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The Worst On-Screen Accents Of All Time

Acting requires years of training and some measure of natural talent. The ability to convincingly assume the role of someone else entirely is, at times, astonishing, but, sometimes, no amount of practice can instill a convincing foreign accent in even the best actors. Throughout the years, we've heard some good fake accents, but we've also heard more than our fair share of some bad and some ugly. Here are the worst attempts at sounding like someone else that unpleasantly tickled our eardrums.

Gerard Butler in The Bounty Hunter

Gerard Butler was born and raised in the Scottish Lowlands—something made evident the moment the Hollywood hunk opens his mouth. Unfortunately, he doesn't get to play Scottish characters as much as he'd like, making for some awkward attempts at sounding American.

While trying to imitate those of us across the pond in 2010's The Bounty Hunter, Butler really makes a concerrted efferrt to strretch those arrs. His foreign accent is even more evident when paired alongside all-American sweetheart Jennifer Aniston in the film. She pronounces "working" just like you'd expect, while Butler immediately follows it up with a "werrkinn'." It also appears to take some thought and strain for the actor to let out a simple "yep"—a word created to be anything but strenuous.

Despite having had upwards of 1,000 dialect sessions, Butler hasn't improved a great deal since 2003, but he's always practicing. "There came a point when I realized I have to just walk around speaking like an American," Butler told Today, "and my friends would be like, 'You sound like an idiot.' I said, 'It doesn't matter.'"

For what it's worth, his Irish accent in P.S. I Love You isn't much better.

Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker's Dracula

Keanu Reeves is well-known for two on-screen styles: stoner and person without a single discernible emotion. As such, being British is simply not in the actor's repertoire—a fact known to anyone who's ever witnessed his critically panned performance as Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Not only was Reeves' acting not quite up to snuff, his attempt at sounding like a highly educated 19th-century English solicitor is downright laughable. (Honestly, if you haven't seen it, watch it and try not to laugh.)

Francis Ford Coppola blames himself for the famously poor performance in the 1992 drama. "We knew that it was tough for him to affect an English accent," the famous director told Entertainment Weekly. "He tried so hard. That was the problem, actually—he wanted to do it perfectly and in trying to do it perfectly it came off as stilted. I tried to get him to just relax with it and not do it so fastidiously. So maybe I wasn't as critical of him, but that's because I like him personally so much."

John Malkovich in Rounders

Rule No. 1 of how to fake a Russian accent: don't imitate Teddy "KGB."

Played by acting legend John Malkovich, the Russian gangster in 1998's Rounders easily has one of the most outrageous fake Russian accents ever heard on the big screen. Not only is it extra phlegmy, KGB's accent borders on the insane—and not even Malkovich thought it was any good. According to costar Matt Damon, the film crew burst into applause the first time Malkovich debuted his atrociously harsh accent, prompting the Emmy Award-winning actor to secretly confess to Damon that he's "a terrible actor."

Try Malkovich's Russian accent on for size the next time you're at the card table in Vegas. It might just make you harder to read.

Brad Pitt in The Devil's Own

Almost everyone knows what an Irish accent sounds like, but it's also incredibly difficult to fake, thanks to a unique gentle lilt, the absence of which instantly signifies a fraud. Just ask Brad Pitt.

The actor admitted in an interview with film critic Joe Leydon that accents have never been his strong suit, and that's evident in 1997's The Devil's Own. The Hollywood heartthrob noticeably fails to properly implement that patented Irish lilt, making his fresh-off-the-plane character sound like a fraud. Pitt even received extensive Northern-Irish dialect training from dialogue coach Brendan Gunn, which only goes to show how hard learning another language—even another English language—really is.

Still, Leydon was quick to praise Pitt's accent as "really solid." Irish newspapers disagreed.

Heather Graham in From Hell

Just because you once starred alongside Austin Powers doesn't mean you can pull off playing an actual British person—a fact proven by Heather Graham.

Perhaps the worst part of Graham's atrociously bad accent in From Hell is that she just can't seem to decide which version to use. There are at least seven distinct dialects in the United Kingdom alone, none of which Graham does convincingly well. As noted by Deseret News, Graham jumps from "quasi-Irish to cockney English to no discernible accent whatsoever" in the 2001 thriller, illustrating that the actress would probably have benefited from some more thorough dialogue training. In fact, sometimes it seems like she's barely even trying—sounding more like an actress from Hollywood than a prostitute from Whitechapel.

Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins

Not even a spoonful of sugar can make Dick van Dyke's attempt at Cockney English more palatable. In fact, he himself has called his work in the 1964 classic "the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema."

At the time, however, van Dyke didn't know how far off he really was. "Someone should have told me I needed to work on my Cockney accent," he told The Guardian. "Nearly everyone in the Mary Poppins cast was a Brit, but no one said anything. I was given an Irish coach whose Cockney was much better than mine. Years later I asked Julie [Andrews]: 'Why didn't you tell me?' She said it was because I was working so hard."

Still, van Dyke keeps a positive attitude about the whole thing, despite actual Brits never letting him forget it. "People in the U.K. love to rib me about my accent," he explained. "I will never live it down. They ask what part of England I was meant to be from, and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio."

Harrison Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker

With more than 70 film credits to his name—including iconic roles in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series—Harrison Ford is one of the most recognizable and accomplished actors of the last half-decade, but even a notorious smuggler like Han Solo has trouble faking accents.

Ford plays main man and submarine captain Alexei Vostrikov in historical drama K-19: The Widowmaker, but he delivers an extremely questionable Russian accent in the 2002 film. With Cold War tensions reaching a fever pitch, it's impossible to imagine any full-blooded Russian taking orders from someone with such an unconvincing mastery of their mother tongue. Either the KGB needed some more lessons in counter-espionage or Ford simply commands respect in every language.

Of course, nitpicking Ford's atrocious accent is all in good fun. We are, after all, suspending our disbelief the moment we see the iconic actor wearing an ushanka, and like director Kathryn Bigelow once remarked: "If it was completely authentic, they would be speaking Russian."

Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves wasn't exactly lauded when it first came out. Nor has it stood the test of time to its fans. But what many forget is that Kevin Costner delivers one of the least convincing British accents ever seen on film. In fact, we're not even sure he delivers a British accent at all. 

Last time we checked, Robin Hood hung out in the forests around Nottingham in the late middle ages. Costner's rendition of the benevolent thief, however, sounds more like a West Coast dude indulging in the SoCal sun.

Aidan Gillen in Game of Thrones

Whether you've been watching Game of Thrones from the beginning or recently binged-watched the entire series, you've probably noticed there's something fishy with Littlefinger—and we're not just talking about his dastardly deeds.

Throughout the long-running series, actor Aidan Gillen has changed his character's accent more times than there are countable numbers of Westerosi noble houses. Originally intending to "sound patriarchal, like John Huston in Chinatown or a bit Hammer Horror," Littlefinger switches to a distinctly different delivery by the time we get to the show's fourth season. The Dublin actor's accent has bounced around from "Oirish" to some kind of British to sounding a lot like Tom Hardy's Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. So what gives?

According to the actor, it's all intentional. "I think a little bit more has been made of that than it warrants," he told Den of Geek! "He's a player, he pretends he's other things all the time, so, you know, it's just not defined. And yeah, it has, it has changed with him. I have done that intentionally, but it's not radical."

Cameron Diaz in Gangs of New York

In a period piece about Englishmen and Irishmen battling it out in the streets, it helps to have authentic-sounding accents. In Gangs of New York, let's just say that Cameron Diaz doesn't help the situation.

While there are moments in the 2002 film when leading man Leonardo DiCaprio also seems to forget to flip his accent switch, Diaz rarely turns hers on—and when she does, it's not good. For example, when asked if she's up for a grand finale at the end of antagonist Bill the Butcher's knife-throwing performance, Diaz delivers an all-American and entirely lilt-less "maybe when you're throwing a little straighter." In less distinctly American-sounding moments, she still doesn't sound Irish. In fact, she doesn't sound much like a New Yorker either. Nor does she sound like she's from 1863. She pretty much just sounds like Cameron Diaz.

Angelina Jolie in Alexander

Angelina Jolie's accent in Alexander isn't just bad, it also doesn't fit with the rest of the movie's accents.

Colin Farrell plays the 2004 film's titular hero and, as noted by The Guardian, speaks with his native Irish accent. To make things jive, director Oliver Stone reportedly had Val Kilmer—playing Alexander's father, King Philip—speak with an Irish accent too. Not to be left out, Jared Leto also gave Alexander's friend, Hephaestion, an Irish lilt...because, apparently, all ancient Greeks spoke like people living 2,000 miles to the northwest. All ancient Greeks, that is, except Alexander's mother, Olympia. For some bizarre reason, Jolie speaks like a modern-day Russian mafia wife who owns an Italian laundromat in Cyprus.

From the posh-English of Lara Croft to the Cuban-French of Mariane Pearl, Jolie has notably pulled off some decent accents in her career. However, her "ancient Greek" in Alexander is best left forgotten.

Christopher Lambert in Highlander

What happens when a French-American actor plays an immortal Scottish swordsman? An atrocious take on the Scottish dialect, that's what.

Christopher Lambert's fake Scottish accent in 1986's Highlander is undoubtedly one of the worst to ever hit the big screen—far worse than Mel Gibson's noble attempt in Braveheart. Most of the time, Lambert barely sounds Scottish at all. Adding insult to injury is the fact that actual Scottish actor Sean Connery plays an Egyptian/Spaniard who sounds neither Egyptian nor Spanish. He does, however, sound a lot like Sean Connery.

Who needs accents when you have The Macleod Longsword, anyway?

Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules

Most of great American novelist John Irving's works take place in New England, including the Maine-set The Cider House Rules, the inspiration for the 1999 film starring Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, and Michael Caine. The film won Irving a screenwriting Oscar, and Caine his second Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his work as Dr. Wilbur Larch, an ether addict who secretly performs banned women's health procedures and also runs an orphanage. It's in that capacity that Caine as Dr. Larch delivers the film's most memorable line: "Goodnight, you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England." However, despite being a resident of Maine who comments on how the action takes place in Maine, Caine's interpretation of Dr. Larch does not have that distinctive Maine accent. Instead, Michael Caine chose to make his character sound exactly like Michael Caine, with a sing-songy English Cockney accent (and a hint of generic "American" for good measure). Caine is certainly a marvelous and versatile actor, but nailing a New England style of speech was apparently too challenging for him.

Tom Cruise in Far and Away

A major movie star in populist, crowd-pleasing blockbusters like Cocktail, Top Gun, and Days of Thunder, Tom Cruise wanted to show that he could really act, if given the chance. Not long after earning an Oscar nomination for Born on the Fourth of July, Cruise signed up for Far and Away. Co-written and directed by Ron Howard and co-starring Cruise's wife Nicole Kidman, Far and Away is a grand epic, the story of a young Irish immigrant couple who arrive in the United States in the late 19th century in search of a better life but encounter poverty, xenophobia, and other hardships instead. Cruise acts as hard as he can as scrappy and exuberant Joseph Donnelly, but in his efforts to play a representative of the 1800s Irish diaspora, he missed one major element: the Irish accent. Those who know say Cruise tried too hard, rendering a voice that was comically, if not insultingly, too Irish. In 2021, Irish Central called Cruise's voice work "truly appalling" and added that it "sounds like how a Hollywood film executive imagines Irish people talk."

Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap

To be fair, The Parent Trap is comprised of all kinds of far-fetched nonsense. The 1961 Disney classic, based on a book, is about two teenage girls who meet at summer camp and are chilled to the bone because they're each other's doppelgänger. They put two and two together and realize that they're identical twins, separated at birth, and that their parents split up, took one daughter each, and moved to separate coasts. Then, as part of an elaborate, convoluted, and logic-poor plan, they switch places, which they think will make their parents fall back in love with each other. Pre-switch, Sharon lives in a tony area of Boston, while Susan lives way out west in California. Through some charming 1960s-style special effects, child star Hayley Mills plays both Sharon and Susan, requiring different characterization — and accents — for each. She doesn't really do either voice very well... and rarely at that. In one scene, Sharon tries to teach her style of speech to Sharon, but for the most part both girls spend the entire movie sounding as identical as they look. And that isn't a Boston or California accent — it's just young actor Hayley Mills speaking in her natural English accent.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond

Leonardo DiCaprio is (usually) one of the best actors of his generation, and in 2007 he earned his third Academy Award nomination for Blood Diamond. An exposé of the inhumane, brutal, and deadly diamond trade in Africa, the film takes place during the Sierra Leone Civil War in the 1990s, with DiCaprio playing Danny Archer, a diamond smuggler turned activist who hails from Zimbabwe but spent years in South Africa. Both countries were colonized and long occupied by European nations, particularly the U.K. and the Netherlands. But DiCaprio's accent as Archer doesn't sound much like a typical South African accent, nor does it seem too English or Dutch-based either. DiCaprio's character sounds more like he might be from another part of the world entirely, like Oceania, particularly New Zealand or Australia. Trevor Noah, a native of South Africa, called out DiCaprio's voice performance on a 2019 episode of The Daily Show, rhetorically wondering if he was "a drunk Australian."

Jack Nicholson in The Departed

Martin Scorsese's The Departed, a saga involving organized crime, police occupation, double crosses, and metaphoric rats, is an epic drama with a hefty and confident state of place, that setting being Boston. Scorsese loaded the cast with actors well-known for their Beantown roots, including Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon, but also the legendary Jack Nicholson, who portrays Irish-American gang boss Francis "Frank" Costello. Maybe Scorsese thought that Wahlberg and Damon's natural accents were enough for this very Bostonian movie, or that their speech patterns would rub off on Nicholson. Or maybe he just thought that Nicholson would do his job as one of the most acclaimed actors of all time and give that Massachusetts brogue a try. To be fair, sometimes Nicholson does provide a serviceable accent, dropping an "r" here and there like a native Boston man. But then, on occasion, he'll give a line reading in a comical, over-the-top purely Irish accent. And then a lot of the time, Nicholson just does that slow, smarmy Jack Nicholson voice like he's still playing The Joker in Batman.

Justin Timberlake in The Love Guru

Justin Timberlake is an entertainer — he just can't help it. His career began in childhood, when he was a member of the always singing, dancing, and smiling Mickey Mouse Club, and he found mega-fame as a member of the always singing, dancing, and smiling boy band *NSYNC. Timberlake brought that same kind of intense, let's-put-on-a-show energy to some of his early film acting roles, particularly that of arrogant French Canadian hockey player Jacques "Le Coq" Grandé in Mike Myers' 2008 comedy The Love Guru. Timberlake goes as big, broad, and wacky as he possibly could have in the film, and that extends to how his character speaks. Whether he's romancing a woman, hanging out with teammates, or singing along to a song by French Canadian songstress Celine Dion, Timberlake speaks in a cartoonish French accent, reminiscent of Pepe Le Pew and other stereotypical French characters. The problem is that Jacques isn't French — he's French Canadian, which is a different and distinctive dialect. The other problems is that even Timberlake's French accent isn't convincing, as he's unable to tone down his natural Southern lilt.

Russell Crowe in Robin Hood

Robin Hood is a distinctively  English folk hero and mythological figure. A rogue ex-aristocrat in the English system, he steals from the rich and gives to the poor, operating with his band of Merry Men out of a home base in Sherwood Forest (a real place in north-central England) and avoiding the clutches of the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham (which, again, is an actual setting that exists in the real world). The tale of Robin Hood has been put to film many times, including a take in 2010 that cost nearly $200 million. Producers likely wanted to make sure they got a good return on their investment and preferred a bankable star in the title role — someone like Russell Crowe. Perhaps it just didn't matter, then, that Crowe does not, will not, and seemingly cannot speak with an East Midlands accent, the regional English dialect used around Nottingham. Upon Robin Hood's release, journalists called out Crowe's accent choice; the actor abruptly left an interview with a BBC Radio host who said he sounded more Irish than English. Eight years later, actor Con O'Neill brought up Crowe's Robin Hood accent again, on Twitter, and Crowe replied, explaining that he built the voice out of the character, accounting for Robin's time spent in (and absorbing vocal characteristics of) England, France, the Middle East, Ireland, and France.

Nicolas Cage in Con-Air

In the 1997 action movie Con Air, Nicolas Cage plays a just-paroled convict and former U.S. Army Ranger who gets stuck on a prisoner transport plane after the other prisoners hijack it. His character, Cameron Poe, is said to be from Alabama, so Cage affects a slow, languid drawl — he seems to be aiming for something close to Greenbow, Alabama, native Forrest Gump by way of Foghorn Leghorn. It plays as an extremely exaggerated Southern accent, if it a Southern accent was also beset with slurring and dropping letters at random. He doesn't quite nail the specific Alabama accent or a generic, all-encompassing Southern one. This is especially strange for Cage, a quirky actor who speaks with a twinge of a Southern-suggestive accent in real life (and other movies in which the characters are not Southern), even though he was born in Burbank, California.

Sam Worthington in Avatar

Sam Worthington starred in what was once the highest-grossing film ever released, and yet he probably could still walk down the street because the parts of Avatar where his face was onscreen were minimal. The Australian actor's time as Jake Sully in Avatar was spent as a combination of CGI and voice acting, as his character went to the distant exotic planet of Pandora and interacted with the locals via a scientifically created stand-in that looked like a native resident, what with the blue skin and huge eyes. This is all to say that the viewer — and millions of them, because Avatar was a worldwide cultural sensation in 2009 and 2010 — couldn't help but focus on Jake's voice, because Worthington's face wasn't around much. And it's then that many noticed Worthington's attempt to sound like a tough American Marine veteran didn't sound like much more than an Australian actor trying his best to sound like a tough American Marine veteran. His prominent Australian accent leaks through often, despite his work with a dialect coach before filming began. "His accent was thicker than Crocodile Dundee," Avatar director James Cameron told Total Film (via ContactMusic).

Don Cheadle in Ocean's Eleven

In a crowded cast full of terrific actors clearly having a great time (including George Clooney and Brad Pitt), Don Cheadle managed to pull off one of the most memorable performances in the 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven. He played Basher Tarr, the member of Danny Ocean's heist crew who is an expert in explosives and who clearly comes from a British, working-class background what with his pronounced Cockney accent. Cheadle was born in the American Midwest, not England, so he worked hard with an on-set speech coach "going over vowels and consonants," as he said on People's Party with Talib Kweli.

Once the movie hit the world, his extremely Cockney accent provoked strong reactions. "Someone would come up and say 'love that character, mate, it's great,'" Cheadle said of his first post-Oceans trip to London. "And the next street someone would come up and say, 'don't ever do that again!' Someone did a u-turn to come drive by me and cuss me out for the part." Cheadle is so tired of the criticism over his accent that he mockingly took to supporting a fan theory behind why his voice work is so inaccurate: Basher is really an American pretending (and poorly at that) to be a Cockney-accented Brit.

Robert Downey, Jr. in Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers is an eye-popping, style-hopping, multimedia extravaganza and an indictment of the international tabloid industrial complex's penchant for making celebrities out of headline-grabbers, even murderers. In this film, it's spree killers Mickey and Mallory Knox who become famous, spurred on by Wayne Gale, a host of a trashy and lurid TV show called American Maniacs.

Robert Downey Jr. is loathsome and bombastic as the exploitative and ratings-hungry Gale, whom Stone told the New York Post is based on a combination of Geraldo Rivera and Australian tabloid journalist Steve Dunleavy. It's actually the latter's Australian accent that Downey is trying to imitate here, but he doesn't get it right. Wayne Gale doesn't sound as much like an Australian, or Dunleavy. Downey's accent is some bizarre combination of South African, a couple of different British dialects, some New Zealand vocal features, and perhaps just a hint of Australian.

Orlando Bloom in Elizabethtown

In 2005, Oscar-winning filmmaker Cameron Crowe received the worst reviews of his career to that point with his movie Elizabethtown. Critics found the film's story to be all over the place, with English actor Orlando Bloom, a memorable supporting player in the then-recent Lord of the Rings trilogy and first Pirates of the Caribbean, heading his first major American film. Elizabethtown doesn't really know what kind of movie it wants to be; it's a romantic comedy but it's also about a guy morning his father's death, as well as a professional redemption story, and a man-returns-to-hometown movie. Similarly, Bloom is all over the place and seemingly lost with his accent work. "It wasn't easy to master an American accent," Bloom told Wild About Movies in 2005. "I had a lot of help from a dialect coach. But I did all right. No?" Bloom's character is a Kentucky native, but Bloom is never able to really commit to a specific Southern or Appalachian accent. The way he delivers his slightly out-of-breath, crisply uttered dialogue in a non-specific American way is a little reminiscent of that of his co-star, Alec Baldwin, but also vaguely Scottish for some reason.