Cookies notification

This website uses cookies to provide you with a better experience

You can adjust your cookie settings through your browser. If you do not adjust your settings, you are consenting to us issuing all cookies to you.

The Sisters Brothers and 5 other memorable English-language debuts from foreign-language directors


When quirky Western The Sisters Brothers gallops into Cineworld on 5th April, we'll be able to see French director Jacques Audiard's first foray into English-language cinema.

Previously the director of critically-acclaimed Gallic hits including Rust and Bone and A Prophet, Audiard now takes his first steps into a genre popularised by Hollywood, adapting Patrick DeWitt's acclaimed, darkly comic novel. Audiard in fact went on to win Best Director at the 2018 Venice Film Festival.

The movie features the excellent duo of Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator) and John C. Reilly (Golden Globe nominee for Stan & Ollie) as bickering assassins Charlie and Eli Sisters, two brothers whose latest mission to eliminate a gold prospector takes some unusual and shocking turns. The movie co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed and promises to turn this familiar genre on its head with a dose of violently offbeat humour.

John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix in The Sisters Brothers

Audiard isn't the first director to venture beyond his native language into the realm of Hollywood cinema. Here are five more great English-speaking debuts from foreign film-makers.

1. Hard Target by John Woo

Hong Kong's John Woo is revered as one of the finest action film-makers of all time. His hugely influential bullet-ridden films often feature in the collections of movie aficionados, notably stylish classics like The Killer and Hard Boiled, which were shot in his native country.

John Woo later made the leap across the ocean and gave us a selection of memorable guilty pleasure Hollywood films in the 1990s and early 2000s with Face/Off and the somewhat underrated Mission: Impossible II.

However, his first excursion into American cinema was the 1993 Jean-Claude Van Damme gem Hard Target. Full of Woo's trademark action choreography and editing, Hard Target is a cult classic full of memorable moments, fun action and colourful characters.

2. Snowpiercer by Bong Joon-ho

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho established his reputation with the acclaimed monster movie The Host, following it up with engrossing mystery movies Mother and Memories of Murder.

His gritty and imaginative English-language debut Snowpiercer is an adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. Set in the aftermath of a new Ice Age, and taking place on a train that traverses the entire world, Snowpiercer follows Chris Evans' central character and others as they try and fight their way through said train's class system, from the poor carriages at the back to the wealthiest environments at the front.

Full of brilliant performances (Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt and Ed Harris round off a terrific cast), imaginative set design and several brutally staged action sequences, Snowpiercer is a definite must-watch English debut from Joon-ho.

3. Sense and Sensibility by Ang Lee

On paper it must have originally seemed odd to hire Ang Lee to direct Sense and Sensibility.

The Taiwanese director, who is now famous as the Oscar-winning film-maker behind English-language masterpieces Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi (not to mention the influential Chinese martial arts movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), wasn't a natural choice for the genteel, traditionally English world of Jane Austen. At this stage in his career, Lee was famed more for native hits like Eat Drink Man Woman.

And yet… it works. It works so much that Lee's Sense and Sensibility would end up winning many awards, including Best Film at the BAFTAs and an Oscar for screenwriter (and also star) Emma Thompson.

4. Stoker by Park Chan-wook

Director of the fantastic South Korean-language Vengeance Trilogy, Park Chan-wook took a screenplay by Wentworth Miller (yes, that Wentworth Miller from Prison Break) and made an utterly beautiful, dark thriller.

Stoker has some gorgeous cinematography that highlights the creepy and dark turns of the story effortlessly, aided by memorable performances from Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode. Clever and Hitchcockian to the max, it's no wonder the already accomplished Park chose this project in order to make his mark upon English-speaking cinema.

5. Flesh+Blood by Paul Verhoeven

Provocative Dutch film-maker Paul Verhoeven gained notoriety in Hollywood throughout the 80s and 90s with graphic films like RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Yet he was already infamous in his native country for his uncompromising approach to sexuality and violence: movies like Turkish Delight and Soldier of Orange actively challenged audiences and generated quite a stir.

His English-language debut was 1985 fantasy epic Flesh+Blood, and it's as far-removed from the family-friendly tone of The Lord of the Rings as you can imagine. Ripe with gore, nudity and a host of not-altogether pleasant characters (actor Rutger Hauer also appears in The Sisters Brothers), it's a down-and-dirty immersion in medieval atmosphere, announcing Verhoeven's intentions in explosive style.

The Sisters Brothers arrives in Cineworld on 5th April, so if you've got some favourite English-language debut movies you'd like to share with us, let us know @Cineworld.

Christopher Francis is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.