The English accent has undeniably played a vital role in shaping today’s pop culture: from the iconic movie characters and top celebrities to the biggest names in the music industry.
Whether you’re a fan of period dramas or the latest chart-topping music hits, surely you’ve encountered an artist speaking any of the many British English accents.
As producers, knowing how these top British English accents affect the mainstream will help you choose the right English voice for your projects, making your audience’s experience way more engaging and authentic.
In this article, we’ll delve into how the 7 top British English accents impacted the movies, TV shows, and music we enjoy today.
Why English Accents Matter in Pop Culture
From movies, TV shows, and music to art, fashion, and literature: English accents are everywhere! And each accent has its own unique history that affects how characters and people are portrayed in various media.
For instance, the RP accent is often associated with sophistication and the upper class, while other accents (like the Cockney accent for the working class) can convey different cultural identities. But regardless of the English accent, they all add an extra layer of authenticity and realism to the characters that speak them.
Using British accents in pop culture paved the way for popularizing and celebrating English culture. In addition, it became a way to embrace the diversity and variety that many of these English accents symbolize (learn why we find the British Accent so charming).
The different English accents in our favorite shows also helped establish identity and cultural representation. Some people are also simply fascinated with them, to the point of even learning how to speak English accent.
But it’s not just about the fascination. Using the right accent and dialect can also help you convey the message you want to send through your work. This makes the piece more accurate and relatable to your target audience.
Top English Accents in Movies, TV and Music
Different English accents have become a staple in pop culture, with many actors, musicians, and other performers using them to bring their characters to life. Each accent has its own slang words that distinguish them from each other.
Have you noticed that the iconic movie villains have British Accents?
Non-English speakers might be unable to distinguish the different accents even in UK English accent videos. But the right accent makes a huge impact on the natives.
Here are the top English accents that made it into big screens and television screens:
London’s Cockney: Pop Culture Icon
Pop culture has been wrapped with the Cockney accent and has been a part of the pop culture legacy of the UK in music, TV, and film for decades now. However, it may be difficult to learn the English accent of Londoners.
While the Cockney accent is usually associated with stereotypes such as being uneducated and/or uncultured, the authentic Cockney accent is mainly known to represent the working class people of London.
The East end of London is home to locals with Cockney accents. The popular UK TV series EastEnders set in the East End of London, is one of the shows that perpetuate the existing stereotypes of the accent of working class Londoners.
The Long Good Friday also features the Cockney accent with Bob Hoskins. Tom Hardy as Alfie Solomons in Peaky Blinders, Michael Caine, and even Adele’s speaking voice is also a strong Cockney accent. Each of these big names helped cement the accent’s place in pop culture.
English Elegance: RP Accent
Often referred to as “Queen’s English,” the accent was used everywhere, from music, films, and television over the years.
One of the most iconic personalities using the RP accent in performances is the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, famously known for his titular movies as Doctor Strange and Sherlock Holmes.
Emma Watson is also another famous celebrity using the RP accent. The stereotypical connotation of the accent shone in Watson’s portrayal of Hermione Granger, a character of intelligence and sophistication.
Downton Abbey also showed the use of RP accent set in a household in early 20th-century England.
People with the accent are often seen as posh, but some people who are learning how to speak in English accent interpret the accent as even snobbish and elitist at times.
Listen to Amer, one of Golocalise’s English voice artists, speaking with a RP accent:
Geordie Accent: From Shore to Stardom
The use of the Geordie accent has made its way into mainstream media, giving audiences a fresh perspective on English culture.
For example, TV personalities Ant and Dec, who hosted Britain’s Got Talent, among many other iconic British shows, distinctly speak with the accent.
Cheryl Cole, one of the members of the girl group Girls Aloud, is also another artist with an accent.
The stereotypical speaking with an English accent Geordie includes being hardworking, friendly, and humorous. However, the accent also suffered from negative stereotypes, including being uneducated or a little tricky to understand.
Beatles & Scouse: Liverpool’s Pop Influence
Known to be spoken by people with authenticity, charm, and wit: The Scouse accent is a distinctive English accent spoken in the city of Liverpool and some surrounding areas.
Sir Paul McCartney from The Beatles has to be one of the most famous people speaking with a Scouse accent. Martin Freeman, Michael Gove, Amy de Bruhn, and Daniel Craig are some of the well-known people giving life to the accent, too.
If you’ve watched Killing Eve, you’ve already spotted Jodie Comer as another celebrity using the accent in their performances.
Listen to Howard, one of Golocalise’s English voice artists, speaking with a Scouse accent:
Estuary Accent: London’s Twang
The Estuary accent falls victim to the seemingly global stereotype of British English accents: glottalization. So if you’ve heard someone badly imitating an English accent by a glottal stop, you be-uh (better) bet they’ve heard the Estuary accent.
It is a typical English accent known to non-natives and one of the newer ones spoken majorly in the South East part of England, particularly in London and the Thames Estuary. They are commonly associated with being posh and educated, too.
Loads of famous people speak with the Estuary accent in their performances and daily lives, including Kate Moss, Jonathan Ross, and TV chef Jamie Oliver, among others.
Brummie Swagger: Pop Culture Accent
The Brummie accent is a distinctive English accent spoken in the city of Birmingham and surrounding areas. It has been used in music, TV, and film, depicting rebellion and edginess.
The accent played a significant role in the pop culture legacy of the UK. In TV, no one who’s seen Peaky Blinders can deny how Cillian Murphy mastered learning an English accent, speaking with a Brummie accent for his role as Tommy Shelby.
Meanwhile, Ozzy Osbourne’s Brummie slang accent has shown people how monotone the accent can sound.
Yorkshire Accent’s Impact on British TV
Yorkshire and its surrounding areas are stereotyped as strong and sometimes stubborn, so their accent also garnered the same reputation. It is characterized by distinct u and a sounds, as well as unusual pronunciation of diphthongs.
Seeing Sean Bean in the most iconic roles, such as Ned Stark in “Game of Thrones” and Boromir in “Lord of the Rings,” means you have heard the Yorkshire accent in action. The actor mostly maintained his real-life accent in portraying different roles over the years.
Making it to British television brought the culture and identity of Yorkshire to a wider audience. Its exposure also helped break down the negative stereotypes it previously had.
Listen to Joe, a voice artist from Golocalise, speaking with a Yorkshire accent:
The Mid-Atlantic or Transatlantic accent is a unique hybrid accent popular in the United States in the early 20th century. This was when wealthy American families sent their children to England for education. Their children would return home knowing how to speak in an English accent but a blended version of American and British English.
Many famous celebrities in the entertainment industry used the accent during its heyday. Katharine Hepburn, best known for her roles in the classic rom-com The Philadelphia Story, has a Mid-Atlantic accent. William Powell also uses the accent.
Celebrities using the accent in their performances helped popularize it in the US. But it was also used in radio and TV broadcasts in the mid-20th century, giving it a more widespread appeal. The accent then became associated with wealth, privilege, elegance, sophistication, and even authority and credibility.
The Mid-Atlantic accent has become a part of classic films, including The Great Gatsby, Citizen Kane, and The Philadelphia Story.
Today, the accent is not as commonly used as it once was anymore, with Americans stopping to speak English in a British accent. However, it’s still a part of the pop culture legacy in the US. Some films and TV shows even parodied the use of the accent.
The different British English accents have had a significant impact on pop culture, not only in the UK but around the world.
However, what may be considered the “best” accent depends on what you want to represent. Choosing the right accent for a film or TV show can make all the difference in conveying the right message.
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Check this post about things British People say and what they really mean!