkyrie (German – he doesn’t try)

Next: Gerard Butler, Jason Statham[page-break]

 

Gerard Butler - 300 (2006)

Going For: Should have been Greek - most others attempt RP

Actually Is: A recently celibate Glaswegian mugger after a six-pack of special brew.

When you spend 6 months lifting so many wieghts even your muscles' muscles have muscles, you're hardly going to have time for any dialogue coaching.

In this tale of the 300 Spartans who stood up to the million stong might of the Persian army, the emphasis was clearly on protein shakes and pumping iron, and left the actors no time to decide how a Spartan might speak.

So instead we get all these semi-RP efforts, and Butler's snarling King Leonidas, who makes it sound like Sparta is located somewhere in the middle of a Glasgow housing estate.

Phonetic Phrasing: "THISH ISH SHPARTAAAA!!!" (0:44 in the clip) Followed by enough spittle to sink the Persian fleet single-handedly. 

Other Offenses:PS I Love You (Dublin Irish)

 

Jason Statham - The Transporter (2002)

 

Going For: American? English?

Actually Is: Your drunk cockney uncle doing a John Wayne impression.

As much as we love him, Statham is no Shakespearean prodigy. His grasp of the Queen's english extends about as far as the audible range of the Beau Bells. Whoever decided he should try an accent was 'avin a giraffe.

As Frank Martin, the titular transporter, former Special Forces operative and all around bad-ass, Statham is about as comfy as a cat on a cushion, until he opens his 'gang and mob'.

The resulting squawk was so painful they dropped the pretence for the sequels and made him British. If only they'd  watched The One, they'd never have bothered in the first place. Love you Jason, don't kill us please.

Phonetic Phrasing: "Ruule wan, neva change tha deel" (2:40 in the clip) Of course, the Stath is so cool you barely notice what he's saying, never mind that his accent is atrocious, you just sort of marvel at his awesomeness.

Other Offenses:The One (Non-Regional American) War (Non- Regional American)

Next: Heather Graham, Sean Connery[page-break]

 

Heather Graham - From Hell (2001)

Going For: Cocker-knee.

Actually Is: Eliza Doolittle trying to spit bird shit out of her mouth.

Heather Graham plays East London prostitute and Jack the Ripper fodder Mary Kelly, in a film largely shot in London and Prague, which leads us to wonder what made her the natural choice for the role.

Perhaps the Hughes Brothers saw Boogie Nights and thought, "Hmm, porn star... that's kinda like prostitute, let's cast her". What ever the reason, there is little excuse for unleashing this accent-based Hell on cinema.

Phonetic Phrasing:"Yoo 'ad vishins abaaite me?" (0:40 in the trailer) Notice how the trailer barely lets us hear her say a word? Like they're saying, "Okay Heather Graham is in this turkey, but we ain't letting you hear her God-forsaken accent for free, you'll have to pay like all the other schmos."

Other Offenses:Miss Conception (London British)

 

Sean Connery - The Untouchables (1987)

Going For: Chicago

Actually Is: The reason James Bond never went undercover.

Connery's beat Policeman Malone is the only straight cop in a city paid-off by the mob, but only cos Capone and his cronies couldn't understand a single mumbled incoherent line.

Awarded with an Oscar for this "performance", the Academy were basically giving one massive middle finger to Denzel, Albert Brooks and Morgan Freeman, all of whom turned in performances free of accent atrocity.

Phonetic Phrasing: "He pullsh a knife, ewe pull a gunn" (0:35 in the trailer) What we forget to mention is that Sean Connery can do as he damn well pleases, why? Because he'sh Sean Connery, of coursh.

Other Offenses:The Hunt For Red October (Russian) Highlander (Spanish..?)

Next: Cate Blanchett, Kevin Costner[page-break]

 

Cate Blanchett - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (2008)

Going For: Russian

Actually Is: A scouser with a broken jaw trying to speak and eat their brekkie at the same time.

Dressed like an extra from happy-hour at Max Mosely's house, Blanchett gets away with this performance mostly unscathed because, er... anti-nuclear fridge, vine-swinging with monkeys and interdimensional aliens are too busy making us leave bloody knuckle prints on brick walls.

About as threatening as a 3am curry, Indy is hardly quaking in his boots in her presence, maybe it's cos the old fella is hard of hearing these days and can't understand a word she says. Lucky him.

Phonetic Phrasing: "Yoo vill fiynd eet" (0:09 in the trailer) In the quiet words of the Virgin Mary; come again?

Other Offenses:The Man Who Cried (Russian)

 

Kevin Costner - Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)

Going For: English

Actually Is: An overpaid egotist who is too lazy to try and gives up the end of the first act - at least Christian Slater has a go. He fails, but God loves a trier.

Costner was aparantly determined to use an English accent, but when Kevin Reynolds heard the shambles of a mockery Costner was spouting, he wept openly for his career and told his leading man to use his own accent.

Phonetic Phrasing:"D'ya think that th' sherrif'll give everything bayck when ahm gawn?" (0:51) It's a wonder he doesn't greet folk by saying "Howdy pardner".

Other Offenses:Thirteen Days (The worst Boston accent ever committed to film)

Next: Russell Crowe, Keanu Reeves[page-break]

 

Russell Crowe - American Gangster (2007)

Going For: Noo Yawk

Actually Is: An Aussie who’s been punched in the throat by an angry ninja.

If Richie Roberts were dead, he'd roll in his grave and put his corpse fingers in his corpse ears everytime Crowe, who plays his fictional self, opens his trap. He isn't dead though, but he's got to be a bit miffed.

Crowe, sex-object of women the world over as Maximus in Gladiator, plays Roberts as an unlikeable, overweight bad father who can't catch a break let alone Denzel's Frank Lucas.

Hope when "totalfilm.com: the movie" is made, we aren't as unlikeable and amnesiac of accent.

Phonetic Phrasing: "Fraank Luucus is abave tha mafier" (1:07 in the trailer) Typical of Crowe's dialogue, it starts off Brooklyn, ends up Brisbane.

Other Offenses: Body of Lies (Southern American) The Quick and The Dead (Southern American) 3:10 to Yuma (Southern American)

 

Keanu Reeves - Youngblood (1986)

Going For: French-Canadian

Actually Is: A Californian with a bollock caught in his zipper.

Canoe's first film, this should have served as an orange alert for all casting agents looking for leading men with a flexible linguistic pallet.

Not only did world cinema ignore this kick-in-the-balls to the less than testicularly secure French Canadians, they wholly embraced it as a genius debut and went on to put him in every role requiring an English accent for the rest of the decade.

Phonetic Phrasing:"That maan, iz fuckeng an animaaal" (0:04 in the clip) They're laughing at you Canoe, not with you.

Other Offenses:Dangerous Liasons (RP), Much Ado About Nothing (RP), Dracula (RP), The Devil’s Advocate (Southern American)

Next: Meryl Streep, Laurence Olivier[page-break]

 

Meryl Streep - Evil Angels (1988)

Going For: Northern Australian

Actually Is: Alf from "Home & Away" throwing a dingo on the barbie.

Hollywood is full of Australian actors, so much so that when it comes to filming a picture in Australia, about Australians, in a fact-based drama, it is neccessary to cast an American in the lead role.

Playing Lindy Chamberlain, the mother of a baby snatched by wild animals who was accused of murder, Streep comes across somewhere between Cath & Kim and Crocodile Dundee, with an accent straight out of a Castlemaine commercial.

Phonetic Phrasing: "I'd prifur ta go on with et, yer hona" (0:08 in the trailer) Yeah, and we'd prefer if you didn't.

Other Offenses:Out of Africa (Danish)

 

Laurence Olivier - The Jazz Singer (1980)

Going For: East Coast Jewish American

Actually Is: Mike Myers doing Barbara Streisand on Saturday Night Live.

Lampooned with hilarious results in the Simpsons episode where Krusty is reunited with his Rabbi father, Olivier's accent here sounds like someone doing an impression of someone taking the piss out of the East Coast Jewish accent.

Straining to intone every syllable with as much Sematic twang as possible, Sir Larry ends up so over the top he's back under again, and many other equally confusing analogies.

Phonetic Phrasing: "Eyee haff... no sonn" (2:12 in the clip) What's that Larry? Could barely hear you through the scenery you're chewing.

Other Offenses:The Boys From Brazil (German)

Next: Angelina Jolie, Don Cheadle[page-break]

 

Angelina Jolie - Alexander (2004)


Going For: Russian/Persian/Greek/Something/Something

Actually Is: Highly embarrassing for everyone involved.

Oliver Stone's Alexander is hardly synonymous with awesome, but in a production plagued by ham acting, crap casting, shoddy haircuts and diabolical dialogue, dear old Angie stands out like a sore accent.

As Olympias, Alexander the Great's proto-stage-mother and orchestrater of his rise to power, Jolie is a tour de force of scenery chomping fury, like a starving stage actor, she munches on everything in sight, seemingly insatiable.

Phonetic Phrasing: "Een mie wombe i carriede mye avengerrrr!" (0:31) Er... what?

Other Offenses: Tomb Raider I& II (RP), Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow (RP)

 

Don Cheadle - Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Going For: Cocker-knee

Actually Is: Dick Van Dyke auditioning for The Italian Job after dropping acid.

In preparation for his role as explosives expert basher in Soderbergh's fun fun fun remake of the highly average rat pack original, Don Cheadle strapped himself to a chair and watched 96 hours of non-stop Michael Caine performances, in a scene reminisciant of something from The Parallax View.

Why someone thought Basher even needed to be cockney is anyone's guess.

We're assuming that Cheadle just turned up on set already doing it and in one of Clooney's better behind the scenes pranks, told everyone to tell Cheadle it was great and that he should "defo use it."

Phonetic Phrasing: "I feal grayte, fer a ded man" (1:39 in the trailer) Does he remind anyone else of the guy in Wayne's World II who says "I beat him to death with his own shoes... but that's another story" He does right!

Other Offenses: Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen (Both as above)

 

Any Atrocious Accents you love to hate? You know where to comment...

 Like This? Then try...

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter for the latest news, features and reviews delivered straight to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter

Comments

    • Rusty4bears

      Jul 16th 2009, 12:04

      What? No Robert Englund in 'The Adventures of Ford Fairlane'?? "Ello Ello Ello" Or Brion James in 'Tango & Cash' "Yoo wankah"

      Alert a moderator

    • padrigo

      Jul 16th 2009, 12:30

      What about Heath Ledger in Ned Kelly- worst Irish accent ever. Even worse than Tom Cruise in Far and Away.

      Alert a moderator

    • KittyFantastico

      Jul 16th 2009, 12:35

      How the hell did Keanu Reeves' accent in Bram Stoker's Dracula not make it in there? It's horrendous!

      Alert a moderator

    • imaginarium

      Jul 16th 2009, 12:42

      Orlando Bloom in Ned Kelly...

      Alert a moderator

    • dgoodswen

      Jul 16th 2009, 12:51

      If you read carefully, Keanu Reeves' accent from Bram Stoker's Dracula IS on the list, just his appearance in Youngblood predates it - don't worry, we're calling out his entire repertoire of accents!

      Alert a moderator

    • Agent69

      Jul 16th 2009, 13:25

      Please do one with 15 best accents.

      Alert a moderator

    • PadmanForever

      Jul 16th 2009, 17:28

      Sam Worthington was definitely a little shaky during pent up moments of T4 - Marcus suddenly became Australian. Russell Crowe syndrome. Hmm, best accents, now that would be a tricky'un. I was impressed at Johnny Depp's consistent (if not 100% authentic) handling of the Scottish accent in Finding Neverland. I'm half Scottish and I can't even manage a full sentence. Also, Christian Bale's usual non-accented American becomes pretty impressive when you hear his bizarre 'cockney in a blender with an Italian mafioso' speaking voice.

      Alert a moderator

    • dgoodswen

      Jul 16th 2009, 18:37

      Sam Worthington was definitely on the shortlist for his T4 shenanigans, the only reason he didn't make the cut was because he has no past form - if his accent is as wobbly in Avatar as it was in Terminator Savlon then we'll fully reconsider...

      Alert a moderator

    • ashley.russell

      Jul 16th 2009, 18:38

      I'm guessing TF have never seen a little period film called Basil starring Jared Leto and Christian Slater, both of them are horrendous and yet so so unintentionally funny

      Alert a moderator

    • ashley.russell

      Jul 16th 2009, 18:38

      I'm guessing TF have never seen a little period film called Basil starring Jared Leto and Christian Slater, both of them are horrendous and yet so so unintentionally funny

      Alert a moderator

    • Comex

      Jul 16th 2009, 19:45

      OK, OK...I can agree with most of the accents you have on this list, but do you really think that Gerard Butler was trying for any sort of Greek accent in "300"? I didn't hear that at all. And since when is a weird lisp the same as a Greek accent? Everyone in the movie was being a bit melodramatic (har-har) but that's not the same as affecting an accent.

      Alert a moderator

    • AYBGerrardo

      Jul 16th 2009, 21:05

      Sean Connery "Other Offenses: The Hunt For Red October (American)" Eh? Definitely worthy of a place on the list, but he was meant to be Russian. Funny that he learnt the language but couldn't drop his accent.

      Alert a moderator

    • AYBGerrardo

      Jul 16th 2009, 21:08

      Sean Connery "Other Offenses: The Hunt For Red October (American)" Eh? Definitely worthy of a place on the list, but he was meant to be Russian. Funny that he learnt the language but couldn't drop his accent.

      Alert a moderator

    • jdean888

      Jul 17th 2009, 14:44

      Brad Pitt in The Devil's Own was a laughable Northern Irish accent. Gerard Butler's P.S. I Love You attempt at Irish was pretty funny too, when he kept calling Hilary Swank 'Hahllee'.

      Alert a moderator

    • Desperation

      Jul 17th 2009, 17:21

      Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta?

      Alert a moderator

    • joeymac

      Jul 17th 2009, 17:34

      Don Cheadle single-handedly prevented Ocean's Eleven from being a 5* film.

      Alert a moderator

    • welshdragon42

      Jul 17th 2009, 18:25

      what no one has failed to mention so far is the amazingly diverse and odd range of (cough) interesting accents that we inflicted upon us in Beowulf, with complete inconsistency and weirdness from Ray Winstons cockney (no modification attempted) to a variety of English, American, and most importantly the bizzare and inconsistent oldy english/scandinavian/failing accent of John Malchovich! How can no one have noticed this (or maybe the men were oggling too much at the animated Angelina Jolie or freaked out by the muscled Ray Winston lookalike?)

      Alert a moderator

    • sirdday

      Jul 18th 2009, 5:38

      Meryl Streeps accent is spot on. aussies actually sound that bad. spot on meryl

      Alert a moderator

    • Bluey3

      Jul 18th 2009, 16:09

      Thank you so much for mentioning Tom Cruise [& Nicole Kidman] in Far & Away - this film has long been one of my all-time turkeys for the reasons you've given :-) Other dishonourable mentions ought [IMO] to go to would-be Oirish maidens Meg Ryan [Restoration] and Cameron Diaz [Gangs of New York]. Weren't there any Irish actresses available? On the same principle, I won't get started on Bridget Jones....

      Alert a moderator

    • Bluey3

      Jul 18th 2009, 16:14

      As someone has already mentioned Keanu Reeves... thought I'd add a note about his performance in Dangerous Liaisons aka Bill & Ted visit the 18th Century. Like, duuuude...

      Alert a moderator

    • apple

      Jul 20th 2009, 23:48

      marion cotillard in Public Enemies:she's radiant but her US accent is too bad every Brad Pitt accent:he's not good in accents Robert Downey Jr in "Sherlock Holmes" trailer:is Holmes an american guy?

      Alert a moderator

    • PadmanForever

      Jul 21st 2009, 1:23

      If you listen to the "Watson, what have you done?" line at the end of the Holmes trailer, there is definitely an accent there, but it would seem overall that Downey Jr is using the "softly softly" approach to accent work, which though it sometimes makes it seem like you're not trying, can be better than just walking about going (in this case) "Corr blimey, I'm from Lahndan taan". We'll see how it goes in the full film. Anyways, the reason I returned to this article was to ask something kind of along the lines of that "gentle accent" approach -- I saw a little bit of "Days of Thunder" tonight, and I can't remember - is Nicole Kidman even supposed to be trying not to be Australian? Because if she is, it certainly doesn't show.

      Alert a moderator

    • Jason Voorhees

      Sep 3rd 2009, 0:12

      Richard Gere in The Jackal is worse than anything, Keanu Reeves in Bram Stokers Dracula, Harrison Ford in K19 the widowmaker.

      Alert a moderator

    • Gunner1

      Nov 4th 2009, 8:31

      Clearly not a lot of South Africans commenting on this list, otherwise we'd have heard about Val Kilmer's utterly atrocious Cape Town accent in 'The Saint' - not to mention every single bloke who was supposed to be a South African in Lethal Weapon 2!! (and what's worse is that I believe Joss Ackland was born in SA, and yet his version of an SA accent was awful!!) On the other hand, what I've heard of Leo DiCaprio and Tim Robbins' accents in the trailers (haven't seen the films yet) of 'Blood Diamond' and 'Catch a Fire' were much closer to spot on!!

      Alert a moderator

    • sunnyrandall

      Jan 18th 2010, 15:48

      Gotta agree with Gunner1: Hands down, worst South African accent ever - Val Kilmer in The Saint - Oh, the horror, the horror.

      Alert a moderator

    • micdog2001

      Jan 21st 2010, 1:54

      It's funny, I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area and don't know much about accents and such and i will assume you are correct BUT I usually like all the films that these actors are in. Reeves, Costner, Connery, Crowe, it seems I don't even notice when they are bad.

      Alert a moderator

    • kmcryer

      Feb 1st 2010, 15:53

      Yes, many of these are really bad, but I can't believe you forgot these two: - The classic! Dick Van Dyke doing a cockney accent in "Mary Poppins." That alone should have taught Hollywood what a bad idea it was to hire American actors for British roles. - Ewan McGregor as a Southerner in "Big Fish." It was like his version of what a Confederate general may have sounded like. I swear to God that my ears were bleeding!

      Alert a moderator

    • KerrAvon

      Mar 8th 2010, 22:10

      Ewan MacGregor as Alec Guinness in the prequels, s**te!

      Alert a moderator

    • hlglazier

      Apr 8th 2010, 23:42

      Natalie portman in v for vendetta - worst british accent ive heard its almost insulting dick van dyke in mary poppins audrey in my fair lady brad pitt in inglorious basterds - what the hell was he trying?

      Alert a moderator

    • Alfresco

      Apr 15th 2014, 2:23

      What on earth are "Beau Bells"? Since Jason Statham was born in Shirebrook, Derbyshire (about 150 miles north of London) we can be pretty sure that he wasn't born within the sound of BOW bells.

      Alert a moderator

Most Popular