Doing a foreign accent or dialect is one of the major challenges for an actor. Nail it, and the audience is lost in the brilliant performance. Flub it, and the character’s credibility is questioned. Kathy Bates did a perfect Baltimore accent in American Horror Story: Freakshow, while John Travolta’s attempt in Hairspray was a disaster.
An even worse scenario is when an actor doesn’t even try, applying their native accent inappropriately to a character. Instead of enjoying the story, the audience is left wondering why the Roman Emperor sounds like he’s from Boston. Accents are hard and even some of the best actors in television and film have delivered some pretty bad performances.
10/10 Andrew Lincoln & The Great Coral Reef
The Walking Dead
The cast of The Walking Dead is filled with bad Southern accents from the likes of Lauren Cohen and Richard Blumenthal butchering the drawl, but none more offensive than Andrew Lincoln. As Rick Grimes, the sheriff from Northern Georgia, Lincoln sounds like a comic caricature of a fine Southern gentleman.
Lincoln, who is British, stayed in character, accent and all, even when the cameras stopped rolling, but it didn’t help make it not terrible. Every time he called his son Carl, “coral” was a reminder his range is limited and every time he yelled “hey” and it came out “Hah-oy” the audience started rooting for the zombies a little bit.
9/10 Michael C. Hall Murdered The English Dialect
Michael C. Hall convincingly played a sympathetic serial killer in the series Dexter, which wasn’t the easiest thing to do. When it came to playing a British guy in the series Safe, however, he couldn’t pull it off. His accent was technically British, but it was generic and robotic, leading Brits to cry murder.
Hall struggled with the forced synthetic accent so much that it dragged the rest of his performance down. Not only couldn’t he convince the audience that he was British, they had a hard time buying him as a father or even a human being. Killing the British accent was Dexter’s bloodiest crime scene.
8/10 Harrison Ford Made A Widow Out Of Mother Russia
K-19: The Widowmaker
With a range of drama to action to comedy, Harrison Ford is one of the best and most versatile actors of our time. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his limitations, though, and playing a Russian is where his talent stops. His Russian accent in K-19: The Widowmaker was bad enough to sink a submarine.
Ford has said he didn’t find it difficult doing a Russian accent in the film and that’s probably because he put almost no effort into it. Still, at least he tried. Liam Neeson, who also played a Russian officer in the film, didn’t bother at all, delivering his lines in his native Irish accent. Luckily, one bad accent isn’t enough to mar Ford’s otherwise brilliant career.
7/10 The Norse Gods Of Sydney
The Marvel Cinematic Universe plays fast and loose with the mythology in the Thor films, but that’s still no excuse for why all the Norse gods have non-Scandinavian accents. Englishman Anthony Hopkins as Odin, fellow Brit Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and Aussie Chris Hemsworth as Thor all play their roles in their inappropriately native accents.
It’s not like being in a superhero movie pushes an actor to the limit of his or her craft, so hitting the accent should have been no problem. Travis Fimmel is Australian, and he honored the role of Ragnar Lothbrook in the TV series Vikings by nailing a Scandanavian accent. Why couldn’t Hemsworth extend the same courtesy to The God of Thunder?
6/10 Nicolas Cage’s Con Air Alabama Con
There’s a lot in Con Air that doesn’t make sense, like why Cameron Poe went to prison for defending his wife, why the Alabama convict served his time in California, or how his family happened to be in Las Vegas when the plane crashed. None of those issues however are as mysterious as Nicolas Cage’s bizarre Southern accent.
Cage’s character is supposed to be from Alabama and the actor reportedly went to the state to brush up on the accent. It’s unclear what he did on this excursion but nailing down the local dialect wasn’t part of the trip. More than likely, Cage watched some Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. episodes because that’s about what he sounds like in this film.
5/10 Chernobyl Or Chelsea?
The HBO miniseries, Chernobyl, is a dramatization of the 1986 nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union. This reactor meltdown didn’t happen in a multinational facility; it was in what is now Ukraine. Russian or Ukrainian accents would have been appropriate but for some inexplicable reason, everyone in the show spoke like a Brit.
What could have been a very entertaining series was ruined by the distracting fact that all the Soviet characters sounded like they were from Chelsea not Chernobyl. Even poor Russian accents would have helped audiences buy into the drama. It’s too bad the producers couldn’t afford Harris Ford.
4/10 Jar Jar Binks Stinks
There is no more maligned character in the Star Wars franchise than goofy Gungan, Jar Jar Binks. Much of the reason is the truly insulting dialect the character was given, which sounds like a cartoonish mash-up of Asian and Caribbean accents. This was made more offensive by Jar Jar being a bungling buffoon.
This wasn’t a case where the voice actor failed to do a specific accent, but rather that George Lucas gave the character an objectionable and culturally insensitive way of speaking. In all fairness, there probably isn’t any voice or dialect that would have made Jar Jar a beloved character, but mocking people’s languages definitely wasn’t the way to go.
3/10 Keanu Reeves Sucks Like Dracula
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Keanu Reeves isn’t so much an actor as he is a likable personality who makes great films. Whether he’s John Wick or Neo, he’s still Ted “Theodore” Logan, at least in terms of his voice and delivery. While that’s fine for action films, it didn’t help out his horrendous English accent in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
It probably didn’t help that Reeves was cast alongside great British actors Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, and Richard E. Grant, but then again nothing was going to help. While Reeves’ English accent was forced and stiff, the real problem was, no matter what he said, it came out like a “most excellent” line from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
2/10 Daniel Crag Should Have Left The Knives In
Knives Out is a very funny movie but nothing is as hilarious as Daniel Craig’s New Orleans accent. Craig has stated that he was terrified to take on the role of private detective Benoit Blanc, and that was evident as he delivered lines like a deranged Foghorn Leghorn.
There has been speculation that Craig’s silly Southern drawl was an intentional part of the film’s hilarity, but that was disproved when he reprised the role in the sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, with another bad accent. While not as goofy as in Knives Out, it was still comically way off.
1/10 Austrian Death Machine
While The Terminator has some paradoxical time travel issues, the biggest question of the film is: why does the killer robot from the future have a thick Austrian accent? The obvious answer is that the T-100 was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and that’s what he sounds like, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense for the story.
The franchise attempted to address this in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in a now-deleted scene with Arnold as the Southern Sgt. Candy and a Skynet scientist dubbed with his Austrian accent. This was supposed to show why the original designers of the machines made the T-100 look and sound like Arnold, but it was so hokey it ended up getting cut.
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