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The Best & Worst American Accents We've Ever Heard

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    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!

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    Best: Damian Lewis
    Homeland (2011 - 2014) & Billions (2015 - Present)

    Lewis' role on Homeland was centered on his character being conflicted about his patriotic duty, so it was essential that we believed him as an American. And we did — I can't tell you how many people said they didn't realize he was British until after he left the show.

    As New York City hot-shot investor Bobby Axelrod on Billions, Lewis couldn't get away with any old American accent. His gusto-filled outer-boroughs accent is a huge part of both Axelrod's characteristic bravado and authenticity as a local. His secret? Staying in character. "When I work on set, I wake up in the morning with an American accent. I don’t come out of my American accent until someone shouts, 'Wrap!'" he said.

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    Worst: Priyanka Chopra
    Quantico (2015 - Present)

    We love Priyanka, we do. She's a total badass IRL, she has great natural pits, and she's killing it in her first starring TV role as FBI trainee Alex Parrish. But that accent leaves something to be desired. It's too proper, hyper-enunciated, and vaguely British. Chopra admitted to struggling with it last summer, tweeting that it took her three days to “Counter Terrorism Taskforce” in an American accent. We still love you, Priyanka!

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    Best: Christian Bale
    American Hustle (2013)

    Christian Bale is the poster boy for transformative roles and method acting. So it would only make sense that he's a pro at mastering American accents of all varieties — and his Bronx-native speak as Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle is no exception. We really should be listing the guy's entire IMDB page here, because he nails the accent to a T every time. Seriously, hearing Bale speak in his native British accent — like in this featurette — is disconcerting.

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    Worst: Clive Owen
    Inside Man (2006)

    Literally, Clive, are you even trying?! Maybe 20% of his words here are pronounced like an American, and that's being generous. The thing is, we kind of love Clive Owen's British accent and wouldn't mind listening to it all damn day. But his criminal mastermind, Dalton Russell, is supposed to be a New Yorker (and probably a Brooklynite, though it's never made explicit). And his accent is criminally lacking.

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    Best: Hugh Laurie
    House (2004 - 2012) & Veep (2015 - Present)

    Laurie embodied Dr. Gregory House for eight years, and not once in eight seasons did the actor remind viewers that he is, in fact, British. Today, he's reprising his American accent to play Tom James, the charismatic Vice President to Selena Meyer (Julie Louis-Dreyfuss), on Veep. In a way, his ordinary go-to American accent is totally unremarkable. But that's the idea, isn't it?