The 10 best foreign actors are diverse in their nationalities, though alike in their talent. They’ve wowed in foreign films and stolen movies from Hollywood stars. Here they are, sort of in order:
- Javier Bardem. This Spaniard wooed Scarlet Johansson in “Vicky Christina Barcelona” and shot people through the head with a cattle gun in “No Country for Old Men”. Bardem has startling range and fluid physicality to match. He’s an unpredictable romantic bedding wild women, unless he’s playing gay Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas in “Before Night Falls”, one of the great screen performances of the oughts.
- Tony Leung. Tony Leung has poetry lurking deep in his eyes. The Chinese actor plays a lovelorn writer in Wong Kar-Wai’s “2046” as well as he swings from wires blowing heads off in John Woo’s “Hardboiled”. The Hong Kong native is stellar in “Infernal Affairs”, the trilogy “The Departed” was based on. Leung’s likeability and versatility make him one of the ten best foreign actors.
- Vincent Cassel. Cassel’s portrayal of a young Parisian Jew involved in “La Haine’s” race riots rivals the intensity of a young DeNiro. In the years since, he’s hammed it up as the villain of “Ocean’s 12”, played an evil count in wtf-Kung-Fu-Period-Piece-Monster-Movie “The Brotherhood of the Wolf”, and starred with wife Monica Bellucci (the guy’s doing something right if he’s married to Bellucci) in “Irreversible”. Cassel’s intensity and penchant for dark humor make him one of the best foreign actors.
- Amitabh Bachchan. If you don’t know who Amitabh Bachchan is, or why there are successive “ch’s” in his last name, you’re not much of a Bollywood fanatic, so prepare your mind to be blown. Between 1969 and 2010, Bachchan has starred in 185 movies. He’s played God twice, and the Genie in Aladdin. India’s biggest star has a magnetism no one on the planet can match, making him one of the best foreign actors.
- Djimon Hounsou. The list of actors who can hold their own against Russell Crowe is pretty damn short. Denzel Washington is one of the few, as is Benin native Hounsou. The West African was fantastic in “Gladiator”, and brought a fierce dignity to Steven Spielberg’s otherwise hackneyed “Amistad”. Hounsou was heartbreaking as a genial AIDS victim in “In America”, and, like fellow African Vosloo, upstaged DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond”.
- Chow Yun-Fat. Chow Yun-Fat flew across treetops in “Crouching Tiger, Hiddern Dragon,” using his restrained romanticism, swordplay, and subtle wisdom to worked wonders. The Chinese actor is the star of one of the most absurd scenes in the history of global cinema: “Hardboiled’s” nine minute tracking shot, in which Yun-Fat runs through a hospital holding an infant shooting dozens of villains. Chow’s mixture of dignity, physicality, and emotional depth make him one of the best foreign actors.
- Kang-ho Song. Kang-ho Song has been in nearly every great Korean movie of the last decade. He was harrowing in “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “Memories of Murder”, immature and childish in “The Host”, and added terrific deadpan comedy to “Thirst” and “Lady Vengeance”. His boyish innocence, dark brooding, latent anger, and subversive humor make this Korean one of the ten best foreign actors.
- Gael Garc í a Bernal. Mexican García Bernal's authentic intensity makes him the standout of any film. His breakout performance in “Amores Perros” at the age of twenty is classic. In “Babel”, he managed to make more of an impression than Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett combined. Garcia Bernal is for sure one of the top ten foreign actors.
- Ken Watanabe. Watanabe is familiar to American audiences for “Batman Begins” and “The Last Samurai”, his death scene in the latter saving an otherwise terrible film. Ken’s most memorable work in the Western world is in Clint Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwojima”, in which Watanabe plays a General wrestling with conflicting allegiances to country and his men.
- Arnold Vosloo. Who the hell is Arnold Vosloo? He’s Prince Imhotep in the “Mummy” movies, and Zartan in “G.I. Joe”. The South African actor has upstaged Leonardo DiCaprio (“Blood Diamond”) and Kieffer Sutherland (“24”). He’s been in some trash, but in the right role, Vosloo’s expert combination of old school, movie star grandstanding, and modern understatement is phenomenal.
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