Ang Lee opened doors for Asians in global cinema early in his career, and continues to break barriers


Ang Lee had already achieved critical and popular acclaim in Taiwan with his first feature film, Pushing Hands (1992), when he broke into the international scene with The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), completing a trilogy of Taiwanese generational films.

Having picked up a number of prestigious awards for the two films—and nominations for Best Foreign Language Film at both the Golden Globe and at the Academy Awards—Lee crossed over to Hollywood and, in handling the Jane Austen period piece Sense and Sensibility (1995), the dysfunctional-family drama The Ice Storm (1997), and the Civil War Western Ride with the Devil (1999), proved that he was adept at evoking the universality of human emotion.

The martial-arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) was the first foreign film to break the $100 million mark in the USA, also winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, firmly ensconcing Lee in the upper echelons of cinema and stoking wider interest in wuxia films and opened more doors for Asian actors in general.

So far, Lee has been nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won three: besides the Oscar for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he became the first non-Caucasian director to be named Best Director for Brokeback Mountain (2005), repeating the win with Life of Pi (2012).

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Did you know?

Ang Lee was the first non-Caucasian to win the Academy Award for Best Director, and the only Asian to win all three for directing: the Academy Awards, Golden Globe, and BAFTA. 

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