Foreign Film Directors Are Having a Historic Decade at the Oscars and the Three Amigos Are Leading the Way

“Roma” may have earned Mexico its first Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, but the country has been dominating the Best Director race at the Academy Awards for much of the last decade. Alfonso Cuarón’s victory continued an unprecedented run of wins for Mexican filmmakers. In the last six years, the Oscar for Best Director has gone to a Mexican filmmaker five times: Cuarón in 2014 for “Gravity,” Alejandro G. Iñárritu for “Birdman” and “The Revenant” in 2015 and 2016, Guillermo del Toro for “The Shape of Water” in 2018, and Cuarón again this year.

Cuarón, del Toro, and Iñárritu, collectively known as the Three Amigos, have singlehandedly turned Mexico into an Oscars powerhouse in the last six years. Cuarón’s 2013 win for “Gravity” was the first time a Mexican filmmaker won the Best Director Oscar, and since then the Three Amigos have owned the category. The one break came in 2017 when Damien Chazelle won the prize for “La La Land.”

While Mexico has been at the forefront of recent Best Director winners, Cuarón’s “Roma” victory continued a remarkable decade for foreign directors as a whole. In fact, Chazelle remains the only American filmmaker to win Best Director in the 2010s. Outside of the Three Amigos, the U.K.’s Tom Hooper won for “The King’s Speech” in 2011, France’s Michel Hazanavicius won for “The Artist” in 2012, and Taiwan’s Ang Lee won for “Life of Pi” in 2013.

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