10 Essential French Films to Fall in Love With to Help You Learn the Language


One of the greatest things about learning another language is finally being able to understand that film that you can’t stop watching in the native language sans subtitles. Woop! But what about if you don’t have that film yet? Here’s 10 essential French films to fall in love with and help you learn French.

Looking for some essential French films to help you learn the language? These 10 will get you started and give you a French film to fall in love with.

Amelie

Of course this list is going to start with Amelie. You’ve probably seen it already. You’ve probably fallen in love with it already. But I’d have a little niggle if I didn’t include it here.

Amelie is just everything you expect (and want) from a French film. The music, the colouring, the story, the style. It’s a three-way tie as my favourite film of all time (with Mean Girls and A Clockwork Orange if you’re curious).

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

I first came across this film unexpectedly on Amazon Prime whilst trying my luck searching blindly for “French film”. It instantly became one of my favourites.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this film that follows a family through various stages of their lives is very relatable and an enjoyable drama. There’s a little comedy, there’s a little nostalgia, but mostly, it’s the family’s love for each other that keeps it interesting.

It’s also told in parts, each of which focuses on a different member of the family, which makes for an unusual narrative.

La Famille Bélier

Are the French just really good at making touching films about families?

La Famille Bélier tells the story of Paula, a teenager who helps out on the family farm when she’s not at college. Her parents and brother are all Deaf and as you can imagine, things then becomes interesting when Paula decides to join the school choir and discovers she’s pretty good at singing.

I’ve seen this about 5 times now and it always makes me cry. Despite some controversy surrounding the decisions to cast hearing actors as the three Deaf members of main character Paula’s family, the film has generally been well-received and contains some really heart-warming scenes as well as some Frencher-than-French music to sing along to.

Related: My Favourite Resource to Learn French Online

Delicacy

You might not expect a film which begins with Natalie (played by Audrey Tatou) losing her fiancé, to make you laugh, however this does just that.

This romantic comedy also starring François Damiens, who plays the father in La Famille Belier, is very easy to watch despite being perhaps a little predictable.

If you like Bridget Jones-style rom-coms and films that back the underdog, then this is one you’ll love.

Girlhood

This film stands out compared to the others on this list as it’s a little more serious, but very subtly.

Girlhood is the story of Marieme as she struggles to find popularity at school, luck with her grades, and a place in the world. After being told her grades aren’t good enough so she’ll have to take a vocational path, she soon befriends Lady and her two friends, who it’s fair to say are a bad influence on Marieme.

Think Mean Girls set in a gritty Paris banlieue with a memorable scene dancing to Diamonds by Rihanna replacing Jingle Bell Rock. This film sticks with you.

Breathless

One of my favourite French films of all time because it’s one I wrote about way back when I was studying my French A level. I compared the beautiful floaty romantic style of Breathless to the brash and to-the-point style of the only 8 years younger film, Le Weekend. If you’ve seen both, you’ll probably agree with me choosing Breathless for this list over Le Weekend.

Breathless is kinda perfect. There’s walking down the Champs-Elysées, a hopeless romance between two beautiful people, and just about enough action to keep your attention beyond the visuals of the film. There’s a reason you’ve probably seen stills of this one before.

Related: 5 Essential French Grammar Tips for Beginners

Gemma Bovery

Although it didn’t receive the most positive reviews from critics, I’ve included Gemma Bovery on the list because if you’re a native English speaker and you’ve seen the work of Gemma Arterton before, you’re probably curious to see how she fairs in a French film, and she does pretty good.

Gemma Bovery is a retelling of the novel Madame Bovery, so just like that version of Romeo and Juliet that you probably saw in English class with Leonardo DiCaprio and guns, it’s a good way to also become familiar with a cultural classic book without having to read it. Especially helpful if your French isn’t quite up to reading a 1857 novel yet.

Lou

A quirky and light-hearted tale based on a series of comic books, which is clear from the visuals of the live-action film. Lou is smitten by her neighbour and lives with her eccentric mum in their apartment full of flea-market finds.

Great for children, but just as enjoyable as a break from some of the more serious films on this list.

Them

A seriously creepy French horror film set in Romania – with a scene at the start in Romanian to satisfy polyglots, Them is a fast-paced horror that avoids doing what I hate in some horror films: it doesn’t reveal what “Them” are until it’s time.

It’s a short film and very different to the rest on this list. Oh yeah, and it’s based on real events so, you know, sleep tight.

Related: 10 Génial French YouTubers to Help You Learn French

April and the Extraordinary World

This charming steam-punk-inspired animation is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. And definitely unlike everything else on this list.

It tells the story of Avril, who tragically loses her scientist parents early on in life and sets out to continue the work they started in an alternate world. Interesting and enjoyable.

Did I miss your favourite? Which French films do you love and why? Share in the comments!

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About Lindsay Dow

Why hello there! I'm Lindsay and I do Languages. I blog, vlog and teach all things language. I blog about languages right here at Lindsay Does Languages, and about travel over at Mundo Trundle. If you're looking for language learning inspiration then stay a while. You might find just what you're looking for. :)
  • vegan_markg

    L’invitation au Voyage, Les Ripoux, Au Revoir Les Enfants, Les Parapluie de Cherbourg (hope I spelled it correct), The Return of Martin Guerre, Jean de Florette and it’s sequel, Manon of the Spring, Going Places, Belle de Jour, Indochine, The Last Metro, and of course, Day For Night. I have many others, but these top my list. L’invitation au Voyage is really a slick, strange film. If you can find a way to rent it, please do.

  • andreaclaire

    For ‘proper French’ (i.e. France French), I love Le Placard.
    For Quebecois French, I love Bon Cop Bad Cop. It’s in both French and English and the scenes often switch quickly between the two of them.

    • Bon Cop Bad Cop sounds fun! 😀

    • vegan_markg

      Jesus of Montreal, which I believe comes from Quebec, is also an amazing and beautiful film. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. 🙂

  • Tiia M

    Have you seen “Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément”? I loved it, it’s exactly the kind of light and slightly crazy romantic comedy that the French are masters of! 😀