My Favorite French Films

A grab bag of my personal favorite French films, some more light-hearted and some more serious. The common theme: I'd watch any of these a second time. (Click on the List Detail view for mini-reviews of each movie.)

  • My Father's Glory

    My Father's Glory 1990

    ★★★★½

    One of the most warm, winsome portrays of childhood and family ever, in any movie. The scenes of the hills of Provence are lovely, too.

  • My Mother's Castle

    My Mother's Castle 1990

    ★★★★

    Sequel to La Gloire de Mon Pere. Further amusing vignettes of this charming family, interspersed with a more heavy theme. The first movie is like sunrise, and this one, is glorious as sunset.

  • Welcome to the Sticks

    Welcome to the Sticks 2008

    ★★★½

    Hilarious. Not sure if you need to understand French for this to be funny. It's a classic fish-out-of-the-water story; clash between country bumpkins and the city folks.

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  • Blame It on Fidel!

    Blame It on Fidel! 2006

    ★★★★

    Petulant child actress + 1960's Paris + socialism versus bourgeois + sweet, authentic scenes of family and childhood.

  • Au revoir les enfants

    Au revoir les enfants 1987

    ★★★★★

    A movie that changed my life. Made me see the world can be a very dark place despite love, despite camaraderie, despite all that is good. A deep film, so beautifully directed and filmed.

  • Tell No One

    Tell No One 2006

    ★★★★

    One of my favorite French films ever. Tense, a little weird (but not too weird) and an underlying current of love/faithfulness.

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  • Persepolis

    Persepolis 2007

    ★★★★★

    One of the best animated films of all-time, along with a strikingly original story and a wonderful young girl as the protagonist.

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  • Paris, je t'aime

    Paris, je t'aime 2006

    ★★★½

    Several short clips about Paris, Parisians. Maybe not a classic but well-worth watching.

  • The Women on the 6th Floor

    The Women on the 6th Floor 2010

    ★★★

    Lively story of a stockbroker whose routines get shaken up by interaction with the foreign domestic servants. It's mostly fun and sweet, and does serve up a little class/economic commentary in the relationships between the wealthy and their household workers.

  • I've Loved You So Long

    I've Loved You So Long 2008

    ★★★★

    A little slower-paced and contemplative than some of these other French films, but a worthy, poignant celebration of second chances and the love of family. How does one restart life? What kind of love does it take to bring someone back from hell?

  • The Beat That My Heart Skipped

    The Beat That My Heart Skipped 2005

    ★★★

    An odd, modern, jittery movie that feels tense and disjointed like the life of the main character, who wants to leave a dubious lifestyle behind and begin again as a pianist.

  • Priceless

    Priceless 2006

    ★★★

    Fun, mostly light-hearted caper about a lowly hotel worker and a opportunistic lady. Not timeless cinema but a well-made French romantic comedy.

  • Monsieur Lazhar

    Monsieur Lazhar 2011

    ★★★½

    Surprisingly sweet and serious film about an Algerian immigrant who steps in as a substitute at a French-Canadian elementary school.

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  • My Best Friend

    My Best Friend 2006

    ★★★½

    One of the sweetest, most genuine French films I've seen recently. A funeral with few mourners sets an egotistical businessman on the hunt for a best friend.

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6 Comments

  • Have you seen any of Jacques Tati's films?
    Though significantly older than any of the films in this list, several of his films are some of the best comedies ever.

  • I started "Mr. Hulot's Holiday," but couldn't finish it. I'm a writer, so I think I need more narrative. I was hoping to love it because so many French friends/speakers recommended Tati. Maybe it's time to give it another chance. Is there a better one to begin with?

  • Mr. Hulot's Holiday is my favorite, but I'd recommend you give Playtime a try before you give up on Tati. It's similar in there being little dialogue, but Tati is remembered better for it. I believe he spent 3 years filming it and it was many years in the making. The budget was so high that it broke him, and I don't think he ever recovered from bankruptcy.
    Either one, I'd recommend watching several times to fully appreciate as well.

  • I went back and read a few reviews (Ebert for example). I guess it's pretty common not to like him the first time, then to grow fonder with 2nd, 3rd viewing. Thanks!

  • I've heard so many good things about them, but for some reason I haven't seen either of those. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • I loved M Hulot's Holiday and can't wait to finally get around to seeing Playtime!
    A great list Maria and to think I've only watched 3/14 (Tell No One, Persepolis, Paris Je T'aime) - but I've been meaning to see I've Loved You So Long & Monsieur Lazhar for a while now. I feel like I make this comment all the time lol if only life didn't get in the way!

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