Of all the types of characters in the world of entertainment, the narrator is usually the most boring. Unless the topic at hand is being presented in documentary form, the narrator usually shows up in the beginning of the story, maybe shows up a time or two in the middle, and then wraps everything up at the end. All of this is usually done a droll, normal tone. In short, the narrator gives you the background info in a no-nonsense matter and then gets out of the way so you can enjoy the real action.
But that doesn’t mean the narrator can’t be an interesting, and sometimes even exciting part of a TV show or movie. Click the jump to see some examples of narrators that do a little bit more than what is required.
1. Morgan Freeman
You know I couldn’t have a list of great narrators without including Black Jesus himself. Thanks to his smooth, commanding, and very Afro-tastic voice, Morgan Freeman has landed quite a few gigs as a narrator for numerous TV shows and movie documentaries. Trust me, when a guy can make penguins suddenly cute and interesting, you know he’s a quality narrator.
2. Zach Braff on Scrubs
I’ve probably noted on this site about how I usually can’t watch a TV show from season 1 to the moment the show ends, especially when it’s a long running show. One of the few that I managed to get all the way through with was Scrubs, and Zach Braff was probably the biggest reason why. While the fantasy sequences took the cake for me, the narrations of every episode by Braff (and occasionally other cast-mates) helped make Scrubs seem fresher than most shows on TV at the time. I much prefer the Zach Braff on Scrubs to the Zach Braff that loves to direct hipster romance films.
3. Johnathon Richman on There’s Something About Mary
Singing narrator! Singing narrator! Woooooo! The Farrelly Brothers (who really are the Coen Bros. of spoof movies) best film has essentially the most badass narrator role in a movie, period. Richman appears throughout the film to narrate the story in song form, like a mystical narrating singer/hobo. But that’s not even the best part, as Richman gets shot in the midst of narrating the end of the movie by a crazy old man. Classic.
4. Frankie Muniz on Malcolm in the Middle
Lil’ Frankie may be a Hollywood punchline nowadays, but I still look back at Malcolm in the Middle fondly. Sure, that’s mostly because Bryan Cranston is flipping awesome at life, but Muniz was still entertaining as the lead kid/ narrator that breaks the fourth wall to make smart ass remarks about his trashy family.
5. Ron Howard on Arrested Development
If this is the first guy you thought of when you read the title, then I probably wouldn’t mind being your friend. Arrested Development is obviously one of the smartest shows of all time, so obviously it would have the smartest narrator of all time to boost the comedy a few notches. I’m serious when I say that if Arrested Development didn’t have a narrator, not only would the show be ten times less funny, it would also be too hard for even a competent person to follow, especially if they didn’t start watching the show from day one.
Who are your favorite narrators?