Acting might seem easy on the outside, but it can be very challenging. Actors not only need to look like the part but also sound like the part that they play. Not many actors are able to do different accents or pick up dialects. To explore this talent, I have made a list of the best accents in movies and the actors that pulled it off.
When an actor takes a different role from the native language they speak, it is quite a challenge. They have too much on the line. Running the risk of underperforming or overdelivering the accent. Neither of which are accepted by the audience. They have to be as close to real as possible, or their performance is wasted.
Many actors that we know today have successfully nailed their accents in their roles. They have worked with dialect coaches and local people from the region to perfect their new accents. To get their groove going, actors will often talk in their new accents even when the cameras aren’t rolling. I have only considered movie actors for this list and not actors who have done it in TV shows.
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The best performances are those where you don’t even realize that the actors are putting on an accent. While it isn’t possible for everyone to do, some memorable performances come to mind. Let‘s see what those are.
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1# Meryl Streep – Sophie’s Choice
Native Langauge – American English
Portrayed Role – Polish
The legend that is Meryl Streep can do everything. Throughout her decades-long career, she has taken over a wide variety of roles. Her notable works where she had accents in are movies such as A Cry in the Dark (1988) and Doubt (2008). Despite the other hits, her finest work has been in Sophie’s Choice (1982).
Meryl Streep portrays a Polish refugee in this movie and convincingly does it. She dedicated herself to nailing down her accent in the role perfectly. Meryl learned Polish and German to get the accent right. Her dedication paid off as she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Sophie’s Choice.
2# Margot Robbie – The Wolf Of Wallstreet
Native Language – Australian
Portrayed Accent – American English (New York Dialect)
Everyone’s favorite Australian actress Margot Robbie (sorry, Hugh Jackman!), has an amazing American accent. People often get surprised at finding out that Margot Robbie is Australian. Margot Robbie has done everything from playing Harley Quinn in The Suicide Squad (2016) to Tonya Harding in I, Tonya (2017). For non-native English speakers, it might not seem much, but those who know the Australian accent know how hard it is to switch to an American accent.
In The Wolf Of Wall Street, Margot Robbie does a good job of nailing down the perfect New York accent. It’s not just any New York accent, but the more fashionable Brooklynite accent. She sounds chic, confident, and full of sass. The perfect amount of everything that makes a Brooklyn accent stand out. It is good to such a point that people have often pointed out that it has been overdone. The Wolf Of Wall Street launched Margot Robbie’s career, so I guess it’s fair to say she did a good job.
3# Heath Ledger – Brokeback Mountain
Native Language – Australian English
Portrayed Accent – American English (Wyoming Accent)
Another actor with great accents to his name is late actor Heath Ledger. Born in Perth, Australia, Heath has worked in Hollywood for much of his acting career. He had to abandon his Australian accent for an American one for those roles. More so for his role as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain (2005). The movie required a very thick dialect from the Wyoming region.
Heath Ledger’s role also had speech impediments in Brokeback Mountain, which meant selling more than just the accent. He had to nail down the exact mannerisms, right from his posturing to the lip movement. This role garnered him a lot of praise from the critics and love from the audiences. Heath said for the role; he pretended the words in his mouth were trying to punch their way out. I only hope he meant it symbolically.
4# Andrew Garfield – The Social Network
Native Language – British English
Portrayed Accent – Brazilian-American English
If you happen to scroll through youtube and come across interviews of Andrew Garfield, you will notice how strong his British accent is. That is something we have never seen in his roles in movies. Whether it’s his role as Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge (2016) or Peter Parker in The Amazing Spiderman (2012). He seems as American as there can be. Well, now you know he is not.
That doesn’t take away from his great acting and accent in The Social Network (2010). In the movie, Andrew Garfield plays Brazilian Eduardo Saverin, who immigrated to the US as a kid. The beauty in his acting is that Eduardo has only a slight hint of Brazilian left in him in real life. Andrew did a different dialect of the English language and portrayed the tiny bit of Brazillian-ness in the accent. That alone makes it one of the best accents in movies.
5# Idris Elba – Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
Native Language – British English
Portrayed Accent – South African + Afrikaans
Taking on roles of historically important figures is never an easy task for any actor. It’s not only their mannerisms and other factual details that are important, but their accents are too. Edris Elba, in his role of Nelson Mandela, did it beautifully. For his inspiration, Idris took the help of his African roots. His parents are West African immigrants, which gave him basic knowledge of the language Mandela spoke.
While preparing for the role, Idris Elba also took many language classes. The actor would ask to be referred to as Mandela between takes to keep his mind focused. This sort of dedication is why Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) got high praise and critical acclaim.
The real test of an actor comes when they adapt to different asks of the script. Pulling off an accent as close to the authentic one is never easy. There will always be a local person who will point out different things that went wrong with the accent. Nevertheless, these actors have done a superb acting job and have the best accents in movies. While there are a lot of other brilliant actors that deserve a mention, the list only had space for the best five. Let us know your favorites in the comments below!