My favourite French movies
55 7.4 6.51. Assassin(s)
Original Title: 'Assassin(s)'
Directed by: Mathieu Kassovitz
With: Mathieu Kassovitz
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.
913 8.1 82. Breathless (1960)
Original Title: 'À bout de souffle'
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
With: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg
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.
957 8.3 8.23. The 400 Blows (1959)
Original Title: 'Les quatre cents coups'
Directed by: Francois Truffaut
With: Jean-Pierre Léaud
Plot: Intensely touching story of a misunderstood young adolescent who left without attention, delves into a life of petty crime.
Note: I always prefered 'À bout de souffle' but this one is a huge masterpiece aswell. Definitely Truffaut's best movie.
391 8.3 8.24. Grand Illusion (1937)
Original Title: 'La Grande Illusion'
Directed by: Jean Renoir
With: Jean Gabin
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.
1072 7.5 7.85. Delicatessen (1991)
Original Title: 'Delicatessen'
Directed by: Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet
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.
29 7.7 7.46. L.627 (1992)
Original Title: 'L.627'
Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier
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.
546 7.7 7.97. A Prophet (2009)
Original Title: 'Un prophète'
Directed by: Jacques Audiard
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.
73 7.7 7.38. Camille Claudel (1988)
Original Title: 'Camille Claudel'
Directed by: Bruno Nuytten
With: Gérard Depardieu, Isabelle Adjani
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.
809 7 7.49. La Femme Nikita (1990)
Original Title: 'Nikita'
Directed by: Luc Besson
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!).
237 7.1 7.410. The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005)
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!
450 8 7.911. Hiroshima mon amour (1959)
Original Title: 'Hiroshima, mon amour'
Directed by: Alain Resnais
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.
173 7.4 7.612. I've Loved You So Long (2008)
Original Title: 'Il y a longtemps que je t'aime'
Directed by: Philippe Claudel
With: Kristin Scott Thomas
Plot: A woman struggles to interact with her family and find her place in society after spending fifteen years in prison.
Note: I always liked Kristin Scott Thomas. This is by far her best part. A great movie.
15 8.8 613. I Love You All (1980)
Original Title: 'Je vous aime'
Directed by: Claude Berri
With: Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu
Plot: A woman invites all four men she loved in her life for the dinner of New Year's Eve at the same time and unites them all in her house. In sentimental flashbacks they recall their common past.
Note: It is all about the difficulties of being in love. It is very dysfunctional and thus very French and I found it was great.
64 7.9 6.914. The Adversary (2002)
Original Title: 'L'adversaire'
Directed by: Nicole Garcia
With: Daniel Auteuil
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.
148 7.8 7.815. Bob le Flambeur (1956)
Original Title: 'Bob le flambeur'
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Melville
Plot: Bob, a old gangster and gambler is almost broke, so he decides in spite of the warnings of a friend, a high official from the police, to rob a gambling casino in Dauville.
Note: This movie is really old but there is a very modern feeling about it. I'm pretty sure Steven Soderbergh saw this one before making Ocean's eleven. A great mesmerizing picture.
23 7.2 6.816. How I Killed My Father (2001)
Original Title: 'Comment j'ai tué mon père'
Directed by: Anne Fontaine
Plot: When his long-time disappeared father is entering his life again, Jean-Luc, a successful doctor, has no option but to face his own life story. Will he ever be able to forget and forgive?
Note: An intense movie which craftily combines thriller and drama. The directing and acting are very good. It has a deservedly high score here in Listal.
333 8.5 8.317. The Wages of Fear (1953)
Original Title: 'Le salaire de la peur'
Directed by: Henri-Georges Clouzot
With: Yves Montand
Plot: In a decrepit South American village, men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.
Note: It is almost 60 years old but it has aged pretty well. A fascinating picture.
48 8.5 6.918. L'appât (1995)
Original Title: 'L'appât'
Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier
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.
119 7.9 7.419. Going Places (1974)
Original Title: 'Les valseuses'
Directed by: Bertrand Blier
With: Gérard Depardieu, Jeanne Moreau
Plot: Two whimsical, aimless thugs harass and assault women, steal, murder, and alternately charm, fight, or sprint their way out of trouble.
Note: In France, this is a huge classic. It was the start of a great career for Gérard Depardieu. A great movie which is also a lot of fun.
192 7.9 820. Elevator to the Gallows (1958)
Original Title: 'Ascenseur pour l'échafaud'
Directed by: Louis Malle
With: Jeanne Moreau
Plot: A self-assured business man murders his employer, the husband of his adulterer, which unintentionally provokes an ill-fated chain of events.
Note: It was Louis Malle's first movie and his first movie was already a masterpiece. A great film noir with a very famous soundtrack provided by Miles Davis.
83 7.6 7.821. Lacombe, Lucien (1974)
Original Title: 'Lacombe, Lucien'
Directed by: Louis Malle
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.
170 8.1 7.822. Forbidden Games (1952)
Original Title: 'Jeux Interdits'
Directed by: René Clement
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.
32 6.7 6.723. I Don't Kiss (1991)
Original Title: 'J'embrasse pas'
Directed by: André Téchiné
With: Emmanuelle Béart, Philippe Noiret
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.
65 7.9 824. Don't Look Now, We've Been Shot At (1966)
Original Title: 'La Grande Vadrouille'
Directed by: Gérard Oury
With: Louis de Funès
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.
423 7.5 7.625. The Class (2008)
Original Title: 'Entre les murs'
Directed by: Laurent Cantet
With: François Bégaudeau
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.
62 7.5 7.426. Van Gogh (1991)
Original Title: 'Van Gogh'
Directed by: Maurice Pialat
With: Jacques Dutronc
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.
225 8.3 8.327. Children of Paradise (1945)
Original Title: 'Les enfants du paradis'
Directed by: Marcel Carné
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.
126 7.2 7.228. A Christmas Tale (2008)
Original Title: 'Un conte de Noël'
Directed by: Arnaud Desplechin
With: Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Melvil Poupaud, Hippolyte Girardot, Emmanuelle Devos, Chiara Mastroianni
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.
505 8.1 8.329. Diabolique (1955)
Original Title: 'Les diaboliques'
Directed by: Henri-Georges Clouzot
With: Simone Signoret
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.
541 8.8 8.330. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Original Title: 'La passion de Jeanne d'Arc'
Directed by: Carl Theodor Dreyer
With: Maria Falconetti
Plot: A chronicle of the trial of Jeanne d'Arc on charges of heresy, and the efforts of her ecclesiastical jurists to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.
Note: It is quite mind-blowing and it really deserves its reputation as one of the best silent movies. This movie is rather minimalistic and focuses on the trial of Jeanne D’Arc, so it is mostly indoors dominated by the dialogs between Jeanne and the juges and you barely get a glimpse of the (allegedly) really expensive decors ordered by Carl Theodor Dreyer. From the moment that Maria Falconetti shows up on the screen, I knew she was something else. Nowadays, her performance is still considered as one of the best ever given on the silver screen and it was indeed really impressive.
Special mention: It is a French production but the director, Carl Theodor Dreyer, is actually Danish.
107 6.6 7.331. Amen. (2002)
Original Title: 'Amen.'
Directed by: Costa-Gavras
With: Mathieu Kassovitz
Plot: During WWII SS officer Kurt Gerstein tries to inform Pope Pius XII about Jews being sent to concentration camps. Young Jesuit priest Riccardo Fontana gives him a hand.
Note: This movie is not as known as 'Schindler's list' or 'The Pianist' but it's a pity because it is a great and fascinating picture.
Special mention: It is a French production but the director, Costa-Gavras, is actually Greek.
686 7.3 7.332. Caché
Original Title: 'Caché'
Directed by: Michael Haneke
With: Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil
Plot: A married couple is terrorized by a series of videotapes planted on their front porch.
Note: A great thriller but totally different from what you would get from a typical Hollywood thriller. I just loved it but it is definitely not for everyone.
Special mention: It is a French production but the director, Michael Haneke, is actually Austrian.
660 7.8 7.833. Belle de Jour (1967)
Original Title: 'Belle de Jour'
Directed by: Luis Buñuel
With: Catherine Deneuve
Plot: A frigid young housewife decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute.
Note: Catherine Deneuve is a great actrice and this is probably her best performance. The directing is very good aswell and the story is just fascinating.
Special mention: It is a French production but the director, Luis Buñuel, is actually Spanish.
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