100 French filmsby thehellmaker13 | created - 02 Aug 2017 | updated - 02 Aug 2017 | Public
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2. The Rules of the Game (1939)
Not Rated | 110 min | Comedy, Drama
A bourgeois life in France at the onset of World War II, as the rich and their poor servants meet up at a French chateau.
Banned on its original release as 'too demoralising', and only made available again in its original form in 1956, Renoir's brilliant social comedy is epitomised by the phrase 'everyone has their reasons'. Centreing on a lavish country house party given by the Marquis de la Chesnaye and his wife (Dalio, Gregor), the film effects audacious slides from melodrama into farce, from realism into fantasy, and from comedy into tragedy. Romantic intrigues, social rivalries, and human foibles are all observed with an unblinking eye that nevertheless refuses to judge. The carnage of the rabbit shoot, the intimations of mortality introduced by the after-dinner entertainment, and Renoir's own performance are all unforgettable. Embracing every level of French society, from the aristocratic hosts to a poacher turned servant, the film presents a hilarious yet melancholic picture of a nation riven by petty class distinctions.
3. The Mother and the Whore (1973)
210 min | Drama, Romance
The chauvinist Alexandre balances relationships with several women, including the maternal Marie and the sexually liberated Veronika, in the post-1968 intellectual scene of Paris.
Three-and-a-half hours of people talking about sex sounds like a recipe for boredom; in Eustache's hands, it is anything but. There is no 'explicitness': the film is about attitudes to, and defences against, sex and the body. Using dialogue garnered entirely from real-life
4. Children of Paradise (1945)
Not Rated | 189 min | Drama, Romance
The theatrical life of a beautiful courtesan and the four men who love her.
In Marcel Carné’s rich, literary romance from 1945 ('France's answer to "Gone with the Wind'!"), four men tussle for the affections of one woman, the conflicted, sphinx-like Garence (Carné regular Arletty), an ice maiden in the league of Marlene Dietrich who, in nearly every
5. Pierrot le Fou (1965)
Not Rated | 110 min | Crime, Drama, Romance
Pierrot escapes his boring society and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne, a girl chased by hit-men from Algeria. They lead an unorthodox life, always on the run.
Jean-Paul Belmondo mooches up to Samuel Fuller at a cocktail party and, naturally, asks him his thoughts on cinema. Fuller replies: ‘Film is like a battleground. Love. Hate. Action. Violence. Death. In one word: Emotions.’ His succinct and, let’s be honest, utterly hip
6. Les yeux sans visage (1960)
Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Horror
A surgeon causes an accident which leaves his daughter disfigured, and goes to extremes to give her a new face.
Votes: 21,166 | Gross: $0.05M
An incredible amalgam of horror and fairytale in which scalpels thud into quivering flesh and the tremulous heroine (Scob) remains a prisoner of solitude in a waxen mask of eerie, frozen beauty. Having crashed the car which destroyed her face, her doctor father (Brasseur)
7. Playtime (1967)
Not Rated | 115 min | Comedy
Monsieur Hulot curiously wanders around a high-tech Paris, paralleling a trip with a group of American tourists. Meanwhile, a nightclub/restaurant prepares its opening night, but it's still under construction.
Tati's Hulot on the loose in a surreal, scarcely recognisable Paris, tangling intermittently with a troop of nice American matrons on a 24-hour trip. Not so much a saga of the individual against an increasingly dehumanised decor, it's more a semi-celebratory symphony to Tati's
8. Contempt (1963)
Not Rated | 102 min | Drama
Screenwriter Paul Javal's marriage to his wife Camille disintegrates during movie production as she spends time with the producer. Layered conflicts between art and business ensue.
Votes: 23,793 | Gross: $0.04M
If Godard could be reduced to a single genius idea — essential to his filmmaking if obviously not the whole story — it might go something like this: To love cinema is to love life. He is the original movie geek, swaddling his films in adoring reference, and embracing,
9. L'Atalante (1934)
Not Rated | 89 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Newly married couple Juliette and a ship captain Jean struggle through marriage as they travel on the L'atalante along with the captain's first mate Le père Jules and a cabin boy.
Some filmmakers have a lifetime in which to develop their art, to explore their themes, to express their world view. Others do it in a single film. 1934’s ‘L’Atalante’ is the single feature from the then 29-year-old French master Jean Vigo and was made as its director
10. The 400 Blows (1959)
Not Rated | 99 min | Crime, Drama
A young boy, left without attention, delves into a life of petty crime.
Write about what you know, they say. So in 1959 François Truffaut, neglected son, passionate reader, delinquent student and cinephile, wrote and filmed one of the first glistening droplets of the French New Wave: ‘The 400 Blows’, in which Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud)
11. Beauty and the Beast (1946)
Not Rated | 93 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance
A beautiful young woman takes her father's place as the prisoner of a mysterious beast, who wishes to marry her.
Votes: 21,611 | Gross: $0.30M
Cocteau's fairytale set standards in fantasy which few other film-makers have reached. Despite the Vermeer-like compositions, he has some trouble capturing the right tone for the 'realistic' scenes, but the sequences in the enchanted castle - wonderfully designed by Christian
12. Army of Shadows (1969)
Not Rated | 145 min | Drama, War
An account of underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied France.
Votes: 17,247 | Gross: $0.74M
Discretion is the better part of valour, they say. And you couldn’t imagine a more discreet tribute to the heroes of the wartime French Resistance than this terrific late-’60s thriller by the ex-Maquis member
13. Day for Night (1973)
PG | 115 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
A committed film director struggles to complete his movie while coping with a myriad of crises, personal and professional, among the cast and crew.
Votes: 17,117 | Gross: $0.02M
If we’re to learn anything from François Truffaut’s delicately cynical, New Hollywood-style satire from 1973 on the joys and pains of movie making, it’s that we
14. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
G | 125 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical
Two sisters leave their small seaside town of Rochefort in search of romance. Hired as carnival singers, one falls for an American musician, while the other must search for her ideal partner.
Votes: 6,448 | Gross: $0.09M
From ‘Jour de Fête’ to ‘Céline and Julie Go Boating’, there’s an enchanting minor strain in French cinema devoted to visually reproducing the heady sensation of going to the cinema. And so it is with Jacques Demy’s
15. The Wages of Fear (1953)
Not Rated | 131 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller
In a decrepit South American village, four men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.
Throughout his professional life, France's Henri-Georges Clouzot suffered comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock - the former's critical reputation languished for it, and he took it hard.
16. La Grande Illusion (1937)
Not Rated | 113 min | Drama, War
During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
Votes: 30,195 | Gross: $0.17M
As relevant as ever, Jean Renoir’s 1937 masterpiece, ‘La Grande Illusion’, is a film about common values and decency – the ability in all of us to act with respect
17. Mon Oncle (1958)
Not Rated | 116 min | Comedy
Monsieur Hulot visits the technology-driven world of his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, but he can't quite fit into the surroundings.
Tati's first film in colour. Yes, his contrast of the glorious awfulness of the Arpels' automated Modernistic house with Hulot's disordered Bohemianism is simplistic. Yes, Hulot as
18. Going Places (1974)
R | 117 min | Comedy, Drama
Two whimsical, aimless thugs harass and assault women, steal, murder, and alternately charm, fight, or sprint their way out of trouble. They take whatever the bourgeois characters value: ... See full summary »
A huge hit in seventies France, this offbeat comedy follows two youths waving a finger at society. Their pursuits include car theft, robbery, three-way sex, and general impulsive
19. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
Not Rated | 95 min | Drama
The story of a mistreated donkey and the people around him. A study on saintliness and a sister piece to Bresson's Mouchette.
Votes: 14,496 | Gross: $0.04M
Animal as saint: Bresson's stark, enigmatic parable, a donkey (named after one of the Three Wise Men) is both a witness to and the victim of mankind's cruelty, stupidity -
20. Summer (1986)
R | 99 min | Drama, Romance
It's July, and Delphine has nowhere to go for the summer. She feels very bored and "empty", but this won't last; one day she accidently meets someone who seems to be totally made for her...
Votes: 5,050 | Gross: $0.04M
It's July, and Delphine (Rivière), a young Parisian secretary, is suddenly at a loss regarding her holiday; a friend has just backed out of a trip to Greece, her other
21. Van Gogh (1991)
R | 158 min | Biography, Drama
The final sixty-seven days of Van Gogh's life are examined.
Votes: 2,296 | Gross: $0.14M
This stunningly photographed and skilfully acted film uses an accretion of naturalistic detail to present an emotionally restrained but utterly compelling account of the last three
22. Le père Noël est une ordure (1982)
88 min | Comedy
Two neurotics, working for a suicide hotline on the night of Christmas Eve, get caught up in a catastrophe when a pregnant woman, her abusive boyfriend, and a transvestite visit their office.
This film ranked #21 in Time Out's list of the 100 greatest French films. Click here to see the full list.
23. Buffet froid (1979)
Not Rated | 89 min | Comedy, Crime
Black comedy about solitude and the dehumanization of the modern world, through the adventures of three men. First introduced is Alphonse Tram, an unemployed young man. His only neighbour ... See full summary »
Rigorously absurd contemporary film noir which presents every character, incident and situation known to the genre, but none of the customary explanations, motivations or consequences.
24. Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
Not Rated | 94 min | Drama, Mystery
In a strange and isolated chateau, a man becomes acquainted with a woman and insists that they have met before.
Votes: 17,120 | Gross: $0.14M
Something of a key film in the development of concepts of cinematic modernism, simply because - with a script by nouveau roman iconoclast Alain Robbe-Grillet - it sets up a puzzle that is never
25. Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)
Not Rated | 90 min | Comedy, Drama, Music
Cleo, a singer and hypochondriac, becomes increasingly worried that she might have cancer while awaiting test results from her doctor.
‘Cléo from 5 to 7’ was French new waver Agnès Varda’s second feature and is filled with the beauty of Paris’s natural light. ‘Hold on, pretty butterfly!’ says Cléo (Corinne Marchand, pictured), a fretful and
26. Le Samouraï (1967)
GP | 101 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
After professional hitman Jef Costello is seen by witnesses his efforts to provide himself an alibi drive him further into a corner.
Votes: 37,592 | Gross: $0.04M
Melville's hombres don't talk a lot, they just move in and out of the shadows, their trenchcoats lined with guilt and their hats hiding their eyes. This is a great movie, an
27. A Trip to the Moon (1902)
TV-G | 13 min | Short, Adventure, Fantasy
A group of astronomers go on an expedition to the Moon.
A Trip to the Moon (French: Voyage dans la Lune)[a] is a 1902 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès. Inspired by a wide variety of sources, it follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule, explore the Moon's surface, escape from an underground group of Selenites (lunar inhabitants), and return in a splashdown to Earth with a captive Selenite in tow. An internationally popular success at the time of its release, it is the best-known of the hundreds of films made by Méliès, and the moment in which the capsule lands in the Moon's eye remains one of the most iconic images in the history of cinema. It was named one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by The Village Voice, ranking at #84, and in 2002 it became the first work designated as a UNESCO World Heritage film.
28. Le Corbeau (1943)
Not Rated | 92 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
French village doctor becomes target of poison-pen letters sent to village leaders, accusing him of affairs and practicing abortion.
Votes: 7,503 | Gross: $0.03M
David Thomson calls Clouzot's a 'cinema of total disenchantment'. This exposé of a malicious small town in France must be one of the most depressed films to emerge from the period of the German Occupation: everyone
29. Belle de Jour (1967)
R | 100 min | Drama
A frigid young housewife decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute.
Votes: 34,382 | Gross: $0.03M
Marlene Dietrich had Sternberg. Anna Karina had Godard. Catherine Deneuve had Buuel, as the revival of 1967’s Belle de Jour reaffirms; the film is a perverse valentine to this coolest of Gallic beauties. Deneuve stars as
30. Beau travail (1999)
Unrated | 92 min | Drama, War
This film focuses on an ex-Foreign Legion officer as he recalls his once glorious life, leading troops in Africa.
Votes: 6,460 | Gross: $0.25M
Denis' extraordinary movie centres on Galoup (Lavant) who, while holed up in Marseille, recalls his time as a sergeant-major in the Foreign Legion. In the desert, he drilled raw recruits while quietly nurturing feelings of
31. Claire's Knee (1970)
GP | 105 min | Drama, Romance
On lakeside summer holiday, a conflicted older man is dared to have a flirt with two beautiful teenage stepsisters despite his betrothal to a diplomat's daughter and the fact that the girls have boyfriends.
The fifth and most accessible of Rohmer's six 'moral tales', Claire's Knee is the story of the temptation of an affianced diplomat (Brialy) while on holiday, and its successful suppression. The film was rapturously received as a
32. La Haine (1995)
Not Rated | 98 min | Crime, Drama
24 hours in the lives of three young men in the French suburbs the day after a violent riot.
Votes: 127,162 | Gross: $0.31M
Twenty-four hours in the Paris projects: an Arab boy is critically wounded in hospital, gut-shot, and a police revolver has found its way into the hands of a young Jewish skinhead, Vinz (Cassel), who vows to even the score
33. Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)
Unrated | 193 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
A mysteriously linked pair of young women find their daily lives preempted by a strange boudoir melodrama that plays itself out in a hallucinatory parallel reality.
Votes: 3,946 | Gross: $0.03M
They meet, like Alice and the White Rabbit, in a sun-dappled French park, amateur illusionist Celine (Juliet Berto) bounding heedlessly past studious librarian Julie (Dominique Labourier). One dropped scarf and a lengthy
34. La Jetée (1962)
Not Rated | 28 min | Short, Drama, Romance
The story of a man forced to explore his memories in the wake of World War III's devastation, told through still images.
“This is the story of a man marked by an image of his childhood.” So begins Chris Marker’s 1962 elliptical 27-minute time-travel adventure, “La Jetée,” a narrated montage of black-and-white still photographs about a
35. Breathless (1960)
Not Rated | 90 min | Crime, Drama
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.
Votes: 61,911 | Gross: $0.34M
Of all the dysfunctional, sociopathic loners in the long history of cinema, it’s hard to remember one quite as vicious, belligerent and unpredictable as Sang-hoon, anti-hero of Korean character actor Yang Ik-June’s
36. Le Boucher (1970)
GP | 93 min | Drama, Thriller
An unlikely friendship between a dour, working class butcher and a repressed schoolteacher coincides with a grisly series of Ripper-type murders in a provincial French town.
Classically simple but relentlessly probing thriller, set in a French village shadowed by the presence of a compulsive killer. Some lovely Hitchcockian games, like the strange ketchup that drips onto a picnic hamburger from a
37. Monsieur Gangster (1963)
105 min | Comedy, Action, Crime
Ex-gangster Fernand (Lino Ventura) receives a call from a dying friend, a mob boss nicknamed "The Mexican". The doomed mobster talks Fernand into taking care of some criminal business and ... See full summary »
38. Lola Montès (1955)
Not Rated | 116 min | Biography, Drama, Romance
The film tells the tragic story of Lola Montès, a great adventurer who becomes the main attraction of a circus after being the lover of various important European men.
Votes: 4,234 | Gross: $0.11M
A biography of the celebrated 19th century adventuress, but not a biography in the conventional sense: the lady's life is chronicled in a highly selective series of flashbacks, framed by scenes in a New Orleans circus where she
39. À Nos Amours (1983)
R | 99 min | Drama, Romance
An erratic young woman's family desperately tries to prevent her increasingly erotic ways.
15-year-old Suzanne (Bonnaire) seems unable to progress beyond a rather doleful promiscuity in her relations with boys. Alone of her family, her father (played by Pialat himself) understands her, but when he leaves home for
40. Diabolique (1955)
Not Rated | 117 min | Crime, Drama, Horror
The wife and mistress of a loathed school principal hatch a plan to murder him while having the perfect alibi. They carry out the plan...but then his body disappears.
Devilishly suspenseful, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s thriller about two women who conspire to knock off a sadistic boarding-school headmaster (Paul Meurisse) – one of the women is his wife, the other his mistress
41. Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Romance
A French actress filming an anti-war film in Hiroshima has an affair with a married Japanese architect as they share their differing perspectives on war.
Votes: 23,679 | Gross: $0.09M
Hiroshima's mushroom cloud has probably inspired more glib statements and images than any other 20th century phenomenon. So it's particularly refreshing to find that it still has some meaning in Resnais' first feature, now
42. Mouchette (1967)
Not Rated | 81 min | Drama
Mouchette is a young girl living in the country. Her mother is dying and her father does not take care of her. Mouchette remains silent in the face of the humiliations she undergoes. One ... See full summary »
Adapted from a Georges Bernanos story, Mouchette describes the life and tribulations of a poor, barely mature peasant girl
43. The Soft Skin (1964)
Not Rated | 113 min | Drama, Romance
Pierre Lachenay is a well-known publisher and lecturer, married with Franca and father of Sabine, around 10. He meets an air hostess, Nicole. They start a love affair, which Pierre is hiding, but he cannot stand staying away from her.
Those whose knowledge of French nouvelle vague linchpin François Truffaut begins with ‘The 400 Blows’ and ends with
44. My Night at Maud's (1969)
GP | 105 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
The rigid principles of a devout Catholic man are challenged during a one-night stay with Maud, a divorced woman with an outsize personality.
From Time Out LondonSix months after the death of Eric Rohmer at the age of 89, the BFI is re-releasing a good-looking new print
45. Maine Ocean (1986)
130 min | Comedy
"Maine-Ocean" is the name of a train that rides from Paris to Saint-Nazaire (near the ocean). In that train, Dejanira, a Brazilian, has a brush with the two ticket inspectors. Mimi, another... See full summary »
46. The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005)
Not Rated | 108 min | Crime, Drama, Music
Will Thomas still lead a life of crime and cruelty, just like his thuggish father, or will he pursue his dream of becoming a pianist?
Votes: 17,266 | Gross: $1.02M
Remaking James Toback's 1978 Fingers, director Jacques Audiard (Read My Lips) has turned the story of Tom (Duris), a petty
47. Purple Noon (1960)
PG-13 | 118 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
Tom Ripley is a talented mimic, moocher, forger and all-around criminal improviser; but there's more to Tom Ripley than even he can guess.
Votes: 11,332 | Gross: $0.62M
René Clément and Chabrol's collaborator Paul Gégauff got hold of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr Ripley decades before
48. Série noire (1979)
Not Rated | 111 min | Crime, Drama