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Breathless (1960)

À bout de souffle (original title)
Unrated | | Crime, Drama | 7 February 1961 (USA)
1:33 | Trailer

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A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.



3,981 ( 61)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Daniel Boulanger ...
Police Inspector Vital
Henri-Jacques Huet ...
Antonio Berrutti
Carl Zubart
Van Doude ...
Claude Mansard ...
Claudius Mansard
Liliane Dreyfus ...
Liliane / Minouche (as Liliane David)
Michel Fabre ...
Police Inspector #2
The Snitch
Richard Balducci ...
André S. Labarthe ...
Journalist at Orly
François Moreuil ...
Journalist at Orly
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Liliane Robin ...


Michel Poiccard, an irresponsible sociopath and small-time thief, steals a car and impulsively murders the motorcycle policeman who pursues him. Now wanted by the authorities, he renews his relationship with Patricia Franchini, a hip American girl studying journalism at the Sorbonne, whom he had met in Nice a few weeks earlier. Before leaving Paris, he plans to collect a debt from an underworld acquaintance and expects her to accompany him on his planned getaway to Italy. Even with his face in the local papers and media, Poiccard seems oblivious to the dragnet that is slowly closing around him as he recklessly pursues his love of American movies and libidinous interest in the beautiful American. Written by duke1029

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The film that was banned for 4 years. Why..? (original Finnish poster tagline) See more »


Crime | Drama


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

7 February 1961 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Breathless  »

Box Office


FRF 400,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£25,164 (UK) (7 July 2000)


$336,705 (USA) (29 October 2010)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film is dedicated to Monogram Pictures. See more »


During street shots, countless passersby keep on staring into the camera, revealing the shots to be made without appropriate filming barriers and not using extras for pedestrians. See more »


[first lines]
Michel Poiccard: After all, I'm an asshole. After all, yes, I've got to. I've got to!
See more »


References Ten Seconds to Hell (1959) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Too cool for (film) school
17 February 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Together with François Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" (one of my favorites), Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" is considered the defining, instigating film of the French New Wave. It's more ironic and detached, less emotionally accessible than "The 400 Blows," and its technical innovations like jump cuts are perhaps even more surprising. For these reasons, I found "Breathless" easier to admire than to love—though by the end I grew to enjoy its too-cool- for-(film)-school tone.

Ironically, the pace of this movie isn't "breathless" at all. It begins abruptly and takes a while to get going: Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a character we barely know, drives a stolen car around, talks at the camera, and shoots a police officer who has tried to pull him over. Then he goes to Paris and tries to borrow money from some friends, while the police-shooting plot goes undeveloped. I only became fully engaged with the introduction of Patricia (Jean Seberg), a young American who sells newspapers on the Champs-Elysees. The relationship between Michel and Patricia is the heart of the film, especially a 25-minute-long scene in Patricia's apartment where the characters smoke, flirt, and laze around in bed, though nothing really happens. That's where I really started to admire "Breathless," because I was so captivated by a scene that, on paper, doesn't sound all that captivating.

Eventually the police catch onto Michel and launch a manhunt, but this doesn't really ratchet up the suspense. Instead, Michel is (or at least, Michel acts) aimless and nonchalant about the whole thing—this is not a typical "man on the run" movie. The cool jazz score adds to the hip, laid-back tone.

Since I didn't care for the movie too much until the scenes between Michel and Patricia, I believe a lot of the credit for the film's success has to go to the charismatic performances of Belmondo and Seberg. Belmondo, with a perpetual cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, is the archetypal cocky criminal who models himself after Humphrey Bogart (there's a great scene where he sees some Bogart photos and gets a vulnerable look in his eyes, as though saying "I'll never be as cool as this"). Seberg plays Patricia as a confused girl who is delighted by the attention she gets as an American in France.

It's easy to see why "Breathless" was so influential—the jump cuts, the ragged style perfectly match this story about amoral, aimless youth. Definitely a movie that expanded the range of stories the cinema can tell, and perhaps a major precursor to youth-oriented '60s culture. Nearly fifty years later, it still seems "hip," and still challenges our expectations of how movies should behave.

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Recent Posts
Is there a character in movie history that smokes more than Michel? BigDanTeague
This film is so sexist liveandletdie-189-174252
Which director now reminds you of the early Godard? filmfancritic
great film but Jean Seberg's french was like nails on a chalkboard mlkyusuf
How does Breathless reflect the time at which it was made? rosanna-lloyd
Good Movie bnwfilmbuff
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