10 best and worst British accents in film

This article is  from IMDb
on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 10:44
With the release of One Day this week, we take a look back at the best and worst British accents in film...
The first rule of adapting successful texts to the screen is you must retain the original style, narrative and character of your source material, or risk being mobbed by peeved fans out for blood. Upcoming rom-com One Day is based on a best-selling novel by David Nicholls, and so director Lone Scherfig faces this exact task.
Admittedly not the worst thing about the movie, Anne Hathaway’s extremely dodgy English accent caused a bit of a backlash among the book's fans, British moviegoers, and right-thinking members of society at large. But we don’t think she’s the worst culprit, so here are some more examples of Hollywood stars attempting some very British roles:

Natalie Portman - V for Vendetta
One of the serial offenders, Natalie Portman just won’t leave us Brits alone. Admittedly, her attempt for The Other Boleyn Girl wasn’t all that bad, but that might have been down to her place next to Scarlett Johansson, more than any ability of her own. It all started with Padme in the Star Wars prequels of course, where the dialogue was so weak you couldn’t help but notice the dodgy accent, but special award goes to her character in V for Vendetta, which is widely considered one of the more embarrassing attempts in recent years.

Kevin Costner – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Often said to be the laziest accent in film history, Costner makes little attempt at the required English drawl, often just giving up and abandoning it altogether. What we’re left with is a Californian pretending to be an English nobleman, and that’s just embarrassing for everyone. The rest of the cast don’t fare much better (Christian Slater, we’re looking at you) so, while some actors can turn it into a comedy moment, this half-arsed attempt at one of our most enduring icons should be penalized for all the lack of effort involved.

Keanu Reeves – Dracula
Why didn’t someone tell him to stop? Standing next to Gary Oldman, one is tempted to imagine a Friends-style enunciation lesson between the actors, but sadly to no avail. Reeves has always been a bit of a running joke, but movie execs continue to cast him in roles that not only require him to exhibit emotion, but take on difficult accents as well. This was before Speed made him an action hero, or The Matrix made him slightly more credible, so his dubious attempt at an English accent in Dracula just can’t be excused.

Dick Van Dyke – Mary Poppins
Widely regarded as the ultimate sin against cockneys, Dick Van Dyke’s comedy Englishman crosses the invisible line and emerges in ‘so bad it’s good’ territory. That could be nostalgia talking, but Mary Poppins is not meant to be a realistic portrayal of the world; there are animated penguins dancing around Julie Andrews for goodness sake. Anyway, cockney is a hard accent for cockneys to pull off, so the exaggeration was probably less offensive in the long run. Besides, who would be strung up in lists like these if it hadn’t been for Bert?

Renee Zellweger – Bridget Jones’s Diary
Ahh, Bridget, how special you are to the downtrodden women of Britain. The country’s slightly overweight, heavy drinking, chain-smoking losers-in-love salute you and all your familiarity. But those same women weren’t overly pleased when it was revealed that skinny Texan actress Renee Zellweger would be taking the role of their beloved heroine in the 2001 movie adaptation. It turned out she was actually more than up for the task, even if coming out a little too posh, and she earned herself an Academy Award nomination for the part.

Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd; Pirates of the Caribbean; Finding Neverland
A man who has perfected every kind of English accent going, from Finding Neverland’s educated author to Sweeney Todd’s disturbed singing barber, Depp’s bright shining moment remains the box-office juggernaut that is the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. He modelled Captain Jack Sparrow on Keith Richards, and the performance was the best thing (and now the only good thing) about the films. We salute you.

Angelina Jolie – Tomb Raider
Following the immense success of the Tomb Raider games, the first job the filmmakers had was to find someone physically similar to the buxom goddess gamers had fallen in love with. Jolie looked ridiculously good in THAT outfit, but must have been cast for this reason alone. Her English accent was pretty shocking, leading to her being ousted from the proposed remake, which is presumably going to settle for a more authentic actress. The accent was brought out again for The Tourist, let’s hope it stays hidden from now on.

Russell Crowe – Robin Hood
This role is now remembered more for Crowe’s outburst on BBC radio than the accent itself, but following Kevin Costner, Errol Flynn and that Disney fox, his version was positively saintly. He clearly worked hard on the voice, even if he can’t decide whether he was going for a Yorkshire or Nottinghamshire inflection. The BBC guy said it sounded Irish; he’s got ‘dead ears’ apparently.

Gwyneth Paltrow – Sliding Doors; Emma; Shakespeare in Love
Gwyneth’s accent is so good that a lot of people actually think she’s English. That and an English hubby make her an honorary Brit, so she seems to be the only Yankee invader who can avoid waves of outrage when taking on one of our roles. Starting with slight rom-com Sliding Doors, she then went on to star in the adaptation of Emma, and won her Oscar for the performance in Shakespeare in Love.

Anne Hathaway – Become Jane; One Day
One Day isn’t Miss Hathaway’s first offence. Instead of playing any particular beloved character, Becoming Jane saw her portray treasured author Jane Austen herself. Many a period drama has been created from her novels, and people took particular offence to an American actress taking the reins on this one. The accent is passable, but sounds like a little more work could have been put in. Apparently it hasn’t, hence the same results in One Day.