Before and during the Cold War, Americans and their leaders were in love with the first lady of China, then Taiwan, American-educated Soong May-Ling, better known as Madame Chiang Kai-Shek (she and her husband were Time's "Man and Wife of the Year"). She was never quite as popular at home, being the wife of a brutal dictator seen by many Taiwanese as foreign (the Chiang regime favored people who came from the Mainland over native Taiwanese).
US president Rutherford B. Hayes is rather obscure and unremarkable in American history, best known for his Badass Beard and the probability that he stole the election that brought him to office (hence the nickname "Rutherfraud"). However, he is a national hero in Paraguay, having served as an arbitrator after the War of the Triple Alliance in South America that had pitted Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay against them. Hayes' ruling in favor of Paraguay, allowing it to keep a large swath of disputed territory in the center of the country, forever immortalized him in the country's history as their savior. He has a city (Villa Hayes) and a department (Presidente Hayes) named after him, as well as many schools, roads, and even a soccer team.
Most Frenchmen have never heard of Frédéric Bastiat; his works are most popular with American libertarians and anarcho-capitalists.
The same may apply to his friend and contemporary, the Belgian economist Gustave de Molinari. (They were in the same philosophy club).
Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph is incredibly popular in Israel due to his attempts to squash ethnic nationalism in his empire and Austria-Hungary being one of the friendliest nations in Europe for Jews, especially for poorer ones in Central Europe who needed to get out of the anti-Semitic Russian Empire but couldn't afford to go to America or live in Western Europe. There's a reason you can still find parents in Israel that name their son "Franz Joseph".
Saladin is one of the most celebrated military leaders of all time, as a chivalrous Muslim warrior, and a Magnificent Bastard by the Crusaders. Coincidentally, this lionization did not originate in the Middle East, but in Europe. Of course, his fellow Kurds also think highly of him, as he's a very well-known Kurd (who many probably didn't even know was Kurdish at all), and Arabs lionize him as well (since the lands he ruled are/were predominantly Arabic-speaking and his armies were composed in large part of Arab troops), which gets them into occasional tiffs with Kurds (particularly over Arab nationalists' use of the Eagle of Saladin as a symbol of their movement).
The friendship between Filipino national hero Jose Rizal and Austro-Hungarian writer Ferdinand Blumentritt is the stuff of legend here in the Philippines. In turn, Rizal is popular in Austria and Hungary. William Howard Taft's stint as Philippine Governor-General is also memorable here.
Voltaire the philosopher was very popular among the Russian aristocracy during the reign of Catherine the Great.
Dr. Norman Bethune, a war doctor virtually unknown in his home country of Canada during his lifetime, is considered an icon in China for his medical service during the Second Sino-Japanese War. He gained international attention when Chairman Mao Zedong published his essay In Memory Of Norman Bethune which had been a part of the required reading in Chinese elementary schools since the '60's. Dr. Bethune is also one of the few Westerners to have statues erected in his honour.
Canada only noticed Bethune after befuddled travel agents started wondering why all those Chinese tourists want to go to the no-name town of Gravenhurst, Ontario.
No matter how spotted his career, Filipinos will always think fondly of Douglas MacArthur as the man who liberated them from the Japanese in World War II.
The Japanese themselves seem to think fondly of MacArthur over his Shogun-esque rule of their land. Over in the west, he's remembered more as the guy who refused to acknowledge Emperor Hirohito when the latter tried to apologize for his actions and is widely derided in China for pushing to nuke China when the latter intervened in the Korean War.
Napoleon Bonaparte is very popular among Jews and in Israel, mainly because of his Jewish emancipation policies.
He is also big in Poland. To the point that he is explicitly mentioned by name in their national anthem.
Cyrus The Great is also popular in Israel, for allowing Jews to return to their ancestral homeland.
Karl Marx was a German writing in the U.K. As you probably already know, he and his ideas became very big in Russia and China during the twentieth century. Strictly speaking, they did get back to Germany, but by way of Russia.
Not just by way of Russia, as a large part of his ideas (without the additions by Lenin, Stalin and Mao) were studied and adopted by various Socialist and Social Democratic parties, notably the SPD, one of the major parties in Germany for the past 150 years.
W. Edwards Deming was largely an obscure figure in his native United States. In Japan, however, he was the man who revolutionized management. His ideas began to be recognized in United States only by late 1980s, when it looked as if Japanese firms were going to drive US companies out of business.
William Ewart Gladstone, a 19th century British prime minister, is considerably more popular and better known in Bulgaria than in his native country for condemning Ottoman rule over Bulgaria and the "Bulgarian horrors" (the massacre of between 15 and 20 thousand Bulgarians after the unsuccessful April uprising).
While an obscure figure in his native United States, Adolf A. Berle is beloved in Latin America as a major architect of the "Good Neighbor policy".
Christopher Columbus still is viewed favorably among Italian Americans and in Italy. Most Americans on the other hand view Columbus day as "just another day off" and not care much about the person himself, while both Native Americans and African Americans consider him to be the man who started the mass genocide and exploitation of their people, along with laying the foundation of the slave trade, respectively and call for Columbus day to be abolished outright.
Genghis Khan is revered in Mongolia and deemed worse than Hitler in the rest of the former Mongol Empire. However, outside of the Empire, he's thought of as a major-league Bad Ass and an excellent statesman.
Speaking of Adolf Hitler, he is not always considered a villain in some circles in the Arab world.
In the Middle east East and South-East Asia, the Nazis are often seen as just another branch of Western imperialists, and their atrocities an extension or evolution of Western Imperialism, rather than the ultimate evil they are in the West. That's if they are not seen sympathetically as the ones that brought down the other Western imperialists that were colonizing Asia, namely the British, French and Dutch. Plus, those Hugo Boss-designed uniforms of their were really cool...
Tsars Alexander I and Alexander II are fondly remembered in Finland. The first created the Autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, and the second gave Finland her Constitution.
Maximilien Robespierre is considered to be a polarizing figure in French history by the French and widely derided in England and the United States as the forerunner to Stalin and Pol Pot due to his conduct in the reign of terror, which is seen as the forebearer of modern totalitarianism. However in Haiti he is more revered due to his anti-slavery stance, having passed laws making slavery illegal in France and its colonies before England and America.
To some extent is reputation in America wasn't as negative during the days of the revolution itself, with Thomas Jefferson and the American Republicans supporting the reign of terror.
West German Chancellor Willy Brandt is fondly remembered in China, despite having no impact on their policies due to him paying respect to the victims of Nazi Germany, in particular the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which is seen in stark contrast to the War Crimes denial expressed towards China by Japan.
US diplomat Henry Kissinger is often maligned by many in America and around the world (especially in Third World countries with leftist governments today) due to his support of brutal third world anti-Communist (more like anti-leftist) dictatorships in Pakistan, Indonesia and South America (more specifically Chile under Pinochet and Jorge Videla's junta in Argentina) with severe human rights violations along with his role in the secret bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, all of which have left many, noticeably Christopher Hitchens to consider him a potential War Criminal or tie him to many conspiracy theories. However, he is much more liked in China due to his role in helping open up relations between the US and China during the Nixon years.
Richard Nixon, thanks to 'Gate and 'Nam, is arguably the most hated former President in US history... except among American Indians, who revere him as a hero who did more to improve their plight in his six years in office than every other President before him put together. He appointed a Mohawk as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and signed laws saving Indian resources and returning many Indian lands to their original owners. Most of all, he put a stop to the horrific policy of Termination, which forced Indian people to "assimilate" by relocating them into unfamiliar cities. There's a reason the Paiutes of Pyramid Lake, Nevada named their capital city Nixon.
He is also well-respected in China, for opening contacts with the country in 1972.
Mikhail Gorbachev is thought of in Western nations as a well respected statesman who ended the Soviet Union. In particular, he is practically a national hero in Germany for bringing down the Iron Curtain that went straight through the country. The Russian population has quite a different opinion of the man, seeing him as a weak leader who kept giving the West concessions and ended Russia as a superpower, and those who are nostalgic for Communism — or even, in many cases, just democratic socialists — positively HATE him. When he ran for president of The New Russia in 1996, Gorbachev won a grand total of 0.51% of votes. An Urban Legend has it that, during a meeting with voters, he was punched in the face.
Lampshaded in a Pizza Hut advert in Russia, where he and his grand-daughter walk into a namesake outlet. The patrons vividly debate his legacy, eventually concluding they're all eating at Pizza Hut because of him.
Similarly, Tony Blair seems to be more popular in the US than he is in his native UK, where his decision to work closely with George W Bush in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq was met with wide condemnation by the British people, ultimately all but forcing him from office. In 2010, he had to cancel public appearances in the UK to publicise his autobiography due to the "hassle" caused by protesters, and his party are now trying to distance themselves from the Blair era as quickly as possible.
He's also very popular to this day in Sierra Leone due to his having (not enthusiastically initially) stopped a civil war there by sending the army in (the army were sent in on a limited mission but decided to intervene aggressively, Blair's role amounted to backing them once he found out about it). Seriously, they build statues to him, you won't find that in the UK.
Margaret Thatcher is universally respected as an important stateswoman in most countries and an icon of feminism. In the U.K. her legacy is more polarizing. To the upper class and big companies she is revered as a visionary politician. To the middle and lower classes, Scotland, and all Oop North, who suffered under her economic policy, she is hated to this day. When her death was announced in early 2013, people literally danced in the streets and threw Maggie Thatcher Death Parties. The song "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead" was requested (and played) constantly on radio stations.
She's hated in Ireland and Argentina as well. The Argentines hate her over the Falklands War and the Irish hate her for the South Africa-esque oppression of Catholics in Stroke Country.
Many Germans also tend to remember her as the most prominent opponent of German Reunification after the Wall fell.
George W. Bush is considerably more popular in Georgia (the country) than in the U.S., due to his pro-Georgian foreign policy and having danced to Georgian music once; it helped that a crazed man once tried to assassinate both him and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili with a single grenade in Tblisi (nothing quite says "we're in this together" like being targeted by the same guy). Reportedly, he's even sometimes considered a bit of a Mr. Fanservice in Georgia. Figure that one out.
He's also really popular in some parts of Africa for the understandable reason that he sent a ton of AIDS relief there.
While his approval rating in America was around 30% during the last few years of his tenure, his approval rating in India stayed around 60%.
Bush is very popular in the Kurdish territories of Iraq. Since the invasion the Kurds have been able to form there own semi-self governing state in the north of Iraq. He's popular enough that they sell T-shirts with his picture on them.
Also in Kosovo and neighboring Albania for supporting Kosovar independence, despite the fact that he couldn't even get their names right (he called them "Kosovoans"). The Albania example also extends to other American presidents in general (for example, "Bill" and "Hillary" are still very popular baby names there).
In a truly bizarre example, former Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty. Often considered bland (or, to his opponents, "Premier Dad", due to his "nanny state" policies) in his home province of Ontario, he is considered "handsome and charismatic" in China. FTA:
"Who else is as good at working a Chinese room?" a Canadian businessman was asked during a luncheon in Nanjing. "Exactly," he replied, mistaking it for a rhetorical question.
In stark contrast, back home in Canada, several comedy shows have made fun of McGuinty's striking resemblance to Norman Bates◊.
Congressman Ron Paul has a rather divisive public image in the US. Around the world however, he is much more liked. This is probably due to his foreign policy views of isolationism and non-interventionism, as the US foreign policy has drawn criticism from many around the world.
President Barack Obama is generally more popular in Canada, Australia and the European countries than in the United States. Globally, his popularity is highest in France and Australia specifically.
Muammar Gaddafi. He was hated in the Western world (especially in Italy note mainly because of the expulsion of the 70.000 Italians living in Libya, his continuous threats against Sicilian fishermen - whose trawlers would routinely get bullet-riddled by Lybian gunboats - and the fact he's been implicated in one of Italy's worst aviation incidents. He even went as far as launching some cruise missiles against the island of Lampedusa in 1981. ) and in Libya, where his own people eventually killed him. In sub-Saharan Africa, he is still seen as a hero by many people (including Nelson Mandela), mostly because they remember him as a prominent figure of the Non-aligned movement.
Woodrow Wilson goes through Popularity Polynomial in his home country, though he generally maintains a good reputation despite the heavy Values Dissonance associated with him. Most Eastern Europeans, meanwhile, adore him, since he was integral in breaking up the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Tell a Serb that Wilson's racial policy wasn't even Fair for Its Day, and he'll punch you, and likewise Poles remember him for explicitly calling for an independent Poland.
Wilson's segregationist tendencies were more attributable to his sympathy for the Confederacy (despite launching his political career in the North, he was born in Virginia) than to an actual belief in racial inferiority. Racism obviously didn't influence every decision Wilson made: his second wife was a distant descendant of Pocahontas, and he did support the right of Japanese-Americans in California to own land (although that had more to do with preventing a war with Japan than anything else). All that aside, segregationism, though present in Wilson's administration, was never a major thrust of his domestic agenda; many Americans today probably wouldn't even know (or at least care) about that aspect if Wilson if it wasn't continually dredged up by both politically correct leftists and many conservatives who still revile him for his (supposed) anti-business ideology and intellectual elitism.
Although he failed to get re-elected for a second term as U.S. President, George H.W. Bush is so beloved in Kuwait (the country that the United States and its allies liberated from Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War) that many people have even named their children after him.
Natalia Poklonskaya is appointed as a prosecutor in the newly established nation of Republic of Crimea. While easily well-known among the native Crimean Russians and other Russians, she became an internet sensation in Japan due to her "attractiveness".
Hugo Chavez, the late president of Venezuela is derided in America for his socialist policies and perceived heavy-handed rule. He is much more liked however, in the Middle East, due to his support of Palestine and opposition to Israel in the Arab-Israeli Conflict along with his criticism of US foreign policy in general.
President Ronald Reagan is viewed rather divisively in the USA, revered by the right and despised by the left, and in South America he's generally linked with American Gunboat Diplomacy and backing of some nasty regimes. In Poland, he's considered a hero who stood up at last to the Soviet Union, in large part responsible for the fall of Communism.
In a really bizarre example, Snooki is a pop culture icon there. Yes, travel down the streets of Everton or Wavertree and there will be a fair few Snooki lookalikes (Snookalikes?).
Anthony "Sulley" Sullivan is a British infomercial artist from Devon who moved to the US a few decades ago. His main sales pitch was that Americans assumed all Brits were intelligent so would buy anything (regardless of quality) from them. It seems to have been successful because he never expected to become known outside of the US, and his commercials were never aired outside there. However, he was first exposed to the British public through Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, and then many began checking out his commercials on Youtube. Many Brits were amused by his bizarre transatlantic accent which he cultivated so Americans could understand him better (he's famous for the way he says 'potatoes'). Many were surprised about how he's gone under the radar for so long. His show, PitchMen , with Billy Mays has also earned a worldwide following.
Lior Suchard, the Israeli psychic who recently became immensely famous in the States, was pretty much forgotten in Israel after he won the original version of The Successor (people jokingly remarked back then that Uri Geller’s next trick was to make Suchard disappear).
Muhammad Ali, while one of the most respected boxers of all time, was very popular back in the United States, but was huge in Zaire (Now known today as The Democratic Republic of the Congo), after his "Rumble in the Jungle" match against George Foreman held there c. 1974. Google "Ali Bomaye".
You can add Italy to the list of countries that still love Hilary. In fact, there is one exclusive compilation album not available outside of Italy.
One wonders if her popularity in Italy came before or after The Lizzie McGuire Movie was set in Rome.
Bella Thorne has lots of Japanese fans. Some of her tweets are replied by Japanese fans. She even retweets her Japanese fans who did the tweets in English.
Alain Robert, the "French Spiderman" known for solo climbing tall buildings and getting arrested in the process is a borderline folk hero in Brazil
Tanya Melissa Makse (or Tanya Makse on modelmayhem.com - she shortened her name, this isn't a stage name), a model/actress from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada is extremely popular in Southport, Liverpool, and the outlying backwaters that are Formby, Bootle, Litherland, Ormskirk, Skelmersdale. Along with Wigan, Bolton, Bury and much of Greater Manchester too. Also popular Oop North too.
Taylor Kitsch is considered an unmarketable actor in the United States and his native Canada after having led two high-profile flops (John Carter and Battleship). But in Europe and Asia, both films were very successful and he's averted career troubles by getting more offers in projects with broad foreign appeal.
The late actress Deborah Raffin became a huge star in China when her TV-movie Nightmare in Badham County was a big hit there.
Soap actress Thalia is a superstar in the Philippines thanks to its exposure to her shows like Maria Mercedes, Maria La Del Barrio, and Marimar. Marimar and Maria la del Barrio were popular enough to get their own Foreign Remake.
Inexplicably, the actress who played the villain of Marimar, Chantal Andere, had her own fans in the Philippines via Memetic Mutation.
American illusionist, Val Valenteno better known as The Masked Magician became very popular in Brazil following his television specials of revealing the secrets to several magic acts. He apparently was also very well liked in Japan.
Jan-Ove Waldner: Swedish table tennis player. Well-known and loved in his homeland for being a steady source of international championship medals and and showing that a small country like Sweden could beat giants like the U.S. and China. In China, he is even more famous and loved.
Masi Oka, a Japanese-American, enjoys moderate popularity in America thanks to Heroes (and being One of Us). His popularity in Japan is somewhat lower, and is mostly based around the fact that America likes him and this makes the Japanese as a whole look good in foreign eyes.
The Japanese adoreRichard Gere, to the point where internationally renowned director Akira Kurosawa gave him a prominent role in his penultimate film Rhapsody in August; he shared an impromptu dance with former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi; and he appeared in successful Foreign Remakes of the Japanese films Shall We Dance? and Hachiko.
As legendary as she continues to be in the country of her birth, Marilyn Monroe is viewed as practically a goddess in some Latin American countries. Perhaps it's the (to them) exotic blonde hair...