31 Great French Movies To Watch & Practice French (july edition)
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31 French Movies to Watch (and Practice your French) this July

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Bonjour tout le monde! I am here again to give you another compilation of French movies which will not just provide daily entertainment, but will also provide you with an insight in the world of French cinéma.

At this point, you may already be becoming familiar with what distinguishes French cinema from the films of other cultures. I’d love to add to this, however, by providing you with another 31 movies- one for each day of July!

If you’d love to have a longer list, then the FREE e-book 365 Days of French Movies is perfect for you.

free French movies list e-book download pdf

Day 1: Diabolique

Directed by: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Written by: Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jérome Geronimi

Year: 1955

diabolique movie

Source: IMDb

The story revolves around a provincial boarding school run by sadistic headmaster, Michel Delasalle. After being murdered by his wife and mistress, strange events being to plague the school, but what is their origin?

This film might be an old one, but there are no thrillers like Diabolique. Critics regard this movie to be above many comparable psychological thrillers because of its unusual attention to characterisation and the physical details of the setting. With its unpredictable narrative twists and horrifying images and ambiance, this film brought its director, Henri-Georges Clouzot, universal acclaim and made him the legendary “French Hitchcock”.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 2: Le Salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear)

Directed by: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Written by: Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jérome Geronimi

Year: 1953

le salaire de la peur

Source: Wikipedia

Another movie created by the legendary “French Hitchcock”,  La Salaire de la peur. The Wages of Fear is a 1953 French film noir based on Georges Arnaud macho novel about the lives of the men who transport explosives for oil companies. The movie is purposely divided into two halves. The first, more slow paced half, explores the motivations of such men, and the greed and exploitation that entrap them The second part being a tense and suspenseful rollercoaster as the men drive through the mountains with their precarious cargo.

Tough and cynical, the film is ahead of its time in showing the brutal tactics of oil companies in developing countries. It is not an easy watch, money is shown as the primary motivating factor for all protagonists, but it’s a compelling film that will have you on the edge of your seat nonetheless.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 3: Violette

Directed and written by: Martin Provost

Year: 2013

Violette

Source: Allocine

Now to a more contemporary movie, Violette is a French biographical drama and the formation of the early French feminist novelist Violette Leduc.

In particular, it portrays the relationship between her and the renowned philosopher Simone de Beauvior, and how the lives and ideas of these two important women impacted on each other. This biopic presents issues such as sexuality, abortion, homosexuality, self-identity and women’s insecurities. This movie is not just beautifully crafted and executed, but the exceptional acting and story plot will also captivate your heart.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 4: La Commune

Directed by: Peter Watkins

Written by: Peter Watkins and Agathe Bluysen

Year: 2000

la commune paris movie

Source: IMDb

A critical and audacious film, La Commune is an unusual documentary-style, historical drama about the legendary Paris Commune of 1871. Peter Watkins, a noted filmmaker and critic, explores the fractured French political system in Paris during the Franco-Prussian war in his epic (6 hour) film. Although, this movie was greatly criticized for the unorthodox format it uses, the thought-provoking ‘breaking news’ style will take you back to the history of the revolutionary euphoria and of the radicalization of the working class in Paris. Moreover, this film presents a cynical critique  of modern media and our contemporary perspectives of French society.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 5: Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle)

Directed and written by: Jean-Pierre Melville

Year: 1970

Cercle-Rouge-Le_1

SourceCinefil

Le Cercle Rouge is a 1970 French film about a former prisoner, an escaped convict, and an alcoholic former cop getting together to pull off an elaborate jewellery heist. However, Police inspector Mattei (Bourvil) will use all means at his disposal to stop them.

This volley of action, stunts, running, physical dexterity and frantic chases has one cool scene after another. On top of this,, this masterpiece is more than a story of heists and crimes, as Michael Mann would later emulate, the film examines the nature of crooks, and the men who hunt them down. More than just a thriller, this is a meditation on machismo, and a clear influence on contemporary directors such as Quentin Tarantino.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 6: Vivre Sa Vie (My Life to Live)

Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard

Written by: Jean-Luc Godard  and Marcel Sacotte

Year: 1962

Vivre Sa Vie

Source: movieposters

An exploration to a Parisian woman’s descent into prostitution, Vivre Sa Vie is composed of twelve unconnected episodes, each presented with an introduction and brief summary, about the life of Nana (Anna Karina).

This innovative use of sound and vision is a clever device the director uses to explore and the outwardly beautiful but flawed and exploitative consumerist culture of that time in Paris: a seedy of cinemas, coffee bars, neon-lit pool halls, pop records, photographs, posters, pinball machines, jukeboxes. foreign cars, etc, etc… The film, is not just an unsettling critique of the sex-trade, it’s an existentialist exposition of the materialistic life that the world is currently living.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 7: La Cage aux Folles

Directed and written by: Édouard Molinaro

Year: 1978

la-cage-aux-folles

SourceCinemapassion

Be gay and fabulous while watching this comical, international musical sensation depicting the hilarious events that occur when a gay man attempts to pose as a straight one for the sake of his son’s future. Will they be able to pull it off and impress the arch-conservative parents of his son’s fiancée? Find out by watching La Cage aux Folles! The film was followed by two sequels: La Cage aux Folles II (1980) and La Cage aux FollesIII (1985).

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 8: Innocence

Directed and written by: Lucile Hadžihalilović

Year: 2004

innocence movie

Source: Criticote

How would you describe your childhood memories? It is probable that you were living with your family, studying in schools like the other children in the neighbourhood, and playing freely, in short, you are living a perfectly normal life: unlike the girls in this surreal movie Innocence. You might be confused at first on why a  (living) six year old girl will arrive inside a coffin but that is only one of the mysteries to uncover in this dark gothic fairy-tale. The girls are carefully handpicked and taken from their families at a very young age for unknown reasons. They are kept in a remote boarding school under the governance of two teachers, and mainly taught and trained with ballet and biology. They are ranked according to their age, which are shown through ribbons in their hair. But why?

Available on Netflix: No or Amazon Instant Video

Day 9:A Prophet

Directed by: Jacques Audiard

Written by: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, Abdel Raouf Dafri, Nicolas Peufaillit

Year: 2009

a-prophet

SourceOgisteproductions

Another award-winning movie, A Prophet showcases a great story about Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) a young part Arab, part Corsican petty criminal. He arrives in the jail entirely alone and,  because of his young age and ignorance, disadvantaged. However, his initiation into Corsican and Muslim subcultures, bravery and quick wit rise in the inmate community. This movie explores the connections between the brutal prison system and violent radical Islamic subculture prevalent in some parts of Europe. Although Audiard claimed that it is a fictional, it is easy for the viewers to draw their own parallels between violence, prison and gang warfare and extremism. It is  also a film for any crime-flick fans looking for a great story.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 10: Le Million (The Million)

Directed and written by: René Clair

Year: 1931

le-million-movie

SourceMoviepostershop

A hilarious movie from the 1930s;  that takes us on a trip to the glory days of the ‘music hall’ school of entertainment. Le Million is a French musical comedy directed by Rene Clair, revolving around the gently humorous story of a poor artist who discovers that he has won one million on the lottery, but lost his ticket. Will he find it in time to claim the money? This is the major problem our leading man is facing, and he is ready to take any risk to find that small piece of paper.

Clair has this determined chase of one small, but important ticket accompanied with a light-hearted selection of theatrical dialogue sang by the actors and actresses. As a whole, the film might not match the technological perfection of contemporary movies, but it was still be regarded as a sophisticated masterpiece from the first true master of the ’talkie’.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 11: Cyrano de Bergerac

Directed by: Jean-Paul Rappeneau

Written by: Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Jean-Claude Carrière, Edmond Rostand

Year: 1990

Cyrano de Bergerac

SourceFlickfacts

Do you believe in true love? This may sound cheesy to cynics, but for hopeless romantics out there, you will find yourself relating to Cyrano de Bergerac, as he uses his passion to become a bridge to the happiness of the woman he loves. Cyrano is a brilliant swordsman, with a gift for words and poetry, but deprived of physical attractiveness by his enormous nose, and is therefore doomed by his insecurities to be forever lonely. Put into the position of helping his less eloquent friend win the heart of a woman both men love, he must decide between friendship and romance, risk and safety. The romanticism of Cyrano de Bergerac will make you fall in love and break your heart at the same time.

Available on Netflix: No or Amazon Instant Video

Day 12: Un long dimanche de fiançailles (A very long engagement)

Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Written by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant

Year: 2004

Un Long Dimanche de Fiancailles

Source: Cinema

After moving your heart with Cyrano’s tragedy, watch another lost-soul searching for that most elusive of emotions, happiness, Set during the aftermath of WW1, this concerns a young woman desperately searching for her missing-in-action fiancée. Part romantic drama, part mystery, and part war film, this unusual and sumptuously filmed movie offers something for everyone.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 13: Jeux d’enfants (Love Me if You Dare)

Directed by: Yann Samuell

written by: Yann Samuell and Jacky Cukier

Year: 2004

Love Me If You Dare AKA Jeux denfants

Source: Crazyhdsource

The third romantic movie for the week, Jeux d’Enfants is about the lives of two alienated people trapped in an increasingly complex and irresponsible game  of dare. Maturing in style as the characters age and develop, this multi-layered and often cynical film shows the lengths some people will go to protect themselves from emotional vulnerability. Not a ‘Hollywood’ style wacky comedy, the characters are selfish and sometimes cruel, but nonetheless one which shows uncomfortable truths about the complexities of male/female relationships.

Available on Netflix: No or Amazon Instant Video

Day 14: Mesrine: Killer Instinct

Directed by: Jean-François Richet

Written by: Jean-François Richet and Abdel Raouf Dafri

Year: 2008

mesrine--killer-instinct

Source: Listal

For numbers 14 and 15, let us dedicate two days to the gangster biopic of the infamous Jacques Mesrine. The first part, Mesrine: Killer Instinct, is about Jacques’ roots as a low-level thug involved in  burglary and racketeering, which he perceived to be preferable to the life of a manual labourer. Tough, ruthless and resourceful, he climbs the ranks, delighted to have the opportunity to rebel against a government he distrusts.

The movie was received well by critics and movie viewers because of the exhilarating performance of Vincent Cassel. It also captured the rush of a criminal’s life, wherein a man do whatever he wanted and take whatever he wanted, simply because he is capable of doing it.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 15: Mesrine:Public Enemy #1

Directed and written by: Jean-François Richet

Year: 2008

Public Enemy No.1

Source: Cidenet

Now to the second part of our gangster epic; which explores the later years of this complex and divisive character’s life. Mesrine was declared as France’s Public Enemy #1 when he kidnapped a judge and received a maximum penalty in a maximum-security prison. While in prison, he wrote his memoirs and began to establish himself as a household name. Upon escape, he resumes his gleeful mayhem. What puts this film into a league of its own, isn’t the gangsterism, but its depiction of how Mesrine learnt to control the media, an arch manipulator, he remains a divisive figure in France to this day.

The two movies portraying the life of Mesrine will show you the twin faces of crime, both the power and the rush of success, and the heavy price paid in achieving it.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 16: 13 Tzameti

Directed and written by: Géla Babluani

Year:2005

13-tzameti-final

Source: Taringa

Desperate for money, an aimless young man takes the identity of another, a decision that takes him into a brutal world where rich men gamble with the lives of the dispossessed.

A stark black and white thriller about the cruelty of men, which shows the relationship between money, power and cruelty in the most disturbing way imaginable.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 17: La Pianiste (The Piano Teacher)

Directed and written by: Michael Haneke

Year: 2001

Piano_Teacher__The_(2001)

Source: D.ratingmovies

A controversial yet interesting exploration of human psychology, La Pianiste uses Freudian principles about female sexuality, and how they relate to masochism and sadism. La Pianiste is one of  a new wave of sexual explicit films in European cinema where sado-masochistic relationships are explicitly expressed. Intentionally disturbing and unerotic, it is an unsettling depiction of the depths lonely people can reach in their quest for fulfilment.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 18: Les Bien-aimés (The Beloved)

Directed and written by: Christophe Honoré

Year: 2011

Beloved_Quadsmall1-565x424

Source: D.ratingmovies

Is it better to love or to be loved? Director Christophe Honore presents the complicated love-life of a mother and a daughter in his movie Les Bien-aimes. Both the mother and the daughter are experiencing similar dilemma – they’re trapped in a love triangle. Light, yet engaging, this movie chronicles the characters’ lives and loves from the 60’s to the present day. The radiant background and plot of Les Bien- aimes  are made even livelier by the frequent musical interludes (though Director Honore did not categorize it as a musical.)

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 19: Le Havre

Directed and written by: Aki Kaurismaki

Year: 2011

Le_Havre_

Source: Msoundtracks

An aging shoe-shiner helps a young immigrant to the port of Le Havre, achieve his dreams. Mixing nostalgic comedy with social drama, this warm and tender comedy about the complexities and difficulties concerning immigration and identity has won many awards and high praise from critics..

The film received good appraisals and various awards because of unique theme and focus.

Available on Netflix: No or Amazon Instant Video

Day 20: JCVD (Van Damme)

Directed by: Mabrouk El Mechri

Written by: Frederic Benudis, Mabrouk El Mechri, Christophe Turpin

Year: 2008

JCVD-Quad

Source: Vandammefan

A poignant and touching film that skilfully blurs fact and fiction, this stars ‘The muscles from Brussels’ as an aging, drug-addled action movie star called JCVD, whose real and screen lives become confused when he intervenes in a robbery.

A fascinating meditation on the often cruel way we treat film stars when they’re no longer fashionable, this features a sensitive and engaging performance by Van Damme, basically playing himself as a vulnerable former A list star desperate to be popular again. Whether this is a movie or a documentary is debateable; it did pay dividends for the likeable star though, who has gained cult status once more.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 21: Ne le Dis à Personne (Tell No One)

Directed by: Guillaume Canet

Written by: Guillaume Canet and Philippe Lefebvre

Year: 2006

Tell_No_One_(2006)

Source: Wikipedia

Tell no one tells the story of a bereaved doctor whose attempts to get his life back are thrown into chaos when two further bodies are discovered near to where his wife was murdered. On top of this, he has begun receiving emails from his supposedly dead wife!  Under suspicion from the police, and convinced he’s being framed by unknown forces, he goes on the run, but who, if anyone can he trust? Find out in this twisty thriller.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 22: OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius

Written by:Jean Francois Halis and Michel Hazanavicius

Year: 2006

oss117 nid d'espion

Source: Fromthefrontrow

James Bond in Paris!

A gleeful subversion of the creakingly old-fashioned 1960’s novels of Jean Bruce, this movie has great fun at the expense of the spy genre. Set in an anachronistic world where men were men, women were admiring and foreigners were shifty stereotypes, this wild satire has great fun at the expense of the Bond movies. Never knowingly politically-correct, its absurd humour will appeal to anyone who’s ever watched a thriller and shouted in exasperation at the illogicality of the plot.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 23: Indigenes (Days of Glory) 

Directed by: Rachid Bouchareb

Written by: Olivier Morelle and Rachnid Bouchareb

Year: 2006

indigenes-135195

Source: Xyface

For a long time, it was rare to find a movie depicting the brave sacrifice of the North African soldiers who fought for France during the World War II. Most often derogatively referred to as ‘Indignes’ their sacrifice was generally marginalised on screen.

Days of Glory” by Director Rachid Bouchareb is a dedication, revealing the great contribution of the North African soldiers during t World War 2 Beautifully filmed and stirringly acted, this is a timely and stirring reminder of the great sacrifice made by African troops during the Second World War.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 24: Coco Before Chanel

Directed by: Anne Fontaine

Written by: Anne and Camille Fontaine

Year:2009

coco-before-chanel

Source: Unifrance

France is iconic in the fashion industry. It is the home of many of the most famous designers and their signature brands of bags, clothes, shoes and hats Director Fontaine explores the life of one great persona in the world of fashion-of Coco Chanel.: a woman whose life was focused towards a paradigm-shifting aim ‘It is not about glamour and luxury, but comfort and style’ Coco Before Chanel is a biopic about the early life of Coco Chanel and her drive towards creating a modern style of hats for women. The movie damaged by its unsentimental approach to the lead’s early life, but the film is never less than a beautifully crafted and tastefully refined film.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 25: Camille Claudel 1915

Directed and written by: Bruno Dumont

Year: 2013

Camille Claudel 1915

Source: Stulovesfilm

Camille Claudel 1915 is the fourth biopic in this list, and like Coco Chanel and Violette l, its story revolves around the life of an outstanding female artist, Camille Claudel. She is a brilliant sculptress who became insane due to loneliness and the pressures of her art. She was the mistress of Auguste Rodin and their complicated relationship added to her paranoia and misery. To protect her, Paul Claudel, her brother, put her in an asylum.

The movie was criticized as gratuitously disturbing because of its use of actual handicapped people as supporting cast members. Moreover, It has a tendency to concentrate on her unhappy later life in an asylum.
Despite these criticisms, it is an intense and accurate portrayal of madness and obsession.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 26: Heartbreaker (L’Arnacoeur)

Directed by: Pascal Chaumeil

Written by: Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Domer and Yohan Gromb

Year: 2011

heartbreaker

Source: Traileraddict

To lift the mood after three straight days of drama, let’s cheer ourselves up with this French romantic comedy. Heartbreaker stars Romain Duris as Alex, a handsome but manipulative professional heartbreaker and. Vanessa Paradis as Juliette, a beautiful heiress. Hired by Juliette’s father to break up the marriage before it has even begun, Alex pulls out all the stops, but soon finds himself dealing with more than he bargained for!

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 27: Prete-moi ta main (I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single)

Directed by: Eric Lartigau

Written by: Alain Chabat, Philippe Mechelen, Laurent Tirard, Gregoire Vigneron and Laurent Zeitoun.

Year: 2006

I-Do-How-Get-Married-Stay-Single-Prête-moi-ta-main

Source: Tressugar

Prete-moi ta main is a good example of a mainstream funny-Parisian-rom-com film. It stars Alain Chabat as Luis Campos and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Emma. Luis is savouring his life as a successful perfumer and a bachelor- despite his persistent mother and sisters. One day, his mother and sisters decide that he is not getting younger, so he needs to get married, immediately. The problem here is he does not want to enter in a serious relationship, so he ends up hiring his best friend’s sister to be his fiancé; who will dump him in the date of their marriage. But is there a flaw in this brilliant plan?

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 28: Les Contes de la Nuit (Tales of the Night)

Directed and written by: Michel Ocelot

Year: 2011

Contes-de-la-nuit-poster

Source: Wikipedia

For kids and the young-at-heart, Le Contes de nuit is just right for you. From the vivid imagination of internationally renounced animator Micheal Ocelot comes six fables from differing periods and cultures. Beautifully captured in a faux-traditional silhouette style, it’s evocative mix of fairy-tale and modern animation techniques are bound to enrapture the young; and young at heart!

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 29: My Piece of the Pie

Directed and written by: Cedric Klapsich

Year: 2011

my piece of pie

Source: ifcfilms

A biting satire about the gulf between the ‘have’s and have-nots’ My piece of the pie tells the story of a poverty-stricken mother of three forced, by unemployment, to take a job as a housekeeper for a stockbroker who appears to be the living embodiment of the soulless corporate capitalist shark. In addition, it appears his shady dealings are the reason she’s unemployed in the first place. Despite their differences, the two develop feelings for each other, but can she show him the error of his ways?

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 30: Comme une Image (Look at Me)

Directed by: Agnes Jaoui

Written by: Jean -Pierre Bacri and Agnes Jaoui

Year: 2004

Comme_une_image

Source: Wikipedia

Comme une Image (Look at Me) is a 2004 satirical-drama film about the dynamics of self-image and celebrity life against juxtaposed against familial love, acceptance and pure love for another person. 20 year old Lolita aspires to be a singer, but plagued with insecurities about her looks, and generally ignored in favour of her successful, self-obsessed father, her low self-esteem may prove an impassable barrier to success. A fascinating dissection of the desire for fame an attention, featuring well-rounded characters, and exploring this modern phenomenon in a sensitive, yet original manner.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Day 31: Holy Motors

Directed and written by: Leos Carax

Year: 2012

wpid-holy-motors-sign

Source: Thatbabysite1

Let’s finish on a bizarre note with the acclaimed ‘Holy Motors’. Although any synopsis for this experimental film is slightly spurious, follows a strange figure, Monsieur Oscar, who adopts differing roles during a night’s journey through Paris in a white limousine. Featuring a brilliant performance by Denis Lavant, this will have you applauding and scratching your head in equal measure.

Available on Netflix: No (DVD only) or Amazon Instant Video

Conclusion

It may be fair to say that due to cross-cultural influences among filmmakers, you’ll likely find some similarities among them. But as you become regularly exposed to French movies, you’ll be able to easily distinguish aspects of French cinema from the others.

If you have started to develop this, are you satisfied with the list of movies that I compiled for this month? As usual, I am looking forward in seeing any comments, suggestions and even violent reaction from you! I will keep looking for good movies to help you learn more about France and French cinema.

P.S: As always, sharing is caring 🙂

Make sure to grab your FREE e-book 365 Days of French Movies! Click the photo below to get your copy!

free French movies list e-book download pdf

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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