The 10 best French films

What do you think are the best French films in history? At Time Out Paris, we went around this thorny question to draw the best works. A ranking that has sparked many debates and quarrels within the editorial staff but which has had the merit of highlighting the immense value of our cinema hexagonal. From Renoir to Méliès, via Carax, Godard or Kechiche, you will find both the great classics of the 60s and nuggets of modern cinema. Here is a top 10 simply and modestly dictated by our emotions that does not hesitate to ogle, sometimes to the auteur cinema, horror, science fiction or to the peaks of romanticism.

The Rule of the Game (1939)

From and with Jean Renoir / With Marcel Dialo, Nora Gregor, Carette, Paulette Dubost and Mila Parély

If ‘The Rule of the Game’ is regularly on the podium in the rankings of the best films in the history of cinema, it is not a coincidence. This is due of course to its many intrinsic qualities, to the legend that surrounds it, but also to the fact that it is a work that particularly appeals to moviegoers. A work that makes you want to comment and imitate. The sometimes nervous and elliptical montage, the virtuous use of the depth of field and the sound depth, the almost infinite levels of reading, the choral aspect of the story, are all innovative elements that make ‘The Rule of the game ‘a film ahead of its time….Read More

The Mom and the Whore (1973)

From Jean Eustache / With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Bernadette Lafont and Françoise Lebrun

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In 1973, ‘The Mom and the Whore’ received the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In the hall, we cry scandal. A useless twinge since nearly forty years later, the feature film featuring the thwarted love of Alexander, Marie and Veronika is still cited to appear at the Pantheon of the greatest French films….Read More

The Children of Paradise (1943)

From Marcel Carné / With Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Maria Casares and Pierre Brasseur

Make beautiful with dirty, build light with shade. Or how one of the most dazzling films of the French cinematographic repertoire was shot during the darkest hours of its history. In 1943, the Occupation stuns the country, elsewhere the Second World War is in full swing. And Marcel Carné starts filming the ‘Children of Paradise’….Read More

The contempt (1963)

From Jean-Luc Godard / With Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Fritz Lang

The nonchalant voice of Brigitte Bardot still resonates in our heads. From the ankles to the tip of the breasts, the review of her anatomy in the orange light of the shutters has become immortal. “Do you like my hair, too? And my thighs? Do you see my behind in the mirror? You find them pretty, my buttocks?….Read More

Pierrot the madman (1965)

From Jean-Luc Godard / With Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina

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“Of a superhuman beauty” (it is Louis Aragon who says it), “Pierrot the fool” is a fabulous poem in the form of film, literary patchwork, pictorial and sound, at the same time musical comedy and – with, sometimes dialogues taken from shampoo commercials or colorful filters with Warhol’s faux tunes….Read More

The Faceless Eyes (1959)

From Georges Franju / With Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel

It’s only Georges Franju’s second feature film. Yet ‘Les Eyes sans visage’, released in 1959, is undeniably a masterpiece of French fantasy cinema. Adapted from Jean Redon’s novel, released a year earlier, this film, all in shadows and silences, is a virtuoso mix of dread and poetry, a frightening….Read More

Playtime (1967)

From Jacques Tati / With Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek

“I want the film to start when you leave the room,” said Jacques Tati about ‘Playtime’, explaining that the purpose of the film was for the viewer to learn how to re-enchant the modern world around him. However, the film does start when the reel starts and triggers two hours of perfectionism….Read More

The Atalanta (1934)

From Jean Vigo / With Michel Simon, Jean Dasté, Dita Parlo

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Several aspects of ‘L’Atalante’ contributed to making it one of the most mythical French films. First his director, Jean Vigo, filmmaker of a crazy poetry and son of anarchist, died at age 26 during the editing of what will remain his only feature film. And as if that was not enough, the incredible fate attacked the film….Read More 

The 400 Coups (1959)

From François Truffaut / With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy

“It may be a question of gland” suggests a police officer about the fugue of Antoine Doisnel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), the young hero of the ‘400 Coups’. This silly little sentence sums up the misunderstanding and absurdity of the adults to whom young Antoine is confronted, tossed between a careless and unattractive mother….Read More

Beauty and the Beast (1946)

From Jean Cocteau / With Jean Marais, Josette Day, Michel Auclair

Jean Cocteau said of cinema that he is “the modern writing whose ink is the light”. Shot in the aftermath of the Second World War, the tight belt, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is the masterful reflection. Sharp chiaroscuro, shadows with expressionist false airs, special effects based on smoke….Read More

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