Watch Smarter

Why Do So Many Wizards, Kings, and Romans Have British Accents in Fantasy Movies?

It’s not just because they sound grandiose and glorious.

Watch Smarter is Slate’s series that teaches you to spot hidden tropes in pop culture and beyond. Watch all episodes.

Wizards like Gandalf and Romans like Russell Crowe’s gladiator share a common trait: Hollywood’s insistence that all of its fantasy and epic heroes speak like a Brit. And it’s not just because the British accent sounds grandiose and glorious. Well, a little bit. The real answer is rooted in the obsession with Empire—and how accents were actively cultivated by society elites as signifiers of global power and stature.

In this episode of Watch Smarter, Slate’s video series that spots and deconstructs tropes in pop culture, follow the fascinating links between English colonialism, the Vietnam War, and Star Wars as we trace the history of contemporary accents in pop culture.