This week’s release of Stoker marks the English language debut of director Park Chan-Wook. Over the years, many foreign directors have transitioned from working in their homelands to Hollywood. These artists have given us some of the most memorable films ever. Let’s take a look at some of the more notable filmmakers that have crossed the language barrier.

Ang Lee

Ang Lee

Possibly the most successful foreign director to cross into the mainstream, Ang Lee started his career in his native Taiwan. His American debut would be Sense and Sensibility, but, ironically, it was a Chinese-language film that eased him into bigger Hollywood projects. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Feature, and Lee was nominated for Best Director. After the not-so-great Hulk, he returned with Brokeback Mountain, a critical success. The film won him an Oscar for Best Director, although it was snubbed for Best Picture. His latest effort, Life of Pi, is his most successful film at the box office, and has won four Academy Awards, including Lee’s second Best Director statuette.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet


Hollywood caught on to this French director’s talents because of his magic realism films, such as The City of Lost Children and Delicatessen. Jeunet came to the States to direct Alien Resurrection. It failed both commercially and critically, which was more the script’s fault than his. After that bad first experience, he returned to his European roots to direct his most successful film to date, Amelie, which received five Academy Award nominations. Jeunet was the original director of Life of Pi, but pulled out of the project early in its development, a decision he might now be regretting. Nevertheless, he will be back this year with a new English movie: The Young and Prodigious Spivet, which looks incredible.

Guillermo Del Toro

Del toro

The Mexican monster master has had a thing for the strange and occult from the start of his cinematic journey. After his Spanish-language horror debut Cronos, American producers were interested in del Toro’s ability to create visually astonishing fantasy worlds. He crossed over with his sci-fi flick Mimic, and has since done increasingly bigger projects, from Blade 2 to Hellboy to Pan’s Labyrinth. His biggest project yet, the giant robot blockbuster Pacific Rim, comes this summer. We will see if it was worth dropping out of The Hobbit.

Lars Von Trier


One of the founders of the Dogme 95 film movement, this provocateur moved from micro-budget filmmaking in Denmark to “bigger” art house projects abroad. His English-language breakthrough was the romantic drama Breaking the Waves, which earned Emily Watson an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Since the beginning of his career, his projects have been followed by controversy. Nonetheless, von Trier’s movies have featured some of Hollywood’s biggest names, such as Nicole Kidman in Dogville, Willem Dafoe in Antichrist, and Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia. His explicit images and perversely bleak plots make him both a feared and acclaimed artist. He might be able to turn Shia LaBeouf into a serious actor in The Nymphomaniac, which features non-simulated sex.

Abbas Kiarostami

Like Someone in Love (1)-thumb-630xauto-34323

This Iranian master is one of the most prolific artists in contemporary world cinema. Films like Taste of Cherry, Close-Up, and Through the Olive Trees have positioned Kiarostami as a cineaste of incomparable talent. Recently, the veteran director has tried his hand outside the Persian language. 2010 saw the release of Certified Copy, a multi-language mystery love story starring Juliet Binoche. Most recently, he has transported his vision to the streets of Tokyo for Like Someone in Love. One can only hope for more Kiarostami to come, no matter what language he work ins.

Walter Salles


Walter Salles has had a highly successful career, even if it hasn’t had much noise. His early films in Brazil did extremely well around the world. His feature Central Station was a festival sensation, and earned Academy Award nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress. Leaving Portuguese behind, Salles directed The Motorcycle Diaries, which got another two Oscar nominations. Then, jumping to yet another language, his first Hollywood project was Dark Water. It was a clichéd horror movie starring Jennifer Connelly, and it didn’t do too well. Nevertheless, his most recent film, On The Road, based on Jack Kerouac’s novel, gave him a second chance to prove he his eye.

Juan Antonio Bayona


This Spanish prodigy has only two features to his name so far. The first was the horror film The Orphanage, which would become a hit thanks to the help of Bayona’s mentor, Guillermo Del Toro. Then, he set his sights on something bigger, a disaster film depicting the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami. The Impossible stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and has received very positive reviews and an Oscar nomination for Watts. This has opened the doors for Bayona in Hollywood, and a bright future is to be expected of this promising filmmaker.

Gavin Hood


This South African native has had a unique road to Hollywood. In 2005, Hood wrote and directed Tsotsi, which won him the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. This opened the doors to the American machine for him. His English debut was the political drama Rendition, starring Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Undeterred by a not-so-good first try, Hood was more successful, at least at box office, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. His next project is a blockbuster adaptation of Ender’s Game.

Tom Tykwer


Run Lola Run was a big hit in 1998, a great example of the exposure festivals can give to smaller films. German director Tom Tykwer has become a very respected filmmaker for both his unique visual style and his talent as a music composer for his own films. His follow-up picture was Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. It would go almost completely overlooked, but was far from bad. Next was The International, an action thriller starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. After returning to Germany with 3, Tykwer joined the Wachowski siblings with the outrageously ambitious Cloud Atlas. Huge in scope and lavish in imagery, this will be a hard project to top.

Park Chan-wook


Last but not least is the man who inspired this list. This Korean director has made a name for himself with the amazing mixture of beauty and violence in his films. He is best known for his Vengeance Trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and, perhaps his greatest, Oldboy. All his films are infused with explicit imagery and profound symbolism. Park has finally made the transition to Hollywood with Stoker, a sublimely beautiful tale of evil and family ties. Let’s hope this is just the start of a long-lasting career in Hollywood for this uniquely creative director.