Voice actors have gone from relative obscurity to cultural powerhouses in very little time; what was once a niche profession filled with relative unknowns now sports its own share of household names. With a history that spans over 100 years, you can bet all sorts have made the voice acting profession their home. Today, we’ll take a look at some of those distinguished personalities that stand head and shoulders above the rest.
At Bunny Studio, we know there are famous voice actors and famous actors who occasionally perform voice-overs. Today, while we’ll focus on those who have become well-known primarily through voice acting, we won’t dwell on these distinctions too much. Actors are actors, after all, and quality is our first concern here. Also, please note that these twenty are not listed in any particular order of importance. (Except Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc always goes first.)
This article was updated in April 2021
Where would the voice-over profession be without Mel Blanc? We dare ask, but not reply. While he started his sixty-two-year (!) career in radio, his claim to immortality originated in the Golden Age of American animation. Over the years, he voiced countless characters for Warner Bros’ Looney Tunes, starting with the inimitable Bugs Bunny himself.
While having “Eh, what’s up, Doc?” on your resume is mighty impressive, Mel was not one for resting on his laurels. During his exclusive tenure with Warner, The Man of a Thousand Voices (as he was colloquially known) gave life to a veritable all-star cast of Looney Tunes legends. Here are just a few:
- Bugs Bunny
- Daffy Duck
- Elmer Fudd
- Road Runner
- Pepé Le Pew
- Porky Pig
- Marvin the Martian
If that’s not enough, check out the mind-blowing length of the Looney Tunes characters voiced by Mel list. Helps put things into perspective, huh? If that reframes the Golden Age of Animation as Mel Blanc talking to himself, it’s because it pretty much was. Not content with this, he went on to voice plenty of Hannah-Barbera characters as well when his exclusivity with Warner ended.
If there was a pantheon for voice actors, Mel Blanc would definitely be in it. His talent, versatility, and prolificity will never be forgotten.
At one point, it seemed pretty amazing to think that Bart Simpson was voiced by a woman. The delinquent preteen handily won over America’s (and the world’s) heart back in the early 90s. As the cultural phenomenon that is The Simpsons grew into an all-out obsession, audiences were aghast at finding out the little rebel was voiced by a very talented lady. After all, what’s more rebellious than defying cultural expectations and norms?
What is even more surprising is that Nancy initially auditioned to play Lisa. However, she found Bart to be the most interesting of the two, with his mix of derring-do daredevil antics, ruthless self-interest, and a secret heart o’ gold. While Lisa certainly grew to be one of the most interesting characters on the show, it would’ve been an altogether different story if Nancy hadn’t imbued the pin-haired rascal with wit, good humor, and a touch of sensitivity.
While “Eat my shorts!” may have fallen out of style, Nancy is the reason why teenaged misfits will keep spray-painting walls with “El Barto” for generations to come. What are a few property damage lawsuits anyway when you’ve got the Rule of Cool backing you up?
And hey, that ain’t all, since the ever-talented Nancy also voices several other characters on the show. Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum, and Todd Flanders are just a few of the Simpsons stalwarts she lends her talent to. May she keep on truckin’ for many years to come.
James Earl Jones
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 45 years (how’s the weather down there?), you know Darth Vader. But while British bodybuilder David Prowse played the hulking Sith Lord onscreen, it was James Earl Jones who truly made Anakin Skywalker fearsome.
With his booming, earth-shaking bass, Jones made even Vader’s simple commands a thunderous force to be reckoned with. What’s even more puzzling is that he initially didn’t even want to be credited for his performance, considering it “special effects” — talk about humble! Thankfully, George Lucas finally listed him as Darth Vader’s voice in Return of the Jedi, and the rest is history. (Or should we say canon?)
Many voice actors would kill for half of Jones’s varied and prolific career as a thespian. From stage to film, he’s had his share of iconic, challenging roles that should never be forgotten. Still, it’s his enduring legacy as the Dark Lord of the Sith that gives him his well-deserved place on this list.
Hey, you didn’t think we’d leave video games out of the running, did you? While not everyone grew up playing them, they’ve certainly become one of the prime mediums for storytelling in current times. If one had to think of the voice of videogames in the 2000s, 2010s, and beyond, it’s definitely Nolan North.
Born in 1970, Nolan North has been in everything and played everyone from Oswald Cobblepot to the Prince of Persia. Still, it’s probably his role as Nathan Drake in Naughty Dog Studios’ Uncharted that’s earned him his biggest claim to fame. After all, who else could play such a rogueish, chummy take on the Indiana Jones trope and come out with an award-winning character that stands on his own merits?
North’s turn as Drake not only sold millions of Playstations and won Naughty Dog many well-deserved accolades; it also cemented North’s fame and brought renewed attention and respect for voice actors in general. He not only gave voice to the character but famously mo-capped most of his moves in Naughty Dog’s now-famous “total performance” style, second to none among studios specializing in cinematic games.
Nolan himself shows no signs of slowing down and continues to voice everything from bit parts in gaming and animation to main characters in major projects. One thing’s for sure: if you check out a video game’s cast list, chances are you’ll find him somewhere in there.
Rugrats, anyone? The PowerPuff Girls? My Little Pony? Chances are some of you grew up with those Millennial touchstones as part of your Saturday morning viewing routine. If you didn’t, chances are your kids did, and there’s a very good chance you’ve heard Tara Strong’s vocal talents. This Daytime-Emmy-nominated actress has done everything from cartoons to video games and continues to be much-beloved across a wide range of fandoms.
Versatile, professional, and with a seemingly endless arsenal of voices in her toolkit, she’s a credit to the profession.
Simply put, when you can voice Timmy Turner or Bubbles one day, and on another be a main character in a Hideo Kojima game, you know you’re doing something right. Voice actors and actresses around the world continue to rightly swoon in the presence of Strong’s talent, and she shows no signs of going anywhere anytime soon.
Remember what we said above about famous voice actors and actors with famous voice-over careers? Mark Hamill is the physical embodiment of doing everything right. Sure, yeah, he’s played Luke Skywalker and become the internet’s putative cool uncle on Twitter. But something not everybody knows is just how much of a talent Mark is behind the mic. (And we don’t mean he’s droppin’ rhymes.)
Hammil’s main claim to voice acting fame is, without a doubt, his majestic turn as the Joker in the Batman Animated Series. He’s informed so much of how the character is portrayed both in and out of animation that it’s hard to think of a vocal take that does not take after Mark’s in some way, shape, or form. He’s continued to imbue the character with life for decades, both in animated films and shows and in the award-winning Arkham video game trilogy.
For now, it seems Hammil’s done with the character. While his easing back into Luke Skywalker’s shoes has us saying “never say never,” it was a legendary run. That alone makes him worthy of his spot on this list.
Some started as voice actors and then went all the way into becoming movie stars. That was definitely the case for Seth McFarlane, creator or cultural behemoths Family Guy and American Dad. Seth is not only well-known for his brand of droll, acid humor, but also for his insane talent as a voice actor. To date, he’s won four Emmy Award for voice acting out of a total of five.
After all, what can’t Seth do? He can voice a talking dog who likes waxing philosophical one minute, and a Hannibal-Lecter-inspired infant the next; he can write, act, sing, dance, and he’s certainly found a way into our heart of hearts. For all of these talents, but especially his knack for voicing memorable characters, he’s well-suited to this list.
Even if Family Guy’s endlessly mocked for its endless torrent of “Remember that one time when…” cutaways, never change, Seth. Never change.
While he may be a deeper cut than some others on this list, he’s earned his place. Not only is he a complete musician, but also an accomplished voice actor who’s voiced over 120 characters. His most well-known roles came courtesy of two of the three original Nicktoons. You don’t have to be a child of the 80s or 90s to know about Ren & Stimpy and Doug, do you? Those creations — and West’s performances — continue to stand out and resonate with audiences to this day.
Moreover, he’s doubly earned his spot here by being extremely adept at impersonating Mel Blanc. So much so, that he’s in fact Warners Bros’ go-to guy to voice some of the classic characters. He’s confidently taken the mantle of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd, among others.
There are superstars, and then there’s Laura Bailey. A very well-known name among voice actors, she’s the female voice of English-language versions of anime and video games. She started off playing Trunks in Dragon Ball Z, and then went on from there, voicing many popular roles that have made her a queen among anime enthusiasts. She’s also appeared in many Western animation features, like The Powerpuff Girls, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Avengers Assemble. Not many can claim that kind of cross-fandom appeal.
But that’s not all! She’s got an incredible list of video game roles in her CV as well. Wikipedia lists some of the most famous ones:
In video games, she voiced Rayne in the BloodRayne franchise, Jaina Proudmoore in World of Warcraft and Heroes of the Storm, as well as Chun-Li in the Street Fighter series. She was also the voice of Dagna the Arcanist and Bianca in Dragon Age: Inquisition, Rise Kujikawa in Persona 4, Blaze the Cat in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Lucina in Fire Emblem Awakening, Serah Farron in Final Fantasy XIII, Serana in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard, Olympia Vale in Halo 5: Guardians, Abigail “Fetch” Walker in Infamous Second Son and Infamous First Light, Fiona in Tales from the Borderlands, Nadine Ross in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Abby in The Last of Us Part II, and Kait Diaz in Gears of War 4 and Gears 5.
The list is so long that she, Troy Baker, and Nolan North are pretty much in a league of their own.
Another Simpsons alumn? Can you blame us? While a great and prolific actor in his own right, Azaria’s biggest claim to fame is voicing some of the most familiar voices on the show. Just take a look at this list:
- Chief Wiggum
- Comic Book Guy
- Snake Jailbird
- Professor Frink
- Bumblebee Man
And that’s just the notables! Just any of these would make you royalty among voice actors. Some people have all the luck. And skill, and talent.
If you’ve been paying attention to the world of animation at all in the past few years, you’ve heard of Rick and Morty. Show co-creator Justin Roiland is not only an amazing creative mind but also a bona fide voice acting talent. Over the show’s run, he’s voiced a ton of characters, most notably the titular Rick and Morty. Wu-wu-what?! That knowledge alone should qualify as one of Morty’s mindblowers.
He may be well-known as one of the creators of MadTV, but he’s also a household name among voice actors. Phil Lamarr’s performed vocal duties for every type of project under the sun. Be it video games, animated features, or TV shows, he’s done it all. From Afro Samurai to Metal Gear Solid’s Vamp, his striking range and all-out talent earn him a spot on this list.
And hey, he also played Marvin in Pulp Fiction. Not only is he one of the most versatile voice actors in the biz, but a Tarantino alumn. How’s that for a smoking-hot resume?
Garfield, anyone? That alone should have most of you kowtowing, but that’s not all! Over his career spanning more than six decades, he’s done plenty. From impressions to stand up and voice acting, Frank’s been around the block; heck, just mentioning he’s voiced Fred in Scooby-Doo since the show’s 1969 inception should be more than enough to garner insane respect. Can you imagine more than 50 years playing the same character? That’s more than most of us have been alive!
But if you’re a little hard o’ heart, no worries. Knowing he’s voiced Megatron, Soundwave, and Galvatron in the Transformers franchise should warm you up a little bit. But overall, as a stalwart among voice actors, Frank Welker certainly deserves all the praise he can get.
Troy should definitely need no introduction among fans of voice actors. Along with Nolan North and Laura Bailey, he forms a triumvirate of extremely prolific, chameleon-like talents who have been in everything. Recently, he’s made himself even more of a marquee name by playing Joel in Naughty Dog’s blockbuster The Last of Us series. But his extreme range makes him much more than the perfect voice for gruff antiheroes.
While he has one of the most recognizable voices in the business, Troy is also great at disappearing into roles. Over his long career — which spans nearly 25 years of film, video game, and animation roles — he’s taken as many bit parts as main character roles; if you didn’t check a game or animated movie’s cast afterward, sometimes you’d never even know he was in it. When you can play a by-the-book male action hero and a Vietnamese warlord without people knowing it’s the same voice, you’re probably doing OK in the acting book.
Troy definitely earns his place as one of voice acting’s greatest talents from the last few decades, and those to come.
Pete Accetturo, most well-known by his handle VoiceOver Pete, is a credit to the profession. His life got a second wind when he started a voice-over career late in life. While he started off as a technology consultant and was well-off, he soon found out that his “side” gig doing voice-overs was pulling in more numbers than his day job! After he voiced a satirical Fortnite video mimicking a credit card scam in 2018, he became a viral sensation. Gamers all over rushed to Pete to produce similar vids centered around different gaming communities, and his phone has kept ringing off the hook since.
But not all was rose-colored in Pete’s life, as his parody videos got him banned from Fiverr, where he got most of his clientele. But that didn’t slow him down one bit, as we note in our article about him:
This ban didn’t stop him, though. Now, he is one of the biggest names in the gaming world of voice overs. He also has a large following on YouTube. Another place you’ll see a lot of Voice Over Pete is in the world of memes. According to TubeFilter, he also went on to create Patreon and began earning $9,000 per month from supporters. This guy has creativity along with resilience, eh?
Hey, we’re partial to Matt Groening here. Not only has DiMaggio voiced Bender in Futurama, which would earn him an automatic spot here, but he’s also got a wide range. From Jake the Dog in the psychedelic extravaganza Adventure Time to Marcus Fenix in the Gears of War franchise — the man can stand toe to toe with the best of ’em. His talent speaks for itself.
Tress is one of those voices that you’ve heard before, but don’t know it. Her long list of roles includes Daisy Duck (since 1999), Babs Bunny, Dot from Animaniacs, and a huge list of shows such as Futurama, the Simpsons, and Rugrats. There are few voice actors or actresses who can handle the extreme variety of roles she’s taken in her career with such success and professionalism. For that, she earns a place of honor on our list.
We mentioned Nolan North, Laura Bailey, and Troy Baker as a triumvirate. If there’s another actress who definitely deserves a seat at that table, it’s Jennifer Hale. If you’re a video game fan, chances are you’ve cheered, sobbed, and laughed along with some of her best work. Her career includes such gems as Baldur’s Gate, being Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series, and Bastila Shan in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Hale shows no signs of slowing down and is looking to keep expanding her enviable resume with more and more standout roles. Because of that, we salute her.
Another voice actor elder statesman, Jim Cummings gives a new meaning to the term “hard-working.” Born in 1952, this voice actor and singer has played more roles than what you could fit in four screens. When we scrolled down his list of roles we nearly suffered carpal tunnel syndrome, no kidding. The man’s been in more features since he started voice acting in ’84 than many in this countdown combined.
If you grew up in the 90s, you probably remember him most as the voice of the Tasmanian devil in Taz-Mania. When Jeremy Irons (another vocal powerhouse) suffered vocal issues while recording Be Prepared for The Lion King, Cummings stepped in as a replacement. He also voiced Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in the live-action film, becoming the first-ever performer to reprise his role in such a production.
When it comes to voice acting, it doesn’t get any better than Jim.
Yes, we’re partial to the Simpsons here, especially the Golden Age (roughly the first 10 seasons). While we can’t put the whole cast of the show here, we have to profess our everlasting adoration for Lisa Simpson. Not only is she the enduring social conscience and morality in a world that’s even crazier than our own, but also the beating heart of the series. In someone else’s hands, Lisa could’ve been a stereotypical busybody, a meddling know-it-all. In Yeardley Smith’s hands, though, she comes alive with personality, tenacity, and a sensitive soul always willing to put herself on the line for the dispossessed.
No one, and we mean no one, would’ve been able to pull off such a feat. For her long-running role as Lisa, and for the professionalism of her work, Smith deserves every accolade she gets.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of amazing voice actors. Remember, with tenacity, effort, professionalism, and a knack for vocal improvisation, voice acting is a profession that’s within the reach of many.
If you’re ever in need of quality voice overs, or if you feel you’ve got what it takes to break into our next top twenty, give us a holler, will you? Maybe you’ll hire the next big thing, or maybe you’ll be the next big thing. All it takes is just one small leap of faith!