Movie voice overs are as old as "talkies" themselves. While not every film uses a narrator, narration in movies often holds a very special purpose. Sometimes it's to better adapt novels, while other times it provides outsider information.
Wondering about the best movie voice overs of all time? Here are your top six.
1. Fight Club
Movie voice overs are often essential to book-to-screen adaptations. It's one of the best ways to portray the main character's inner dialogue. And the adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club is one of the best examples.
A voice over was the only way to implement the book's criticism of consumerism. But what makes the narration come to life is Edward Norton's cynical tone throughout the film. Throughout the movie, his internal thoughts and feelings transform into external actions.
Additionally, it's his internal monologue that provides clues about the film's twist ending. It's a textbook example of an unreliable narrator.
Another way to use movie voice overs is to use a narrator as a storyteller. A classic example of this is in the film Goodfellas.
The very first line sets the tone for the entire movie. The light, friendly tone of Ray Liotta brings us on Hill's side, even though he should be one of the "bad guys". Even as he discusses a life of crime, we still like Hill and even desire his lifestyle.
As the film progresses, his voice transitions from friendly to paranoid, and then finally to betrayal. Not only does it make us empathize with the main character, but it also engrosses us in the film's action.
3. The Big Lebowski
For a change, The Big Lebowski has a narrator entirely uninvolved in the story. It's amazing what a big impact a character that has no physical presence can reveal.
Sam Elliot portrays the narrator, often called The Stranger, and uses his signature voice to provide a mysterious presence. Which is perfect for an omniscient narrator. And he still manages to match the Dude's hilarious and dazed personality.
4. The Shawshank Redemption
We all know and love Morgan Freeman's iconic, soothing voice, but The Shawshank Redemption is what launched his career. What's unique here is that the narrator is a secondary character, not the main protagonist. And this is important so we can learn things the main character doesn't know.
Additionally, Red's voice helps calm us in the unsettling prison scenario. And it helps convey the hope central to the movie's inspiring ending. Without Freeman's performance, the film wouldn't be as iconic as it is today.
Yet another book adaptation, Trainspotting was originally a novel by Irvin Welsh. It's taken almost word-for-word, and the only way to preserve this is through the use of voice overs. In the film, Ewan McGregor leads us through his erratic narration of drug-addled youth.
The voice over also maintains the novel's gritty language and characterizations. Alternating between the 1st and 3rd person reflects the impulsivity of the drug-addled main characters. Overall, the blunt, communicative narration style has helped Trainspotting remain a timeless classic.
6. Sunset Boulevard
This black and white film noir is the oldest on our list, but a definite classic. This was the first film that used the narrator from beyond the grave to tell the story of his past. Here, the mystery isn't about what will happen to the main character but how he ends up dead.
The saddened narrator recount the events that result in his own death. His quivering voice supports the film's portrayal of the darker side of Hollywood. By breaking the traditional rules of movie voice overs, it inspired countless films.
The Best Movie Voice Overs: Now You Know!
So that concludes our list of the best movie voice overs! These iconic films defined the narrative voice overs we see in films today.
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