Top 100 French Actors

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3.
Abel Gance
Writer, Napoleon
Born an illegitimate son of a wealthy physician, Abel Flamant, and a working class mother, Francoise Perethon. He was raised by his mother and her boyfriend, who later became her husband, Adolphe Gance. Pressured by his parents, he began his working career as a lawyer's clerk in hopes of achieving a prosperous career in law...
 
13.
Michel Simon
Actor, L'Atalante
The son of a sausage-maker, Michel Simon was conscripted into the Swiss Army at the start of World War I, but was thrown out through a combination of tuberculosis and general insubordination. He was variously a boxer, photographer, general handyman and right-wing anarchist, finally becoming a stage actor in Geneva in 1920...
 
16.
Jean Gabin
Gabin was born Jean-Alexis Moncorgé in Paris, the son of Madeleine Petit and Ferdinand Moncorgé, a cafe entertainer whose stage name was Gabin. He grew up in the village of Mériel in the Seine-et-Oise département, about 35 km north of Paris. The son of cabaret entertainers, he attended the Lycée Janson de Sailly...
 
17.
Marcel Dalio
Actor, Sabrina
Sunday, November the 20th is the anniversary of Marcel Dalio's death in 1983. It was the end of a serendipitous life. You know him. He was a citizen of the world. Born Israel Moshe Blauschild, in Paris, in 1900, he became a much sought-after character actor. His lovely animated face with its great expressive eyes became familiar across Europe...
 
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Jean Renoir
Son of the famous Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste, he had a happy childhood. Pierre Renoir was his brother, and Claude Renoir was his nephew. After the end of World War I, where he won the Croix de Guerre, he moved from scriptwriting to filmmaking. He married Catherine Hessling, for whom he began to make movies; he wanted to make a star of her...
 
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Jean Marais
Jean Marais was a popular French cinema actor and director who played over 100 roles in film and on television, and was also known for his many talents as a writer, painter and sculptor. He was born Jean Alfred Villain-Marais on December 11, 1913, in Cherbourg, France. His father practiced veterinarian medicine...
 
29.
Howard Vernon
Swiss-born actor Howard Vernon (né Mario Lippert) would make his infamous claim to fame as a stock lead player for the lowgrade, campy horror features of notorious director Jesús Franco, starring as Dr. Orloff, Dracula, and other terrorizers, most of them produced in Spain or France. Born in 1914 the son of a Swiss father and American mother...
 
31.
Michel Bouquet
Michel Bouquet is an actor born in the 14th arrondissement of Paris on the 6 November 1925. His father, Georges Bouquet, was a World War One veteran and a wine-maker. His mother Marie was a milliner. He had three older brothers: Georges, Bernard and Serge. Michel's father was always a shadowy figure in his life: having been deeply affected by the war...
 
32.
Claude Dauphin
Actor, Le Plaisir
In 1930, Claude, who was a stage-struck set designer at the Oden Theater, a repertory house in Paris, learned an ailing actor's part in two hours and took it over without a rehearsal. Tristan Bernard, the famous French playwright and producer took notice of this feat. He engaged Dauphin for the leading role of his next play "La fortune" was was also made into a film the next year...
 
33.
Serge Reggiani
Actor, Le Doulos
The notably gifted, multi-talented actor, chanteur, poet and painter Serge Reggiani was born in Reggio Emilia, a town in northern Italy, in 1922. His father, a highly visible anti-fascist, fled his Mussolini-dictated homeland due to his fervent political activities and emigrated to France in order to protect his family...
 
36.
Charles Boyer
Actor, Gaslight
Charles Boyer studied philosophy before he went to the theater where he gave his debut in 1920. Although he had at first no intentions to pursue a career at the movies (his first movie was L'homme du large by Marcel L'Herbier) he used his chance in Hollywood after several filming stations all over Europe...
 
38.
Paul Meurisse
Actor, Diabolique
Paul Meurisse was the son of a bank manager and it first looked as if he would follow in his father's footsteps when he became a solicitor's clerk in Aix-en-Provence. But his passion was elsewhere and he soon did the splits appearing as a chorus boy in music-hall revues. Leaving Aix for Paris, with a letter of recommendation signed by Huguette Duflos...
 
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Jean-Pierre Léaud
Jean-Pierre Léaud is not everybody's cup of tea for sure, but will remain an important name in film history. As an actor he can be adored or hated for exactly the same reasons: he is one of those rare players that directors let improvise his dialogue, which gets on certain viewers' nerves while it fascinates others...
 
41.
Gérard Philipe
In 1940 Gerard left school and his parents wanted him be a lawyer. But soon his mother noticed that he was only interested in acting, although his father was against the idea. After timely intervention from Mark Allégret, who decided he showed some promise, Gerard's debut was in Claude Dauphin's play "One plain girl"...
 
42.
Alain Delon
Alain Fabien Maurice Marcel Delon was born in Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, France, to Édith (Arnold) and Fabien Delon. His father was of French and Corsican Italian descent, and his mother was of French and German ancestry. His parents divorced early on, and Delon had a stormy childhood, being frequently expelled from school...
 
43.
Jean-Paul Belmondo
Actor, Breathless
The son of the renowned French sculptor Paul Belmondo, he studied at Conservatoire National Superieur d'Art Dramatique (CNSAD); after the minor stage performances he made his screen debut in À pied, à cheval et en voiture but the episodes with his participation were cut before release. However, the breakthrough role in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless made him one of the key figures in the French New Wave...
 
44.
Charles Aznavour
Soundtrack, Notting Hill
Beloved French chanson entertainer Charles Aznavour, who wrote more than 800 songs, recorded more than 1,000 of them in French, English, German and Spanish and sold over 100 million records in all, was born Chahnour Varinag Aznavourian on May 22, 1924, in Paris, the younger of two children born to Armenian immigrants who fled to France...
 
46.
Michel Piccoli
Born in a musician's family, he spent the first fifteen years of his career appearing both on stage and on screen, mostly in supporting roles. His breakthrough came after Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt and about 100 films, ranging from art-house movies to commercial mainstream, followed. He won the...
 
47.
Louis de Funès
Louis Germain David de Funès de Galarza was born on July 31, 1914, in Courbevoie, France. His father, named Carlos Luis de Funes de Galarza, was a former lawyer of Seville, Spain, who became a diamond cutter. His mother, named Leonor Soto Reguera, was of Spanish and Portugese extraction. Young Louis de Funès was fond of drawing and piano playing...
 
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Jacques Tati
The comic genius Jacques Tati was born Taticheff, descended from a noble Russian family. His grandfather, Count Dimitri, had been a general in the Imperial Army and had served as military attaché to the Russian Embassy in Paris. His father, Emmanuel Taticheff, was a well-to-do picture framer who conducted his business in the fashionable Rue de Castellane and had taken a Dutch-Italian woman...
 
52.
Roman Polanski
Director, The Pianist
Roman Polanski is a Polish film director, producer, writer and actor. Having made films in Poland, Britain, France and the USA, he is considered one of the few truly international filmmakers. Roman Polanski was born in Paris in 1933. His parents returned to Poland from France in 1936, three years before World War II began...
“ A French-Polish director, writer and actor ” - minalex
 
53.
Jean-Louis Trintignant
Actor, Amour
Born 1930 in Piolenc in south France as son of a wealthy industrialist. Studied law in Aix-en-Provence. Started theatrical acting in 1950, but was regarded untalented at first, until Roger Vadim discovered him for the movies. When the press stalked him 1956 because of rumors of an affair with Brigitte Bardot his partner in ...And God Created Woman...
 
54.
Jean-Claude Brialy
One of the most popular and respected actors to come from the French "New Wave" film movement, Jean-Claude Brialy was born to a military family, which included one brother, in French colonial Algeria on March 30, 1933. Residing in various places while his father, a colonel with the French Army, went through the paces of his career...
 
57.
Jean-Pierre Cassel
He made his movie debut at the invitation of Gene Kelly, who cast Cassel in the 1956 Paris-filmed seriocomedy The Happy Road. At least, that's what the press releases claimed; actually, the tall, elastic-faced Cassel had been plugging away in films on a minor basis since 1950. Shortly after, Cassel was perfectly cast in the naif title role in the 1958 film version of Voltaire's Candide...
 
58.
François Truffaut
François began to assiduously go to the movies at 7. He was also a great reader but not a good pupil. He left school at 14 and started working. In 1947, aged 15, he founded a film club and met André Bazin, a French critic, who becomes his protector. Bazin helped the delinquent Truffaut and also when he was put in jail because he deserted the army...
 
60.
Gérard Depardieu
Actor, Life of Pi
Gérard Depardieu was born in Châteauroux, Indre, France, to Anne Jeanne Josèphe (Marillier) and René Maxime Lionel Depardieu, who was a metal worker and fireman. Young delinquent and wanderer in the past, Depardieu started his acting career at the small traveling theatre "Cafe de la Gare", along with Patrick Dewaere and Miou-Miou...
 
61.
Charles Denner
Actor, Z
Mr. Denner began studying in Paris with Charles Dullin in 1945. Four years later, he joined the National Popular Theater. In 1962, he was offered his first big film role, in Bluebeard. He made thirty films after that, notably with Claude Lelouch and François Truffaut. Over the years, he worked under some of France's best-known directors...
 
62.
Jean Rougeul
Actor,
 
63.
Jacques Dutronc
Soundtrack, Moonrise Kingdom
Regardless of being called 'a dilettante of music', Jacques Dutronc became a very popular French singer and composer since the mid-60s. In the early 70s he began his screen career collaborating with such directors as Jean-Luc Godard, Andrzej Zulawski, Claude Lelouch and Maurice Pialat. For his unusual portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in Maurice Pialat's Van Gogh he was awarded Cesar in 1992...
 
64.
Lambert Wilson
Lambert Wilson was born in Paris and studied acting at the Drama Centre in London. A fluent English speaker, he made his feature film debut at the age of twenty-two in Fred Zinnemann's Five Days One Summer (1981) starring opposite Sean Connery. He went on to work with many of France's most prestigious auteur directors...
 
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Christopher Lambert
Although born in the USA, Lambert is French. His father was a French diplomat stationed in the US at the United Nations at the time of Lambert's birth. Lambert's formative years were spent in Geneva, Switzerland, to where his family moved when he was two, before returning to Paris when he was 16. Lambert has served in the French military, allegedly at his father's insistence.
 
72.
Philippe Noiret
Philippe Noiret was one of French cinema's most familiar faces who appeared in more than 140 films in a career that spanned more than half a century. He was born on October 1, 1930, in Lille, Nord, France, into a middle class family of shopkeepers. His father was fond of literature. Young Noiret attended the College Janson-of-Sally in the 16th arrondissement in Paris...
 
73.
Jean Rochefort
Actor, Ridicule
French character star Jean Rochefort expressed an interest in acting early in life. Born in 1930, he trained at the Paris Conservatoire but had to halt his studies due to military service. Relocating to Paris, he developed a minor name for himself in cabaret and stage plays. He also worked with the Grenier-Hussenot company at this time and acted in TV drama...
 
74.
Jean-Hugues Anglade
Actor, Betty Blue
Sensual, ambiguous, ultra sensitive French performer Jean-Hugues Anglade always had a reputation of intense and passionate actor. Any role, any language, Anglade seems to be able to do anything. From appearing integrally naked alongside Beatrice Dalle in "37.2 degrees in the morning", to playing an homosexual role in "The wounded man"...
 
75.
Vincent Perez
Soulful, exotic-looking leading man Vincent Perez is known for his grand and glossy French pictures, exuding a sexy stare and irresistible charm that has swept Gallic women off their feet for over two decades. He was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, to a German mother and a Spanish businessman father...
 
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Michel Serrault
Actor, Diabolique
As accomplished and versatile the well-loved French actor Michel Serrault proved to be over the course of five decades, American audiences still remember this actor for one role only - that of the neurotic, outrageously flamboyant drag performer Albin (aka Zaza) in the side-splitting French gay farce La Cage aux Folles...
 
80.
Jean Reno
Jean Reno was born Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez in Casablanca, Morocco, to Spanish parents (from Andalucía) who moved to North Africa to seek work. His father was a linotypist. Reno settled in France at 17. He began studying drama and has credits in French television and theater as well as films. His first two marriages both ended in divorce...
 
81.
Olivier Gourmet
Actor, Le fils
Grandson of a carpenter, Olivier Gourmet grew up in Mirwart, a Belgian village where his father was a cattle dealer and mother the manager of a family hotel-restaurant. At 13, he was sent to boarding school, which was an unhappy experience that led him to "be closed in on myself". It was at this school that he began acting when he replaced a classmate at short notice in the school play...
 
85.
Benoît Magimel
Son of a nurse and a bank employee, Benoît Magimel was born in Paris and grew up there. At age 12, he played Momo in Life Is a Long Quiet River by Étienne Chatiliez. He stopped his studies at age 16 to become an actor. But he had a dual personality: on one hand the man of low budget films like A Single Girl, A Minute of Silence...
 
86.
Vincent Cassel
Actor, Black Swan
Blue-eyed Vincent Cassel was born in Paris to a leading actor father, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and a journalist mother, Sabine Litique. Often labeled as a tough guy because of his roles, eclectic choices and talent have made of him a star of European cinema. First in La Haine, the young actor, actually coming from upper classes...
 
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Sergi López
Sergi López is a Catalan actor, whose specialty is villains of all types but whose range also includes dramatizing romantic and comedic roles with equal mastery. He was born outside of Barcelona in the seaside town of Villanova i la Geltrú on December 22nd, 1965. As a youth he was inclined towards the performance arts and headed to France for further studies in the field...
“ A Spanish actor who started his career in France and has appeared mostly in French/Belgian films, including Western, Une liaison pornographique and Partir. ” - minalex
 
95.
Guillaume Canet
Son of horse breeders, the young man spent his childhood in the countryside near Paris. In his youth, Guillaume wanted to be a horse-rider, and briefly followed a professional career in the sport. A bad fall broke his dreams, but is at the origin of his acting career, and success. After briefly studying acting...
 
98.
Jean Dujardin
Actor, The Artist
In 1995 he began his first one man show, the same year he met Bruno Salomone, Eric Collado, Emmanuel Joucla and Eric Massot with whom he created the "Nous C nous". In 1999, he became "Loulou" in Un gars, une fille. This part permitted him to show his talent to a larger public. Since the end of "Un gars, une fille" in 2003, he has appeared in many films.
 
99.
Gad Elmaleh
Gad was born in Morocco in April 1971. His father was a mime. He was a student at Georges Bizet school and Lycée Lyautey in Casablanca but didn't like school much. In 1988, Gad left Casablanca to go to Montreal. He stayed there for 4 years, during which he was a political science student for one year, worked on radio, wrote humorous stories and played them in night clubs...
“ A Moroccan French actor ” - minalex
 
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