Plot: An old professional killer called Wagner seeks someone to teach what he knows because he is dying. He finally chooses Max, young and passionless thief to be his successor.
Note: This is the 3rd movie directed by Mathieu Kassovitz (La Haine, Gothika) and I think it is actually his best one. It is thus my favorite French movie right now but I have to say I only saw it once when it came out (something like 13 years ago). So, if I watch it again, it may drop on this list. But still, it is a terrific movie and one of the best movie I have ever seen.
Plot: A young car thief kills a policeman and tries to persuade a girl to hide in Italy with him.
Note: It used to be a 5 star but and was probably my favorite but I watched it again and it dropped 1 spot because there were a few dull moments. But still it remains a great movie and one of my favorites.
Plot: During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
Note: It is a such classic, a true masterpiece directed by Jean Renoir. It is one of the best movies about the 1rst World War and simply of the best movies produced back in the 30's. A must see for any real movie lover.
Plot: Post-apocalyptic surrealist black comedy about the landlord of an apartment building who occasional prepares a delicacy for his odd tenants. Note: It is a very original movie. Great visual, directing, acting. It is a great cult classic.
Plot: This gritty police drama shows us the underbelly of the Parisian drug trade. Lulu is a tough streetwise narcotics cop who, despite the ruthless environment that he lives and works in every day, still manages somehow to maintain his humanity.
Note: One of my favorite cop movies (maybe my all time favorite). Anyway, I love it so much because it is really raw and realistic. There is no Mel Gibson or Bruce Willis or Wil Smith kind of guy, shooting bad guys and saving the day at the end of the movie. Just unknown actors who really look like cops. It is almost like a documentary.
Plot: Malik El Djebena is just starting his six year prison sentence in Brécourt. Although he has spent the better part of his life in juvenile detention, this stint is his first in an adult prison. Beyond the division of Corsicans and Muslims in the prison (the Corsicans who with their guard connections rule what happens in the prison), he has no known friends or enemies inside. He is just hoping to serve his time in peace and without incident, despite having no prospects once he's out of jail since he's illiterate and has no support outside of the prison.
Note: It is such a masterpiece, one of the best French movies I have seen during the last decade. I was already impressed by Audiard's previous directing feature, 'De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté', but this was even better. It is one of the grimmest, dreariest jail drama I have ever seen.
Plot: Biography of Camille Claudel. Her enthusiasm impresses already-famous sculptor Auguste Rodin. He hires her as an assistant, but soon Camille begins to sculpt for herself and for Rodin. She also becomes his mistress.
Note: Back in those days, Isabelle Adjani was probably the best French actress. Here, she works with Gérard Depardieu, the best French actor of the last 30 years. So, the acting is just great and the story is really spellbinding.
Plot: Convicted felon Nikita, instead of going to jail, is given a new identity and trained, stylishly, as a top secret spy/assassin.
Note: I'm not a huge fan of Luc Besson. He is a great director in the sense that the direction is always top notch but the stories as usually less than average.... But not with this movie! As usual, the visuals are great but this time, the story rocks too! A great moody movie. I just love it. Definitely, my favorite movie directed by Besson (F*ck Léon!).
Original Title: 'De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté'
Directed by: Jacques Audiard
Plot: Thomas wonders if he should follow his father (criminal) footsteps or if he should follow his dream of becoming a renowned pianist.
Note: Most of the time, French movies are remade in (very average) American versions. This time, we have a French movie which is actually a remake of (unknown) American movie ('Fingers' by James Tobak with Harvey Keitel). Quite surprising... Even more surprising is that this "remake" happens to be a great movie!
Plot: A French young woman has spent the night with a japanese man, at Hiroshima where she went for the shooting of a film about peace. He reminds her of the first man she loved. It was during World War II, and he was a German soldier.
Note: This movie is all about mood. No real story, definitely no action scenes. It is more like a poem.
Plot: The movie is based on an amazing true story. The main character is married with children. One day, he loses his job but instead of telling his wife, he keeps pretending he still has his job. Every morning, he lives the house and the evening, he comes back but actually he does nothing the whole day. For a couple of years, it goes actually fine. But he has to lie all the time, he has huge debts and his life gets more and more chaotic.
Note: This movie is so tense and intense. The directing and acting are just great. Again, French thrillers are so raw and realistic compared to Hollywood thrillers. I think they are usually much better, but it is a matter of taste.
Plot: Three adolescents, a girl who serves as the priming and two boys, kill two men cold blooded who were known by the girl only for to steal the money of them.
Note: It bas been directed by one of the best French director, Bertrand Tavernier. The only director with 2 movies on this list. It is a great drama /crime movie giving a shocking view on how emotionless we have all become nowadays.
Plot: A small town in the south-west of France, summer of 1944. Having failed to join the resistance, the 18 year old Lucien Lacombe, whose father is a prisoner in Germany and whose mother dates her employer, works for the German police. He then meets France Horn, the daughter of a rich jewish tailor.
Note: A classic French movie and a very good one about France during WWII. Instead of telling the story of a resistance hero, they decided to focus on a despicable young man who is everything but a hero. A fascinating picture.
Plot: A young French girl orphaned in a Nazi air attack is befriended by the son of a poor farmer, and together they try to come to terms with the realities of death.
Note: Oh gosh... With this one, I was fighting tears from the first 5 minutes and at the end, I was an emotional wresck... The acting provided by children was nothing short of amazing and the whole thing was just really well written with some realistic 3 dimensional characters.
Plot: A young man leaves his native town in southern France to discover Paris. Being too unexperienced and too naive, he drops into the reality of Paris 1991. He soon gives up his dream of becoming an actor and prostitutes himself.
Note: It is directed by André Téchiné, one of the best French directors. It is very bleak and kind of depressing but still very good.
Plot: During World War II, two French civilians and a downed English Bomber Crew set out from Paris to cross the demarcation line between Nazi-occupied Northern France and the South. From there they will be able to to escape to England. First, they must avoid German troops.
Note: As a kid, I have seen this movie so many times. I just loved it. It is probably the best French comedy ever. I hope I will see it again one day.
Plot: Teacher and novelist François Bégaudeau plays a version of himself as he negotiates a year with his racially mixed students from a tough Parisian neighborhood.
Note: I have seen a few hollywood movies dealing with the same subject, the relationship between teachers and students, and even though some of them may be entertaining, absolutely none of them are really convincing. Not this flick. It's just so raw and realistic, it feels like a documentary even if you know you're actually watching a fiction.
Plot: In late spring, 1890, Vincent moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, under the care of Dr. Gachet, living in a humble inn. Fewer than 70 days later, Vincent dies from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We see Vincent at work, painting landscapes and portraits. His brother Theo, wife Johanna, and their baby visit Auvers.
Note: I haven't seen many movies directed by Maurice Pialat but I really liked this one. Van Gogh is one of the most famous artist ever and they managed to make a movie as fascinating as him. Jacques Dutronc is quite famous in France but, as a singer, not as an actor but it didn't prevent him for giving a really impressive performance.
Plot: This tragic tale centers around the ill-fated love between Baptiste, a theater mime, and Claire Reine, an actress and otherwise woman-about-town who calls herself Garance. Garance, in turn, is loved by three other men: Frederick, a pretentious actor; Lacenaire, a conniving thief; and Count Eduard of Monteray. The story is further complicated by Nathalie, an actress who is in love with Baptiste.
Note: This is a huge classic of the French cinéma, directed by the great Marcel Carné and written by French poet Jacques Prévert. It is even more amazing as you think that they managed to make this flick during the height of the Nazi occupation and it seems that many members of the resistance where involved in the production.
Plot: The Vuillard family is no stranger to physical/mental illness, loss, and banishment. But when the matriarch becomes in need of a transplant, the whole family is forced to come together, emotional baggage and all, just in time for Christmas.
Note: It is basically one of those French dramas dealing with a dysfunctional familly. It is really talkative, unfocused and rather chaotic but I really enjoyed it. In the contrary with similar flicks coming from Hollywood, there is no formula here, ending-beginning, just some real, flawed, messed up and plain realistic characters.
Plot: The wife of a cruel headmaster and his mistress conspire to kill him, but after the murder is committed, his body disappears, and strange events begin to plague the two women.
Note: Back then to, the biggest rival to Alfred Hitchcock was the French director, Henri-George Clouzot. There were actually competing to make this movie but, eventually, Clouzot was the one who had the honour to adapt this bestseller and with great success as it became an instant classic.