When an actor is portraying a character, one of the biggest challenges they often face is putting on an accent to convince the audience that they truly are from a different place. On the one hand, some of the greatest performances we’ve ever seen on film have been aided by perfectly executed accents. On the other hand, some of the very worst performances were almost entirely because of poor accents. While these accents are hilarious and make us feel good about ourselves, they pull us right out of the mood of the film. Every word is a reminder that you are watching an actor and not a character. It forces you to think about the actor and what must be going through their minds as they cough out garbage dialect. Do they actually believe they’re nailing the voice? Are they embarrassed? Do the other actors around them thinking they’re being punked? Do they think less of their peers?
Even the best actors in the world have difficulties with accents. As is often the case, an actor will hire a voice coach to help them master the minutia of the language. There are so many different elements like pitch, intonation and inflection, that it has to be challenging. We have all mucked around with accents, but we’re not actually being paid to pretend we really speak like that. But the actors and the performances on this list are the real head scratchers, the ones where it isn’t exactly conceivable how they butchered the voice so bad. They could not have honestly had a voice coach, could they? Did no one approach them and tell them that their accents were that bad? Or were the accents so unfixable, the actor given up as a lost cause? No matter what actually went down prior to laying down their performances, these actors all went out and laid an egg trying to put on an accent. Here are the 17 most horrendous movie accents of all time.
17. Tom Cruise – Far and Away
In 1992, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman played 19th-century Irish immigrants in Far and Away, and the accents were truly something to behold. The Australian Kidman was, by no means, great, but it would be Cruise’s voice that was the big story. Sounding far more like a pirate than any Irishman I’ve ever met, Cruise took on the Irish dialect with all the grace of the baby version of Bambi. While he slips in and out of the voice at numerous points, it’s how he exaggerates it that makes it a spectacle. There have been a number of bad Irish accents—Brad Pitt in The Devil’s Own comes to mind, plus others on this list—but Cruise’s is one of the absolute worst ever.
16. Dick Van Dyke – Mary Poppins
We are 50 years removed from Dick Van Dyke‘s performance of Bert the Cockney chimney sweep in Mary Poppins, and yet the accent that he put on is still a topic of conversation for many—a super boring conversation, mind you. But seriously, whenever you need a good laugh, go put on Mary Poppins and listen to old Bert just slap Londoners right across the face with his voice. Van Dyke has since laid the blame on his voice coach, like the humble guy he is, but only a very confused man could have listened to that voice and believed it was acceptable. We can let Van Dyke off the hook a bit though. The accent, like everything is the movie, was larger than life. It wasn’t like they were depicting real life. It was exaggerated and blown-up. This wasn’t a documentary; Mary Poppins was flying around with an umbrella, people. It’s really silly and we’ll never forget it, but it’s much more comical and fun than many of the other attempts on this list.
15. Michael Caine – On Deadly Ground
Michael Caine is a beautiful person with one of the most beautiful natural voices, but there’s something I think we all hope to never see him do again, and that’s a Southern accent. He could actually be on this list more than once, such as his flabbergasting accent in Hurry Sundown, but it’s his unbelievably bad accent in On Deadly Ground that puts him at number 13 on this list. If someone told you prior to watching the movie that Caine just uses his normal voice, you would almost certainly believe them. He doesn’t even seem to be trying to put on a Southern twang. Really it’s amazing how far off the mark he is.
14 & 13. Colin Farrell & Angelina Jolie – Alexander
Many of the accents in Alexander are confusing, but both Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie are the ones who take it to a whole new level. Just look at that picture. You can just tell they’re about to talk in the dumbest voices. Farrell continuously slips in and out of his Irish accent, but it’s unclear what he’s even going for. Was he trying for British or just a non-distinct accent? Jolie, it seems, decided that a weak Russian accent was best for her character, the Greek Olympias. It’s possible that Jolie was unaware of what she was doing out there and just went with the only foreign accent she could think of. Whatever the thought process was, both of these actors flubbed their voice acting about as bad as you could imagine.
12. Shia LaBeouf – Nymphomaniac
If Shia LaBeouf spent more time on his voice acting and less time trying to retrofit “artistic expression” into his ridiculous actions, he might have been able to give a convincing British accent in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. The performance without the voice is a bit questionable at best, but as soon as he opens his mouth, the audience is vacuumed right out of the film. LaBeouf sounds like a South African with a speech impediment. The accent is so bad that it seems like it’s part of his character, like his character is putting on a horrible British accent and it’s all supposed to be funny. Wait a minute, is that what’s happening here?
11. Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino‘s entire cameo scene in Django Unchained has been heavily criticized for being overly long and completely unnecessary, but it’s his horrendous Australian accent that has taken the brunt of the assault. It’s unclear who Tarantino’s voice coach was for the part, or if he even had one (I suspect he did not). Tarantino doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who takes lessons. But whatever came out of his mouth in Django Unchained was not Australian. It was sort of a blend of many different dialects that combined to make one of the most awful Aussie attempts ever. Apparently, the decision to go with such a weak Aussie accent was because Tarantino was incapable of voicing a Southern drawl, which begs the question, if that Aussie crap was better than his Southern attempts, how bad was his Southern accent?
10. Nicolas Cage – Con Air And Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Oh, Nicolas Cage. Cage has had bad accents in a few different films. Back when he did Peggy Sue Got Married, Cage put on such a stupid voice that he was almost fired for it. Cage’s uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, was the director and he hated it so much that he almost started a family feud over it—not the game show. Fast forward 11 years to Con Air and Cage was at it again, this time with one of the dumbest hillbilly accents of all time. Personally, I love the movie. Cage’s accent is part of what makes the movie so charming. He looks and sounds like he’s playing dress-up and doesn’t even care how awful he sounds. Four years later, in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Cage thought he would give Italian a go. What could possibly go wrong? Answer: everything. Nicolas Cage’s accent in that movie is the single worst thing to happen to Italy since Mussolini.
9. Gerard Butler – P.S. I Love You
Gerard Butler has since apologized to the Irish people for the hack job he put on their language in P.S. I Love You, but tensions are definitely still high. You would think that a Scotsman would have a better chance at getting an Irish accent down than most, but that is far from the case for Butler. He sounds as if his acting coach was a leprechaun, or maybe he just listened to Lucky Charms commercials on repeat to get the voice down. Just look at his stupid face. The worst part was Butler doesn’t even drink in the movie. Talk about half-assing a character. No matter what your opinion of Butler or the Irish is, this accent is an insult to everyone.
8. Christopher Lambert – Highlander
Christopher Lambert is a French actor with a voice that sounds super weird on a good day. In Highlander, Lambert apparently worked with an acting coach to develop an accent that wasn’t recognizable because the Highlander has bounced around throughout history. Well, the good news is that the strategy worked. There is no way anyone could ever pinpoint where that accent is from. The bad news is the accent sounds absolutely ridiculous. If it wasn’t for Sean Connery‘s embarrassing attempts at a Spanish accent, there would be stories written about the quality of Lambert’s voice. He sounds like he always has peanut butter on the roof of his mouth and can never get it off. Come to think of it, it’s not really fair to include Lambert on this list because his voice sounds stupid in every movie. I’m pretty sure that’s just the way he sounds.
7 & 6. Kevin Costner & Russell Crowe – Robin Hood(s)
The role of Robin Hood has been a plague on actors for many years. Rather than casting an Englishman with an English accent, filmmakers have decided to go with American’s and Aussies/New Zealanders. It started with Kevin Costner, who was so bad at the English accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, that the filmmakers just told him to forget about it. So he just flipped in and out during the entire thing making it impossible to know what the hell he’s going to do or say next, “I am Robin of Larksley and I’ve come fer yer women” (paraphrase). Then came Russell Crowe inRobin Hood, and his was magically just as bad. His voice is the single most distracting thing in the movie. About halfway through, I realized I had no idea what I was even watching.
5. Don Cheadle – Ocean’s Franchise
Don Cheadle had three films in the Ocean’s franchise to perfect his cockney accent. By the end of it all, his accent had actually gotten worse. Sounding determined to give Dick Van Dyke a run for his money, Cheadle spat out harsh cockney dialect like a cartoon character for almost 6 hours of combined film. Put that in perspective for a second. Cheadle had six years to practice and he was just as bad, if not worse, by the end than he was in the beginning. Get a grip bud. There is a serious question to be asked. Has Cheadle ever actually heard anyone speak in a cockney accent. For a guy who was praised for his South African accent in Hotel Rwanda, it is surprising and sad that he missed by so much in each of Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12 and Ocean’s 13.
4. Harrison Ford – K-19: The Widowmaker
Russian accents are difficult to put on for sure, but Harrison Ford failed in spectacular fashion in K-19: The Widowmaker. Playing a Russian submarine captain, Ford fumbles his way through the language sounding like he’s blatantly making fun of the languages harsh pronunciation. Star Wars geeks, close your ears for a second. Ok, now that we’re alone. Ford doesn’t strike me as the brightest bulb in the batch. You’ve got to wonder if he even knew what was going on here. The guy’s been playing traditional Americans for so long, he may have thought they were just joking when they asked him to speak in a Russian accent. While it may not have been his intention, Ford appears to be playing an American spy posing as a Russian, which actually works as a red herring in the film, leading the audience to believe there was going to be a big twist in the end.
3. Sean Connery – The Hunt for Red October
Sean Connery has one voice and it’s all his. No one sounds like Sean Connery, and Sean Connery is incapable of sounding like anyone else. Whether it’s English, Spanish, Irish, American, really anything but Sean Connery Scottish, the man’s accents come out all the same. There are so many bad accents that Connery has attempted and failed miserably at that he could be on this list five or six times. His amazingly horrific Russian accent in The Hunt for Red October is by far the worst though. It appears that at about the halfway mark, Connery just gives up and speaks straight Scottish. The best part about this performance is that the script even calls for Connery to question others ability to speak Russian, as if he has mastered the language. There’s something about playing a Russian submarine captain that brings out the worst in accents.
2. Jon Voigt – Anaconda
Jon Voight fell off a bit in his career later in life, but Anaconda might stand out as a giant black mark for the talented actor. At first glance, it appears that Jon Voigt has a severe speech impediment and it makes the audience feel pretty good for him for being so brave and speaking so loudly and proudly with such a debilitating disability. Then, however, it just dawns on you. This guy is actually just trying his best to speak with a Spanish accent. It’s a humiliating attempt and it’s physically challenging to sit through.
1. Keanu Reeves – Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The acting abilities of Keanu Reeves come under fire quite a bit. Keanu Reeves’ normal voice sounds exactly like you would expect from a guy named Keanu “cool breeze” Reeves. He’s got surfer style oozing out of every word that leaves his mouth. Pretty much every role post-Bill and Ted sounds like he was never able to shake character. When he was cast as the Englishman Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, many wondered how he would do at adopting an accent, and my lord was it ever terrible. It was just the worst. Imagine Beavis and Butthead trying to mock an English accent and you’ve got Keanu’s Harker. It’s shocking and, when he shares the screen with Gary Oldman, the accent is even more obvious. It’s not fun to watch because Keanu seems like such a nice guy, but it cannot be forgotten.