9 of the worst film accents in Hollywood history

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With John Travolta apparently murdering the Serbian twang in new thriller Killing Season, there’s never been a better time to look back at the worst movie accents.

From dodgy cockneys to ridiculous Russians, WOW247 picks out cinema’s most entertaining examples of Hollywood stars failing to find their voice.

Don Cheadle
[Don Cheadle in Ocean's Thirteen]

Keanu Reeves in Dracula (1992)

Francis Ford Coppola’s fine interpretation of the vampire tale boasts sumptuous visuals and a superb title performance from Gary Oldman. But we’re not hear to talk about that.

No, we’re more interested in Keanu Reeves’ cringe-worthy take on a posh British lilt. As terrified lawyer Jonathan Harker, he burbles and blusters his way through the action with wafer-weak tones that veer between exaggerated, aristocratic outbursts and cheeky East-End inflections.

The early ’90s was a big time for the heartthrob. But this was not his finest hour.

John Malkovich in Rounders (1998)

He may be known for tackling eccentric roles, but versatile thesp John Malkovich strays way too far into self-parody with his eyebrow-raising portrayal of Russian gangster Teddy KGB.

The unintentionally amusing highlight of an otherwise serious and rather excellent movie revolving around Matt Damon’s troubled poker player, Malkovich delivers delightfully unhinged dialogue in cartoonishly-OTT fashion.

“Eet is may clob aaand I vill splesh the pot venever de fack I pleesh…”

(Warning: strong language and spoilers in the video)

Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly (1970)

We know Mick Jagger can act. He proved that in 1970 crime drama Performance. So what’s going on with his accent in this below-par biopic?

Never mind the fact that he looks like he’s stepped straight off the set of The Three Amigos: Jagger’s awful attempt at the legendary criminal’s Irish-Australian brogue is nothing short of hilarious.

Apparently, attacks on his efforts at the time upset him so much that he gave up on acting altogether. Who knows what fine voices we lost out on as a result…

Don Cheadle in the Ocean’s movies (2001 – 2007)

Sorry Don. You’re a pretty good actor for the most part – but we seriously doubt there’s a single person anywhere in England who speaks quite like that.

We’re assuming he’s going for Lock, Stock-esque ‘cor blimey guv’nor’ cockney, but the end result is such a baffling confusion it’s hard to say for sure.

What is certain however, is that Cheadle’s efforts have made him a key member of the ever-expanding ‘shoddy British accents club’.

Robert Duvall in Shot At Glory (2000)

Speaking of which, did you know that Oscar-winning great Robert Duvall once played a Scottish football manager in a movie – alongside former Rangers striker (and current coach) Ally McCoist?

Once you get over your shock at that revelation, prepared to be confounded once again by Duvall’s torturous tones. In fairness to the veteran star, he carried out extensive research for his role – including watching lower league Scottish football from the dug-out.

But we’re sorry to say the dedication didn’t really pay off…

Harrison Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

While Harrison Ford’s own attempt at Scottish in a brief moment of Indiana Jones high-jinks might have made the cut, it’s his turn as a weary-looking submarine commander in K-19 that nets him the illustrious reward of second rotten Russian in our list.

But this is right at the opposite end of the spectrum to Malkovich’s theatrics. While Teddy KGB was a ludicrous pastiche, Ford’s attempts here are so subtle as to be literally non-existent.

Listen to his delivery closely, and you’ll hear that it’s basically Ford’s normal, grumbling everyday voice, with just the odd bit of half-assed inflection thrown in. Sean Connery would be proud.

Josh Hartnett in Blow Dry (2001)

In one of the most spectacularly misguided casting decisions in cinematic history, someone somewhere decided it would be a good idea if clean-cut Hollywood hotshot Josh Hartnett played a Yorkshire hairdresser in this plucky British comedy.

As you might expect, the end result is both horrifyingly awful and fantastically funny. In those pre-Game Of Thrones days it’s possible Hartnett hadn’t actually heard a Yorkshire accent before he decided to get on the plane, and it really shows.

In any case, we doubt our Josh will be passing himself off as a Keighley native anytime soon.

Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds (2009)

It is important to point out, in Pitt’s defence, that his nightmarish attempt at an Italian lilt in Tarantino’s terrific war caper is meant to be atrocious. But that doesn’t make it any less terrible or entertaining.

With his gruff Texan character attempting to maintain an unlikely cover story, while rubbing shoulders with the Nazi high-brass at a film screening, Pitt launches into a magnificent mash-up of Deep South and…well…God knows what.

“Gorlahmee!”

Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins (1964)

The great granddaddy of all bad movie accents, Dick Van Dyke’s attempt to go cockney in the much-loved musical classic make Don Cheadle’s efforts look positively award-worthy.

Justly notorious and much-ridiculed these past 50 years, it turns out there may be a fittingly ludicrous explanation for the debacle.

As Van Dyke later revealed, his accent coach was actually Irish – “and didn’t do the accent any better than I did”.

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Mark is the content manager for WOW247 in Leeds. When he isn't waxing lyrical about Ben Wheatley and Caravan Palace, he's landing news, assembling guides and penning features.

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