Thailand's 10 Biggest Actresses

Film set
Film set | © Donald Tong / Pexels
Leslie Finlay

Thailand’s film industry has been bubbling under the surface for years, overshadowed by the success of nearby entertainment exporters like Korea and Japan. But local directors have been quietly accumulating a number of accolades, and the recent success of the blockbuster, Bad Genius, has thrust Thai cinema into the global spotlight. Here are some of its top actresses.

Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying

This model-turned-actress nicknamed “Aokbab” – or “design” in Thai – is Thailand’s most illustrious export of 2017. After receiving rave reviews for her inaugural role as Lynn in the mega-hit Bad Genius, the 21-year-old fine arts student was the sole recipient of the 2017 Screen International Rising Star Asia Award at the 16th Annual New York Asian Film Festival, the first Thai actor to join the ranks of international stars like Gong Hyo-jin and So Ji-sub of Korea, Takayuki Yamada of Japan, and Michelle Chen of Taiwan. She began her career as a model for Harper’s Bazaar UK, and has also appeared in a number of music videos.

Natthaweeranuch Thongmee

This Thai model-turned actress – with a Ph.D. to boot – rose to fame starring in the hit Thai horror movie, Shutter, a film so successful it launched a Hollywood remake starring Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor. Today, along with hosting the Thai reality singing competition The Star, she spends her time as an advocate for mental illness awareness.

Araya Alberta Hargate

This soap opera superstar rose to fame in 1998 after winning a beauty pageant, and soon became a household name on her hit lakorn – or Thai soap opera – series like Plan Prai, Luk Mai Klai Ton, and Pee Pian Hotel. She goes by the nickname “Chompoo,” an ode to her favourite color, pink. Her break into film was with the popular teen movie Morlum Summer, a romantic comedy following a classic fish-out-of-water tale.

Jenjira Pongpas

A regular feature to award-winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films, Jenjira boasts a long and colorful history in Thai cinema. Her latest film, Cemetery of Splendour generated international acclaim, and she has also appeared in Cannes-presented features like Mekong Hotel and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Her films are utterly artistic; yet often evoke deeper commentary on contemporary Thai politics and society, an element that must remain tastefully muted in a nation with the world’s strictest lèse majesté laws.

JeeJa Yanin

First discovered by the famous Thai filmmaker Prachya Pinkaew, this martial arts heroine is known for performing all her own stunts – sans wires – thanks to her 4th dan black belt in taekwondo and studies in Muay Thai, Thai Boxing, gymnastics, and ballet. She boasts a cult-like following for her empowering roles in films like Chocolate and Chocolate 2, in which she says she channeled her inspirations like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but with her own distinguishable acrobatic and delicateness. She is currently on a self-imposed hiatus to raise her newborn son, but her fans clamber for her to reprise her heroine role.

Eisaya Hosuwan

A newcomer to the film industry, Eisaya is expected to become a mainstay thanks to her breakthrough role alongside Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying in the chart-topping Bad Genius. This horror-romance has been acclaimed for its broad appeal, sweeping through the Kingdom of Thailand before expanding its market to Hong Kong and beyond – it was the first Thai film to open The New York Asian Film Festival.

Davika Hoorne

Best known for her roles in the comedy horror blockbuster Pee Mak and the Thai remake of South Korea’s romantic comedy Suddenly Twenty, Davika, nicknamed Mai, is known today as the “Queen of Presenters”, an incredibly sought-after spokesperson and TV host. She has rounded up a number of regional awards, including “Best Actress” by the Bangkok Critics Assembly and Suphannahong National Film Awards. Locally famous as a billboard beauty, Davika shows no sign of losing steam as a reputable actress – she has four dramas lined up for this year already.

Urassaya Sperbund

The darling of Thailand’s Instagram elite is Urassaya Sperbund, a Thai-Norwegian actress and model consistently appearing in campaigns and TV series’ for the last decade. She is affectionately called “Yaya,” reportedly because her Norwegian father struggled with the pronunciation of her given name, which translates to “daughter” in Thai. As one of the top 10 highest paid actresses in Thailand, Yaya speaks five languages and is a staple on fashion circuits worldwide, including a notable nod as the first Thai celebrity featured in US Vogue. Her career’s turning point came with the role of the incredibly popular series 4 Hearts of the Mountains, and today she is the latest face to grace both Maybelline and Louis Vuitton campaigns.

Patchrapa Chaichua

After winning the Thai beauty pageant HACKS in 1997, Patchrapa, nicknamed Aum, burst into the entertainment industry with a role on the TV series So Sanae Ha, for which she won an award for Best Leading Actress. Since then, she has been a regular mainstay in Thai lakorns, or soap operas, rising among the highest paid actresses in Thailand. Her silver screen debut was in 2003’s Fake, then starring a few other notable regional titles before returning to her berth as the lakorn queen in 2017’s Pleung Pra Nang.

Nittha Jirayungyurn

Like many of Thailand’s leading ladies, Nittha, also known as Mew, started her career in the popular lakorn industry, first appearing alongside Tanawat Wattanaputi in Khun Chai Pawornruj. Her launch to the silver screen was as the lead in the award-winning romance, One Day, and she has the lead role in the upcoming film 7-Days alongside Ananada Everingham and Gun Kantathaworn.

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