Southern drawls on film

Accents, and specifically Southern ones, are an art form, yet sorely overlooked. Alabama is different from Georgia; North Florida distinct from South. Times film critic Betsy Sharkey discusses some of her favorites below. Click the photos to sample the accents.

Betsy Sharkey talks Southern drawls

There's nothing quite like a fine accent onscreen, and worthy actors like Matthew McConaughey, Jeff Bridges and Holly Hunter spin vocal magic.

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Jeff Bridges

'Crazy Heart' | 2009

Though I did love the stomped flatness of Rooster Cogburn's pronouncements in "True Grit" — "I can't do nothing for you son," a gunshot as punctuation — I'm partial to the whiskey- and cigarette-saturated voice that carried Bad Blake down the road to redemption.

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Holly Hunter

'Raising Arizona' | 1987

A Georgia girl who never left home, Hunter seems to pack words in her cheeks like a wad of bubble gum and chew on things for a while before she spits them out. Her liquor-laced Okie detective in TNT's "Saving Grace" was exceptional, but nothing matches the full-throttle Hunter in "Raising Arizona."

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Tommy Lee Jones

'No Country for Old Men' | 2007

Though Jones breaks my heart with the Spanish version of his Texas twang in "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," his weathered lawman in "No Country for Old Men" gets my vote. The actor gentles the hard edges of a voice that tends to cut at dialogue like a knife — Jones at his best.

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Amy Adams

'Junebug' | 2005

The irrepressible country-strong warmth Adams brought Ashley was as irresistible as it was true. And as nonstop. She's like a wind-up toy that won't wind down. Light, sweet and loving, Adams' voice lifts spirits like a joyful Southern hymn.

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Robert Duvall

'Tender Mercies' | 1983

Duvall brings a still-waters-run-deep quality to the spare dialogue of writer Horton Foote's minimal masterpiece. Traces of hard-baked West Texas give the actor's reclaimed country singer an emotional depth whether newly sober, newly saved or somewhere in between.

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Morgan Freeman

'Driving Miss Daisy' | 1989

Most of the time you can't hear the Tennessee in Freeman's voice. But as the bemused driver in a racist South, he dug into those roots. It was a fine line he walked, the actor using warm, buttery tones to voice a weary tolerance for white folk who were not, yet never slipping into subservience.

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Woody Harrelson

'Natural Born Killers' | 1994

Harrelson's Mickey is already a stone-cold killer by the time he makes a blood-oath to love and honor his renegade sweetheart Mallory. But like a sidewinder, snaking around the sound, Harrelson makes Mickey tough yet vulnerable and frightening as hell.

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Julia Roberts

'Steel Magnolias' | 1989

As Shelby, Roberts creates a drawl that rides currents that are sometimes slow, sometimes swift, always deep. Between the fighting and placating, what you ultimately hear in all those vowels the actress stretches like salt-water taffy is love.

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Sally Field and Danny Glover

'Places in the Heart' | 1984

It's Depression-era Texas, and Field's young widow is trying to hold on to her land. Glover is a drifter with big dreams. There is both silk and steel in their conversations as they stand on opposite sides of the racial divide.

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Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain

'The Help' | 2011

Like spit and fire, Spencer's and Chastain's accents played off each other beautifully in that bit of '60s-era Southern discomfort. Their voices are octaves apart, their rhythms in complete contradiction, and yet the music they made was perfection.

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Reese Witherspoon

'Walk The Line' | 2005

As June Carter, Witherspoon shifted between over-the-top onstage to slightly bruised off. In an encounter between the ruffles of her dress and Cash's guitar just as she's about to go on one night, Witherspoon shows how a drawl can be played for maximum effect.

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Produced by Andrea Wang and Aaron Williams / Video produced by Jason Neubert /