Support Frock Flicks with a small donation! During Snark Week and beyond, we’d be grateful for small, one-time contributions via PayPal or monthly pledges via Patreon to offset the costs of running this site. You can even buy our T-shirts and swag. Think of this like supporting public broadcasting, but you get more swearing and no tax deductions!
One of the reasons we watch historical costume movies is to feel transported back in time — just to get that sense, if for an hour or two, that we’ve traveled to a historical place and are seeing a bit of history relived. That’s why stuff like zippers and metal grommets and modern hairstyles bug us, because they take us out of the moment and ruin the historical illusion.
So does a crappy accent. Sometimes, even more than a bad costume! Everything can look beautifully historically accurate, and then someone opens their mouth and brays out in a voice that totally doesn’t fit. The film has introduced the main character as Irish but his voice is all New Joisey, or the TV miniseries is an adaption of an English novel and all but ONE character’s accent is English. Dude, not cool.
For Snark Week, let’s get an earful — where we can, thanks to YouTube — of the worst accents in historical costume movies and TV shows…
9. Nicolas Cage in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)
For an Italian American, Cage has a pretty weak Italian accent as the captain with the musical instrument in this lightweight World War II romance. Stick to the action flicks, Nick.
8. Sean Connery in The Name of the Rose (1986)
Every movie Sean Connery is in, he has a Scottish brogue. He can be playing James Bond, a Russian submarine captain in The Hunt for Red October (1990), King Arthur in First Knight (1995), or Robin Hood in Robin and Marian (1976). Ironically, Connery’s character in Highlander (1986) — a movie about a Scotsman — was Spanish. So I’m just picking one of his many wrong-accent roles and one of his best historical costume movies, IMO. The Name of the Rose is set in the 14th century, and Connery is supposed to be the nominally English William of Baskerville, a Franciscan friar. Watch it for the great story — it’s neither Scottish, nor crap!
7. Julia Roberts in Mary Reilly (1996)
An accent so bad, the inconsistency of it was remarked upon in IMDB. This YouTube vid is all about Michael Sheen (huh?), but it’s a pretty good showcase for Roberts’ on-and-off-again Irish accent. Honorable mention to her poorly accented turn as the sweetheart of Irish freedom fighter Michael Collins the eponymous 1996 flick.
6. Keanu Reeves in Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
The movie is set in an vague historical period in a random part of Tuscany. But at least Denzel Washington could rustle up a fancy English / Shakespearean accent to blend in with pros like Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. Poor Keanu can’t hack it. Honorable mention goes to Keanu’s role in Dangerous Liaisons (1988), where had about five inappropriately surfer-dude lines, but nobody’s stuck a clip on YouTube.
5. Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964)
She’s the epitome of grace and beauty, so hearing Audrey Hepburn’s redonkulous attempt at a Cockney accent is cray-cray. Yes, the point is that the character’s a guttersnipe who’ll be taught to speak properly, but overkill much?
4. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in Far and Away (1992)
I can’t decide who has the worst Irish accent in this preposterous story of two mismatched 19th-century Irish immigrants to America. It varies from scene to scene depending on who’s doing more talking. Basically, I just want them both to shut up. It’s worse when you hear them next to actual Irish actors like Colm Meany.
3. Kenneth Branagh in Wild Wild West (1999)
English actors can often do better American accents than vice versa, and Branagh did a very good one in 1991’s Dead Again. But here, as Confederate madman Dr. Arliss Loveless in this post-Civil War / pre-steampunk romp, Kenneth Branagh just can’t manage a Southern drawl. It’s almost as bad as Will Smith’s cheezy rap song that the movie ends with.
2. Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins (1964)
On Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Dick Van Dyke blamed his terrible Cockney accent in this practically perfect musical on his vocal coach. He claimed that Irish-born J. Pat O’Malley had an even worse accent. I’m crying foul.
1. Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
It’s Ted “Theodore” Logan: Vampire Hunter! Duuuuude, where’s my vampire bride? He’s totally gonna go to Transylvania and find that bad guy. Whoaaaaaaa…
What’s the worst accent in a historical costume movie or TV show in your opinion? Find #10 on YouTube and share in the comments!