New Yorkers will recognize the voice of Carolyn Hopkins, but they might have a hard time placing it. That’s because she has recorded many of the voiceovers used in New York’s subway system, alerting commuters about incoming trains and the like (you can hear a recording at the New York Times). As in real life, these voice actors often go unnamed and unappreciated. So, in honor of Mrs. Hopkins, we decided to look at 10 of the most memorable disembodied voices in film.
Charlie in Charlie’s Angels
In the modern films as well as the classic TV series, the angels of Charlie dealt with their secretive boss solely through a speakerphone. Actor John Forsythe reprised his classic role as the voice of Charlie for the modern films, starring Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore as the angels. Unfortunately, Forsythe passed away this past April at the age of 92.
Karen Eiffel (Narrator) in Stranger Than Fiction
One day tax lawyer Harold Crick (played by Will Ferrell) begins to hear a voice in his head that is narrating his every action and, at one frightening point, alludes to his impending death. Terrified, Crick eventually identifies the voice as a writer, Karen Eiffel (played by Emma Thompson), who is struggling to finish a book that stars him as the main character.
GERTY in Moon
Moon chronicles Sam Bell’s mission to extract helium-3 from the moon. In the lunar station, he’s assisted by a robot named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). When Bell (Sam Rockwell) suffers a nasty head injury while driving around in a rover, he begins to suspect his computer sidekick is up to something. Of course, the creepy animated emoticons don’t help allay his suspicions.
HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey
HAL 9000 (aka Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is the onboard computer in Stanley Kubrick’s classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The freakishly advanced and eventually evil computer was voiced by Canadian actor Douglas Rain.
Jarvis in Iron Man
Jarvis (or Just A Rather Very Intelligent System) is Tony Stark’s personal robotic assistant, named after his butler. Unlike the other robotic characters on our list, Jarvis, voiced by Paul Bettany, proves quite witty opposite Robert Downey Jr., and — at least in the first two films — shows no evil intentions. Bettany did the part as a favor for director Jon Favreau, who he worked with on Wimbledon.
The Killer in Phone Booth
Phone Booth is a psychological thriller that all starts when Stu Shepard (played by Colin Farrell) innocently picks up a ringing pay phone on the street in New York City. The killer on the other side of the line, phenomenally voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, threatens his life and begins to play games with him.
Voice on the Phone in Scream
Ghostface (the killer in Wes Craven’s Scream, not the rapper) begins as merely a creepy voice on the phone — but things quickly take a turn for the terrifying. Roger L. Jackson, a voice actor, was cast in the role. Hopefully he doesn’t freak people out when making late-night calls in real life.
Robot in Lost in Space
Who knew that the most memorable line from a sci-fi flick starring William Hurt, Heather Graham, and Matt LeBlanc would be a warning from a mechanical robot? The iconic phrase, “Danger, Will Robinson,” was in fact a trademark of the ’60s TV series, voiced by Dick Tufeld, who reprised the unceremoniously-named role of “Robot” for the 1998 movie.
Teachers in the Peanuts movies
The cast of Charles Schultz’s classic comic strip, Peanuts, is almost entirely made up of children. In fact, any adults only speak in “wah”s, and we never see their faces. Of course, when the famous strip was to be adapted for television, producers had to figure out how to create the sound. The solution came when Bill Meléndez, one of Schultz’s co-animators, used a trombone with a plunger mute opening and closing on the bell to make the memorable “wah wah” sound.
The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz
The titular wizard of Victor Fleming’s 1939 masterpiece appeared to be quite the imposing figure when Dorothy and her crew reached the end of the yellow brick road. As we all remember, the real wizard is soon revealed as a man operating the illusion from behind a curtain. Frank Morgan played both the wizard and the doorman who interrogates Dorothy in the previous scene.