Ever ponder an entire movie with a voiceover instead of actual dialogue? Sure, it probably wouldn't work, but Casino may be the exception. I know this isn't exactly the case, but I always get the feeling that this movie is A+ while DeNiro is doing the VO, but then midway through Sharon Stone delivers a line of dialogue and the whole movie implodes. Fortunately, this movie is aging much better than expected, and with the way DeNiro's career has fallen, Stone doesn't really look so bad next to him anymore. Basically, it's more believable that Ginger would treat DeNiro the way she did all for the love of James Woods with the way DeNiro acts nowadays.
Still, what I love about this movie most is the story telling, mostly through DeNiro, but Joe Pesci gets a chance to tell it, which makes it even better. Even Frank Vincent gets a chance to do a VO in it! I'd really love to see the whole movie done this way, especially considering the chance for James Woods to tell "Lester's" side of the story, though hearing from Sharon Stone or that little kid wouldn't be so hot.
Anyways, it's all about the lists, so today we have …
Best Voiceovers of All-Time, but first, let me mention two movies with horrible ones. Patricia Arquette in True Romance is a bad idea. With Christian Slater being the protagonist, it comes off as tolerable, but she should not be doing a VO. Also, as great as a movie Apocalypse Now is, Martin Sheen's isn't so good. Maybe that's just because I can picture Emilio Estevez doing it, another person who shouldn't do them. Imagine Breakfast Club through the eyes of Emilio. That movie would go from an A to a D quick fast in a hurry.
Anyways, here are my favorites.
11. Samuel L. Jackson – Movie Not Yet Released
This guy has to do a voiceover for some kind of cheesy action/comedy movie. Maybe like a Beverly Hills Cop 4 VO for Eddie Murphy or something.
Jackson: I'M TIRED OF THIS MUTHAFUCKIN' AXEL F SONG RINGIN' MY EAR EVERY TIME I'M UP TO NO MUTHAFUCKIN' GOOD MUTHAFUCKA!
Basically, Samuel L. Jackson speak is nothing more than taking an ordinary sentence, then you get louder the deeper you get into the sentence and add the word "muthafucka" a few times. A movie with a voiceover like this has to work. The one time I can recall an SLJ VO (wow, I feel like C-3P0 all of a sudden), is Inglorious Basterds, but he has a calm demeanor and an SLJ with a calm demeanor ain't no fun I ever heard of.
10. Ed Norton – Fight Club
This is a pretty good one. Sure the whole "I am Jack's __________" thing gets silly after awhile, but for the most part, the actor formerly known as Ed Norton does a great job. I'm just quite disappointed that he doesn't make movies anymore after dominating the late 90s.
9. Nicholas Cage – Raising Arizona
Classy movies are rare in the 80s. What's so great about the Coen Brothers use of Nic Cage in this movie is that it gives what's otherwise a classic film that cheesy 80s feel that most great movies from the 80s have. After all, the 80s are basically book ended by Raging Bull and Do the Right Thing with a whole bunch of coked up Ronald Reagan whacky hairstyle synthesized pop music adventures in the middle. Sure some movies transcend that (Arizona being one of them), but most adhere to that formula. Cage is a great bridge between the two.
8. Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Any movie that gives me bad habits is good. I often talk about how as children we would often mimic light saber fights after watching Star Wars, well, sometimes a drunken version of myself loves to do the Hunter S. Thompson voice, and of course it's not really that, but it's the Johnny Depp doing Hunter S. Thompson voice which makes me now twice removed from the impersonation. This whole phenomena makes it good for #8.
7. Ray Liotta – Goodfellas
He probably has the most memorable VO lines in this movie but Liotta gives me an uneasy feeling. He's in Operation Dumbo Drop which weakens his whole tough guy persona in Goodfellas. Directors should make actors sign contracts saying they won't do anything in the future that will weaken their clout in classic films. It's not fair for me to pick on Ray here, because almost everyone does it, but it's probably much more noticeable with him because he's not that good of an actor to begin with.
6. Malcolm McDowell – Clockwork Orange
Maybe it's not the actual VO that's so good, but the language in the book translates wonderfully to the movie and McDowell does a great job with it. Getting to use words like devotchka, razzadocks, droogs and thee ol' in-out, in-out must have been a blast for him.
5. Richard Dreyfuss – Stand By Me
The "The Wonder Years" happens without this voiceover. That may not be like saying that Los Angeles doesn't happen without the Aqueduct, but it's a pretty close.
4. Robert DeNiro et al – Casino
3. Tom Hanks – Forrest Gump
This is yet another reason why this movie is vastly underrated and should be on the short list for discussing the greatest movie ever. It's hard to find something that this movie doesn't have, and apparently one of the best voiceovers ever isn't one of them. Even better is this movie could be the bridge with a handicapped person doing a one, which could ultimately lead to my dream of a little person doing one (okay, that would probably get annoying after about 5 minutes).
2. Jean Shepherd – The Christmas Story
What I love most about this one, is it reminds me of the voice I had in my head when I was kid at Christmas time, which is exactly what it's trying to do.
1. Morgan Freeman – The Shawshank Redemption
Morgan Freeman has reached the point where he's better at doing these, than acting itself, which is saying something because he's a great actor. People often joke about him being leaving your "Not Available" message on your voice mail, and of course they do, he's perfect for that. When the world ends, and whatever succeeds us on the evolutionary chain is studying our history, the video they watch should be narrated by Morgan Freeman. What's great is if you tune into to cable television, it looks like he's already working on the project.