The 27 best French films to watch in 2021


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Hollywood may be the undisputed king of the global film industries, but modern cinema owes its entire existence to the French. In 1895, the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière invented a cinematographic camera called cinematograph and made their first feature film, 46 seconds long. Exit from the Lumière factory in Lyon, which they screened for a private audience in March, making it the first presentation of a film screened. Over the next 126 years, the French film industry grew into one of the most renowned in the world, credited with spawning influential movements like the new wave (French New Wave) at the end of the 1950s, and with the creation of generations of talents, from Brigitte Bardot to Léa Seydoux, from Alain Delon to Omar Sy, from Jean Renoir to Olivier Dahan.

Lately, French TV has had a moment (see: the brilliantly meta Call my agent! and the slippery caper Lupine), reaching a larger American audience thanks in part to Netflix’s commitment to produce more content in the country. The best movies, on the other hand, have been around for a long time, if only for a small rental price on Amazon. So whether you’re a die-hard Francophile, need to brush up on your French, or just want an excuse to dream and plan your next trip to Paris, we’ve handpicked a list of 27 French masterpieces at consider for your next movie night. .

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France’s troubled history of racism and its continuing and strained relationship with immigrant populations is met with fiery criticism in this film about three friends who fight and run into the police while living in the neighborhood. disadvantaged in Paris. suburb.

Jules and Jim

This 1962 romantic drama by François Truffaut, one of the founders of the Nouvelle Vague, takes place during World War I and tells the tragic story of two friends, Jules and Jim, and the unpredictable woman, Catherine, who s ‘interposes between them.


In this whimsical tale, Audrey Tautou plays a shy waitress who fights her own loneliness by resolving to improve the lives of those around her. Not only is Amelie infinitely charming and sweet, it is also a true love letter to Paris, and especially to Montmartre.

The Great Illusion

Considered one of the greatest films ever made – Orson Welles once said that if he could keep only two films for posterity it would be one – Jean Renoir’s 1937 magnum opus tells the story of ‘a group of soldiers plotting their escape from a German prison camp during the Great War.

Paris I love you

What might have been a cliché premise is actually an endearing anthology of 18 stories of love and loss (directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Olivier Assayas and the Coen brothers, and featuring a set including Natalie Portman, Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe), taking place in the various arrondissements of Paris.

The Untouchables

Before he captures our hearts in Lupine this year, Omar Sy made a name for himself thanks to this 2011 hit, based on a true story of a rich quadriplegic (François Cluzet), his landlord (Sy) and the improbable bond that is woven between them.

the Samurai

In this 1967 neo-noir thriller, which influenced later works like The driver (1978), idol Alain Delon is an icy hitman on a mission to find an alibi for a recent job before the police – or worse, their dangerous employers – catch up.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Painter Julian Schnabel’s most successful (and Oscar nominated) cinematic work was adapted from Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir, about his life following a stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to speak . Bauby wrote the book, dictating each letter with a blink of an eye. their eyes.

The 400 blows

François Truffaut’s acclaimed directorial debut on a rebellious boy in 1950s Paris is a defining New Wave film, a work that embodies the hallmarks of movement, from long tracking shots to its existential theme.


If Truffaut was the father of the New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard was the most prolific author– his first feature film Breathless is the first of his many contributions to the movement. His immense success also catapulted actor Jean-Paul Belmondo to the rank of international celebrity.

Male Female

Jean-Luc Godard paints a portrait of youth culture, love, revolution and politics in the Paris of the 1960s through Male FemaleThe Quartet of Twenty-Some: Also called “The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola”.

Life in pink

Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for Best Actress (plus a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Caesar) for her portrayal of legendary singer Edith Piaf in this biographical musical, becoming the first and only actor to win the award. for a performance in French.

Hiroshima My Love

This New Wave classic directed by Alain Resnais, with a screenplay by novelist Marguerite Duras, is about a couple, a French actress and a Japanese architect, and the conversations they share about life, l love and war in the aftermath of the devastating Hiroshima bombing.


Isabelle Huppert was nominated for an Academy Award for her turn as the successful CEO of a video game company looking for the man who raped her in her own home. The 2016 thriller was directed by Paul Verhoeven, aka the man behind the cult classic of Sharon Stone Primary instinct.

Blue is the warmest color

In this coming-of-age tale by Abdellatif Kechiche, a teenage girl (Adèle Exarchopoulos) discovers her sexuality and experiences her first love – and her first sorrow – after meeting a mysterious artist (Léa Seydoux).

The artist

This beautiful tribute to the silent film era of 1920s Hollywood swept the awards circuit in 2011, winning 3 Golden Globes, 7 BAFTAs, 6 Césars and 5 Oscars, including Best Actor for Jean Dujardin, making him the first French actor to win in this category.

My uncle

This 1958 Jacques Tati classic is an ingenious satire of post-war society’s obsession with ultra-modern architecture (the absurdly geometric Villa Arpel is an icon), consumerism, upward mobility and the getting status through shiny new things.

Pierrot le fou

Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Paul Belmondo’s latest collaboration tells the story of a disenchanted man who abandons his family and his cushy lifestyle go around the Mediterranean with her ex-lover. Complications arise when he learns that she is on the run from Algerian gangsters.


This drama, depicting the professional and personal lives of members of a police squad dealing with crimes against children, is gripping, heartbreaking and, like Hollywood journalist put, “like a whole season of Thread wrapped in a single film over two hours. “

Belle of the Day

In the most emblematic role of Catherine Deneuve, she plays a young housewife whose more carnal and masochistic desires cannot be satisfied by her husband. So she instead turns to a brothel to work, during the day, as a high-class prostitute.


Brigitte Bardot, the irresistible sets of Rome and Capri, a marriage that falls apart, egos clashing on a movie set (with Fritz Lang himself playing the role), all this makes for a perfect recipe for another film. explosive by Jean-Luc Godard.


In this sinuous thriller, Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil are a couple perfectly bourgeois lives are turned upside down when spooky videos of them being watched start appearing on their doorstep, forcing them to consider their not-so-perfect past.

Rust and bone

Marion Cotillard plays a killer whale trainer who loses both legs in a horrific accident. Matthias Schoenaerts is an unemployed single father. Thanks to their complicated on / off relationship, the two begin to heal their wounds.

The valet

“Seinfeld de France” Gad Elmaleh is the titular valet of this 2006 comedy, in which a wealthy magnate gets caught with his mistress in a paparazzi photo and hires the valet to pose as said mistress’s boyfriend. to hide the affair from his wife.

Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Young love and the devastating separation caused by the war are at the heart of this 1964 musical, made all the more enchanting by the technicolor universe in which Catherine Deneuve’s Geneviève lives, as she sells umbrellas in a small shop in Cherbourg.


Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima My Love) and Jean-Louis Trintignant star in this heartbreaking film by Michael Haneke about an octogenarian couple and their fight to stay together, at all costs, despite a debilitating illness and old age.

Three colors: blue

The first of Three colours Krzysztof Kieślowski’s trilogy based on the French national motto of liberty, equality and fraternity, this film explores the idea of ​​freedom through the story of a woman (Juliette Binoche) mourning the death of her husband and her child, and finding meaning in his life through it all.

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