A history of the French Revolution from the decision of the king to convene the Etats-Generaux in 1789 in order to deal with France's debt problem. The first part of the movie tells the ... See full summary »
3 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Andrzej Seweryn ...
Marianne Basler ...
Vittorio Mezzogiorno ...
Jean-François Stévenin ...
L'envoyé du Pape (segment "Anées Lumière, Les")
Michel Galabru ...
Abbé Maury (segment "Années Lumière, Les")
Michel Duchaussoy ...


A history of the French Revolution from the decision of the king to convene the Etats-Generaux in 1789 in order to deal with France's debt problem. The first part of the movie tells the story from 1789 until August 10, 1792 (when the King Louis XVI lost all his authority and was put in prison). The second part carries the story through the end of the terror in 1794, including the deaths by guillotine of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Danton, and Desmoulins. Written by Erika Grams <erika@email.unc.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | Thriller | War

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

25 October 1989 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The French Revolution  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (part 1) | (part 2)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Former french President Nicolas Sarkozy appears a few seconds as a "Tiers Etat" member in "Les années Lumière" See more »


Necker is depicted as being a Swiss by Louis XVI. In fact, Necker was from Geneva and this city was still independent until 1815, when it became a part of the Swiss Confederation. See more »


Camille Desmoulins: [Danton has just called Robespierre a eunuch] Well, how did it go?
Georges-Jacques Danton: I could have been more diplomatic.
See more »


Hymne à la Liberté
Music and Lyrics by Georges Delerue
Performed by Jessye Norman, soprano
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Telling when the Henchman is one of the few figures who retains his basic decency
16 November 2014 | by (Germany) – See all my reviews

I do have do admit: I was never very interested in the French Revolution when I was in high school, but only became intrigued with the topic in later life, when becoming interested in contemporary politics. If I'd have to recommend a film or series that what make a viewer interested in what happened during the Revolution, it would definitely be "La revolution franchaise".

As for the actors: Brandauer does a superb job (as he almost always does), though is perhaps the least believable of the "protagonists", considering Dantons larger-than-life image. This Danton is a schemer, a manipulator but less of a "force of nature" (as Gerald Depardieu would portray him) and more of an opportunistic snake. Francois Cluzet does a fine job as Desmoulins, comes across as almost too blue-eyed, but the scenes are invariably stolen by Andrzej Seweryn as humanist-cum-fascist Robespierre, who plays the character as humanely perceptive as I've ever seen in a film about the topic.

Further credit must go to Balmer and Seymour as the doomed royal couple. Especially Balmer as King Louis XVI shows us a very accurate portrayal of a weak, undecided monarch; a yea-sayer, who merely drifts with the tide of time that will eventually sweep him under the guillotine. Sir Christopher Lee, who has a very small part as executioner Henri Sanson (a very interesting and multi-faceted character in his own right), responsible for the beheading of almost all major protagonists. Lee plays the character as a stern, dutiful man who, shown only through nuances and facial expression, has yet retained his humanity, basic compassion, even a disdain for the latter wave of "The Terror" that kept him busy for month at end. Indeed, one would almost have hoped for a "spin-off" which focuses entirely on the "Monsieur de Paris". Another testament to one of the most brilliant actors of our times.

The settings, from the grandeur of Versailles to the filth of the Parisian streets are completely convincing, even more so than recent films like, for example, "The Perfume".

One of the strongest aspects of the film: despite being filmed for an anniversary of the revolution, it doesn't glorify or portray the events and those involved in a heroic light. Quiet the opposite: the protagonists are all shown to be either naïve (Desmoulins), opportunistic (Danton) or generally, yet very humanly flawed and/or fanatic (Robespierre, Hebert, Saint-Just, et al). The French mob is shown as what it was: simply a mob and it comes as no big surprise that in many places the French word for "people" ("La Peuple") has since become an insult, directed at the unwashed majority, easily lolled by demagogues, carrying only to fill their bellies (be it with bread or, so it would seem, more often with liquor), driven mainly by the disdain for those whom they (often quiet rightly) conceive as something better than themselves.

If anything, the film is a reflection of more contemporary, even current politics, be it democracy, where the "Peuble" is generally bought by the highest bidding politician, communism with it's stubborn ideology or fascism, where the loudest demagogue captures the hearts and minds of people (if not to say: poisons them).

If I'd have to recommend any film or TV-Series on the French Revolution, this would be the one. Coming in at almost six hours, the four parts never seem long or boring. Quiet the opposite. At the end of the run, one is almost saddened that one has to leave those fascinating times and people (well, granted of course, that 90 percent of them have lost their heads by the time the credits play anyway).

A deserved 8 from 10.

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