BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 14: Actress Meryl Streep attends 'The Iron Lady' Premiere during of the 62nd Berlin International Festival at the Berlinale Palast on February 14, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.
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Most Flawless Movie and TV Accents

Some actors are so gifted with accents that you might not have realized that they were acting at all...
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It’s easy to spot bad movie accents—the ones that are so stilted and awkward that they just strike your ear wrong from the first word. Not that I’m naming any names…

Stellar accent work, however, is harder to pin down by its very nature. You don’t notice anything is off, so it never occurs to you that the actor on screen isn’t speaking with their natural accent. These are some of the best accent fakers in the business.

David Tennant

David Tennant made a name for himself on Doctor Who, a quintessentially British show. He later scored leading roles in Jessica Jones and Good Omens. What linked those roles? Only Tennant’s flawless accent work. While a lot of American audiences don’t really distinguish between different types of English accents, it’s obvious that Tennant’s natural speaking voice is not English. His accent hails from about 400 miles north of London, near Glasgow, Scotland.

What’s really wild is that in the American remake of Broadchurch, called Gracepoint—a thing that, frankly, no one asked for—Tennant re-filmed his scenes from the UK version with a spot-on American accent.

Meryl Streep

It’s no secret that Meryl Streep is one of the best actresses of all time. But did you realize how incredible she is at accents? While she has played many memorable roles over the years, two stand out: Sophie’s Choice and The Iron Lady. Although she was born in New Jersey, Streep could fool even native speakers with her accents.

In Sophie’s Choice, she plays a Polish immigrant with a terrible secret. Set in the late 1940s in Brooklyn, Sophie claims to be an Auschwitz survivor who lost her father and husband. The truth, as it evolves, is much more complicated than that. This movie is incredibly well-acted—but be advised that it’s a downer. Streep made the effort to learn German and Polish in order to perfect her accent for this Oscar-winning role.

In The Iron Lady, Streep stars as infamous British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Although this movie received mixed reviews, almost everyone agreed that Streep’s performance is flawless. Thatcher herself was taught to speak in a different accent through elocution lessons, transforming her voice into a deeper, more measured, and more authoritative voice. Streep perfectly embodies Thatcher’s distinctive voice—and her work in the role earned a third Oscar for her mantle.

Streep captured another distinctive British voice in Julie & Julia, where she nailed Julia Child’s famously odd speech patterns—not an easy feat without sounding like a caricature.  

Renée Zellweger

Renée Zellweger is from Texas, yet she managed to pull off a very convincing British accent in Bridget Jones’ Diary, a film where she is surrounded by incredible actors who are actually British. It’s truly impressive how Zellweger holds her own against Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Zellweger. When she was first cast, there was quite a bit of backlash about casting an American as the beloved British character. Hugh Grant later said, “There was a whole scandal about why isn’t this a British actress? I didn’t know Renée Zellweger, and a Texan playing a British character, it did seem like a stretch.” He also revealed that her first attempt at the accent sounded like “Princess Margaret,” but she was able to “loosen it up a bit.”

Zellweger pulled off a completely different accent in Cold Mountain. It’s rare to hear Hollywood actors manage a Southern accent—and although I adore Nicole Kidman, Zellweger runs circles around her in this clip. (Warning: violence against an animal.)

Idris Elba

Depending on where you first saw him, you might think that Idris Elba is American. He played one so convincingly in The Wire that it’s hard to imagine his real British accent. However, Graham Norton called him out on his early attempt at an American accent, which was so terrible that it had to be dubbed. And dubbed badly.

The accent Elba, who is from London, uses in Luther is much closer to his natural speaking voice, but his incredible range extends beyond American and English accents. He also starred as the legendary Nelson Mandela, and he skillfully captured Mandela’s South African accent.

Read More: The Next James Bond Is…?

Damian Lewis

Damian Lewis has spent the bulk of his career playing Americans—and he does so with such a flawless accent that you might not even realize he’s originally from London. Not only can he do an excellent American accent, but his natural speaking voice is so different from the one he uses in Billions, Homeland, or Life that it’s hard to believe that the same person is talking.

Although Lewis’s background is just about as posh as you can imagine—his grandfather was the Lord Mayor of London and he attended Eton—he also visited the United States during the summers to spend time with his extended family.

Saoirse Ronan

In case you couldn’t tell by her name, Saoirse Ronan (pronounced “sir-sha”) is Irish. Her natural accent is a lovely lilt, which you can hear in the “73 Questions” video above, but she’s managed to pull off an impressive range of accents. She calls “generic English” the easiest accent to nail—and claims that Irish is the most difficult.

Ronan played American teenagers in both Lady Bird and Little Women—albeit almost 150 years apart. She earned her first Oscar nomination at 13 for Atonement, where she played an upper-class British girl, but she got to bust out something closer to her native accent in Brooklyn as an Irish immigrant.

Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle is best known now for his work in the MCU as James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Iron Man’s best friend and the eventual superhero War Machine. However, long before he took over the role, Cheadle had made a name for himself in the powerful drama Hotel Rwanda.

The film tells the story of real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel owner who managed to save over a thousand refugees during the genocide of 1994. Cheadle, who originally hails from Kansas City, Missouri, was nominated for an Oscar but lost to Jamie Foxx for his work in Ray.

Cate Blanchett

Do you know where Cate Blanchett is from? She is such a chameleon—and so rarely speaks in her natural accent on film—that you could be forgiven in guessing that she’s English or American, given her most famous roles. But our girl is Australian! She was born in Melbourne, and after spending a decade living in England, she and her family returned to Australia to make their home in Sydney.

In addition to her incredible accent work, she’s also gifted at convincingly speaking other languages. This supercut showcases her ability to mimic a wide variety of languages. She also pulled off a decent version of Katharine Hepburn’s distinctive “Trans-Atlantic” accent in The Aviator. Even more astounding is her performance in I’m Not There, the freewheeling movie about Bob Dylan that featured multiple actors as the legendary musician.

Daniel Day-Lewis

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the greatest actors of all time. He inhabits every role he chooses—sometimes literally, as he takes method acting to a whole new level. What’s astounding is that Day-Lewis isn’t a chameleon like Gary Oldman, who disappears into a character. Day-Lewis always looks essentially like himself, but he nonetheless completely transforms.

Day-Lewis was born and raised in London, and his natural speaking voice is crisp yet soft Received Pronunciation. On film, he’s been Irish (In the Name of the Father and There Will Be Blood) and Czech (The Unbearable Lightness of Being). He’s also played Americans in wildly different eras, from The Last of the Mohicans to Lincoln to The Age of Innocence. One of his most controversial performances is in My Left Foot, where he portrayed Christy Brown, a writer and artist with cerebral palsy.

Read More: Actors Who Go Method—And Stars Who Absolutely Hate It

Christian Bale

Pop quiz: Where is Christian Bale from? He does a wide variety of American accents so effortlessly that many fans don’t know that the actor was born in Wales and raised in various places around the UK. And unlike many of his award-winning peers, Bale doesn’t have a crisp, posh accent. Oh no, it’s downright Cockney.

Bale explained that when he was first trying to break into acting, his natural accent made it difficult to find work in both the UK and the US. He said that he was only offered “a sort of billowing sleeve and vest period thing with floppy hair and stuff,” by American filmmakers—and no roles whatsoever in England. He decided early on to just speak with an American accent. In the last fifteen years or so, Bale has been more open about his roots during interviews and award shows. Every time he speaks with his natural voice, the internet collectively freaks out because they forgot he was British.