The thing about an American accent is that there isn't just one. Or, rather, there are a few dozen of them. You've got Western, Texan, Midwestern, Western Pennsylvanian, Appalachian, Southern, Deep Southern, New York, Boston, Jersey, Philly, and Chicagoan, to name a few. (And then, within those regions, locals know there are subsets — think Staten Island vs. Brooklyn.) So, who's to say what makes a "good" American accent?
Unless you're a bonafide phonologist, it's hard to say. But you'll know it when you hear it. A good American accent has an effortless authenticity to it. There are certain cadences, emphases, and pronunciations that most of us couldn't identify — but when flubbed, they're dead giveaways that somebody's Yankee yammer is faux.
It's a challenge every non-American actor playing an American character faces. And it's not easy — even with the best dialect coaches, A-listers can easily fuck it up. Just to be clear, we're not picking on nonnatives here — American actors have been butchering every accent under the sun since the dawn of Hollywood. But in the patriotic spirit of Independence Day, we thought we'd round up some of the best and worst attempts at American accents in movies and on TV. Happy Fourth!