Voice over narration gets a bit of a bad rap. I hear detractions all the time.

"It's just being used to tie together a poorly written story."

"The audience is smart enough to figure it out without this crap."

It goes on.

I'll admit, when it doesn't work, it's just plain awful. Sometimes it's a bit ambiguous as to whether or not it's contributing in a positive way to the experience (I still own two versions of Blade Runner because I haven't really decided which way I feel on that one yet).

But when it works....it can be something beautiful. And as audio professionals, we should love that, because it is pure aural content. So, I want to know, what films do you appreciate because of the narration?

For me, Fight Club and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are up at the top. I can probably think of a few more, but I want to hear from you.


The narration in Apocalypse Now is highly, highly effective.



You know, I've heard a lot of criticism, but I feel like it can be a strong part of storytelling. Some short films are completely narration, and I think that works very well. My favorite example: Magda. It is a short animation with a really great narration. I love the lo-fi style - it has so much character and makes you feel like you're in another era, even though it's a very basic animation style and set design.

I also like it in:

Arrested Development

Big Fish

My Name is Earl

What really makes me... mad.... is using a diary or letter or something like that being read as a voiceover to quickly advance plot. I've worked on two films so far that used finding a letter or journal as their big plot twist or advancement. Augh!!! So clumsy.


best VO I've heard in a while:



One sign that gives voice over a far better chance of working is when its actually written into the script (as opposed to adding it later because the film doesn't work)

There are definitely some good examples listed above by people that I agree with, but I think the reason it gets a bad rap is because good film is about SHOW and not TELL, and bad voiceover is directly telling us stuff that the film should be able to convey through us experiencing it...

Fight Club is such a great film - incase you havent seen it, check out this Lego infographic of the structure of the film: http://infosthetics.com/archives/2006/06/lego_fight_club_movie_narrative_architecture.html

  • always good to hear from you, tim. i agree whole-heartedly. in fact, that's usually a point i bring up if i ever get into an animated discussion about voice over. and that's an excellent use of legos! – Shaun Farley Jul 15 '10 at 0:09

Road to Perdition.


I really enjoyed Emma Thompson's VO in Stranger Than Fiction. Although I don't know if that qualifies as true voice over as you're describing.


House Of Cards - Spacey's constant breaking of the 4th wall to narrate is brilliant (while the scene continues on behind him even) and for some reason, I never have trouble being sold on it whenever he does it. Albeit its a very uniquely different way of narrating compared to the traditional Voice of God approach, but I absolutely love it.

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