TThe Irish accent is consistently voted one of the most attractive in the world, yet even some of the world’s best actors have trouble with it. Leonardo DiCaprio tried, as did Julia Roberts (twice), and dare we even mention Brad Pitt?
Today (March 17) marks St. Patrick’s Day, and if you don’t have pub and/or beer plans, why not experience the next best thing: reminiscing about the most impressive Irish accents in film history.
Relatively new to this long string of bad pronunciations is Wild Mountain Thymea romantic drama released in the UK in early 2021 and so inexplicable that even literal Irish actors seemed to speak with fake Irish accents.
Such is the evil power of this particular piece of spoofing, though – Hollywood’s entrenched visions of Ireland so inclusive and destructive that few can survive.
To celebrate this most Irish of times, we’ve ranked 10 infamous times American filmmaking treated the country and its people with absolutely no respect.
10. Cameron Diaz in Gangs of New York (2002)
California Beach’s Cameron Diaz’s Decision to Star Gangs of New York it lies somewhere between bold and foolish. Playing an Irish sex and pickpocket, Diaz does her best, but is decidedly out of her depth. To be fair, Leonardo DiCaprio is equally unhinged here in the accent stakes, but, with his messy goatee and slight scowl, he at least looks the part.
9. Justin Theroux in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
Diaz handed her the bad Irish accent baton Charlie’s Angels co-starring Justin Theroux, just a year after its release Gangs of New York. You’d think that playing a flamboyant Irish mobster named Seamus O’Grady would help make Theroux’s performance a campy delight, as opposed to aggressively shrill. Reader, he didn’t.
8. Pierce Brosnan in Taffin (1988)
If you haven’t seen Brosnan’s action film before Bond Tafin (and definitely not), you may still have seen 14 seconds of it in particular, with the actor ordering his love to leave his house using a delivery that can only be described as Tommy Wiseau-esque. But Irish viewers have even more reason to be confused, namely that Brosnan is from the Republic of Ireland but speaks with an incomprehensible Northern Irish accent. His catchphrase “Then maybe you shouldn’t have lived heeeerrrre” is enshrined in cinematic lore.
7. Tommy Lee Jones in Blown Away (1994)
Tommy Lee Jones stars as an IRA terrorist who builds bombs while playing U2 on his stereo – inadvertently summing up the bleak flavor level of this forgotten thriller. It’s not nearly as offensive as Jones’ accent, though.
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6. Julia Roberts in Mary Reilly (1996) and Michael Collins (1996)
What did Ireland do in 1996 to deserve not one, but two horrible Julia Roberts performances in which she butchers her Irish accent? He misses it slightly inside Mary Reillya psychological horror film so serious it veers into pure camp, but sticks out like a sore thumb in the historical biopic Michael Collins. Few other actors have ever been so poorly cast.
5. Gerard Butler in PS I Love You (2007)
The Scottish actor has publicly apologized to Ireland for his work in this terrible romantic drama, which says it all, really. At least we can be sure he’s unlikely to attempt it again anytime soon.
4. Chris O’Donnell in Circle of Friends (1995)
A Hollywood circus of Irish sadness – built on the premise that Minnie Driver is too hideous to find love – Circle of friends features a number of accent horrors. At his most outrageous, however, is Chris O’Donnell, who essentially speaks in his normal American accent, but throws in a few “ahh-roit thens” for good measure.
3. Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas (2012)
It might be wrong to place Hanks’ performance Cloud atlas on this list, because it’s hard to tell if he’s actually playing an Irishman. Sure, the character is described in the script as Irish gangster-turned-novelist Dermot Hoggins, but Hanks seems to be playing him with what sounds like a Cockney accent. Whatever the truth, it’s breathtaking to behold.
2. Literally Everyone in Wild Mountain Thyme (2020)
Wild Mountain Thyme is a tragic romantic drama that, thanks to the surreal accents of its stars, took the internet by storm after its trailer was released. The film, starring Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan, is a veritable horror feast with an evil tone. Set on a mystical Irish farm in an unimaginable year (is it 2019 or 1953? Who knows!), the film features a cast of incredibly talented A-listers who mercilessly knock the Irish accent beyond recognition. Christopher Walken’s is straining for Mullingar but sounds more like “Pirate Christopher Walken”. Blunt is confused. then there’s Jamie Dornan, who’s actually Irish but sounds like someone who’s never set foot in the country.
1. Tom Cruise in Far and Away (1992)
Tom Cruise is actively terrible in it Far and Far, a quirky Ron Howard adventure film that marked the second of three wildly divergent collaborations with Cruise’s then-wife Nicole Kidman. His Irish accent is rippling noise one minute and the next. But it speaks to how we got here: non-native speakers have been fed so many Irish stereotypes over the decades that few can now identify the real thing.