The 14 Best French Films to Watch When You'd Rather Be in France

Updated 04/05/18
Best French Films

There are a lot of things to love about France. From the iconic effortless elegance of the fashion and bistro culture to the many cinematic masterpieces, architectural triumphs, and beautiful destinations, there's a reason we Francophiles have an actual name. So if you too have ever looked in the mirror to practice your best Anna Karina impression, spent some time praising Jean-Luc Godard, or you'd simply rather be on a vacation in France right now, you've come to the right place. We rounded up the best French films to transport you there.

And even if you don't consider yourself a Francophile, the 14 movies below are some of the best films from cinema history, foreign or not, including old classics, modern-day flicks, suspenseful thrillers, stylish indies, quirky dramedies, and more. Get a sense of each, and then curate your own watch list.

Slack Bay $5

A large, wealthy, eccentric family spends a summer in a picturesque cliffside locale. Though a mysterious disappearance is the crux of the plot and we learn what happened during the beginning of the movie, this dark comedy proves that the best question isn't always whodunit. Enchanting, whimsical, delightfully strange, funny, and insightful—there are plenty of reasons to watch Slack Bay.

Raw $4

What happens when a young vegetarian who wants nothing more than to fit in at veterinary school turns into a cannibal? This French-Belgian horror film is what. Directed by Julia Ducournau and starring Garance Marillier, this movie is perfect for anyone who likes slow-burning, coming-of-age thrillers.

The Intouchables $4

Revolving around the unconventional friendship between a wealthy quadriplegic and his live-in caretaker, this dramedy is heartwarming, funny, and thoroughly entertaining. Though you'll probably fall in love with both protagonists on their own, the bond they share together is most compelling.

Mustang $4

If you've loved all things Sofia Coppola since the day you saw The Virgin Suicides, brace yourself. Instead of being transported to 1960s Midwest American suburbia, you'll hone in on a remote Turkish village where five orphaned sisters are put on lockdown indefinitely for playing in the water with boys. Though quite different plot-wise, this film revolves around similar themes of the bond of sisterhood and the policing of female sexuality.

Jules et Jim $4

If you haven't seen this classic, now's the time to press play. Made in 1962, this new-wave romance drama explores the relationships between two best friends in love with the same woman. Jeanne Moreau stars as Catherine, a fun young woman at the center of a love triangle.

Clouds of Sils Maria $1

When two successful actresses, one in the prime of her youth and another middle-aged, are cast to be lovers in a romantic lesbian drama, sexual tension ensues, especially when the older actress's assistant enters the picture. Aside from the compelling narrative, the cast is also incredible. It stars Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloe Gracë Moretz.

He Even Has Your Eyes $10

A French African couple have been wanting to adopt a baby for a long time. And when the opportunity finally arises, they find out the baby is white. This is one of those rare films that's able to productively and thoughtfully use satire and humor while unpacking racism. 

The Artist $4

It's got romance; it's got drama; it's got humor. Set in Hollywood during the prime of the silent-film era, The Artist is the perfect thing to watch when you're looking for a light, feel-good movie with a nostalgic flair. Just remember that it too is silent.

Girlhood $4

Brought to us by the director of Tomboy and Water Lilies, you can expect Girlhood to be another triumphant tale. When a young girl leaves home to escape her abusive father only to become financially dependent on an older man, she learns how to find inner strength to forge a new path for herself. Though heartbreaking at times, it's ultimately uplifting and inspiring. 

Contempt $4

It doesn't get better than this quintessentially French film starring Bridgette Bardot and directed by Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless, Masculin Féminin, and em>Band of Outsiders). A playwright recounting Homer's Odyssey sounds like a pretty boring premise, but you can count on Godard, Bardot, and other stars to make this your new favorite film if it isn't already.

Amélie $3

If you want to watch something unique, Amélie is a must-see. You'll get drawn into the world of a quirky and charming young woman living in Paris when she falls in love. Having to read the subtitles if you don't speak French is so worth it.

Dheepan $4

This movie is a must-see, though make sure you're prepared for tears. It follows three Tamil refugees who pose as a family to escape Sri Lanka for France. It's directed by Jacques Audiard, who is known for his work on A Prophet

Blue Is the Warmest Color $4

Blue Is the Warmest Color lives up to its enticing title, following two young girls as they fall in love and explore their budding sexualities. It's an artful, engaging, and thought-provoking movie.

Amour $4

Truly one of the most moving and beautiful love stories ever portrayed in cinema, Amour is going to bring on all the feels. We're invited to witness their relationship right when one of them suffers from a stroke. Awe-inspiring doesn't even begin to describe the bond between the elderly couple at the center of this film.  

And since you can never truly fit all the best French films into a list of 14, add these to your watch list also: 

1. Evolution 

2. The 400 Blows

3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

4. Rust and Bone

5. Breathless

6. Young & Beautiful 

7. Things to Come

8. Yves Saint Laurent

9. The Rules of the Game 

10. Swimming Pool

11. Li'L Quinquin

12. Being 17 

13. House of Tolerance


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