15 Best French TV Series to Learn French for All Levels
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The 15 Best TV Series to Learn French for All Levels

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Reading time: 7 minutes

Watching foreign films or television series are both excellent ways to help you learn French.

It helps you gather a better understanding of the daily lifestyle and expressions that French may use whilst consolidating your existing vocabulary. It can help you fine-tune your listening skills to adapt to the various speeds and accents you may encounter.

However, while it can be an enjoyable and productive way to cram a lesson into your day, the truth is that you don’t always have time to sit down to watch a two-hour tear-jerker about a bourgeois quadriplegic and his carer from the suburbs.

Fear not though, you can turn to the more manageable and reliable medium that is television. The two huge advantages that television has over film are those of time management (easier to fit around your schedule) and story depth (longer running time= longer character arcs and plotlines).

For this reason I have compiled a list of the best French language television series out there, past and present.

1Les Aventures de Tintin

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate.

Number of episodes: 39

tintin tv series

(source:babelio)

Plot: Follow the adventures of a young Belgian detective and his loyal travel companion Snowy the dog as they travel the world, going from one adventure to the next.

Why watch it? Simply put: it’s a timeless classic. Originally a children’s comic book, the language is ideal for beginners, whilst the content is enjoyable for all ages.

2Un Village Français

Difficulty: Intermediate.

Number of episodes: 60

un_village_francais

(source:france3)

Plot: Drama set in the fictional town of Villeneuve during the Nazi occupation. Seen through the eyes of the populace, the prolonged state of fear brings out the best and worst in people, as the town rallies together to make it through this most trying of times.

Why watch it? One for the history buffs among you. An in-depth portrayal French life during this period, set against the historical backdrop of the Vichy government.

3Fais pas ci, Fais pas ça

Difficulty: Intermediate.

Number of episodes: 56

Fais pas ci, Fais pas ça

(source:france2)

Plot: Comedy depicting two contrasting families over the course of a year. While their differences are evident, both families slowly become more and more drawn to one another along the way.

Why watch it? In this classic sitcom format, the viewers are presented with an honest depiction of French humor, and its important role in what it means to be French.

4Un Gars, une Fille

Difficulty: Advanced.

Number of episodes: 486

Un Gars, une Fille

(source:france2)

Plot: A detailed look into the lives and relationship of a French couple. Loving, laughing, crying, shouting and back to loving. No stone is left unturned in this study of their everyday existence, and their consequences that can make or break even the most solid of connections.

Why watch it? One of France’s most popular television series, it is a firm fixture of the country’s pop culture. Originally from Quebec, the French adaptation has shortened the episode lengths down to seven minutes each – making for an ideal bite sized lesson somewhere in your day.

5Engrenages

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced.

Number of episodes: 52

Engrenages-1

(source:canalplus)

Plot: Police and legal drama series centering on the working relationship between the Parisian police and the justice system, as they work together to maintain peace and order in society.

Why watch it? Detectives, lawyers, judges, criminals. What’s not to like? Fans of crime shows in particular should make a note of it, as should anyone trying to take their study to the next level, as the language does become quite intricate at times.

6Braquo

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced.

Number of episodes: 24

braquo02-01

(source:canalplus)

Plot: Following false accusations and the resulting suicide of their former colleague, four police officers band together to clear his name and, in doing so, put themselves in the firing line.

Why watch it? A truly action-packed thriller for the adrenaline seekers amongst you. With only twenty-four episodes, it also represents an achievable project.

7Les Revenants

Difficulty: Intermediate.

Number of episodes: 8

Les-Revenants

(source:canalplus)

Plot: The serenity of a sleepy rural town is shattered by the inexplicable supernatural phenomena that start occurring. Sudden power outages, water levels depleting, weird skin marks and, most significantly, the return of their deceased loved ones.

Why watch it? A fresh take on a familiar supernatural/fantasy genre, breathing some now life into the public’s enduring fascination with zombies.

8Kaamelott

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced.

Number of episodes: 458

 Kaamelott(source:canalplus)

Plot: Centered on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table’s quest to locate the Holy Grail, this is a satirical reimagining of the well-known legends.

Why watch it? Thoroughly entertaining, with its mini episode format (around three and a half minutes) making this an extremely enjoyable way to practice your French comprehension.

9Bref

Difficulty: Advanced.

Number of episodes: 82

bref-tv series

 (source:canalplus)

Plot: Follow ‘I’, a nameless 30 year old, through the monotony of his day-to-day existence, as he struggles to meet the basic goals that he believes constitutes a successful life.

Why watch it? A more insightful view of modern French culture is on offer in this frank series. However, the dialogue is very fast-paced, with most characters speaking at a relatively high-speed. As such, it may not be suitable for beginner to intermediate levels.

10Plus Belle la Vie

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate.

Number of episodes: 2613

Plus Belle la Vie

(source:france3)

Plot: Soap opera based in the fictional “le Mistral” neighbourhood in the Mediterranean port-city of Marseille. With more plot twists than a Hollywood movie, and plenty of melodrama, it’s more escapist than realistic in its portrayal of contemporary France.

Why watch it? While perhaps not considered to be the apex of highbrow intellectual viewing, the show is extremely entertaining.

11Les Mystérieuses Cités d’Or

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate.

Number of episodes: 39

Les_mysterieuses_cites_d_or

(source:france2)

Plot: Sixteenth century historical/fantastical adventure anime. A young Spaniard and his navigator father set sail for the New World to search for legendary lost cities of gold.

Why watch it? A joint French and Japanese production, the animation is charming whilst the content is both enchanting and family friendly. It is ideal to watch with the kids before bedtime.

12H

Difficulty: Intermediate.

Number of episodes: 71

H

(source:canalplus)

Plot: Back to a more conventional format.. The plot revolves around a Parisian hospital’s medical staff, and the  absurd situations that they face.

Why watch it? For the laughs alone, which this show delivers time and time again. Great for when you’re not looking for anything too serious, and just want to relax at the end of a long day.

13Scène de ménage

Difficulty: Intermediate.

Number of episodes: 886

Scène de ménage

(source:m6)

Plot: Adapted from the original Spanish show “Escepas de Matrimonio”, watch three couples of differing generations and the ways they make their relationships work for them. Each of the couples offers a different perspective, depending on where they are in their lives, of the diverse joys and dilemmas that they face.

Why watch it? A closer look into the ‘average’ French household. Well adapted from the original material. At times the humour can be quite dark, which may or may not be your cup of tea.

14Mafiosa

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced.

Number of episodes: 40

Mafiosa

(source:canalplus)

Plot: After the murder of her notorious uncle, Sandra Paoli must take her place at the head of her family’s clan of the Corsican mafia. Assisted out by her brother, she dives head first into a world of violence, drugs, sex and money.

Why watch it? A feminist twist on the tried and tested crime drama genre, allegedly a dramatisation of the life of Sandra Casanova-Germani, sister of Jean-Luc Germani, currently France’s most wanted man. See the rise to power of a woman overcoming adversity (despite she is a criminal…), to prove that she deserves her title in the macho environment of organised crime. If The Sopranos and Weeds got together, then this would be their love child.

15Il était une fois… la vie

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate.

Number of episodes: 26

Il_etait_une_fois_la_vie

(source:france3)

Plot: Another French-Japanese animation creation. Aimed at children, we’re presented with an interactive tour of the human body and its various bits and pieces in an educational format.

Why watch it? Unless they’re particularly interested in expanding their French anatomy vocabulary, adults might want to give this one a miss. It is however, an excellent tool to help teach your kids French, while they might also learn a thing or two about blood vessels along the way.

Q: Where can I go to find these shows?

  • French Channel Websites

You can go straight to the source and view the shows on their respective channel’s websites. To do this however, you will probably have to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and set it to a French IP address. There are plenty to choose from, and they take seconds to install.

I recommend Tunnelbear, it’s only five dollars a month, with discounts offered from time to time. Just make sure to test it for compatibility prior to subscribing.

  • Netflix

The world’s most popular movie streaming site has finally entered the French market. So, if you’re currently in France (at least virtually thanks to the VPN) and have an account with them (even if you sign-up with Netflix in USA,U.K…) then you will have access to some of France’s most popular television series and can check to see if they have the ones you’re looking for.

  • YouTube

It’s always worth checking to see if someone has uploaded full episodes of whatever you’re looking for on YouTube. You’ll probably have more chance finding some of the older shows from the list on here, as the newer ones might be more thoroughly policed for copyright infringement.

  • Amazon

Always a safe bet. They should be able to provide you with whatever box set you’re looking for and ship it to you. But double check the DVD region, sometimes DVd are not compatible with your DVD player.. If you’re willing to pay retail price for the series, then this will be your best option.

  • Local DVD shop (if it still exists…)

If the Internet cannot provide you with the goods that you are looking for, then you can always check your local DVD outlet. A lot of them will have foreign sections and you might get lucky and strike gold.

  • Local French Culture Center.

If you are located in a big city, you have a strong chance to find a French Cultural Center. Do a quick search query “French Cultural Center XX”, you can borrow DVD and books for a small fee.

So, there you have it. Whether you fancy a zombie-walking, crime-stomping, fairy-princess anime or a darkly satirical dramedy; the important thing is to not see this as homework. Take your time to find the show that is right for you in terms of level, length and taste. Once you have it, the progression will be noticeable.

For the best tips on learning French, get a copy of the ULTIMATE French Study Guide by clicking the photo below. 

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P.S. You would be doing me a HUGE FAVOR  by sharing it via Twitter, Facebook, Google + or Pinterest. 

About the Author Frederic

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +

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  • Mary says:

    Merci Frederic, c’est excellent ! J’aime bien Engrenages. I’ve seen every episode, some of them 2 or 3 times. I’m looking forward to watching more from your list. bon week-end

  • alison says:

    Thank you Frederic! I am wondering … do you have any shows to recommend that may also have an emphasis on fashion, design, color use that is typically French? I watch Almodovar movies for these elements… just wondering if you have any suggestions. Or if any of your readers have some, please let me know!
    Alison

    • Frederic says:

      Hum that’s a challenging question. I guess there is some Tv shows talking about “relooking” (a “french” word to say make over) such as “Nouveau look pour une nouvelle vie / cousu main” or about decorating (d&co). But to be honest I do not know how it looks like. I’ve never seen any episode. Now if you are talking about movies, I am not so sure. Sorry 🙁

  • Ellen says:

    Bonjour! I posted it on my learning French with film site. Thanks so much for sharing the information. I am looking forward to season 2 of the REVENANTS.

    Ellen
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-the-Love-of-French-Film/592672374178494

  • Anne says:

    Bonjour Frederic, merci pour ces informations. How can we watch them from the USA? most french tv websites don’t let us watch them because of our ‘position géographique’. Any idea how to watch them anyway? Merci!!!

    • Frederic says:

      Bonjour Anne, you can use a VPN as I mentioned in the article. Some are free but I personally use Tunnel Bear.

      “French Channel Websites
      You can go straight to the source and view the shows on their respective channel’s websites. To do this however, you will probably have to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and set it to a French IP address. There are plenty to choose from, and they take seconds to install.

      I recommend Tunnelbear, it’s only five dollars a month, with discounts offered from time to time. Just make sure to test it for compatibility prior to subscribing.”

      Moreover if you use Netflix, you can switch to the French version (the catalog is different here). I hope it helps 🙂

  • Micky Supreme says:

    I’m very please to have this information. Merci beaucoup. Also, is there any tv series you would recommend to suite entrpreneurs?

    • Frederic says:

      Hum there are some TV program like that. Which British or American programs did you like? I think we had an equivalent of Shark Tank.

  • Evelyn says:

    Ou est-ce que nous pouvons trouver ces emissions de televison pour regarder?

  • Rebecca says:

    I just have a quick question. When watching these shows, do you think it would be better to watch them with English subtitles, or would that defeat the point? Would French subtitles be better, or none at all?

  • Helena says:

    Thanks for sharing Frederic! 🙂
    How can I find the french subtitle for these series? I keep searching but I can’t find french subtitles for french movies let alone the series!
    I would really love it if you could recommend a site or link or something ESP for the movies in French.. I personally use Subscene but it’s not much of a help in French!
    I have so many French movies that I have to watch with an English subtitle cuz I couldn’t find any French.
    By the way, these are my selection of French series I’m about to get.. haven’t watched any of them yet.

    Hélène et les Garçons

    Les Vacances de l’amour

    les mystères de l’amour

    plus belle la vie

    Sous le soleil

    Les Revenants

  • Cathy Stresing says:

    I am wondering your thoughts about “Un village français” and the first episode where you see a child get killed and an adulterous relationship. Does this work with American students? I was sad seeing both of the above situations in the very first episode and decided against showing it to my students. Does anyone in the US have experience showing this?

    • Frederic says:

      In France, it would be ok I think for high school students (even maybe middle school) but I think in US, it may be a different story.

  • 1stworldview says:

    Netflix true crime series Narcos spurs huge demand for Colombian women.

    Produced by Netflix, the show “Narcos” takes on the infamous Medellin drug cartel which follows the rise and fall of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Drug Enforcement Agency agents hunting him. The story is told largely from the points of view of Escobar (Brazilian actor Wagner Moura) and U.S. DEA Agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), on opposite sides of what would become an all-out war.

    Many critics of true crime dramas have always complained they are promoting crime and violence by glorification, an unintended consequence of American entertainment industries. These shows can have other interesting Netflix true crime series Narcos spurs huge demand for Colombian women.

    Pconsequences. The Foreign Bride industry has seen a huge spike in demand for Colombian women. This can be viewed as positive or negative, depending on social perspective.

    Foreign Brides, sometimes referred to as “mail order brides”, a term the industry completely rejects, have become a billion dollar a year business. According to industry leaders, Colombia represented only about 3% of the market three years ago. Since the popularity of Narcos, many companies have seen near tenfold increases in men seeking Colombian wives.

    A Foreign Affair (AFA), a company that helps men find women through international tours, says tours to Colombia are now selling out. AFA arranges group tours where 10 to 20 men travel together to Medellin, Cartagena or Barranquilla. During the tour, they attend arranged Social events where the men meet hundreds of beautiful Colombian women looking for marriage. Women can also place their profiles on the AFA web site, in the hopes of finding a husband.

    Kenneth Agee, the marketing director for AFA says, “Because of the show we are doubling our tours to Medellin for next year. Narcos has brought a lot of attention to the intense beauty of Colombian women. Although the show is often very violent, the women of Colombia come across as very family oriented and loyal. These values seem harder and harder to find in this world. I would have to agree, because of the interest in Narcos, we even added an excursion to where Pablo’s self-built prison was located, in the hills overlooking Medellin.

    The crowning of 2015 Miss Universe Paulina Vega put Barranquilla, Colombia on the map. Barranquilla now has recognition for being home to some of the most beautiful and talented women in the world. Not only is Miss Universe from here, Grammy Award winning pop singer Shakira, and actress Sofia Vergara also call Barranquilla home. Vergara stars on the ABC series Modern Family as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett. She’s been nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards, 4 Prime time Emmy Awards, and 7 Screen Actors Guild Awards, all stemming from this role. In 2014, she was ranked as the 32nd Most Powerful Woman in the world by Forbes.

    David from Mesa AZ says he met more qualified women in one week than he has during the last 10 years. In 2010, Lisa Ling and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) filmed a one hour show on the AFA tour called “Online Brides – Our America with Lisa Ling.” Even Lisa Ling was surprised by the beauty and sincerity of the women from Barranquilla.

    Janet Davis, head of a women’s rights group says “AFA is just taking advantage of women from these third world countries. This is no different than Pablo trafficking in narcotics, but these companies traffic women.” Proponents refer to a Report (INTERNATIONAL MATCHMAKING ORGANIZATIONS: A REPORT TO CONGRESS) that these marriages have much lower divorce rates and abuse rates compared to traditional domestic marriages. This data makes international dating similar to a woman in the US joining eHarmony to look for a husband.

    23-year-old Viviana, from Cartagena, says “I come to these events because I know the men attending are serious about marriage, they are faithful and are good to family. For Colombian women, it is the most important thing, good husband and good family.

    Kenneth says, “It has not been all rosy. Narcos has brought us some problems. In Cartagena, we have several Penthouses we rent out. One was originally owned by “Don Diego” head of the Norte Del Velle Drug Cartel, the other by Pablo’s people. Over the past year, the properties have been tracked down by individuals thinking they will find large qualities of cash hidden, thus we sometimes find holes all over the walls after a tenant leaves.

    For Narcos fans, those who love the gangster genre, or just those who just like seeing beautiful Latin women, there’s good news; Netflix’s has confirmed Season 3 and 4.

  • west_of_eden says:

    No Nicolas Le Floch? That show is wonderful. Why isn’t it here?

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