Voice actors are the bass guitar players of the entertainment industry: Massively essential to the process, but completely underrated. If it wasn’t for voice actors who took their jobs seriously, your entire Saturday morning childhood would have been the kind of memory that you’d pay to have repressed. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.
So here’s ten of the best voices to ever grace our screens.
- Mel Blanc
Enh, what’s up doc? If it wasn’t for Mel Blanc, we’d never have a streetwise rabbit, a psychotic cowboy from Yosemite or a pork product with a horrible stutter. Mel Blanc was known as the man of a thousand voices, a title that wasn’t just for show. You name it, he voiced it: Foghorn Leghorn, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzalez, Barney Rubble, Twiki and Heathcliff the cat.
Man of a thousand voices, and every single one of them was a winner.
- Frank Welker
When you need a voice actor who can flip between strange animal sounds and deep-throated antagonists, there’s only one legend out there. Frank frickin’ Welker. He’s done it all: He voiced Megatron from the inception of Transformers all the way through to the modern age movies and the superb Prime cartoon series.
He was the ectoplasmic machine Slimer in The Real Ghostbusters, Apu the monkey in Aladdin, Soundwave in more Transformers cartoons and Dr Klaw in Inspector Gadget. It’s not enough that Welker was prolific, but the fact that he was able to flip between adorable critter sounds and crap-your pants villainy with his voice. Truly a master of the craft.
- Mark Hamill
Few actors have been able to build a career based on voicing one single character. But for the former Jedi Mark Hammill, that post-Star Wars gig has been no laughing matter. Hamill’s Joker is often seen as the definitive intepretation of that character: A sadistic clown prince of crime who easily flip-flops between harmless prankster and lethal jester. And all this, with a laugh that can send chills down the spine of even the most hardened of vigilantes.
Sure, Hamill has done other work outside of Batman. But it’s that property where he made his greatest impact in pop culture.
- Tress MacNeille
See that DVD collection of all your favourite cartoons? Chances are, that Tress Macneille voiced a couple of characters in them. Dot Warner from Animaniacs, Gadget from Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Rugrats, Tiny Toon Adventures. Macneille has done ’em all.
But beyond the kids shows, Macneille also helped give shows such as The Simpsons and Futurama some real talent. She was a bastard-slapping mom from hell in one cult classic series, and a cat-throwing maniac in the other. Pretty much any role that required her skill, was hers for the taking back in the day. And she totally owned those roles.
- Nolan North
But it’s not just animation where voice acting shines! Nolan North is pretty much the definitive go-to guy in the video game industry, when some voice talent is needed. He’s pretty much the audio behind any of your favourite video game characters: Nathan Drake from Uncharted, Deadpool in his own titular game, royalty from Prince of Persia and a ton more.
Sure, he’s done plenty of animated work as well. But when your game needs some vocal skills to help bring it to life, Nolan North is the man you call.
- Trey Parker
There’s plenty of talent on this list, but none of them can hold a candle to Trey Parker’s ability to make you bust a gut. And that’s because his impersonations of famous people are so purposefully bad, that they’re genius. Maybe it’s his ability to make an actual human centipede sound horribly hilarious. Or his trademark voicing of Eric Cartman in South Park plus a host of other voices, tuned and tweaked to create maximum giggles. But it’s a voice and creative direction that has made South Park so damn popular for so many seasons and beyond.
- Grey Delisle
Grey Delisle has been around for quite a while, racking up a massive voice-acting score. But honestly, it;s the fact that she made Daphne Blake from Scooby Doo a likeable character, that may make her one of the best voice actors in the biz today. Throw in layered performances such as Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender and DOZENS of other shows, and you have one of the most versatile and prolific voice actors working in the industry today.
- Clancy Brown
You might recognise Clancy Brown as the Kurgan from Highlander. Or as the best Lex Luthor in Superman history. Or as Captain Hadley from The Shawshank Redemption. But to me, he’ll always be the penny-pinching crustacean Mr Krabbs, from Spongebob Squarepants. Yes, that Spongebob Squarepants.
- Maurice LaMarche
Gee Brain, what are we going to do tonight? That’s a question that Maurice LaMarche answered almost every night, as the infamous genius mouse who was hellbent on taking over the world. But beyond Pinky and The Brain, LaMarche was heard in pretty much every animated series out there.
He was the go-to Orson Welles impersonator, the voice behind a robot dedicated to debauchery in Futurama (OH MY!), Egon Spengler in an extreme version of The Ghostbusters, Wakko Warner’s burps, the smartest garbage-man in the world in Dilbert and so much more. But it’s his Orson Welles in The Critic, that’ll always be my favourite example of his talent:
- Laura Bailey
If you can find an anime series that hasn’t been graced by the vocals of Laura Bailey, I’ll pay a million bucks…in Zimbabwean dollars that is. Bailey is the anime industry, having popped up in everything from Bleach to Code Geass. It’s impossible to have not heard her voice, as she worked her way across dozens of shows that were translated into English for western markets.
A voice that may be one of the sole reasons to ditch subtitles in your favourite anime show, and sit down for a dubbed version instead. And that’s pretty damn impressive.
Last Updated: June 25, 2015