A bad accent can stand out in a great movie like a cowboy hat on Michelangelo’s “David” (think Kevin Costner’s Boston accent in 13 Days). On the other hand, a bad accent can make an otherwise forgettable movie truly memorable (think Kevin Costner’s occasional English accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). What moviegoers often take for granted are actors who totally nail the affectation of a given people, because they make it look—or rather sound—easy.
What makes a movie accent great? Why do some seem slightly off for reasons we can’t fully comprehend? In this fantastic video, dialect coach Erik Singer breaks down 28 different vocal performances for authenticity. It not only explains why a good accent is hard to do, it’s a fascinating tutorial on the reasons cultures from around the world sound so different.
Singer returned for a new accent breakdown video for Wired, this time for another round of analyzing accents from film and television covering places from around the entire globe. From Jennifer Lawrence’s stunted Russian accent to Daniel Kaluuya’s perfect American affectation to Gerard Butler’s rough Irish(ish) brogue, the list includes a full range of successes and failures.
The video doubles as an amazing lesson about the differences and similarities in the way many cultures and places speak, including how much of that is influenced by the physical movements of our mouths and tongues. This isn’t just a review of performances, it’s a global primer on linguistics.
After watching this we won’t take a great accent for granted again, and we’ll even be a little more forgiving of the bad ones. But maybe Kevin Costner should still check it out.
What’s the worst movie accent ever? Who had the best? Tell us in the comments section below.
Featured Image: Wired