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The 10 Best French Films

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1. L’Atalante (1934)

Capricious small-town girl Juliette (Dita Parlo) and barge captain Jean (Jean Dasté) marry after a whirlwind courtship, and she comes to live aboard his boat, L’Atalante. As they make their way down the Seine, Jean grows weary of Juliette’s flirtations with his all-male crew, and Juliette longs to escape the monotony of the boat and experience the excitement of a big city. When she steals away to Paris by herself, her husband begins to think their marriage was a mistake.

2. The Rules of the Game (1939)

In this melancholy French social satire, André (Roland Toutain) is having an affair with Christine (Nora Gregor), whose husband, Robert (Marcel Dalio), himself is hiding a mistress. Meanwhile Christine’s married maid, Lisette (Paulette Dubost), is romantically entangled with the local poacher. At a hunting party, trusted friend Octave (Jean Renoir) also confesses his feelings for Christine, as the passions of the servants and aristocrats dangerously collide.

3. Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)

In this expansive drama, the lovely and enigmatic Parisian actress Garance (Arletty) draws the attention of various men in her orbit, including the thoughtful mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) and the ambitious actor Frédérick (Pierre Brasseur). Though Garance and Baptiste have an undeniable connection, their fortunes shift considerably, pushing them apart as well as bringing them back together, even as they pursue other relationships and lead separate lives.

4. Orphée (1950)

At the Café des Poètes in Paris, a fight breaks out between the poet Orphée (Jean Marais) and a group of resentful upstarts. A rival poet, Cègeste (Edouard Dermit), is killed, and a mysterious princess (María Casares) insists on taking Orpheus and the body away in her Rolls-Royce. Orphée soon finds himself in the underworld, where the Princess announces that she is, in fact, Death. Orpheus escapes in the car back to the land of the living, only to become obsessed with the car radio.

5. Children of Paradise (1945)

In this expansive drama, the lovely and enigmatic Parisian actress Garance (Arletty) draws the attention of various men in her orbit, including the thoughtful mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) and the ambitious actor Frédérick (Pierre Brasseur). Though Garance and Baptiste have an undeniable connection, their fortunes shift considerably, pushing them apart as well as bringing them back together, even as they pursue other relationships and lead separate lives.

6. Olivia (1951)

A girl falls in love with her finishing school headmistress, who feels the same but tries to suppress her desires.

7. The Passion of Joan Arc (1928)

A classic of the silent age, this film tells the story of the doomed but ultimately canonized 15th-century teenage warrior. On trial for claiming she’d spoken to God, Jeanne d’Arc (Renee Falconetti) is subjected to inhumane treatment and scare tactics at the hands of church court officials (Eugene Silvain, Andre Berley). Initially bullied into changing her story, Jeanne eventually opts for what she sees as the truth. Her punishment, a famously brutal execution, earns her perpetual martyrdom.

8. The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Paratrooper commander Colonel Mathieu (Jean Martin), a former French Resistance fighter during World War II, is sent to 1950s Algeria to reinforce efforts to squelch the uprisings of the Algerian War. There he faces Ali la Pointe (Brahim Haggiag), a former petty criminal who, as the leader of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale, directs terror strategies against the colonial French government occupation. As each side resorts to ever-increasing brutality, no violent act is too unthinkable.

9. Vivre Sa Vie (1962)

In director Jean-Luc Godard’s landmark drama, Nana (Anna Karina), a young Parisian woman who works in a record shop, finds herself disillusioned by poverty and a crumbling marriage. Hoping to become an actress and break into films, Nana is once again disappointed when nothing comes of her dreams, and soon she turns to a bleak life of prostitution. When she meets a man (Peter Kassowitz) who truly cares for her, Nana’s hope returns — but Raoul (Sady Rebbot), her pimp, may have the final word.

10. La Haine (1995)

When a young Arab is arrested and beaten unconscious by police, a riot erupts in the notoriously violent suburbs outside of Paris. Three of the victim’s peers, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), Said (Said Taghmaoui) and Hubert (Hubert Kounde), wander aimlessly about their home turf in the aftermath of the violence as they try to come to grips with their outrage over the brutal incident. After one of the men finds a police officer’s discarded weapon, their night seems poised to take a bleak turn.

F R E N C HF I L M S - 10 best

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  • m@hotmail.com'
    M
    November 19, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Not black and white, but I highly recommend Jeux d’enfants.I think you will like it. 🙂

  • pottiez.marie@gmail.com'
    Miles of Happiness
    November 19, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Ok I’m French and I don’t even know some of these… Shame on me!

  • gettheicecream@gmail.com'
    IceCream
    November 19, 2014 at 6:46 am

    Intouchables (2011)

  • moosha12@hotmail.co.uk'
    Misha
    November 19, 2014 at 4:43 am

    This post has come at a really good time for me as I’ve just started studying cinema for French A level at college!
    Carpe Noctems

  • litonkrl@gmail.com'
    Clipping Path Outsource
    November 18, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Those are so old. How can I get them?

  • nancydavolio6@gmail.com'
    Best holiday destinations
    November 18, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing.

  • karmapoliice@gmail.com'
    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn
    November 18, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a list like this without the usual suspects (*cough* Amelie) – Vivre Sa Vie is one of my all-time favourite films!

  • cjballantyne113@hotmail.co.uk'
    Charlotte
    November 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I haven’t seen any of these (despite studying a French degree) but my favourite French film has to be Les Choristes (a new teacher at a school inspires his troubled students by forming a choir) – highly recommended if you haven’t seen it!

  • ally1on@gmail.com'
    Ally Gong
    November 18, 2014 at 11:58 am

    This post is exactly what I was looking for recently…! I want to explore French culture more, so excited for these recommendations!
    allygong.com
    -Ally Gong

  • karen@littleblackshell.com'
    Karen Farber
    November 18, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Never seen any of these films!! I need to watch some

    http://www.littleblackshell.com

  • christinamrichards@yahoo.com'
    Christina
    November 18, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Yes! I agree with Luke! Watch Breathless! That’s the film that began my love of Paris.

    – Christina http://www.cityloveee.blogspot.com

  • nomadnotebook@gmail.com'
    Lizzy
    November 18, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Love La Haine and Les Enfants du Paradis!

    Lizzy from Nomad Notebook

  • neatlypackaged.blog@gmail.com'
    Nancy
    November 18, 2014 at 8:46 am

    La Haine is incredible! Thank you for putting it on this list 🙂

    http://neatly-packaged.com/

  • mcknzrmstrng8@gmail.com'
    Mckenzie
    November 18, 2014 at 8:33 am

    One of my favorite french films is called the dinner game. It is so funny its about Wealthy Frenchmen who hold a weekly contest to see who can invite the biggest idiot to their dinner parties. You have to try seeing it!

  • unefleurdelavande@gmail.com'
    Fallon
    November 18, 2014 at 8:25 am

    thank you thank you thank you!
    I am constantly looking for new french films!
    xoxo.

    http://www.la-vie-en-lavande.blogspot.com

  • marieking32@gmail.com'
    Marie @ Marie Away
    November 18, 2014 at 8:12 am

    I haven’t seen any of these! I’ve got some binge watching to do. I’m a sucker for anything about Chanel: Coco avant Chanel and Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky are both good for satisfying that preference.

    Thanks for sharing!

    http://www.marieaway.com

  • alissaloxton@hotmail.com'
    Alissa
    November 18, 2014 at 7:47 am

    I am loving these lists, takes me back to my childhood growing up in France! Have you seen “Jeux d’enfants”? It translates to “Children’s game” but I’m pretty sure the English title is “Love me if you dare”. Incredible little movie, I’m not sure if it would translate really well as I haven’t watched it in English or with subtitles, but I really recommend it! It’s got Marion Cotillard who plays in Inception. Anyway it’s literally part of my top 3 favourite movies ever so I try to palm it off on everyone else… I hope you’ll consider it 😉

    ——————–
    21 year old travel blogger
    http://the-living-spree.blogspot.co.nz/

  • lukekim1@gmail.com'
    Luke Kim
    November 18, 2014 at 6:23 am

    I have seen four of these, but you have omitted my favorite: À bout de souffle (“Breathless”) by Jean-Luc Godard. Check it out.