If you think of the most iconic villains in cinematic history, they all tend to have one thing in common: They're kind of sexy They all have a British accent.
Alan Rickman (with a slight German accent in there as well) as Hans Gruber in "Die Hard," Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs," and even Darth Vader sounded kind of posh.
Hell, Scar from the "Lion King" wasn't even human, and he had a British accent despite no other lion around him having a similar accent.
In fact, the villain is usually the only person with an accent in the whole movie.
Have you ever wondered why? No, it's not because they're still upset we tossed their tea into the harbor.
Chi Luu, a linguist, explained in JSTOR Daily the British accent leaves us with a few stereotypes that just scream "perfect villain," and the accent suggests a more dynamic character than just someone who is "evil" for the sake of it.
According to research, received pronunciation (the "posh" British accent or the Queen's English) makes people look "more educated, intelligent, competent, physically attractive and generally of a higher socioeconomic class."
But they aren't just seen as sexy, smart, high society-types.
One study suggests people who speak with a British accent are seen as "less trustworthy, kind, sincere and friendly" than people who don't have an accent.
Add that together, and what do you get?
A sexy intellectual who has low morals.
Chuu also notes people tend to believe there's one ideal form of a language, and any accent based off of that may be stigmatized.
Speakers of the standard form are considered the ones that 'have no accent' and any dialect that strays from from that is stigmatized in one way or another. Believing in this concept legitimizes the institutional discrimination of those who don't use or didn't grow up with the standard language. The reality is of course that everyone has an accent.
An outsider, like the only guy who speaks with an accent, is bound to raise an eyebrow in a movie.
But maybe Americans just don't like to sound like the "bad guy."