Top 20 Best Celebrity Voice Performances in animated films
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Best Celebrity Voice Performances in animated films.
For this list, we’re taking a look at big-name actors that loaned their voices to big screen characters rendered through animation, motion capture, or practical effects. We’ve excluded voiceover performances from television and celebrities who have done extensive voice acting work, so Mark Hamill’s Joker won’t be on the list.
What voice performance is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
#20: Jay Baruchel as Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III
“How to Train Your Dragon” franchise (2010-)
Naturally possessing a nerdy, nasally voice, Jay Baruchel couldn’t have been better suited to play Hiccup, a scrawny Viking living in his mighty father’s shadow. A lesser actor might’ve portrayed this character as a one-dimensional nerd. Baruchel turns in a multi-layered performance, however, bringing out Hiccup’s strength, wisdom, and compassion as he forms a powerful bond with a dragon. As this series progresses, Baruchel develops Hiccup into a brave, noble leader with a great deal of depth. All the while, Baruchel maintains an offbeat charm that distinguishes Hiccup from the rest of the crowd.
#19: Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best / Frozone
“The Incredibles” franchise (2004-)
A few years before debuting as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Samuel L. Jackson saved the day as this slick superhero. Possessing ice powers and a laidback personality, Frozone is “cool” in every sense of the word. So as you can imagine, Jackson was an ideal casting choice. In “The Incredibles,” Jackson hits every one-liner out of the park, making Frozone sound like a total badass. He additionally hits all the right notes as Frozone’s alter ego, Lucius Best, acting as a supportive best friend to Bob Parr. Of course, Jackson’s best line delivery occurs during an argument between Lucius and his wife, Honey. We’ll never get tired of hearing Jackson ask, “Where’s my super suit?”
#18: John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph
“Wreck-It Ralph” franchise (2012-18)
Wreck-It Ralph is a different kind of Disney villain. He’s not sinister, calculating, or even really bad. He actually wants to be a good guy, but simply doesn’t understand what being a hero is all about. John C. Reilly is delightful as the titular character, supplying him with a childlike innocence. As we all know, however, children can be selfish, naïve, and aggressive too. In Ralph’s case, he’s basically a troubled kid trapped in an overgrown body. Even when Ralph is at his worst, though, Reilly still manages to make him lovable and even identifiable. Behind his hostile tendencies, there’s an individual with a genuine soul, which Reilly brings out of Ralph as he discovers his true purpose in life.
#17: Chris Pratt as Emmet Brickowski
“The LEGO Movie” (2014)
Emmet may seem like a run-of-the-mill construction worker on the surface. Thanks to Chris Pratt’s endearing performance, though, he’s truly one-of-a-kind. An ordinary minifigure with a very special destiny, Emmet emerges as both a goofball and an unlikely action hero. Pratt flawlessly expresses all of Emmet’s passion, creativity, and enthusiasm. Even when he’s performing the most routine tasks, Emmet sounds like he’s on top of the world. Pratt also brings humanity to the character, molding this yellow brick into an encouraging role model we care about. Equally silly and sincere, no actor in Hollywood could likely capture Emmet’s essence quite like Pratt.
#16: Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon
“Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise (2014-)
By the time the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie premiered, Bradley Cooper already had two Oscar nominations under his belt. You’d think that voicing a genetically-engineered raccoon would be a step back, but Rocket turned out to be one of Cooper’s most beloved characters. While he had hilarious dialogue to work with, Cooper’s smartass delivery and timing made the character feel whole. Whenever Rocket speaks, we don’t hear Cooper putting on a thick accent. We just hear Rocket. While often a source of comedic relief, Cooper also does an authentic job at bringing out Rocket’s fear and insecurity. Cooper played an integral role in molding Rocket into a fully fleshed-out character… or we guess a furred-out character in this case.
#15: Will Ferrell as Megamind
Will Ferrell has a knack for taking potentially unlikable characters and giving them a lovable quality. Megamind is a perfect example. An alien who aspires to take over Metro City, Megamind is egotistical, manipulative, and dastardly. Deep down, though, he’s not exactly evil. He just sees super villainy as his only career option. Of course, once he finally defeats his nemesis, his existence suddenly lacks meaning. Ferrell totally throws himself into this role, having a ton of fun playing a childish mastermind who’s prone to failure. Simultaneously, Ferrell makes us sympathize with this misguided anti-hero who just needs a push in the right direction.
#14: George Clooney as Mr. F.F. ‘Foxy’ Fox
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009)
He’s the man synonymous with the phrase ‘movie star’, so we had to constantly remind ourselves that he is the one playing the lead in this stop-motion flick. Described as a ‘natural choice’ by Wes Anderson, Clooney’s charm adds a certain gentlemanly quality to the already fantastic titular fox. Unlike other animated films, the voices were recorded on-location in an old farmhouse to get the most natural performances and as an attempt to replicate the movie’s mood. As a result, the comedy boasts the suave nature of Clooney’s character, recounting the group’s bizarre heist capers. It’s almost like the remake of “Ocean’s Eleven”… hey wait a minute.
#13: Amy Poehler as Joy
“Inside Out” (2015)
Although Mindy Kaling as Disgust is certainly an inspired casting choice, Amy Poehler’s portrayal of Joy is simply irresistible. The very definition of happiness, Joy attempts to put a smile on young Riley’s face when life gets her down. Being a basic human emotion, Joy easily could’ve been a one-note character. Poehler’s performance brings a surprising amount of complexity to the role, however. Although Joy constantly tries to think positive, she eventually comes to understand the importance of Sadness. With just her voice, Poehler is able to light up the screen while also make the audience bawl their eyes out, taking us on an emotionally journey unlike any other.
#12: Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug
“The Hobbit” franchise (2012-)
This mountain dragon is brought to life through Benedict Cumberbatch’s stellar voiceover work, as well as his motion capture performance. Commanding the silver screen, Cumberbatch supplies Smaug with a huge, bombastic vocal presence. At the same time, Cumberbatch also brings a fair deal of sophistication to the role. Every line Cumberbatch recites makes the audience feel as if a ginormous snake is slithering around them. Even if Smaug were the size of Bilbo Baggins, Cumberbatch’s deep, intimidating voice would still send a shiver up our spines. That’s the true mark of a great villain and an even greater actor. Plus, it’s always a pleasure to see Sherlock and Watson together, even when one’s a dragon and the other’s a hobbit.
#11: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Maui
When you need somebody to voice a demigod, you can’t do better than a superstar of Mr. Johnson’s caliber. The Rock is already a very animated person, especially in the eyebrows. His natural charisma translated flawlessly to animation. Although Johnson was tailor-made for Maui, the retired wrestler turned actor didn’t come from a singing background. Regardless, he was excited to take part in Disney’s tradition of classic musical numbers. The Rock spent months practicing “You’re Welcome” and his dedication shines through in the final product. Through the song and his overall performance, Johnson finds just the right balance of being egotistical yet lovable. He shape-shifts Maui into a hero we want to follow, even though he may throw you in the water along the way.
#10: Billy Crystal as Michael ‘Mike’ Wazowski
“Monsters, Inc.” franchise (2001-)
Now for the flipside of Pixar performances with one of the best uses of comedic voice acting when it comes to the good guys of a film. Upon first look, Billy Crystal seems out of place as the one-liner spouting, one-eyed monster, but upon closer inspection, his performance actually brings a much needed balance to John Goodman’s kind yet deep voice as Sulley. The energy and excitement the actor brings is not just what makes him good though; when leading the 2013 prequel, Crystal digs out a lighter and softer tone for his more sympathetic moments. In whichever circumstance Mike Wazowski finds himself, Crystal adapts to put forward that best possible chemistry.
#9: Mike Myers as Shrek
“Shrek” franchise (2001-)
While his previous characters were eccentric yet one-dimensional, Shrek is a package of vicious loneliness and sarcasm, yet also a kinder soul all effectively demonstrated through the actor’s voice. Not to say that his performance isn’t helped by Eddie Murphy as the dim-witted Donkey, as the pairing’s mishaps are only complemented by their bond as talented voice actors. Shrek is not only one of the best voice performances by a celebrity, but also one that enhances Mike Myers' career rather than simply being a side gig.
#8: Jack Black as Po Ping
“Kung Fu Panda” franchise (2008-)
Jack Black is still one of the most energetic and physical comedic presences around. Black was tailor-made to voice Po, a chubby panda who lives and breathes Kung Fu. Almost everybody doubts Po when he’s singled out as the Dragon Warrior. Regardless, the slow, overweight panda steps up to the challenge with an appetite to learn. Po’s eagerness wonderfully complements the stern, authoritative Master Shifu, who’s voiced by Dustin Hoffman in a strong performance. Black makes the audience root for Po every step of the way, evening out the character’s gullibility, clumsiness, and insecurity with wit, determination, and confidence.
#7: Steve Carell as Felonious Gru
“Despicable Me” franchise (2010-)
Known for his live action roles in romantic comedies and as an awkward manager on TV’s “The Office,” what better choice is there to play a gruff and foolish jelly manufacturer-slash-supervillain? Almost indistinguishable as his previous forty year old virgin, Steve Carell’s Russian-like accent is dead-on and presents a mad cartoon doctor perfectly in these 3D computer-animated comedies. His performance channels the great Mel Blanc in Gru’s outlandish reactions to his failures and come-uppances, but also provides a softer quality for his more sympathetic moments. Weaving in and out of his tones, Carell never loses the cartoon taste of his performance and that can only be a great thing.
#6: Jeremy Irons as Scar
“The Lion King” (1994)
This Britain-born actor presents a brilliant gravitas to the greedy brother of Mufasa in this musical epic. The foppish villain of the animal kingdom has a voice talent more in common with a Shakespeare tale than a Disney film, much like the story itself actually. But it’s the quarrels between Jeremy Irons and his on-screen brother James Earl Jones that propel our ears to bliss, both presenting a strong clash of bellowing and snarly voices. We love Jeremy Irons particularly for the way his voice almost dances through his plotting nature, especially when he informs dear Simba of his most famous ‘surprise’
#5: Ellen DeGeneres as Dory
“Finding Nemo” (2003)
Speaking of chemistry, how do you make an uptight clownfish and a mind-numbing fool work this well together? Obviously most known for her talk show these days, Ellen DeGeneres uses a playful innocence to combat the harsher tones of Albert Brooks’ Marlin the clown fish in this Pixar flick. Her lighter optimism is so unique to the tone of the film that, when thinking of DeGeneres’ big screen work, she is practically synonymous with her character of Dory, which has led to a sequel being developed.
#4: Eddie Murphy as Donkey
“Shrek” franchise (2001-)
The franchise may be called “Shrek,” but we all know it was his noble steed who stole the show, especially in the first movie. Eddie Murphy had already voiced a few animated characters in film and television, but Donkey benefitted the most from his rapid-fire delivery and uncontainable energy. Bringing his comedic A-game to the table, almost everything that comes out of Donkey’s mouth is a laugh riot. That is, except for the occasional heartfelt moment, which Murphy also brings a gentle sincerity to. Although the performance didn’t garner him an Oscar nomination, Murphy did become the first actor to score a BAFTA nomination for voice acting. Murphy also deservingly won the Annie Award for best male performance in an animated feature.
#3: James Earl Jones as Mufasa
“The Lion King” (1994)
Drawing inspiration from epics like “Hamlet” and “The Ten Commandments,” “The Lion King” needed a cast that could supply the same level of gravitas. James Earl Jones brought the most majesty to his performance as Mufasa. Whenever you hear Jones speak, you think to yourself, “Now that’s a voice worthy of a king.” Although Jones has one of the most distinctive voices in the world, it never feels like we’re listening to a celebrity. Jones becomes Mufasa. The character is best remembered for his commanding nature, but Jones adds dimensions to Mufasa. He captures Mufasa’s playfulness while bonding with Simba, the fear in the pit of his stomach when Scar betrays him, and his stern yet affectionate side when it’s time to teach a lesson.
#2: Tom Hanks as Woody
“Toy Story” franchise (1996-2019)
Usually when an actor voices as an animated charactacter for multiple movies, it can start to sound like they’re only interested in the steady paycheck after a while. This has never been the case with Tom Hanks as Woody. In each “Toy Story” film, Hanks gave Woody another layer of depth. Like Buzz, identity is the key theme at the center of Woody’s arc. When we first meet the sheriff, he views himself as Andy’s favorite toy and the leader of his fellow playthings. We see Woody gradually transition out of these roles throughout the series and Hanks makes that evolution feel 100% genuine. Thanks to his versatility as a comedic and dramatic actor, Hanks fashioned Woody into one of cinema’s most complex animated protagonists.
Before we get to our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
Jerry Orbach as Lumiere
“Beauty and the Beast” (1991)
Johnny Depp as Rango
Dakota Fanning as Coraline
James Gandolfini as Carol
“Where The Wild Things Are” (2009)
#1:Robin Williams as The Genie
Ali Baba had forty thieves and Sheherazade had a thousand tales, but there will only ever be one Robin Williams. In “Mrs. Doubtfire,” the comedian states that he ‘does voices’, and he’s correct. His ecstatic performance is such a powerful addition to this musical fantasy that it almost changes tone entirely once the Genie is introduced. Not only that but his high octane manner drives the second half so much that Disney aired the movie on TV in tribute to Williams following his 2014 death, and there’s no arguing the actor and comedian deserved all the honor and praise he has received.