Ten Of The Best French Movies
The french have always been known for great movies, but not everyone is familiar with them. For those of you who would like to get out and see some great french films here is my list of the best french movies out there.
Tell No One (2006)
One of my surprise favorites that I saw a couple years back was a french gem called ‘Tell No One,’ which stars famous french actor Francois Cluzet as Alexandre, a man who is still grieving for his wife who was murdered years back. He was initially suspected for the killing, but was cleared. However, more bodies turn up in the area his wife Margot was killed, and he is suspected again. He then sees an email which appears to show his wife alive. From here he goes on the run from the police, among other threats while trying to clear his name and find his wife. A true thriller that is incredibly well shot, exciting and keeps you guessing until the very end. Must see!
Considered a modern classic of french cinema, and certainly one of the best french movies in the past twenty years, ‘Amelie’ was nominated for a total of five oscars. The film is extremely quirky in it’s style and presentation, and is a combination of comedy, romance and drama. The film is about a young woman named Amelie who has been sheltered all of her life by her father, and who gets her excitement by helping others in various ways. She researches their story, in a strange, stalker type of way and then uses this knowledge to help them. However, in doing so she neglects her own happiness and then later in life must rediscover how to live life and find love for herself. A fantastic journey that is very different to any other film you’ll see.
La Femme Nikita (1997)
Here is a film that is also unlike most any films you’ll ever see. A story about a woman who is imprisoned and sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer, but then transformed into a government killing machine, female assassin. The film is extremely dark, and violent and in a very strange way, presents cold blooded violence, dispersed in between the story of Nikita’s changing character and blossoming love with a drug store employee. A stylish, sensory film which was ahead of it’s time and is one of the earliest films to portray a woman in this manner.
The Artist (2011)
One of the most recent on the list, is the fantastic, Oscar winning silent film ‘The Artist’ starring Jean Dujardin. When I first heard about the film and it’s nomination, I assumed that if it won the award, it would be due to it’s ‘gimmick’ of being a silent film. Not that I didn’t like the silent film, and I thought it was a fantastic idea. But I was still skeptical. However, after watching the film in theaters, I had no qualms about it’s victory, as it is truly a fantastic film. It is incredibly expressive, funny, emotional and poignant in it’s portrayal of a famous movie star, who’s star fades away gradually, countered by the rags to riches story of the woman he loves. A great, feel good film, with a show stealing performance by a young dog!
Enter The Void (2009)
As is becoming a theme in this list of french films, this is a french movie that is truly unique. A visually and narratively surreal story about a man who is shot and killed in a drug deal gone bad, and proceeds to have an out of body experience where he witnesses the repercussions of his death. He is out of body, which is of course wild enough, but when you add the vibrant, colorful, and surreal in itself Tokyo nightlife, things really get out of control. If you happened to be under the influence of illegal drugs I would not recommend watching this film, as it is one of the most unique and bizarre film experiences you’ll ever have. It isn’t for everyone, but everyone should see it once.
La Vie En Rose (2007)
One of the best biopic films I’ve ever seen is this french movie about famous singer Edith Piaf. Marion Cotillard portrays Piaf, and became the first to win a best actress Oscar for a foreign language film for her performance. She is truly fantastic in her portrayal of the often inspiring but often sad and turbulent life of the famous singer. The film is named after her most famous song ‘Le Vie En Rose’ which is a fantastic spectacle in itself. Piaf went through basically every drama one could during a life time, and most of these events are shown to us here, in a film that is truly poignant and one of the most brilliant biopics ever made.
A lesser known french film is ‘Welcome’ about a young refugee boy from Iraq named Bilal who finds his way over to France illegally. The boy’s one true love lives in England, and his life’s dream is to somehow get over there to be with her. However, he knows that what stands between him and his love is the English Channel. The boy befriends and older man, who happens to be a swimming instructor, played by the brilliant Vincent Lindon, and the two form quite a bond. Through Bilal’s improvement into a very formidable swimmer we see this friendship grow and we see how they are able to help each other with their own problems. This film is both uplifting and incredibly sad, and I highly recommend it.
I’ve Loved You So Long (2008)
A film starring very famous french actress, Kristin Scott Thomas, who also appears in many American films, as a woman who is coming home to her family after fifteen years in prison. The reason for this is a mystery, but throughout the film, as we see her and the family and friends struggle to return life to normality, the reasons for her imprisonment are revealed to us slowly. We also come to understand that things are always what they seem, and we learn about regrets, decisions and consequences in a really moving drama.
Leon: The Professional (1994)
A cult classic in many ways, and well known in many circles, ‘Leon’ stars Jean Reno as an assassin who is moved to save a young girl (played by a very young Natalie Portman) who’s parents are killed. Technically the film is an English language movie, but it is french made. It also includes the great Gary Oldman, which creates quite the cast, and it helped master a dynamic that we’ve seen recreated in many films following, which is the ‘Hitman with feelings’ situation. Reno captures this brilliantly, and the film is a thrilling, suspenseful and touching one.
A very recent film starring Francois Cluzet (previously mentioned in ‘Tell No One’) as a man who is paralyzed and becomes quadriplegic during a gliding accident. He requires help with his condition, and he hires on a young man from the projects to take this role. The unlikely pair form a friendship which blossoms into a fantastic and moving film that shows us how people can help one another in the most unlikely situations. We watch as both characters affect the other in positive ways, and impart their wisdom and experiences onto the other’s lives. The film was insanely popular in France, and for good reason!