Best movies to learn French

Along with French books and French podcasts, you could watch French movies to complement your learning experience.

French movies sometimes have a bad reputation for being overly complicated in their plot, with dramatic characters or too philosophical. But you should enjoy the selection below, with comedies, a few dramas and biopics. Learners have fun studying these movies during our French conversation classes.

french movies

Why watching French movies ?

It’s authentic

By watching French movies, you will get real vocabulary from native French speakers. Learning French through textbooks is great but you may not get the real picture and only formal vocabulary. It’s always best to learn French from the people who speak the language.

It’s amusing

Exactly like for books, if you choose a topic that interest you from the beginning (gastronomy, history, travel,..) it will be a lot easier to stick to it. By watching movies that entertain you, you will remember a lot more than just grammar lessons. They are both complementary.

It’s perfect for your comprehension skills

It may be unsettling in the beginning, especially considering that French people can speak fast. But watching many French movies with subtitles will make your ear work better and you’ll become accustomed to some typical French words/sentences.

It’s rewarding

I often have students telling me they watched this or that movie with a big smile on their face. Watching a film all the way through in a foreign language is a great achievement at any level. And even if you haven’t understood everything (which you won’t—this is completely normal), it’s still a huge language success.

cinema in france

How to watch French movies ?

Choose a film that is already familiar to you

If you’ve read the book or know the film’s story, you should choose it first. It will be a lot easier for the translation

Set the subtitles

Set the subtitles to French while you watch the film. Getting accustomed to the French accent can be challenging at first, so the subtitles will really help you. Think of it as a fun way to improve your listening and reading skills simultaneously. If you don’t you may just pass on useful words/sentences and feel lost too quickly

Take notes as you watch. 

I recommend you don’t stop every 5 minutes otherwise you will loose interest in the story fairly quickly. But you could stop the movie once or twice and take notes of a few words that have been crucial to the movie

Try to have a regular French movie

If you can try to set up a regular time/day for a French movie, let say once a month or once a week with a routine. It will be really fun to have a French movie Thursday for example (or pick what works for you)

A selection of great French movies

L’Arnacoeur (Heartbreaker)

L’Arnacoeur has an original script, well-balanced humour and a sentimental side that make it a fresh and intelligent comedy. The duo Romain Duris (Alex) and Vanessa Paradis (Juliette) is very effective while the  supporting roles of François Damiens (Marc) and Julie Ferrier (Melanie) are always surprising.Set in Monaco, with a lot of sun and beautiful images, this comedy remains charming.

The plot : Alex is professional heartbreaker. His method: seduction. His mission: to turn any boyfriend into an ex. But Alex only attacks couples whose wife is unhappy. So why will he agree to break up a rich, successful, thirty-something couple who is getting married in a week?

l'arnacoeur movie

L’Auberge Espagnole (the Spanish Apartment – Aust / Pot Luck – UK)

Although the movie is from 2002, the themes are still relevant today. An economics graduate student from France, Xavier (Romain Duris), spends a year in Barcelona to study. He shares a flat with Erasmus students are from all over Western Europe. With different languages and different cultural standards, it’s a cheerful mess !

Part of a trilogy, you should also enjoy Poupées Russes (Russian Dolls, set in Moscow) and Casse-tête Chinois (Chinese Puzzle, set in Chinatown New York).

Spanish Apartment

Les Choristes (The Chorus)

French musical drama film released in 2004, nominated as Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song at the 77th Academy Awards.

In 1948, Clément Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot), an unemployed music teacher, accepted a post as supervisor in a rehabilitation boarding school for minors. By introducing these difficult children to music and choral singing, he will succeed in transforming their daily lives.

Loads of tenderness emerges in this pretty first enchanting film by Christophe Barratier, with a moving reconstruction of France at the end of the 1940s.

the chorus movie

Cloclo (My Way)

If you are a Francophile you surely know one of our most popular French singers : Claude François. The film follows the life of the singer from his childhood in Egypt in the 1940s to his accidental death in 1978.

Cloclo is the tragic fate of French music icon who died at the age of 39. More than thirty years after his death, he still continues to fascinate. Adored star, business man and great performer, press boss, manager of a photography agency but also a family man and ladies’ man…Jéremie Renier is mind blowing in this portrait of a complex and multiple man.

my way movie

Coco avant Chanel (Coco before Chanel)

The movie is more about the love and early life of its founder, up to about the beginning World War. It is a biopic on the youth of the famous stylist Coco Chanel, at the time when, poor and without education, she did not know that she would become the incarnation of the modern woman.

Just a bit or warning, this film has some fact, but also includes some idealised fantasy of her. It is more suited for the fans of Audrey Tatou and/or fashion (the clothes here are the star of the show).

coco before chanel movie

Dalida

This biographical drama film is superb, the interpretation by Sveva Alviti is astonishing. We are witnessing a touching film featuring a “woman object” wounded by tragedies which have punctuated her entire life. A strong woman who deploys mad energy to try to keep her head above water until exhaustion.

From her birth in Cairo in 1933 to his first Olympia in 1956, from his marriage to Lucien Morisse (boss of the radio Europe 1) to disco evenings, the film is the intimate portrait of a complex and solar woman. Despite her suicide in 1987, Dalida continues to shine with her eternal presence.

dalida movie

Ensemble C’est Tout (Hunting and Gathering)

Ensemble c’est tout is adapted from a novel by Anna Gavalda, beautifully portrayed by Claude Berri. This pretty, romantic story, based on human relationships, friendship and solidarity, offers us strong characters in a warm atmosphere. Audrey Tautou (Camille) is excellent and very gracious in this role. Guillaume Canet (Franck) is great in this evolving role while Laurent Stocker (Philibert) is brilliant in his character of a stammering aristocrat.

Camille clean offices at night. Philibert is a young and shy aristocrat passionate about history. He lives in a large apartment owned by his family with Franck. He is a moody cook but loves his grandmother, Paulette, a fragile and funny old lady. They will discover each other in this movie and understand that together, we are stronger.

hunting and gathering movie

La Famille Belier (the Belier Family)

2nd most viewed film of 2014 with nearly 8 million viewers, the movie has been released in 80 countries ! Louane (very popular French singer) could not have hoped for better to start her career on cinema. A year later, she received the Cesar for Best New Actress

In the Belier family, everyone is deaf except 16-year-old Paula (Louane Emera). She is an interpreter for her parents on a daily basis, especially to help the family farm. One day, pushed by her music teacher who discovered her a gift for singing, she decides to prepare a competition at Radio France. This choice would mean the separation from her family and an inevitable transition to adulthood.

belier family movie

La Grande Vadrouille

A very good popular comedy that makes sparks. We laugh a lot and it is always pleasant to watch the large number of famous scenes that make up this film. For over 40 years, La Grande Vadrouille was the most successful French film in France, with over 17 million cinema admissions. A monument of French cinema to see at least once.

In 1942, an English plane was shot down by the Germans over Paris. The three pilots parachute and land in different places in the capital. They are helped by two French civilians, a conductor (Louis de Funès) and a house painter (Bourvil) who agree to lead them into the free zone. They will then become actors of the Resistance.

la grande vadrouille movie

Intouchables (Untouchables)

Second biggest box office hit in France, Untouchables, released in 2011, won 16 prizes and had over 50 millions viewers in the world. A must-see, touching movie with amazing actors.

Following a paragliding accident, Philippe (François Cluzet), a wealthy aristocrat, hires Driss (Omar Sy), a young suburban boy just released from prison as a caregiver. Together they will make Vivaldi and Earth Wind and Fire coexist, the costumes and the tracksuit … Two universes will give birth to a crazy, funny and strong unexpected frienship, a unique relationship that will spark and make them … untouchable.

The plot of the film is actually inspired by the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Moroccan caregiver Abdel Sellou, discovered by the directors in À la vie, à la mort, a documentary film.

untouchables movie

LOL (Laughing Out Loud)

A very good reflection of youth and mother-daughter relationship accurately portrayed, but far from the expected caricature. Multiple times, we identify ourselves in the role of parent as well as that the child. You should have a good time with this unpretentious sweet romantic comedy with Sophie Marceau.

lol movie

La Môme (La Vie en Rose)

From her childhood to fame, from Belleville to New York, we follow Edith Piaf’s exceptional career in this biopic. Intimate, intense and fragile, devoted to music to the point of sacrifice, Edith Piaf remains one of the most immortal French singers.

Marion Cotillard’s performance earned her several awards including the Academy Award for Best Actress in  2008. This was the first time an Oscar had been given for a French-language role.

la vie en rose

Les Petits Mouchoirs (Little White Lies)

A near-fatal accident leaves Ludo (Jean Dujardin) in the hospital while the rest of his friends (François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoit Magimel, Gilles Lellouche,..) go on their annual vacation in Cap-Ferret. This accident sets off a dramatic chain of reactions and emotional responses. The eagerly anticipated vacation leads everyone to raise the little veils that for years they have draped over what bothers and upsets them.

Directed by Guillaume Canet (Marion Cotillard’s husband), it’s a genuine and beautiful movie with current themes. Depiction of a slice of life, you go from laughter to tears.

little white lies movie

Le Prénom (What’s in a Name)

Vincent (Patrick Bruel), in his forties, will be a father for the first time. Invited to have dinner with his sister and brother-in-law, he meets Claude, a childhood friend. While waiting for his wife, he is pressed with questions about his future fatherhood. The chaos will soon arrive when we ask Vincent if he has already chosen a first name for the unborn child… Not easy to adapt a play to the cinema, this film is enjoyable. With funny misunderstandings and good dialogues, it is a good time.  It’s not a masterpiece but a nice and relaxing movie.

whats in a name

De Rouille et d’Os (Rust and Bone)

While not for the faint heart due to some graphic scenes, this Jacques Audiard movie is very powerful.

Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) is a killer whale trainer at Marineland Antibes. One day, the show turns into a drama forcing her to be amputated and wheelchair bound. Thanks to Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) she will slowly feel alive again. The evolution of the relationship established between these two very different characters is very interesting in itself. The way Jacques Audiard filmed is, as always, beautiful.

rust and bone movie

Hope you will enjoy these French movies ! Feel free to get in touch if you have any further suggestions or have any questions about my French classes.

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