A few days ago, I made the comment on my Instagram story that, among the many francophiles I know, the film Midnight in Paris always comes up as a favorite film. Call me crazy, but I don’t get it. The story never drew me in, and I now think although I’m not interested to watch it again, perhaps I should to try once more to see what all the fuss is about.

For my money, the Before trilogy of films with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are far better Frenchy movies. I don’t know if it’s the long, deep conversations that get me, the scenery of the filming locations (hello, Vienna, Paris, and coastal Greece!), or the French-American connection that is of course extremely familiar to me. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable and make for a journey that make you crave the next film (they were all filmed 9 years apart). Perhaps in 2022 we’ll be blessed with a fourth film.

I asked you to share some of your favorite French and French-themed movies with me, and I’ve added a couple more that I enjoy that were either shot in Paris or have some connection with France that gives them merit to be on this list. Enjoy! 🍿📽

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Midnight in Paris

Gil and Inez travel to Paris as a tag-along vacation on her parents’ business trip. Gil is a successful Hollywood writer but is struggling on his first novel. He falls in love with the city and thinks he and Inez should move there after they get married, but Inez does not share his romantic notions of the city or the idea that the 1920s were the golden age. When Inez goes off dancing with her friends, Gil takes a walk at midnight and discovers what could be the ultimate source of inspiration for writing. Gil’s daily walks at midnight in Paris could take him closer to the heart of the city but further from the woman he’s about to marry.

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Amélie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain)

Amélie is a story about a girl named Amélie whose childhood was suppressed by her Father’s mistaken concerns of a heart defect. With these concerns Amélie gets hardly any real life contact with other people. This leads Amélie to resort to her own fantastical world and dreams of love and beauty. She later on becomes a young woman and moves to the central part of Paris as a waitress. After finding a lost treasure belonging to the former occupant of her apartment, she decides to return it to him. After seeing his reaction and his new found perspective – she decides to devote her life to the people around her. Such as, her father who is obsessed with his garden-gnome, a failed writer, a hypochondriac, a man who stalks his ex girlfriends, the “ghost”, a suppressed young soul, the love of her life and a man whose bones are as brittle as glass. But after consuming herself with these escapades – she finds out that she is disregarding her own life and damaging her quest for love. Amélie then discovers she must become more aggressive and take a hold of her life and capture the beauty of love she has always dreamed of.

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A Good Year

After years of no contact with his Uncle Henry, London banker and bond trader Max Skinner learns that Henry has died intestate, so Max inherits a château and vineyard in Provence. Max spent part of his childhood there, learning maxims and how to win and lose, and honing his killer instinct (at chess, which serves him well in finance). Max goes to France intent on selling the property. He spends a few days there, getting the property ready to show. Memories, a beautiful woman, and a young American who says she’s Henry’s illegitimate daughter interrupt his plans. Did Max the boy know things that Max the man has forgotten?

I also recommend the book, which is even better than the film.

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Sabrina

A remake of the next film on the list featuring Audrey Hepburn, this one was so well done, some viewers prefer it to the original.

While she was growing up, Sabrina Fairchild spent more time perched in a tree watching the Larrabee family than she ever did on solid ground. As the chauffeur’s daughter on their lavish Long Island estate, Sabrina was invisible behind the branches, but she knew them all below… There is Maude Larrabee, the modern matriarch of the Larrabee Corporation; Linus Larrabee, the serious older son who expanded a successful family business into the world’s largest communications company; and David, the handsome, fun-loving Larrabee, who was the center of Sabrina’s world until she was shipped off to Paris. After two years on the staff of Vogue magazine, Sabrina has returned to the Larrabee estate but now she has blossomed into a beautiful and sophisticated woman. And she’s standing in the way of a billion dollar deal.

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Sabrina (1954 version)

Linus and David Larrabee are the two sons of a very wealthy family. Linus is all work — busily running the family corporate empire with no time for a wife and family. David is all play — technically employed in the family business but never showing up for work, spending all his time entertaining, and having been married and divorced three times. Sabrina Fairchild is the young, shy, and awkward daughter of the household chauffeur, who has been infatuated with David all her life, but whom David hardly notices till she goes away to Paris for two years and returns an elegant, sophisticated, beautiful woman. Suddenly, she finds she’s captured David’s attention, but just as she does so, she finds herself also falling in love with Linus, and she finds that Linus is also falling in love with her.

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La Vie en Rose (La Môme)

An un-chronological look at the life of the Little Sparrow, Édith Piaf (1915-1963). Her mother is an alcoholic street singer, her father a circus performer, her paternal grandmother a madam. During childhood she lives with each of them. At 20, she’s a street singer discovered by a club owner who’s soon murdered, coached by a musician who brings her to concert halls, and then quickly famous. Constant companions are alcohol and heartache. The tragedies of her love affair with Marcel Cerdan and the death of her only child belie the words of one of her signature songs, “Non, je ne regrette rien.” The back and forth nature of the narrative suggests the patterns of memory and association.

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Before Sunrise

These next three films are among my favorite movies ever, each filmed nine years apart. I can’t recommend these enough.

American tourist Jesse and French student Celine meet by chance on the train from Budapest to Vienna. Sensing that they are developing a connection, Jesse asks Celine to spend the day with him in Vienna, and she agrees. So they pass the time before his scheduled flight the next morning together. How do two perfect strangers connect so intimately over the course of a single day? What is that special thing that bonds two people so strongly? As their bond turns to love, what will happen to them the next morning when Jesse flies away?

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Before Sunset

Early thirty-something American Jesse Wallace is in a Paris bookstore, the last stop on a tour to promote his best selling book, This Time. Although he is vague to reporters about the source material for the book, it is about his chance encounter nine years earlier on June 15-16, 1994 with a Parisienne named Celine, and the memorable and romantic day and evening they spent together in Vienna. At the end of their encounter at the Vienna train station, which is also how the book ends, they, not providing contact information to the other, vowed to meet each other again in exactly six months at that very spot. As the media scrum at the bookstore nears its conclusion, Jesse spots Celine in the crowd, she who only found out about the book when she earlier saw his photograph promoting this public appearance.

This is a fabulous walk through Paris and through their own intimate and complicated relationship. I love this film!

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Before Midnight

It has been nine years since we last met Jesse and Celine, the French-American couple who once met on a train in Vienna. They now live in Paris with twin daughters, but have spent a summer in Greece on the invitation of an author colleague of Jesse’s. When the vacation is over and Jesse must send his teenage son off to the States, he begins to question his life decisions, and his relationship with Celine is at risk. (See the prequels above.)

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Julie & Julia

In 1949, Julia Child is in Paris, the wife of a diplomat, wondering how to spend her days. She tries hat making, bridge, and then cooking lessons at Cordon Bleu. There she discovers her passion. In 2002, Julie Powell, about to turn 30 and underemployed with an unpublished novel, decides to cook her way through “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year and to blog about it. We go back and forth between these stories of two women learning to cook and finding success. Sympathetic, loving husbands support them both, and friendships, too, add zest.

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Chocolat

When single mother Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and her six-year-old daughter, Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) move to rural France and open a chocolate shop, with Sunday hours, across the street from the local church, they are met with some skepticism. But as soon as they coax the townspeople into enjoying their delicious products, they are warmly welcomed.

* This is one of my favorite films that takes place in France. I have had the pleasure of visiting the town where it was filmed – Flavigny-sur-Ozerain – which is just as charming in real life.

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Ratatouille

A rat named Remy dreams of becoming a great French chef despite his family’s wishes and the obvious problem of being a rat in a decidedly rodent-phobic profession. When fate places Remy in the sewers of Paris, he finds himself ideally situated beneath a restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, Auguste Gusteau. Despite the apparent dangers of being an unlikely, and certainly unwanted, visitor in the kitchen of a fine French restaurant, Remy’s passion for cooking soon sets into motion a hilarious and exciting rat race that turns the culinary world of Paris upside down.

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The Hundred-Foot Journey

The family of talented cook, Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), has a life filled with both culinary delights and profound loss. Drifting through Europe after fleeing political violence in India that killed the family restaurant business and their mother, the Kadams arrive in France. Once there, a chance auto accident and the kindness of a young woman, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), in the village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val inspires Papa Kadam (Om Puri) to set up a Indian restaurant there. Unfortunately, this puts the Kadams in direct competition with the snobbish Madame Mallory’s acclaimed haute cuisine establishment across the street where Marguerite also works as a sous-chef. The resulting rivalry eventually escalates in personal intensity until it goes too far. In response, there is a bridging of sides initiated by Hassan, Marguerite, and Madame Mallory (Dame Helen Mirren), both professional and personal, that encourages an understanding that will change both sides forever.

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French Kiss

Kate and Charlie have a perfect life planned out before them: buying a house, marriage, kids, the whole works. Kate’s fear of flying keeps her in Canada while Charlie goes to Paris for a medical convention. While there Charlie is smitten by the lovely Juliette. He calls off the wedding with Kate and she nervously boards a plane to get him back. She ends up sitting next to the petty French thief Luc Teyssier. He hides a stolen necklace and smuggled grape vine in her bag to get it through customs. Her bag is stolen, the necklace apparently lost, and Kate and Luc head to Cannes — Luc to find the necklace and Kate get Charlie back. Along the way, Kate and Luc begin having feelings for each other — which change the course of their lives.

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Paris, je t’aime

Paris, je t’aime is about the plurality of cinema in one mythic location: Paris, the City of Love. Twenty filmmakers have five minutes each; the audience must weave a single narrative out of twenty moments. The 20 moments are fused by transitional interstitial sequences and also via the introduction and epilogue. Each transition begins with the last shot of the previous film and ends with the first shot of the following film, extending the enchantment and the emotion of the previous segment, preparing the audience for a surprise, and providing a cohesive atmosphere. There’s a reappearing mysterious character who is a witness to the Parisian life. A common theme of Paris and love fuses all.

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2 Days in Paris

2 Jours – 2 Days follows two days in the relationship of a New York based couple – a French photographer Marion and American interior designer Jack – as they attempt to re-infuse their relationship with romance by taking a vacation in Europe. Their trip to Venice didn’t really work out, – they both came down with gastroenteritis. They have higher hopes for Paris. But the combination of Marion’s overbearing non-English-speaking parents, flirtatious ex-boyfriends, and Jack’s obsession with photographing every famous Parisian tombstone and conviction that French condoms are too small, only adds fuel to the fire. Will they be able to salvage their relationship? Will they ever have sex again? Or will they merely manage to perfect the art of arguing?

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Moulin Rouge

The year is 1899, and Christian, a young English writer, has come to Paris to follow the Bohemian revolution taking hold of the city’s drug and prostitute infested underworld. And nowhere is the thrill of the underworld more alive than at the Moulin Rouge, a night club where the rich and poor men alike come to be entertained by the dancers, but things take a wicked turn for Christian as he starts a deadly love affair with the star courtesan of the club, Satine. But her affections are also coveted by the club’s patron: the Duke. A dangerous love triangle ensues as Satine and Christian attempt to fight all odds to stay together but a force that not even love can conquer is taking its toll on Satine…

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Funny Face

Fashion photographer Dick Avery, in search for an intellectual backdrop for an air-headed model, expropriates a Greenwich Village bookstore. When the photo session is over the store is left in a shambles, much to salesgirl Jo Stockton’s dismay. Avery stays behind to help her clean up. Later, he examines the photos taken there and sees Jo in the background of one shot. He is intrigued by her unique appearance, as is Maggie Prescott, the editor of a leading fashion magazine. They offer Jo a modeling contract, which she reluctantly accepts only because it includes a trip to Paris. Eventually, her snobbish attitude toward the job softens, and Jo begins to enjoy the work and the company of her handsome photographer.

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Tell No One (Ne Le Dis à Personne)

Pediatrician Dr. Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet) misses his beloved wife Margot Beck (Marie-Josée Croze), who was brutally murdered eight years ago when he was the prime suspect. When two bodies are found near where the corpse of Margot was dumped, the Police re-open the case and Alex becomes suspect again. The mystery increases when Alex receives an e-mail showing Margot older and alive.

* This film is in French, but the story is so engaging that even those who don’t care for subtitle-reading will get hooked. I highly recommend this one.

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Le Divorce

The differences in legalities and cultural mores of French and Americans regarding sex, love, marriage, religion, and family bonds are presented through the interactions of two families related by marriage. American Isabel Walker (Kate Hudson) heads to Paris to visit her half-sister, poet Roxeanne de Persand (Naomi Watts), who is early in the pregnancy of her second child. Isabel arrives to find that Roxy’s French husband, Charles-Henri de Persand (Melvil Poupaud), has just left Roxy, the sisters both eventually further learning that it is because he has fallen in love with another woman, who is married. Roxy and Charles-Henri deal with their break-up, which Roxy does not want, but must face the legal consequences of, including determining the ownership of what may be a valuable French painting that has been casually in the Walker family for years, but which Roxy has had in her possession since she got married. Meanwhile, Isabel begins to explore all that France has to offer, which includes concurrently embarking on sexual relationships with two men, including one with Charles-Henri’s older maternal uncle, the wealthy and well-appointed Edgar Cosset (Thierry Lhermitte), who is already married and who is using the same playbook on her that he has on countless women before her. As groups and individuals within the two families disagree and argue about certain issues they are facing, it does not necessarily affect other issues and relationships between the two families based on their priorities and those cultural and legal standards.

* I haven’t seen this one, so it’s going on my own personal list.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Two years after Ethan Hunt had successfully captured Solomon Lane, the remnants of the Syndicate have reformed into another organization called the Apostles. Under the leadership of a mysterious fundamentalist known only as John Lark, the organization is planning on acquiring three plutonium cores. Ethan and his team are sent to Berlin to intercept them, but the mission fails when Ethan saves Luther and the Apostles escape with the plutonium. With CIA agent August Walker joining the team, Ethan and his allies must now find the plutonium cores before it’s too late.

* Again, not a “French movie”, per se, but one that takes you in and around Paris in a way that will have you saying “I know where that is!” throughout. Someone tipped me off during the filming of this movie, so I went and saw Tom Cruise film one of the scenes on rue des Pyramides back in 2017.

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Rush Hour 3

Almost three years after their last adventure in Rush Hour 2 (2001), Carter is now working as a Los Angeles traffic officer, while his friend and ace Hong Kong police inspector, Lee, escorts the Chinese Ambassador, Han, to the World Criminal Court, to disclose crucial information about the Triads. However, after a botched assassination attempt, the mismatched duo will find themselves in picturesque Paris, struggling to retrieve a precious list of names, as the murderous crime syndicate’s henchmen try their best to stop them. Once more, Lee and Carter must fight their way through dangerous gangsters; however, this time, the past has come back to haunt Lee. Will the boys get the job done once and for all?

* I couldn’t help myself adding this one to the list. The Rush Hour movies are some of my favorite movies; my mom and I never tire of watching them and never cease to laugh incessantly throughout them. You can watch this one as a stand-alone or start with the first two to understand a bit more of the relationship between these two characters.

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Les Intouchables

In Paris, the aristocratic and intellectual Philippe is a quadriplegic millionaire who is interviewing candidates for the position of his carer, with his red-haired secretary Magalie. Out of the blue, Driss cuts the line of candidates and brings a document from the Social Security and asks Phillipe to sign it to prove that he is seeking a job position so he can receive his unemployment benefit. Philippe challenges Driss, offering him a trial period of one month to gain experience helping him. Then Driss can decide whether he would like to stay with him or not. Driss accepts the challenge and moves to the mansion, changing the boring life of Phillipe and his employees.

* I am ashamed to say I still haven’t seen this one despite all the hype. This one is also going on my hurry-and-watch list.

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Les Misérables

Jean Valjean, known as Prisoner 24601, is released from prison and breaks parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert. Set in post-revolutionary France, the story reaches resolution against the background of the June Rebellion.

* I’m not sure how the French feel about this adaption of the classic story, but it won much critical acclaim when it came out.

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Something’s Gotta Give

Harry Sanborn is an aged music industry exec with a fondness for younger women like Marin, his latest trophy girlfriend. Things get a little awkward when Harry suffers a heart attack at the home of Marin’s mother Erica. Left in the care of Erica and his doctor, a love triangle starts to take shape.

* I am a huge Nancy Meyers film-lover, and this one is one of my favorites. Wondering what the France connection is? Watch until the end.

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Under the Tuscan Sun

* Although this takes place in Italy and has nothing to do with France, I couldn’t help adding it to the list because of how picturesque this film is. I know so many girls and women who dream of living a similar story – more so in France than in Italy – so I made the decision to add it here. Even if it doesn’t fulfill your Frenchy needs, it will surely feed your desire to summer in Europe at a beautiful villa…

After Frances’s seemingly happy San Francisco marriage ends abruptly, she goes into a funk. Urged by her friends to move on, she joins a bus tour of Tuscany where, on the spur of the moment, she buys a crumbling villa. She assembles a crew of oddballs and immigrants to repair the house; over the next year, as they work, she welcomes one of her San Francisco friends who’s pregnant and at loose ends, and she seeks love, first (tenuously) with her married real estate agent, then with a charming stranger. Although life gets in the way of love, Frances’s wishes come true in unexpected ways, and there’s always the Tuscan sun.

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🎞 Plot summaries courtesy of IMDB (with a bit of my own commentary!).

📚  Don’t miss my French book recommendations here (Francophile books) and here (spiritual book recommendations). You can also see more of my Amazon list of book suggestions here and even more product suggestions here. Leave your favorite books below.


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