French Flicks You Might Actually Enjoy

A list at one of my new favorite blogs,, got me thinking about my own experience with French films.

It’s clear that your average French film greatly differs from your average Hollywood one. The French don’t insist on happily-ever-after Hollywood endings. French films tend toward serious and dark. Or just weird – even from a French person’s perspective. I’ve developed an appreciation for the differences, but sometimes, after watching a French film, I still can’t help but throw my arms up in exasperation.

Here’s a list of things I’ve said after watching French movies with my husband:

  • Is marital fidelity to the Frenchman simply too blasé to be considered as a lifestyle choice?
  • Are French people ever nice to each other?
  • Do French people actually like this movie, or do they just say they do so they seem deep and intellectual?
  • I’ve now spent so much time gazing at my bellybutton that my neck aches.
  • WTF? No, seriously, WTF?
  • I’m going to lie here and stare at the wall. I don’t have the energy to stand or even to cry. There’s no point to life, existence; it’s all empty.

Here’s a list of movies, in no particular order, that did not make me say those things. These are films I have enjoyed and recommend:

Amélie 2001  Whimsical and loveable, with Audrey Tautou. Nominated for 5 Oscars. It’s the French movie most people have heard of, if not seen.

Le Dîner de Cons (The Dinner Game) 1998  Hilarious, albeit a bit mean-spirited. One of the funniest movies I’ve seen. Plus, it has Thierry Lhermitte. Yum.

Après Vous 2003  Charming romantic comedy in which Daniel Auteuil, as nice guy Antoine, comically finds that no good deed goes unpunished.

La Doublure (The Valet)
2006  A valet must pretend to have an affair with a supermodel in order to keep her real affair a secret. With Daniel Auteuil and Kristen Scott Thomas.

Le Placard
(The Closet) 2001  Accountant Daniel Auteuil (I must like this guy) is about to be fired when he gives the impression that he is a closeted gay man, thus saving his job. With Thierry Lhermitte and Gérard Depardieu.

Prête-moi ta main (I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single) 2006  Luis, a confirmed bachelor, has a mother and five sisters who are determined to see him get married.

Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) 2005  About a truce called on Christmas day during World War I. Nominated for Best Foreign Film

And for a completely different tone:

Le Pere Noël est une ordure (“Santa Claus is a Bastard”) 1982 Hilarious + Thierry Lhermitte.

Paris, Je T’aime 2006  Eighteen short films set in the different arrondissements of Paris. Plenty of star power in both actors and directors. Some of the films are weird and indecipherable, some are sweet, some are hokey, some are fun. Overall, really liked it.

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly) 2007  Based on the autobiography of the same name, Jean-Dominique Bauby suffers a massive stroke followed by locked-in syndrome. The book is stunning, well worth the read. Even though he hated his physical therapist. I would too, after reading his description of his experience.

L’Auberge Espagnole 2002  Fun story about cultures clashing, love found, love lost, with the adorable Audrey Tautou in a small role.

Les Choristes (The Chorus) 2004  Beautiful story of a teacher who makes an impact. Nominated for best foreign language film.

La Grande Vadrouille 1966  French comedy that was the most successful film in France until Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis. Great fun with two Frenchmen trying to help the crew of a shot down Royal Air Force Bomber escape German-occupied France.

Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis (Welcome to the Sticks) 2008  According to Wiki, this broke nearly every box office record in France, including the long held record for La Grande Vadrouille. Hilarious. Great for French language learners, as it pokes fun at regional accents and expressions.

Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement) 2004  Audrey Tautou searches for her fiancé, who disappeared while fighting in the trenches in WWI. Two Oscar nominations.

Hors de Prix (Priceless) 2006  Audrey Tautou (again!) plays a gold digger who mistakes a bartender for a wealthy target.

Delicatessen 1991  Okay this one freaked me out when I first saw it, but on a second viewing when I was older and more accustomed to French humor, this dark-humored, post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie had me cracking up laughing.

Le Papillon (The Butterfly) 2002  Charming story of a widowed butterfly collector and the friendship he develops with his neighbor, a lonely 8-year-old girl.

Rififi 1955  Gritty noir film. Great.

Le Corniaud (The Sucker) 1965  Hilarious gangster parody.

What have I missed? What are your recommendations? Thoughts? I’d love to hear them – always looking for things to add to our Netflix queue!



44 thoughts on “French Flicks You Might Actually Enjoy

  1. I LOVED Les Choristes! Speaking of the weird ones though – did you ever see Jules et Jim? It was one of the ones that makes you throw your hands up and look at your companion and go, “What? WHAT?”

  2. I was at a oneman comedy show last night and the audience was doybled over laughing as the guys imitated a show poney. I. Did NOT. Get. It. Had to ask Mr French if it was a French thing. Are show ponies inherently funny to the French!
    Anyway, you must see Tatie Danielle. Classic French. Hysterically funny. You’d probably like Les Potiches with Deneuve and Dardieu, too. Oh, and RadioStars with Clovis Cornillac! (movie title and actor’s name maybe slightly off on that one)

  3. What a great list! Thanks! I’d like to add two oldies, but they’re not particularly cheery: Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. I love these two epic, over-the-top stories. Looking forward to working through your list. Thanks!

    • I’ve heard that’s a good one; it’s actually in our queue. Thank you! Yes, I’ve noticed more and more French movies seem “Americanized,” even to the point of *gasp* happy endings. Or my favorite kind, because I’m a shameless sap, smiling through tears endings 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  4. Reblogged this on Sunny Earth Academy and commented:
    I have been in search of French films to up-skill my French. I speak French to my children every day, but I know that I am making errors. Until we can travel to a French-speaking country, I need to take action to help my French skills!!!!

    I asked my Friends on facebook to help me. Here’s what came out of that: It’s a YouTube playlist of some of the films recommended by my facebook friends! 🙂

    Additionally, I came across this blog by “A French American Life.” Very useful, indeed! 🙂

  5. Your list is a good one, and includes many of my favorites! Hors de Prix is one of my all time faves.

    I have to admit though, after hearing my French wife & her brother rave and rave and rave about “Le Pere Noël est une ordure”, I couldn’t even get through the whole thing! It just never clicked with me, and I couldn’t see why my in-laws loved it so. I guess having a movie be part of your childhood goes a long way; the same thing happened after I promised my wife one Christmas that she would LOVE “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, and she ended up totally weirded-out by it, haha. Can’t win ’em all.

    One movie that I’d definitely add to the list, which is probably my favorite French film in recent memory, is the comedy “L’Arnacœur”, with Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis. If you haven’t seen that one yet, definitely check it out!

    • Le Pere Noel took me a couple viewings, while my husband and his brothers guffawed nonstop, before I started to think it was funny. I’ll definitely check “L’Arnacœur” out, thanks for the recommendation!

  6. Hello,

    have you seen “2 days in Paris” by Julie Delpy? Not my favourite movie but I liked how we (french) could be depicted… Maybe you could confirm? 😉
    I haven’t seen all the movies you mention but “Amelie” is definitly my favourite one.

  7. Thank you so much for this list! I’m always looking for suggestions on good French films. Paris, Je T’aime is one of my favorites and I’m really excited to check out some of the other films on this list!

  8. Hi! Have you seen Le ballon rouge, it’s a film from the 50s by Albert Lamorisse about a boy and his friend, a ballon, in Paris. He also made Crin Blanc. I also loved Au revoir les enfants, about life in France during the Nazi occupation. Le nom de la rose is a good movie too, based on the novel by Umberto Eco. You also have Le hérisson, based on l’élégance du hérisson. Au revoir les enfants and Le ballon rouge are two of my favourite movies, I must admit they’re charming, but not very happy.

  9. I once rented a French Film from a video store…in the early 2000’s somewhere. Sadly, I have never been able to find it again because I can’t remember the name. Also, most video stores (including the one where I rented it), have since ceased to exist. It was about the lives of two young women living in France during one of the world wars–probably WWII but it’s been a while. Anyway, their separate destiny’s are shaped by events that happened to them during the war. The women meet after the war, and are both unhappily married as a result of their separate stories. They form a strong bond that helps them through divorce and the rest of it. Does this ring a bell at all? I would love to see it again because I remember it being very good 🙂 If not, I totally understand–lol, and thanks anyway! There aren’t many first generation French Americans where I live either!

  10. A fine list – Have you seen Cousin – Cousine – of course its about unfaithful spouses but its very funny and I love Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring.

  11. Here’s a serie of old french movies which are truly national treasures:

    1986: Jean de Florette (color, Depardieu plays in it)
    1990: “A la Gloire de mon pére”—-> “My Father’s glory” (color, has a sequel)
    “Don Camillo”; (black and white, several movies)
    1986: “Manon des Sources”—> “Manon of the Spring”; (color, has a sequel)
    1962: “la guerre des boutons” —> “War of the Buttons” (black and white)
    1971: “La folie des grandeur” —> “Delusions of Grandeur” (color; my favorite Louis de Funes)

    I think I picked some of the best french movies ever made that are quite easy to watch even for foreigners, there are plenty of sublime old movies like those ones. Don’t be reluctant to watch those because they are a bit old, once again those are pearls.

  12. The Intouchables. Wonderful film. Sub-titled in English.

    Also, I am the Personal Stylist at Anthropologie. I look forward to working with you…and reading more of your blog:-)

  13. I realize this blog post is very old, and I don’t know if you’ll ever see this comment, but I wanted to thank you for this list! (too bad most are not available through streaming). Definitely would add The Intouchables, 2 days in Paris, Frantz (French and German), 13 Tzameti, La Vie en Rose with Marion Cotillard. While not a movie, I highly recommend Gad Elmaleh’s comedy special (in French) Gad Gone Wild. Finally, I haven’t watched it but heard great things about Le Prénom.

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