Top 10 Worst Movie Accents of All Time

Actors and Actresses Who Couldn't Get Their Voices Right

Good acting takes many forms. Some actors build character from the outside using make up or costume. Others work from the inside, looking for motivation and backstory. Actors can also use accents to show their skill – think of Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice, Gael Garcia Bernal in , or Brad Pitt in Snatch. Others use accents for comic effect, like Peter Sellers' silly French one as Inspector Clouseau. Then there are some, like Tom Cruise as a German in Valkyrie, don't even attempt one. But maintaining an accent is challenging for many actors, and for every Streep there are a dozen Keanu Reeves. Here's a list of the most abysmal attempts at accents in Hollywood history.

Having the former Andy Hardy star Mickey Rooney play Audrey Hepburn's buck-toothed and bespectacled Japanese landlord Mr. Yunioshi has to be one of the worst casting decisions ever. Rooney delivers one of the most cringe-inducing accents and performances of all time here. Rooney exaggerates the accent to offensive (even racist) proportions. His Mr. Yunioshi screaming down the stairs, "Miss Horry Gorightry," is almost enough to ruin this delightful romance.

Rooney may have had the single most offensive accent but Keanu Reeves has to take honors as the actor who most consistently fails at accents. You'd think that someone would realize his inability to say anything more convincing than "Whoa," but alas he keeps getting cast in roles where he's asked to not only emote but also to assume an accent. His offenses were too numerous to limit to one film. Most of the time Keanu's bad accent stands out but at least in Dracula it helped to make people like Winona Ryder sound better by comparison.

Some American actors should just never try playing Brits, and especially not legendary heroes like Robin Hood. Kevin Costner's accent came and went throughout the film (though it mostly "went"). You keep hoping Alan Rickman (with his authentic British accent) as the Sheriff of Nottingham would just kill him and put us out of our misery. The only good thing is that Costner made Christian Slater's accent sound good by comparison…well, almost.

04
of 10

Demi Moore: 'Flawless'

Flawless
Flawless. © Magnolia Home Entertainment

The title alone is asking for trouble, but then casting Demi Moore as a British businesswoman in the '60s just opens the floodgates for ridicule. The film attempts to excuse her wavering British accent by saying her character is an Oxford-educated American. Even Moore thought the accent was a bad idea, but director Michael Radford instructed her "to do an accent like Terry Gilliam's who is an American who has lived in Britain for years." He should have instructed her to play all her scenes in the nude instead and then no one would notice the accent at all.

"Just relax, darlin'. This is the Big Easy. Folks have a certain way o' doin' things down here." Including giving everyone a fake Cajun accent and having Dennis Quaid end most of his exchanges by calling the person he's talking to, "Cher." The film's still fun, but the accent makes locals cringe.
06
of 10

Hilary Swank: 'The Black Dahlia'

The Black Dahlia
The Black Dahlia. © Universal Home Studios

Hilary Swank should have been asked to give her Oscars back after this disastrous turn as an L.A. socialite with a dark secret. Her strangely clipped, aristocratic accent is a complete distraction and ends up just sounding affected and snobbish. It's understandable that an actress previously known for portraying lower-class individuals would want to try a different type of role, but this didn't work at all.

07
of 10

John Wayne: 'The Conqueror'

The Conqueror
The Conqueror. © Good Times Video

Technically, John Wayne didn't try to use a Mongolian accent to play the Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan, but the sight of the iconic western star in Asiatic eye-makeup and Fu-Manchu moustache was laughable and almost unthinkably offensive. He tries to deliver overwrought prose like, "I regret that I am without sufficient spittle to salute you as you deserve," or "She is woman, Jamuga, much woman. Should her perfidy be less than that of other women?" Take that, pilgrim!

08
of 10

Dick Van Dyke: 'Mary Poppins'

Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins. © Walt Disney Pictures

All right, we all love Dick Van Dyke as Bert the charming chimney sweep in this Disney classic, but his accent is far from realistic. Maybe you can justify it by saying that it's a comic role in a children's film, but even then it's still awful. His attempt at a British cockney accent was deemed so awful that the term "Van Dyke accent" is used in England to describe failed attempts by Americans to sound British. 'Nuff said, guv'ner?

09
of 10

Humphrey Bogart: 'Dark Victory'

Dark Victory
Dark Victory. © MGM Home Entertainment

Before he was a star, Humphrey Bogart was a studio player who took on whatever roles he washanded. Here he plays an Irish horse trainer. Fortunately, Bette Davis' performance as a dying woman distracted everyone from Bogie's atrocious attempt at an Irish brogue. Mercifully, Bogart became a star with such a distinctive voice that he was never again asked to assume an accent.

Okay, Arnold's accent is real but that doesn't mean it can't be bad. In this film he must have angered the writer who retaliated by giving him the most difficult lines to read in his fractured English. A prime example: "She was moohrdered, mootilated, and mohlested…" The Terminator had it right; limit his dialogue to just a few words. "I'll be back."




Special Category: Out of Town New Yorkers
These New York natives didn't bother to cover up their accents even though they were far from home and sent back in time: Al Pacino in Revolution, Harvey Keitel as Judas in The Last Temptation of Christ, and Tony Curtis in The Black Shield of Falworth. Youse think I need dem accents? Nah!

 

Edited by Christopher McKittrick