Ranking Foreign Directors’ English-Language Debuts from Best to Worst

Described by critics as a “literary, gothic fairy tale,” Chan-wook Park‘s provocative thriller Stoker is the Korean director’s first English-language film. The dark drama about an enigmatic man who moves in with two women he claims are family opens in limited release today. Cult audiences are familiar with the filmmaker’s intense, violent revenge epics like Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, but it’s interesting to see how the director is being embraced by American critics for his stylish storytelling — this time featuring Hollywood talents Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, and Matthew Goode. Not every foreign filmmaker has seen similar praise when it came to their North American offerings. We explored this by examining the works of ten well-known, international directors and ranked their English-language debuts from best to worst.



The first chapter in Roman Polanski’s “apartment trilogy” introduced a 21-year-old Catherine Deneuve to American audiences and paved the way to Hollywood for the Polish director. The claustrophobic, atmospheric tale of a woman’s descent into madness also established a longtime collaboration with Polanski’s screenwriting partner, Gérard Brach. Few filmmakers can transform physical space into psychological interiors where desire and emotional disgust creep far too close to one another. Polanski’s intense aural and visual portrait of feminine trauma draws us to the edge. Dickens termed this type of pull “the attraction of repulsion,” and we are forever in the thrall of Polanski’s nightmarish world.