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Cinema’s top 10 worst British accents

With Oscar season nearly upon us and with it the now seeminly customary Meryl Streep Oscar nomination, I’ve noticed that a number of American friends have asked me my thoughts on The Iron Lady. Specifically, my thoughts on how convincing I find Meryl Streep’s Thatcher.

Yet even when I tell them I haven’t seen the film (I’m just not in a rush to see it on the big screen and am more than happy to catch it on netflix in a few months time), they still ask for my opinion — nationality apparently bestowing expertise on the matter.

From the few clips I’ve seen on TV or the Web, and echoing what most critics have written, Streep’s Thatcher seems decent to me. Whether Streep’s Thatcher dislodges Greta Scacchi‘s somewhat cougar-ish take on the former PM in Jeffrey Archer: The Truth remains to be seen.

What is clear from the little I’ve seen is that Streep (unsurprisingly) will not be entering the Hall of Shame for awful Hollywood British accents. The following are my personal favorites. Let me know yours in the comments — including bad attempts at American accents (it’s only fair).

10. Nicolas Cage in National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)

Almost certainly unfair to include as while it is hideously bad, I think it was intended to be hideously bad, and boy did Nicolas Cage succeed in that respect. Included, more than anything, because I think all top ten lists of this nature (something of a creatively bankrupt idea) could be improved with some Cage-branded craziness — it’s like a crack addict’s impersonation of Jimmy Stewart.

9. Josh Hartnett in Blow Dry (2001)

In the (rightly) forgotten hairdresser comedy Blow Dry, the (rightly) forgotten all-American heart throb Josh Hartnett tries hard but fails to convince with an Irish accent… Wait, he’s meant to be doing a Yorkshire accent? Really?

8. John Lithgow in Cliffhanger (1993)

John Lithgow has done some great work in the past, a performer who can be effortlessly at home in comedy or drama. At other times, he seems happy to serve up the audience a big slice of honey roast ham. Cliffhanger was definitely one of his more porcine performances. Warning: clip is not suitable for work — though arguably none of them are.

7. Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage (1934)

Some people would have you believe this is one of the great dramatic scenes of cinematic history showcasing the titantic talent of Bette Davis. Others might counter that it’s am-dram caterwauling delivered in the world’s least convincing cockney accent. Both groups are right.

6. Don Cheadle in Ocean’s 11 (2001)

Actually, forget Bette, Hollywood’s worst cockney accent belongs to Don Cheadle. Here’s Don dubbed in German. Trust me, it’s the only humane way to listen Don Cheadle in Ocean’s 11.

5. Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Like the Nicolas Cage entry possibly an unfair inclusion as accuracy was hardly the point, but dude, Harrison Ford acted this in earshot of Sean Connery and so is deserving of either opprobrium or massive props.

4. Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap (1998)

That’s right, I’m dickish enough to include a child actor on this list. <Fill in your own Lindsay Lohan joke here>

3. Keanu Reeves in Dracula (1992)

Considering the difficulty Keanu Reeves often seems to have in portraying a functioning, coordinated human being, it was probably a bit too much of a stretch to ask him to do anything as nuanced as acting a different nationality.

2. Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins (1964)

You can’t have a list like this and not feature Dick Van Dyke, it’s expected of me and were I to omit it, many of you would invariably comment on it. And while it is a terrible accent, it’s also utterly charming and in no way spoils the movie. Bert probably fell on his head falling from a chimney, knocked his head, and developed foreign accent syndrome.  I believe Henry Mayhew documented this as being very common among Victorian chimney sweeps.

1. Russell Crowe in Robin Hood (2010)

Unquestioningly, Russell Crowe‘s accent in Robin Hood was a triumph. What sort of pr*** would argue otherwise? Definitely not me.

STAY TUNED for next Monday’s post, on travel and cinema.

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