Top 10 Interesting Male Voices in Cinema

Great actors use a number of tools to deliver a performance. From mannerisms, motivation, costume and hair and make-up, it all plays a part. But the “voice” might just be the most important.

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Great actors use a number of tools to deliver a performance. From mannerisms, motivation and character back story to costume and hair and make-up, it all goes into the pot. But the “voice” might just be the most distinctive, important part.

Perhaps when flicking through channels it’s not so much a sight but a sound that grabs your attention; many times with actors such as the ones below you are attentive largely due to that voice.

Here are ten of the most recognisable and interesting male voices in cinema:

10. Jeremy Irons

With a defining set of elocution skills and a gravelly voice, Irons blurs the idea of the seducer, the villain, and the intellect all with his lithe voice-box.

9. James Earl Jones

Voicing two of the most iconic father-figures in cinema (spoiler alert), Darth Vader in Star Wars and Mufasa in The Lion King, Jones will always be remembered in cinema for lending his vocals to two hugely successful family films.

8. Sam Elliot

Maybe he chewed on coal through his teenage life, maybe his Adam’s apple was moulded in clay, but whatever happened to Sam Elliot’s voice it has worked wonders for the actor. Most famous for his part in The Big Lebowski as The Stranger, Elliot has a voice that you could listen to all day. He narrates parts of Lewbowski and one would wish he could narrate nearly every film.

7. Michael Caine

Wonderfully dissected by Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan on The Trip, the varying tones and tempos of Caine’s voice has, throughout the years, brought more class and worth to his career. One of Britain’s most celebrated actors and a shining national treasure – a legacy certainly aided by the familiar delivery of lines such as “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger

One of the most parodied and imitated voices in cinematic history, Arnie’s muscles weren’t the only thing that brought him to the attention of millions. Getting few lines in the classic Terminator, one made him the legend he is today – “I’ll be back” – spoken with intensity and malice, cementing his popularity.

5. Werner Herzog

Another Eastern European on the list that is arguably less well-known (though his role in the new Jack Reacher film may change that) but with one a hell of an intriguing voice. Never easy to impersonate but one you wish you could. Herzog’s wondrous, curious mind is perfectly matched by a voice that alters with every question and philosophy he adds to his documentaries’ narration.

4. Patrick Stewart

Admired by so many people, and enamoured by Seth McFarlane so much that Stewart has offered his voice-work for many episodes of Family Guy and American Dad, Stewart is another British legend that can raise the roof on a theatre, invigorate an entire cinema audience and entertain everyone around the TV by the power of his voice.

3. Jimmy Stewart

The affable, charming and funny actor of Hollywood’s Golden Years could strike a chord with his smile and his jovial voice. The voice captures your attention; nuances of the stammers and drawl immortalise the personality of Stewart.

2. Morgan Freeman

A man with the ability to read the phone book and still keep you fascinated and emotional with every entry read out. Morgan Freeman has the perfect voice and it’s no wonder that he is asked to narrate an array of films and documentaries – you want to hear the man wax lyrical for hours on end.

1. Christopher Walken

The man with the most insane and entertaining voice around. The wacky, altering patterns in Walken’s dialogue cannot be found with any other actor. He appears menacing and confused all at the same time – his voice appears just as discomforting but nothing you cannot turn your attention away from.

Notable mentions: Jeff Bridges, Jeff Goldblum, Seth McFarlane, Ian McKellen, John Wayne, Tom Hanks, Patrick Warbuton, William Shatner, Jack Nicholson, Tommy Lee Jones, Willem Dafoe

Written and compiled by Piers McCarthy.

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About the Author
Piers McCarthy runs the website Diegesis Digest which he calls “another Ku-brick in the wall of film blogging”. From the high-brow history to the contemporary cavalcade in movies, and the eclectic episodes of the best TV around, Diegesis Digest is a site dedicated to any thought on film and television.

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  1. Avatar
    ruth Reply

    I think ‘interesting’ is the right word here, as some of them may not have the ‘perfect’ voice but they’re certainly memorable. It’s almost become part of their character. Sometimes it can be a detriment also though as no matter what role they play, you always think of the actor because of their voice. I’d also add Timothy Dalton and Derek Jacobi here as they both have quite a distinctive voice and delivery.

  2. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Alan Rickman?

  3. Avatar
    Scott Lawlor Reply

    My top would be Sam Elliot. You can spot him a mile off!! Vocally I mean

    Great list

  4. Avatar
    mark Reply

    Ossie Davis … I used to think that JE Jones did the eulogy for Malcolm X, but apparently Davis did it in both real life and then the film 30 years later – truly moving.

    For a Hollywood leading man, I’d have William Holden before Arnie … think the voice over for Sunset Boulevard (for starters) before visiting the vocal mix of cynicism and bitterness from his characters in The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Wild Bunch and Network.

    But then I’d have Marty Sheen and John Depp before the governator.

    If Nicholson deserves to be in the runner up club, then so does Christian Slater.

    As for Irons, has anyone seen the start of the final (TV) series of Stella Street where his voice has a hilarious “cameo”?

  5. Avatar
    Evan Crean Reply

    Another solid list. The only one I’m not super familiar with is Werner Herzog. Jeremy Irons was fantastic recently in The Words. His voice was perfect for retelling the story of lost love. Stewart and Walken are my favorites on the list. I have endless fun trying to impersonate Walken’s cadence.

  6. Avatar
    Alex Withrow Reply

    This is a fantastic post. Excellent work here. Some of my favorite quotes:

    10. “They bought it. Hook. Line. And sinker.”
    8. “The Dude abides.”
    7. You covered it!
    5. Anything he says. Anything.
    2. I love his speech from your screenshot: “You can expect five more of these.”
    1. Again, anything.

  7. Avatar
    Jack Deth Reply

    Hi, Piers and company:

    Excellent list!

    Though he is great in everything. I always liked Sam Elliot’s Sgt. Major Basil Plumley in ‘We Were Soldiers’.

    Honorable Mentions for your consideration:

    Bob Hoskins: Has a gritty value that Michael Cain does not.
    Steve Buscemi: Has a creepy, slimy, crooked character all its own.
    Jon Polito: Has that rasp at the back of his throat. Very Eli Wallach.

  8. Avatar
    Pete Reply

    Weird idea for a list but now I’ve looked, I see where you’re coming from. Great set of voices!

  9. Avatar
    Eric Reply

    This is a great list, and I dig a lot of the choices, but I’m surprised that Alan Rickman wasn’t included. He was the first person I thought of when I saw this headline.

  10. Avatar
    Daniel Reply

    Sir Christopher Lee!! How could you forget him?

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    DEZMOND Reply

    I never liked Irons’ voice, reminds me of John Malkovitch with the weird sound and lack of stability and focus 🙂

    When it comes to crazy voices, I loved the voice of late Peter Ustinov and Peter O’Toole has the best pronunciation, kinda like Ser Ian McKellen.

  12. Avatar
    Michael Scoates Reply

    Max Von Sydow, now there’s a voice.

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