My forty favourite French actresses

In no particular order...
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1.
Marion Cotillard
Academy Award-winning Actress Marion Cotillard was born on September 30, 1975 in Paris. Cotillard is the daughter of Jean-Claude Cotillard, an actor, playwright and director, and Niseema Theillaud, an actress and drama teacher. Her father's family is Breton and her mother has Kabyle ancestry. Raised in Orléans...
 
2.
Isabelle Huppert
Actress, Amour
Isabelle Huppert was born in 1953, in Paris, France, but spent her childhood in Ville d'Avray. Encouraged by her mother (who was a teacher of English), she followed the Conservatory of Versailles and won an acting prize for her work in Alfred de Musset's "Un caprice". She then studied at the Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique and followed an illustrious theatrical career...
 
3.
Isabelle Adjani
Actress, Queen Margot
Isabelle Yasmine Adjani was born in Gennevilliers, Hauts-de-Seine, a suburb of Paris, to Emma Augusta "Gusti" (Schweinberger) and Mohammed Adjani. Her father was a Kabyle Algerian, from Iferhounène, and her mother was a Bavarian German. She grew up speaking German fluently. After winning a school recitation contest...
 
4.
Eva Green
Actress, Casino Royale
Eva Gaëlle Green was born on July 6, 1980, in Paris, France. She has a fraternal twin sister. Her father, Walter Green, is a dentist who appeared in the 1966 film Au Hasard Balthazar. Her mother, Marlène Jobert, is an actress turned children's book writer. Eva's mother was born in Algeria, of Sephardi Jewish heritage (during that time...
 
5.
Audrey Tautou
Actress, Amélie
Audrey Justine Tautou was born on August 9, 1976 in Beaumont, France, to Evelyne Marie Laure (Nuret), a teacher, and Bernard Tautou, a dental surgeon. Audrey showed an interest for comedy at an early age and started her acting lessons at 'Cours Florent'. In 1998 she won the best young actress award in the ninth 'Jeune Comedien de Cinema Festival' in Bezier...
 
6.
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche was born in Paris, France, to Monique Yvette Stalens, a director, teacher, and actress, and Jean-Marie Binoche, a sculptor, director, and actor. Her mother was born in Czestochowa, Poland, of French, Walloon Belgian, and Polish descent, while her father is French. Juliette was only 23 when she first attracted the attention of international film critics with The Unbearable Lightness of Being...
 
7.
Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve was born October 22, 1943 in Paris, France. Her parents were actors. She made her movie debut in 1957, when she was thirteen and continued with small parts in minor films, until Roger Vadim gave her a meatier role in Vice and Virtue. But her breakthrough came with the excellent musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg...
 
8.
Brigitte Bardot
Actress, Contempt
Brigitte Bardot was born on September 28, 1934 in Paris, France. Her father had an engineering degree and worked with his father in the family business. Brigitte's mother encouraged her daughter to take up music and dance, and she proved to be very adept at it. By the time she was 15, Brigitte was trying a modeling career...
 
9.
Sophie Marceau
Sophie Marceau was born Sophie Danièle Sylvie Maupu in Paris, France, to Simone (Morisset), a shop assistant, and Benoît Maupu, a truck driver. She grew up far from the studio spotlights. When she was 14 she was living in the Paris suburb of Gentilly with her father. She learned from friends that director Claude Pinoteau was looking for new faces for a movie about teenagers called The Party...
 
10.
Bérénice Marlohe
Actress, Skyfall
French actress Bérénice Marlohe first came to international attention when she was cast as the glamorous and enigmatic Severin in the twenty-third Bond film Skyfall, alongside Daniel Craig. Prior to this she acted mainly on French television, including roles in Père et maire, R.I.S. Police scientifique and Medical Emergency.
 
11.
Virginie Ledoyen
Actress, The Beach
Virginie Ledoyen was born Virginie Fernandez on 15 November 1976 in Aubervilliers, near Paris. At the age of 2, she was already shooting advertisements for television. At 9, she started going to the École des Enfants du Spectacle, and made her film debut at 10 in What Every Frenchwoman Wants. She was then nominated for the César (the French equivalent of an Oscar) for most promising actress in 1993...
 
12.
Kristin Scott Thomas
Kristin Scott Thomas was born in Redruth, Cornwall, England, to Deborah (Hurlbatt) and Lieutenant Commander Simon Scott Thomas. Her ancestry includes Welsh, English, and Dutch. Her father was a pilot for the British Royal Navy and died in a flying accident in 1964. Her stepfather was also a pilot and died six years later under similar circumstances...
 
13.
Jeanne Moreau
Actress, Jules and Jim
When people gave Louis Malle credit for making a star of Jeanne Moreau in Elevator to the Gallows immediately followed by The Lovers, he would point out that Moreau by that time had already been "recognized as the prime stage actress of her generation." She had made it to the Comédie Française in her 20s...
 
14.
Mélanie Laurent
Mélanie Laurent was born in Paris, France. She is the daughter of Annick, a ballet teacher, and Pierre, a voice actor, who is most recognized for the French version of The Simpsons. She has a younger brother, Mathieu, and has both Sephardi Jewish (from Tunisia) and Ashkenazi Jewish (from Poland) ancestry...
 
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17.
Roxane Mesquida
Actress, Fat Girl
Roxane Mesquida grew up in Le Pradet, a little town in the South of France. At the age of 11, while walking with her mother, writer Francoise Mesquida, she was spotted by director Manuel Pradal who cast her in Mary from the Bay of Angels (Marie Baie de Anges). In 1998, she played opposite Isabelle Huppert...
 
18.
Anouk Aimée
Actress,
She is the daughter of the actress Geneviève Sorya. In 1948 she played the part of Juliette in Les amants de Vérone. In the following years (fifties and beginning sixties) she made various films (e.g. Modigliani of Montparnasse and La Dolce Vita) but had only with Lola of Jacques Demy and A Man and a Woman of Claude Lelouch major success...
 
19.
Clémence Poésy
Clémence Poésy was born Clémence Guichard in Paris in 1982. She took her mother's maiden name, Poésy, as her stage name. She attended an alternative school for most of her education, but spent her last year at L'École alsacienne. She trained at the "Conservatoire National Supérieur d'Art Dramatique"...
 
20.
Emmanuelle Béart
Emmanuelle Béart was born August 14, 1963, in Gassin, France. She lived with her mother, brothers, and sister on a farm not far from Saint-Tropez in Provence (southern France), because her father, singer and poet Guy Béart, did not want his children to be affected by the glamour world of Paris...
 
21.
Aïssa Maïga
Aïssa Maïga is a French actress. She was born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1975 to a Senegalese-Gambian mother and Malian father, an acclaimed journalist. She moved with her family to France when she was 4. She discovered her vocation as an actress in middle school, and won various professional roles while studying theater in high school...
 
22.
Annabella
Actress, Le million
At age 16, Annabella was chosen by Abel Gance to appear in Napoleon. In the 30s, she became a star of French movies. She made movies in numerous other countries, before being called to Hollywood in 1938, where she met and married Tyrone Power. She remained in the USA until 1947. Then she attempted a comeback in France. She retired from show business in 1954.
 
23.
Julie Delpy
Actress, Before Sunset
Julie Delpy was born in Paris, France, in 1969 to Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet, both actors. She was first featured in Jean-Luc Godard's Détective at the age of fourteen. She has starred in many American and European productions since then, including Disney's The Three Musketeers, Killing Zoe...
 
24.
Sara Forestier
As of her youth, Sara Forestier revealed an artistic temperament, loving to write, to paint, and especially to act. When she was thirteen and half years old, she decided to accompany one of her friends to an audition. She took the audition with brilliance, and her career in the acting started here. She met an artistic agent and obtained minor parts in movies and TV movies until L'Esquive...
 
25.
Brigitte Fossey
This lovely, docile, sensitive-appearing blonde French leading lady started impressively in films at age 6, making a most notable debut in René Clément's Forbidden Games. She abandoned acting a few years later for schooling and a normal upbringing. After a brief career as an interpreter and translator...
 
26.
Marina Hands
Daughter of French actress Ludmila Mikaël and British stage director and actor Terry Hands, granddaughter of famous French painter Pierre Dmitrienko, the discrete and beautiful Marina Hands first wanted to be a professional horse-rider but, eventually, had to give up these dreams. In 1995, she followed a French acting school...
 
27.
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Charlotte Gainsbourg was born in London, England in 1971. She is an Anglo-French actress and singer. The daughter of English actress Jane Birkin and French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, she was raised in Paris. Gainsbourg made her motion picture debut in 1984. In 1986, Gainsbourg won a César Award for "Most Promising Actress"...
 
28.
Annie Girardot
Over the course of a five-decade career, she starred in nearly 150 films. She is a three-time César Award winner (1977, 1996, 2002), a two-time Molière Award winner, a BAFTA nominee, and a recipient of several international prizes including the Volpi Cup (Best actress) at the 1965 Venice Film Festival for Three Rooms in Manhattan...
 
29.
Anna Karina
Born in Denmark, she came to Paris at 18. She met Coco Chanel and Pierre Cardin and started as a top model. She met Jean-Luc Godard about a cameo in Breathless, but she had to be naked and she refused to play in the movie. One year later, they got married and she became famous with the "Nouvelle vague" movies directed by him, Jacques Rivette or Agnès Varda...
 
30.
Miou-Miou
Miou-Miou was born Sylvette Herry on February 22, 1950, in Paris, France. Her father was a gendarme, her mother was a sales-woman. Young Miou-Miou was selling strawberries helping out at her mother's fruit and vegetable stand at a street market. There she was spotted by actor-director Romain Bouteille...
 
31.
Micheline Presle
Dark-haired, Paris-born Micheline Presle (better known in the States as Micheline Prelle) was the daughter of a businessman and took acting classes as a teen. She was discovered by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and cast in Girls in Distress (Young Girls in Distress) and Four Flights to Love in which she played a dual role...
 
32.
Charlotte Rampling
Actress, Swimming Pool
Tessa Charlotte Rampling was born 5 February 1946 in Sturmer, England, to Isabel Anne (Gurteen), a painter, and Godfrey Lionel Rampling, an Olympic gold medalist, army officer, and colonel, who became a NATO commander. She was educated at Jeanne d'Arc Académie pour Jeunes Filles in Versailles, France and at the exclusive St...
 
33.
Simone Signoret
Actress, Diabolique
The face of Simone Signoret on the Paris Metro movie posters in March 1982 looked even older than her 61 years. She was still a box office draw, but the film, L'étoile du Nord, would be her last theatrical release. She played the landlady. Signoret had a long film apprenticeship during World War II, mostly as an extra and occasionally getting to speak a single line...
 
34.
Marina Vlady
She had the makings of a blonde bombshell and could have ended up in film history annals as merely a second-rate Brigitte Bardot, but sex symbol Marina Vlady proved she was capable of much more. In her prime she was nominated for a Golden Globe and won a "Best Actress" award at the 1963 Cannes Film...
 
35.
Simone Simon
Actress, Cat People
Diminutive, fiery-tempered Simone Simon was born in France, but spent much of her early childhood in Madagascar, where her father managed a graphite mine. Her schooling was somewhat unsettled, her family moving from city to city (Berlin, Budapest, Turin) before finally establishing themselves in Paris in 1930...
 
37.
Françoise Dorléac
Actress, The Soft Skin
The radiant Francoise Dorleac is better remembered today as the elder, ill-fated sister of French film star Catherine Deneuve. The Paris-born actress, however, was actually the first to become a star and had quite a formidable career of her own in the 1960s until it was cut short. Born into a theatrical family in 1942 (her father was actor Maurice Dorléac)...
 
38.
Danielle Darrieux
Actress, Persepolis
Danielle Darrieux was born in 1917 in Bordeaux, France, but raised in Paris. She was only 14 when she auditioned for a secondary role in Le bal: she got the part, and the producer offered her a five-year contract. She had her first romantic lead in La crise est finie and scored an international...
 
39.
Béatrice Dalle
Actress, Betty Blue
Rebellious. Passionate. Gifted. Beautiful. Béatrice Dalle could be a mix of some artist from many centuries ago and a rock star. Discovered in Betty Blue, Dalle has become a sex symbol and a respected performer. Known for her problems with justice, her relationships with rapper Joey Starr and her explicit talking...
 
40.
Fanny Ardant
Actress, Elizabeth
Fanny Ardent was the youngest of 5 children born to a cavalry officer and his wife. She was raised in Monte Carlo where she was educated at a convent school. A voracious reader, she discovered Proust at age 15 and felt as though his writings were for her. When she was 17 her father died and the shock of his loss never left her...