The 12 best movies and documentaries to watch


French cinema has given us volumes of authors and theories, new waves and sub-genres. If you are looking to watch French films on Netflix, you might have to forgo some of the classic titles, but there are plenty of more modern filmmakers who do thoughtful, engaging and important work. Here are the best French movies on Netflix right now.

The best French films on Netflix

1) Faces Places

Beloved French filmmaker Agnès Varda has long documented faces and places in her films and documentaries, but here she teams up with street artist JR to get even more attention. The two travel around France, interviewing people who live in the cities along the way, and creating art from these interactions. But even sweeter are the conversations between Varda and JR as they get to know each other better, and the art that comes with learning more about them. –Audra Schroeder

2) Youth

To forget Childhood. Celine Sciamma’s 2014 drama explores the lives of black teenagers growing up in a Parisian real estate project with special attention. Karidja Touré plays Marieme, an introvert trained in a gang of girls who frees her a little from her daily life at home and at school. And Rihanna’s “Diamonds” marks an unforgettable scene reveling in this release.—Audra Schroeder

3) Raw

Julia Ducournau’s feature debut is an obstacle course for the senses, and it’s one of the most unique horror films of the year. Vegetarian teenager Justine (Garance Marillier) is sent back to her first year of veterinary school and undergoes a hazing ritual that wakes her up in several ways. Raw speaks of a woman who comes to terms with her nascent cannibalism, but more fundamentally of a woman who discovers desire and brotherhood. Marillier gives a stunning performance as she fights and gives in to her urges, and her transformation doesn’t need CGI to be terrifying and uplifting.

4) Blue is the warmest color

Soaked in controversy when it came out (and for good reason) Blue is the warmest color is nonetheless an almost unprecedented achievement in 21st century cinema. Discussions of male gaze and the ethics of directing will certainly follow many people’s viewing, but we also don’t have many epic three-hour lesbian love stories. There are elements of Blue is the warmest color that still seem essential, if only for that, we need more of what the movie does well, even needing less of what goes wrong. And of course, there are the performances of lead actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, who rightly became the first actors to receive the Palme d’Or at the film’s Cannes premiere. Playing the two halves of the young couple Emma and Adele, Blue is the warmest colorThe great ladies of are both so good, it’s not just that they’ve created an indelible cinematic love story, it’s like they’ve reimagined the cinematic love story itself. –Chris Osterndorf

5) Amelie

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film in 2001 made Audrey Tautou a star, and we can easily understand why. As the main character, she finds joy in bringing joy to others, quietly pulling the strings around Paris to brighten the lives of strangers. She is not a matchmaker; Amélie’s goal is something bigger. But then she runs into Nino, a man with a similar goal. –Audra Schroeder

6) To each his own

best French movies on netflix - to each his own

To each his own is a maniacal story looking for a little respite. It’s about a young woman, Simone, and the tumultuous few weeks that redefine her life. She is in love with a woman, but she develops feelings for a man with whom she plans to go into business. On top of that, she faces pressure from her conservative Jewish parents to settle down and start a family. To each his own packs a lot into its short 95-minute runtime. While the film would undoubtedly benefit from having more space to explore all of the ideas it introduces, it still has a few moments that work well. –Eddie Strait

7) Nocturama

French director Bertrand Bonello sets up Nocturama in two parts: one in which we see a group of radical teenagers committing acts of terrorism around Paris, and the other in which we see them hiding in an empty and massive department store. Bonello offers no clear motive for their actions, but as the group digs deeper into the interiors of the store, it doesn’t matter as much. The draw of Nocturama is to see these children face their guilt, fear and desire as the line between fantasy and reality fades and deadlines collide. Audra Schroeder

8) To breathe

Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) made this 2014 film about the limits of friendship. Adapted from The book of the same name by Anne-Sophie Brasme, To breathe takes a look at the relationship between 17-year-old Charlie and new student Sarah, which goes from playful to consumer and back again. Laurent does not weigh down the display of red flags, even if we see them floating in the distance. Rather, she dwells on the little details that inform a teenager’s experience, and how the need for connection and acceptance can often distort our sense of self. Audra Schroeder

9) I am not an easy man

Original Netflix French Film I am not an easy man follows Damien, app creator and shamelessly chauvinistic male child, as he navigates an alternate universe, forced to deal with his new gender repositioning. The film is dark and funny, purposefully stitched with its genderless clichés and specific situations Damien finds himself in, now putting on a woman’s foot. But problems arise when he starts dating the attractive writer Alexandra, because in this world of women, we have a story about a man – and only the lost Damien finds himself changed. –Kahron’s Spearman

ten) In the shadow of the iris

Jalil Lespert’s Iris disappears at the start of the film, but her disappearance is linked to some nasty details. In the shadow of the iris was inspired by Hideo Nakata’s 2000 film chaos, which added some complex layers to the psychological thriller. A kidnapping is reversed, and then some. –Audra Schroeder

11) Rust and bone

An extraordinary love story, that of Jacques Audiard Rust and bone stars Marion Cotillard as a killer whale trainer who suffers a life-changing injury. This brings her closer to the hopeful boxer and single father Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts). As the two attempt to explore a new relationship while dealing with trauma, Audiard also gives us the beautiful backdrop of Antibes to soften the edges. Audra Schroeder

12) November 13: Attack on Paris

This documentary presents to the public the mechanics and the horror of the terrorist attacks perpetrated in Paris on November 13, 2015. The directors Jules and Gédéon Naudet reconstitute images of this day (some current events and others shot with cell phones) and mix it up with interviews from those present that day. From testimonials from restaurant and concert hall survivors to responses from the French government and the police, November 13 is a powerful glimpse into the darkness, courage and resilience needed to move to the other side. –Eddie Strait

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* First published: July 3, 2018, 6:00 a.m. CDT

Audra Schroeder

Audra Schroeder is the senior entertainment writer for The Daily Dot and focuses on streaming, comedy and music. His work has previously appeared in Austin Chronicle, Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.

Audra Schroeder

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