21 Actors Who Prove Bilingual Is Better

December 2, 2015

Have you ever performed in a language that is not your own? Whether you grew up in a bilingual household or mastered a foreign tongue in school, speaking more than one language can be a major asset as an actor. Need proof? Here are 21 stars who have delivered their best work in two (or more!) languages.

 

Salma Hayek
Hayek made her debut on the Mexican soap opera “Teresa” before breaking into Hollywood in the early 1990s. She has starred in over 40 films and on numerous television shows in both English and Spanish, and frequently draws on her Mexican heritage even in English-speaking roles.

 

Christoph Waltz
Most famous for his excellent collaborations with Quentin Tarantino in “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained,” the Austrian-born Waltz trained in New York but spent most of his later career working on stage and screen in Germany.

 

Kristin Scott Thomas
Oscar-nominated for her role in 1996’s “The English Patient,” this Brit has enjoyed a long career in French-language films including “Il y a Longtemps que Je t'Aime” (“I’ve Loved You So Long”) and “La Doublure” (“The Valet”).

 

Mads Mikkelsen
Made famous in Denmark in the late 1990s, Mikkelsen’s English-speaking breakthrough came as Bond villain Le Chiffre in “Casino Royale.” His popularity has grown with the television show “Hannibal” and his upcoming “Rogue On: A Star Wars Story” role, and he continues to perform in Danish films such as 2012’s excellent “Jagten” (“The Hunt”).

 

Antonio Banderas
This Andalusian star began his acting career in Madrid and later joined the National Theatre of Spain. He has performed in English and Spanish in over 100 films and television shows, including “Evita,” “The Legend of Zorro,” and “The Skin I Live In.”

 

Diane Kruger
This multi-lingual German-born actor began working in French cinema in the early 2000s after a successful career as a Paris-based model. She turned heads as German spy Bridget von Hammersmark in “Inglourious Basterds,” and continues to work as an actor in French and English.

 

Benicio Del Toro
Originally from Puerto Rico, Del Toro has spoken his native Spanish in dozens of Hollywood films throughout the years. The versatile actor even won an Oscar for his heartbreaking Spanish-speaking performance as a Mexican police officer in Steven Soderbergh’s “Traffic.”


Audrey Tautou
Tautou has enjoyed a long career in the French cinema, starring in dozens of films including 2001’s internationally acclaimed “Amélie.” Not completely limited to one language, she also made her Hollywood debut opposite Tom Hanks in 2006’s “The Da Vinci Code.”  

 

Penelope Cruz
An Oscar winner for her fierce Spanish and English-speaking performance in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (co-starring husband Javier Bardem), this multi-talented Madrid-born movie star also speaks (and performs in) Italian and French.

 

Ken Watanabe
Watanabe made a name early on starring in numerous samurai films and series in his native Japan. He rose to fame in the United States with his excellent work in “Batman Begins,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Inception,” and others, and even made his Broadway debut last year in “The King and I.”

 

Jean Reno
Two languages—even three—are not enough for this talented Morocco-born actor. Known for a plethora of films including “Léon: The Professional,” “Mission Impossible,” and “The Da Vinci Code,” Reno has worked on camera in French, Italian, Spanish, English, and Japanese.

 

Sofia Vergara

Best known for her role as an over-the-top but ultra-loveable wife and mother on “Modern Family,” this Colombian-American star got her start as a Spanish-language television host on the Univisión network.

 

Javier Bardem
Born into a show business family, Bardem has been working in Spanish cinema since a very young age. He won an Oscar for 2008’s “No Country for Old Men,” and has starred in dozens of other English and Spanish-language films.

 

Marion Cotillard
Hailing from Orléans, France, Cotillard made her English-speaking acting debut at the age of 17. Her impressive filmography includes work in English and French, and includes esteemed “La Vie en Rose” (in which Cotillard depicts famous singer Édith Piaf), “Inception,” “De Rouille et d'Os” (Rust and Bone), and “Two Days, One Night.”

 

Vincent Cassel
This multi-lingual Parisian actor has performed in his native French in numerous films (“L’Appartement,” “Irréversible”) along with English (“Ocean’s Twelve,” “Black Swan”), and even Russian (“Eastern Promises”).

 

Gael Garcia Bernal
The charming star of 2001’s “Y Tu Mamá También,” this talented Mexican actor has worked in both English and Spanish cinema. His internationally popular projects include “The Motorcycle Diaries” and “Letters to Juliet.”

 

Monica Bellucci
Though she began her career as a model, the Italian Bellucci transitioned to acting with great success. She has starred in dozens of films in English and Italian, most famously “The Matrix Reloaded” and “Spectre.”

 

Jet Li
This Chinese actor and martial arts champion has starred in over 40 action films, and was a major name in Hong Kong before breaking into Hollywood. His bilingual hits include the “Once Upon a Time in China” series and “Romeo Must Die.”

 

Gal Gadot
This Israeli actor’s action chops come authentically; she was a soldier with the Israel Defense Forces for two years before breaking into modelling and Israeli cinema. She later starred in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and just made waves when she was cast as Wonder Woman in a slew of upcoming Warner Brothers films.

 

Mozhan Marnò
Though born and raised in the United States, this Iranian-American actor speaks five languages. The “House of Cards” actor put her skills to use when she performed fluent Farsi in “The Stoning of Soraya M.” and the 2014 Persian vampire film “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.”  

 

Juliette Binoche
This Parisian performer has enjoyed a long and impressive career in French and English language films including “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (opposite Daniel Day-Lewis), “Fatale” (“Damage”), and “The English Patient,” for which she won an Oscar.

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