The Top Ten: TV narrators


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

After praising Laurence Olivier's narration of 'The World at War', one of the finest documentaries ever made – a discussion which arose out of Top 10 War Memorials – Labour History Group suggested this list.

1. Oliver Postgate

Writer, producer and narrator of Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Bagpuss. Suggested by Labour History Group and Neil Walker.

2. Veronika Hyks

Co-narrator of the British version of People's Century, a 1995 BBC documentary about the 20th century. Nominated by Labour History Group.

3. Rebecca Front

Suggested, in turn by Sam West, who says she "should be on any serious list". Famous for The Thick of It, she also narrated Fox Wars, a 2013 documentary about urban foxes.

4. Will Lyman

Narrator of PBS's Frontline television news feature series since 1984. "Has a perfectly portentous voice," according to Tom Wein.


5. Sam West

Narrator of Laurence Rees's 1997 series for the BBC, The Nazis: A Warning from History. Labour History Group again.

6. Geoffrey Palmer

Brother-in-law of Reggie Perrin, voice of "Vorsprung durch Technik" in Audi ads, narrator of BBC's Grumpy Old Men. Nominated by Sir Robin Bogg and James Menendez.

7. Barbara Flynn

"Not for Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, but for all the best of Horizon," says Xlibris1.

8. Laurence Olivier

Best line the opener to episode three, about the Maginot Line: "Here the guns would halt the Hun – provided the Hun came this way."

9. Helen Mirren

Nominated by Tim Bale for her narration of Enemy of the Reich, this year's docudrama of a Muslim woman who joined the French Resistance.

10. Kenneth Branagh

Narrator of BBC series Walking With Dinosaurs (1999), Walking with Beasts (2001) and Walking with Monsters (2005).

Next week: English words without a rhyme

Coming soon: Disappointing famous places (Cobra, the Cabinet Office briefing room, is 'underwhelming', apparently). Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to

John Rentoul's 'Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top 10s, from Politics to Pop' (Elliott & Thompson, £9.99; e-book £4.99) is out now