Tarantino will show his killer-on-wheels movie "Death Proof," the Coens will play their Rio Grande adventure "No Country for Old Men," and Van Sant will show "Paranoid Park," about a skateboarder who accidentally kills a security guard.
The three Americans have already won the top prize, the Palme d'Or. Another Cannes contender this year, Bosnian director Emir Kusturica, has taken it twice. His new movie is "Promise Me This."
The lineup of 21 movies announced Thursday also included many newcomers to Cannes' main competition. David Fincher ("Fight Club") will compete with "Zodiac," about the hunt for the serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s.
Cartoonist Marjane Satrapi will show the screen adaptation of her graphic novel "Persepolis," a memoir of growing up in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Her co-director is Vincent Paronnaud. Germany's Fatih Akin ("Head On") will screen "Auf Der Anderen Seite" (On the Other Side).
Director Stephen Frears ("The Queen") will lead the jury at the festival, which runs May 16-27. Festival organizers said they wanted to bring a mix of up-and-coming directors and Cannes veterans.
The Coens won the Palme d'Or in 1991 for "Barton Fink." Tarantino won in 1994 for "Pulp Fiction," and Van Sant was honored in 2003 for "Elephant." Kusturica won twice: in 1985 for "When Father Was Away on Business" and again in 1995 for "Underground."