Top 20 Voice Actor Performances of the Century So Far



Top 20 Voice Actor Performances of the Century So Far

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton
The 21st century has been a golden age for voice acting. For this list, we'll be looking at the best acting performances of the vocal variety from film and TV that debuted in or after the year 2000. Our countdown includes "Ratatouille," "Avatar: The Last Airbender," "Shrek," and more!

Top 20 Voice Actor Performances of the Century So Far

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Voice Actor Performances of the Century So Far.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the best acting performances of the vocal variety from film and TV that debuted in or after the year 2000. As such, we won’t be including roles that carried over from the century before, so you won’t be seeing Tom Hanks’s Woody on this list.

Any performances we missed? Voice your opinion in the comments!

#20: Patton Oswalt as Remy
“Ratatouille” (2007)

You gotta figure there’s gonna be more than a few Pixar entries on this list, so what better way to start than with Patton Oswalt in “Ratatouille?” A rat with a love for cooking, Remy naturally finds division between his passion and the dark and damp world he’s been bred into. With such a defined character trait driving the plot, the movie hinges on Oswalt being able to get the audience to empathize with Remy immediately, but boy, does he make it look - or sound - effortless. So fluidly is he able to suffuse the character with the enthusiasm needed yet with a dash of that familiar, artistic stubbornness. Oswalt’s vocal career would only skyrocket after this movie, and we can definitely see - or hear - why.

#19: Cree Summer as Princess Kida
“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” (2001)

“Atlantis” is a Disney movie that didn’t see much play upon release, but has since grown a loving fan base since, and a lot of that is thanks to its voice cast. Though we could sing the praises of Hollywood actors Michael J. Fox or James Garner, it was professional voice actor Cree Summer who really got our attention in this one. Though Princess Kida could’ve been nothing more than a tribal stereotype, Summer and screenwriter Tab Murphy inject the character with such an endearing combination of wonder and resourcefulness that audiences can’t not be taken with her. There’s also the added challenge of reciting the Atlantean language developed for the film, which Summer nails.

#18: Tara Strong as Timmy Turner
“The Fairly OddParents” (2001-17)

A lot of Nickelodeon shows have come and gone in the 21st century, but “The Fairly OddParents” remained a mainstay on the channel for nearly two decades, and a lot of that has to be a testament to its absolutely dynamite voice cast. Though we can single out basically anyone here, we have to go with the show’s lead, Timmy Turner, voiced by Tara Strong. Sure, a big appeal of the show is the literal wish fulfillment on display, but none of it works long-term if the protagonist isn’t likeable. But, thanks to Strong, he totally is. Timmy can be reckless and more than a little näive, but the manic energy Strong brings to the performance sells it completely.

#17: Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best aka Frozone
“The Incredibles” Franchise (2004-)

We told you there’d be more Pixar movies on this list. With a voice like Samuel L. Jackson’s, you could probably insert it for any character and have it be recognizable, but Jackson goes above and beyond the call of duty for his work as Frozone. Before Jackson was captaining cinema’s greatest superhero team in the MCU, he was involved in one of the best superhero movies period, animated or otherwise. Though Frozone’s ice powers wouldn’t be our first thought to match Jackson’s trademark, loud personality, he’s able to switch between both cool and hot whenever the movie needs him to. Also, he basically gifted us what’s still one of the funniest Pixar scenes ever put to film.

#16: Bradley Cooper as Rocket
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-)

Speaking of the MCU, you wouldn’t expect a live-action superhero franchise to contain one of the best vocal performances, but we should know to be pleasantly surprised by now when it comes to Bradley Cooper. Though a lot of talented visual effects artists deserve heaps of credit for bringing Rocket to life - not to mention stellar motion capture work from Sean Gunn - it’s Cooper’s unrestrained verve and personality that makes this a fan-favorite character. His performance is so animated, in fact, that we often forget it’s Cooper behind the mic. So often are celebrity voice castings mere cash grabs, but Cooper elevates the performance to make sure it’s the character we remember first, the mark of any good voice actor.

#15: Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel
“Tangled” (2010)

Donna Murphy has enjoyed a storied career on Broadway, even though “Tangled’s” younger target audience may not be aware of that. Still, Disney clearly knew what they were doing when they cast her as Mother Gothel in this reinterpretation of the Rapunzel fairy tale. Of course, there’s the masterful songwork on display, which we would expect nothing less from Murphy. Still, it’s the emotional nuance of a character who uses love as a means to an end that honestly makes Gothel one of the best Disney villains of all time, and that is in no small part thanks to Murphy’s refined performance outside of the songs, too.

#14: Josh Gad as Olaf
“Frozen” Franchise (2013-)

When the first “Frozen” came out in 2013, it felt like Olaf fever would never end, and it still kinda hasn’t. Whether that’s a positive or a negative for you, it can’t be denied that impact is a direct result of Josh Gad’s electrifying performance. Sure, Gad was set up for success with Olaf’s adorable snowman design, but it would be nothing without Gad providing the character’s wide-eyed optimism and warm-heartedness. Heck, it’s even been said that Gad’s creative direction once in the room was what drove much of Olaf’s characterization, and we could not be more pleased with the ultimate destination.

#13: Kristen Schaal as Louise Belcher
“Bob’s Burgers” (2011-)

It’s kind of crazy to think Kristen Schaal’s career didn’t begin in animation, her natural voice being absolutely perfect for it. But what’s not surprising is just how much her voice acting career has blossomed since playing Louise Belcher on “Bob’s Burgers.” Though H. Jon Benjamin has seen similar success since voicing the show’s titular character, it’s Schaal’s vocal range that astounds us the most, and it is on full display here. An enthusiastic yet devious little girl, Louise is almost deliberately positioned to be a fan favorite as she powers many of the narratives. But it’s the vivacity and impish playfulness that Schaal brings to the table that’s made Louise, and in a sense, the show, such an unexpectedly delightful surprise.

#12: George Clooney as Foxy Fox
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009)

We knew for a long time that George Clooney’s voice was like smooth butter, but it’s surprising that no animated project really utilized it to its full potential until 2009’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Playing the title character, Clooney displays the right amounts of confidence and assuredness, much like he does in his live-action roles. But there’s a soft-spoken bit of inferiority in the character, too, which is ultimately what proves thematically crucial to understanding the quote-unquote “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” And Clooney conveys that gloriously. Judging by the rest of the actors, it’s clear that Wes Anderson knows how to cast voices, and he absolutely struck gold with George Clooney.

#11: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Maui
“Moana” (2016)

Speaking of a low self-esteem wrapped in sheer panache, look no further than Maui, Shapeshifter, Demigod of the Wind and Sea. Right… Anyway, Maui, Shapeshifter, Demigod of the Wind and Sea, Hero of Men is one tricky role to nail, but Dwayne Johnson definitely pulls it off. No stranger to playing larger-than-life characters, Johnson is a perfect fit to display that level of bravado. Still, structurally, Maui would in anyone else’s hands be instantly hateable, what with his pigheadedness and hugely inflated ego. But Johnson’s natural charisma is too irresistible to ignore. Also, though he may not be a “refined” singer, whatever that means, he does a whole lot better than what we’d originally expect from WWE’s “The Rock.”

#10: Amy Poehler as Joy
“Inside Out” (2015)

Sometimes these animated movies make you want to hand out Academy Awards to the casting departments, because the actors chosen for “Inside Out” are especially inspired. Still, if there’s one performance that stands above the rest, it’s Amy Poehler’s as Joy. We couldn’t think of a better actor to portray the corresponding emotion, and Poehler knocks it out of the park beyond our wildest dreams. The character’s bubbly and vivacious personality shines through so well, but Poehler’s versatility perseveres even as the movie touches on darker subject matter. Though Joy is inadvertently the instigator for much of the movie’s conflict, her emotional journey is at the crux of the story, and Poehler truly fires on all cylinders.

#9: Grey DeLisle as Azula
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005-08)

Easily one of the best animated villains on TV, Azula is the character in “Avatar” we love to hate - hate because of her wickedness, but love because of Grey DeLisle’s captivating performance. Azula may be the daughter of Fire Lord Ozai, the ultimate big-bad of the series, but never does she feel overshadowed by him. In fact, she’s the baddie we most enjoy watching, and that’s greatly thanks to DeLisle. There’s an undercurrent of confident frivolity imbued in every scene, almost like Azula’s a predator playing with her meal. Still, DeLisle offers glimpses of how wronged Azula too has been as a result of her upbringing, a dynamic that plays wonderfully with her brother Zuko, voiced by Dante Basco, also a tremendous performance.

#8: Steve Carell as Gru
“Despicable Me” Franchise (2010-)

It’s hard to think of “Despicable Me” these days and not think of minions - also an impressive vocal performance, come to think of it. Still, there’s no star we love more and no character we’d rather see than Steve Carell and Gru. The ultimate bad guy turned good on this list, Gru changes his supervillain ways with the advent of his unexpected love for his adopted daughters, and Carell is expertly suited to portray that dynamic. We knew he’d be likable, but it's the wacky energy and amorphous accent that endears us to him so.

#7: Alan Tudyk as King Candy aka Turbo
“Wreck-It Ralph” (2012)

At this point, we know not to be surprised by a transformative vocal performance from Alan Tudyk. Heck, he voiced a chicken in “Moana.” A chicken! But back in 2012, we were blown away by his villainous turn in “Wreck-It Ralph,” and that’s saying something considering the stacked cast. As King Candy, Tudyk presents a foppish and almost comedic antagonist in the vein of comedian Ed Wynn. As Turbo, however, King Candy’s secret identity, Tudyk goes full dastardly, making us suddenly fear what was originally at its core a silly character. It’s no wonder that Tudyk won an Annie Award for Voice Acting in the film.

#6: Scarlett Johansson as Samantha
“Her” (2013)

Another live-action movie with a surprisingly stupendous voice-only performance, “Her” is a one-of-a-kind speculative romance movie that really makes us ponder the limits of humanity and love. Playing an artificial intelligence named Samantha, Scarlett Johansson makes us truly believe a machine creation could possess such profound emotion. She so effortlessly connects to Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore, even though they’re never actually in the same room. Funnily enough, the role was recast in post-production to Johansson, having originally been voiced by Samantha Morton. As powerful an actor as she is in her own right, we can’t imagine hearing anyone else singing along as we play the ukulele.

#5: Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski
“Monsters, Inc.” Franchise (2001-)

For a lot of the entries on this list, the actors are often shown going outside of their vocal comfort zone to give us the best performance possible. With Billy Crystal in “Monsters, Inc.” however, the best performance possible was for him to give us what he does best: Billy Crystal. Whereas John Goodman provides much of the heart of the film as Sulley, it’s Crystal’s comedic sensibilities as Mike that carry us through the bulk of the movie. Of course, if we’re being honest, you couldn’t have one without the other, but it is absolutely impossible for anyone to play Mike other than Crystal.

#4: Ellen DeGeneres as Dory
“Finding Nemo” Franchise (2003-16)

Though Ellen DeGeneres’s real-life personality hasn’t shone too well in recent years, the one she imbued into that of blue tang Dory is undeniably timeless. Even though the first movie sets up Marlin as the main protagonist, and is called “Finding Nemo,” Dory is the character that everyone remembers, ironically enough. Though her mental deficiencies are scripted to come off as exasperating to the other characters, to us it’s her unflinching loyalty and unyielding optimism that we take away. And her trademark goofiness, which DeGeneres undoubtedly provides. Though the future of Dory is undoubtedly murky right now, we just hope to see our favorite Pixar fish in some form or another someday.

#3: Will Arnett as BoJack Horseman
“BoJack Horseman” (2014-20)

Most of the characters on this list can be chalked up as being lighthearted in one way or another, but not BoJack Horseman. Though the show can be endlessly hysterical and witty, it’s also uncompromisingly realistic and dark, and in no character is this best exemplified than the eponymous one. Will Arnett brings a real groundedness to the role. Though BoJack can get just as ridiculous as the other characters, there’s a profound sadness deep within him, and Arnett conveys this with a real tenderness. 2014 turned out to be a breakout year for Arnett on the animated side of things, as he also debuted the hilarious, if totally different, Lego Batman in “The Lego Movie.”

#2: Eddie Murphy as Donkey
“Shrek” Franchise (2001-)

In addition to Billy Crystal in “Monsters, Inc.,” 2001 saw another comedic actor lending their cadence to an animated character in a big way. Though Mike Myers’s Scottish persona works wonders on Shrek, Eddie Murphy arguably stole the movie with his turn as Donkey. With so many riffs on fairy tale characters, never in a million years did we think a talking donkey would be the breakout character, but that’s just a testament to Murphy’s signature energy and terrific line delivery. Every word that comes out of Donkey’s mouth - or snout - is pure gold and endlessly quotable. Though the franchise inevitably saw diminishing returns, we’re tempted to see a return if only to revisit this noble steed.

#1: Eartha Kitt as Yzma
“The Emperor’s New Groove” (2000)

Much like “Atlantis,” “The Emperor’s New Groove” is an early 2000s movie that didn’t get the love it initially deserved, but has since drawn a cult following thanks to the excellent voice cast. Though we could be here all day talking about Patrick Warburton’s Cronk or David Spade’s Kuzco, it’s Eartha Kitt who truly steals the show. Though Yzma is story-wise a truly despicable villain, we can’t help but love her all the same thanks to Kitt’s zany line delivery and energy. You can practically hear her chewing the dialogue in the recording booth, making sure we’re having as much fun as she is. Though we’ve gotten plenty of superb vocal performances this century so far, we irrefutably got one of the best early on.