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.
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.
Your turn – what are your favourite male voices in cinema?
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