Hollywood's "Silent Era" ended in the 1920s so that, almost a century later, moviegoing audiences would be able to listen to Tom Hardy's increasingly bizarre affected accents. The most recent one can be heard in Venom, as Hardy adopted a New York(?) accent for the superhero spin-off. It's the latest in a long trend of on-screen accents, as Hardy rarely sounds the same from movie to movie.
Even so, there are some general similarities between Hardy's accents, and we've attempted to categorize them as best we can. There are outliers, of course, and there's bound to be some overlap. Heck, sometimes his accents change from scene to scene within a movie, so what follows is our best effort at a difficult task.
CHARMING AND BRITISH
Examples: Inception, This Means War, RocknRolla, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
It's easy to forget now, but Hardy's breakout role was Christopher Nolan's 2010 film Inception, where he won over audiences as the suave Eames who encouraged us to "dream a little bigger, darling." Little did we know that he'd spend most of the next decade obscuring that classic charisma with masks and unintelligible accents. But, in these mostly earlier movies where he opted to go with a more, let's say, naturalistic accent, Hardy's delivery is crisp. He sounds — for better or worse — like any number of British actors, which might be why he's taken such great lengths to differentiate his dulcet tones in other movies.
THREATENING AND BRITISH
Examples: Legend, Taboo, Peaky Blinders
A somewhat broad category, since these roles span different British accents including Legend's East End inflection and Peaky Blinders' closed caption-required Cockney. The thing that connects them is that this Tom Hardy is not the friendly high-class chap from Inception. With Taboo possibly excepted, Hardy is very good in these roles. Sure, the accent is a put-on, but it sounds more natural than some of the other voices he's tried to imitate (or more frequently, made up whole cloth).
Examples: Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk
Some of Hardy's roles are best remembered for what he isn't saying. Sure, in Fury Road, he does sport an accent that keeps fluctuating between Australian-ish and vaguely South African, but he speaks so little that his silence is the real draw. Same goes with Dunkirk, where what few lines of dialogue he does have harken back to that the era of Charming and British accents, but his pilot is a man of few words.
Examples: The Revenant
When Hardy's accent crosses the pond, one of two things tends to happen. Either his voice gets oddly croaky, or he shoves a heaping handful of marbles into his mouth and then attempts to throat-sing all his lines. His guttural "God is a squirrel" speech from The Revenant is extremely hard to make out.
Examples: Venom, The Drop
This is Hardy's other American accent. Many of his roles require Brooklyn or Boston affects, but in doing so Hardy's voice gains a Muppet-like quality, peaking and breaking at odd times. In theory, it adds a layer of vulnerability to his characters, who speak with an unsteady voice that cuts against Hardy's imposing frame. In practice, though, it can be a little much, as heard in Venom, which might just be his weirdest accent yet. There have been a handful of films where Hardy has managed to split the difference between his two American accents, like when he played the MMA fighter Tommy Riordan in Warrior, though it's a delicate balance.
Examples: The Dark Knight Rises
The villain who broke Batman has also broken free of any categorization, because Bane's accent is truly unique. Hardy's Bane sounds like radical leftist guerrilla fighter who speaks through a kazoo. It's the only one of Hardy's voices to instantly become a meme, and for that, it deserves to stand alone. It's still funny — heck, the next time you're around people and have an empty coffee mug, say "you merely adopted the dark" into the cup. You'll get a laugh.
Examples: London Road
The 2015 film London Road is described as a "musical mystery crime drama film," and it's the only movie where you can hear Hardy as a cab driver sing-talking about a serial killer. Hardy's (fairly high) voice isn't bad by any means, but it's very, very strange to hear him not only enunciate every line, but to set the words to music. Truly, Tom Hardy's vocal cords contain multitudes.