In the mood for a cinematic treat?
Many French learners already know that watching movies is one of the best and most pleasurable ways to learn through immersion.
Some are even aware of techniques for using movies to accelerate their learning.
Finding the movies themselves, though?
That can be a hassle!
You have a limited amount of time and don’t want to waste it watching something boring. Even worse, imagine starting a movie only to find that it involves absolutely no French conversation!
That’s why I’ve put together a list of the best French movies on Netflix in 2022.
I’ve considered not only the quality of the movies but also the features included—all to give you the best possible learning experience.
All you have to do is sit back and enjoy!
1. “Street Flow” (Banlieusards)
Enter a gritty story that artfully depicts the realities of life in the Parisian projects.
Written and directed by the prolific French rapper Kery James, the tale gives a stunning insight into the struggles and challenges of growing up in these often troubled areas.
The film follows the journey of three brothers. More specifically, the youngest brother Noumouke is forming his identity and deciding on a path to go down.
Will he follow that of his brother Soulaymaan, a hard-working and dedicated law student?
Or his brother Demba, a drug-dealing gangster who lives fast?
The film is in a similar vein to French film classics such as “La Haine” (Hate) as it deals with the struggles of life in the Parisian suburbs, especially with respect to immigrant families. It’s also a solemn reflection on the choices that we all must make and those we look up to.
2. “I Am Not an Easy Man” (Je ne suis pas un homme facile)
“I Am Not An Easy Man” introduces us to Damien (Vincent Elbaz), an unapologetic male chauvinist. He cruises through life relatively carefree and without any consideration of his sexist actions or behavior.
That is, until he hits his head, and a kind of French “Freaky Friday” happens, which completely alters the fabric of the universe.
Damien wakes up and must immediately navigate his new life in a matriarchal society. He’s subjected to the same sexist treatment he had subjected women to throughout his life.
Not only was it the first French Netflix film, but it’s also a great introduction to French satire, which often takes aim at structures of power in society and politics.
At the end of the day, it’s also a relatively lighthearted comedy with plenty of laughs and an easily digestible dialogue—the simple storyline making it a great one to follow for intermediate learners.
3. “The Climb” (L’ascension)
“The Climb” is growing in popularity on Netflix and receiving acclaim from French and non-French speakers alike.
The movie is loosely based on the Everest ascent of Algerian-Australian Frenchman Nadir Dendoune, a journalist, writer and climber.
Dendoune’s motivation was to make a statement about French immigrants’ potential and present a positive image of French-Algerians in society. To him, the perfect way to combat preexisting prejudice was to stand on the highest point on earth.
The film itself follows the journey of Samy, a Senegalese Frenchman, who takes on the monumental task of an Everest ascent in a bid to impress his love interest, Nadia. You’ll find yourself cheering along for Samy, who, like Dendoune, may at first seem an underdog with no mountaineering experience.
The heartfelt, comedic and ultimately inspiring journey will have you wanting to watch the film several times, solidifying your vocabulary and tuning your ear to the comedic dialogue.
No matter how many times you rewatch the film, you’ll be taken aback by the stunning cinematography of Nepal and drawn into the endless endearing scenes.
4. “The Wolf’s Call” (Le chant du loup)
The free world’s fate rests on the shoulders of a maritime acoustics specialist, Chanteraide, played by François Civil.
With the sub-nuclear war threat, Chanteraide must use his almost paranormal listening skills to detect subtle noises in the subaquatic landscape to prevent all-out nuclear war from an unclear adversary.
In a typical submarine movie style, you’ll feel claustrophobic and tense, yet remain fully gripped as the film dives deeper and deeper into the dark world of submarine warfare.
Not only is it a great film to build maritime and military vocabulary, but the long tense scenes also provide an excellent opportunity to focus on comprehension. Many of the scenes are delivered in a slow, straightforward and measured tone indicative of military orders using numbers, countries and times.
5. “The World Is Yours” (Le monde est à toi)
If you’re a fan of Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, “The World Is Yours” will feel strangely familiar.
With acclaimed and world-renowned French actor Vincent Cassel on board, the strong cast does a fantastic job navigating the twists, turns and unexpected occurrences of this unorthodox crime drama.
François dreams of a life beyond being a small-time drug dealer, but to get there, he concocts a wacky plan that quickly spirals out of control.
Due to the fractured plot and crazy characters, it can be difficult to follow if you’re just starting your French journey, so be sure to put on subtitles. That being said, you may find some relief in the occasional English scene featuring a character known as “The Scot.”
6. “I Lost My Body” (J’ai perdu mon corps)
You might not expect to find an animated film on this list, but this one deserves a top spot and with good reason.
France is, in fact, one of the biggest exporters of quality film animation in the world.
Heralded as a masterclass in storytelling and animation, the film follows the journey of a severed hand making its way through Paris’s streets to reunite with its owner, Naoufel.
Naoufel’s tragic story is also told in flashbacks as it deals with themes of loss, blame and guilt. The animation itself is dripping with symbolism and metaphor while you explore the iconic streets of Paris in an entirely new light.
Perfect for a beginner, the dialogue is minimal, meaning plenty of time to stop, take notes, reflect and become engrossed in the work’s incredible imagery and originality.
7. “Brother” (Mon frère)
Following the trend of new wave rappers turned actor-directors, acclaimed rapper MHD (Mohammed Sylla) makes his acting debut in this violent and often confrontational Netflix drama.
Accused of murder, Teddy (MHD) enters an unfamiliar world: a detention center for young offenders where he must adapt to the pack rules or end up in trouble.
The film utilizes lots of slang, especially that used by younger French speakers, and is an excellent choice if you’re wanting to add a native feel to your French fluency.
8. “The Most Assassinated Woman in the World” (La femme la plus assassinée du monde)
Follow the tale of actress Paula Maxa (Ana Mouglalis) in this wonderfully titled movie.
Paula Maxa is known for over 10,000 theatre death scenes and throughout the film, she starts to draw startling comparisons between her stage life and real life as a deadly stalker emerges from the darkness.
Paula Maxa was a real French actress, and this film is loosely based on her life in “Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol” (The Grand Guignol Theatre).
Characterized by extreme violence, blood and gore, this early 20th-century Parisian theatre tradition is brought to life in “The Most Assassinated Woman in the World,” where the realism starts to take its toll on Maxa and eerily similar murders are discovered throughout the city of love.
The movie was the first Belgian film to be released with Netflix and gives a great insight into 1930s French theatre tradition.
But be warned: this one isn’t for the faint-hearted!
9. “Mercenary” (Mercenaire)
The stunning debut from director Sacha Wolff, “Mercenary” follows Soane’s journey (Toki Pilioko), a Wallisian man from New Caledonia who escapes an abusive father to play rugby in rural France.
What’s most striking about the film is the fact that many of the actors were non-professionals. This adds to the overall realism and intensity of the performances.
The diverse cast and contrast between the small typical French commune of Fumel and the breathtaking landscapes and pristine beaches of Northern New Caledonia make for some incredible cinematography. With a similar feel to the classic New Zealand film “Once Were Warriors,” it deals with issues of a strained father-son relationship, abandonment and finding your own voice.
It’s also a great film to remind you just how global the French language is. It’s not only a handy film for French learning, but it also gives a nice introduction to some components of Polynesian culture.
10. “Lost Bullet” (Balle perdue)
Think “Mad Max,” “Baby Driver” and “The Fast and the Furious,” but in French and set in the port town of Sète, and you’ve pretty much got “Lost Bullet.”
Ex-mechanic Lino (Alban Lenoir) is on a relentless crusade to clear his name of a murder charge after being framed in this classic part-thriller, part-action masterpiece.
As the title suggests, a single bullet is the key piece of evidence to clearing his name (but first he must find it).
With impressive driving, fight scenes and real stunts, it’s perhaps not what comes to mind when you hear French cinema. But it’ll certainly kill your craving for a decent action flick and is set to impress.
So, sit back, strap in and enjoy the ride. This movie is lots of fun.
This debut film by Houda Benyamina features a look at two girls in the French housing projects trying to make it big in the criminal underworld.
Douina lives in a French housing project, doing petty crimes with her best friend Maimouna and attending a dead-end vocational school. Wanting to move up in the world and avoid the life of poverty led by her mother, Douina decides to work for a drug dealer named Rebecca.
The raw, authentic energy of their friendship is captivating, showing how their bond is forged and tested throughout their wild ride, and leaves you in tears when the consequences finally catch up with these misguided youths.
“Divines” is a fantastic story that shows just how far Douina and Maimounia, born into disadvantaged positions, will go to chase the dream.
12. “The African Doctor” (Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont)
This tale was inspired by the father of French rapper Kamini, whose family was the only black family in Marly-Gomont, a tiny village in northern France.
In fact, Kamini was one of the film’s writers, alongside Julien Rambaldi and Benoît Graffin.
In true French fashion, “The African Doctor” takes a surprisingly lighthearted view of the sensitive subject of race.
Seyolo Zantoko is a Congolese doctor who has just finished medical school, and moves his family to the rural, all-white village of Marly-Gomont to establish his practice.
As the village’s first and only black family, the townsfolk are highly wary of these new immigrants. Cultural and racial clashes ensue, with the children being teased at school and the doctor’s wife struggling to make friends, but it’s done in a very satirical, humorous manner.
Bit by bit, the villagers grow to accept the family as one of their own, with the community coming together in a show of love and acceptance.
13. “Nothing to Hide” (Le Jeu)
Critiques on technology are becoming more and more commonplace in the world of film, and this one about a dinner party bet gone wrong puts a humorous spin on the topic.
Three couples and one single man have known each other for decades, and gather for a friendly meal. During dinner, they decide to play a game where every text, call, instant message and photo they receive must be shared with the group.
But what starts out as an amusing game quickly turns dramatic, as the nature of the texts becomes more salacious.
All the twists and turns are funny and relatable, with real-life issues being put on the table along with the dinner guests’ phones. Definitely a good look into casual French dialogue and culture!
Fun fact: “Nothing to Hide” is a French remake of an Italian film, with certain elements changed to fit French culture.
14. “Headwinds” (Des vents contraires)
Being a parent isn’t easy, and being a single parent is even harder. This gorgeous film about family struggles features the trials and tribulations of a single father.
Paul’s life is turned upside-down when his wife Sarah goes missing. One year after her disappearance, he takes his two children and returns to his home village on the coast of France. However, Paul is constantly struggling to balance moving on and holding on to hope that his wife is still out there. All the while, he’s doing his best to raise his kids.
Family is the core theme of this film, so you’ll hear many kinship terms and get a look into French family life.
15. “The Intouchables” (Intouchables)
A critically acclaimed film that has won awards the world over, “The Intouchables” tells a tale of unlikely friendship born out of bizarre circumstances.
Wealthy aristocrat Philippe, who was made quadriplegic as a result of a paragliding accident, seeks a personal care aide. But none of the candidates he and his assistant are interviewing make the cut, until one man jumps the cue.
Driss is an ex-con who just wants Philippe to sign a paper saying he’s seeking work. Intrigued by his blunt attitude, Philippe offers him the job. Over time, the two develop a deep bond, changing each other’s views of the world.
Arguably one of the best films in recent history, “The Intouchables” is a must-watch for not only cinephiles, but also anyone who loves a good buddy story.
16. “Much Loved”
Set in modern-day Marrakech, this film takes an unflinching look at the real lives of Moroccan prostitutes.
Noha, Randa, Soukaina and Hlima are four prostitutes who have formed a little makeshift family, all while tackling the stigma their culture has forced upon them.
They have good days and bad, with lighthearted moments of joking with friends. But also partying with the rich customers as they’re subsequently beaten and humiliated by them.
Controversial enough to be banned in Morocco, “Much Loved” puts a face to the hypocritical nature of the prostitution industry. These women must bear the cultural stigma and shame to support their families, being simultaneously rewarded and punished for doing so.
Another fantastic work of French animation, this film bears a resemblance to the infamous “Grave of the Fireflies” in showing a family forced to survive through the horrors of war.
There are no guns-blazing feats of heroism—just normal people trying to endure horrific circumstances.
Set in 1970s Cambodia, Chou and Khuon are your average parents to a boy named Sovanh. When the Khmer Rouge takes control of Cambodia, the family is uprooted and forced into labor camps, being separated from their son along the way. Yet despite the horrors they’re forced to endure, Chou and Khuon are determined to find their son and escape to Thailand.
Despite the atrocities taking place mostly off-screen, the film features gorgeous landscapes and a fantastic soundtrack, with its simplistic design putting the raw emotions of the family into the spotlight.
18. “He Even Has Your Eyes” (Il a déjà tes yeux)
This comedy features a role reversal of interracial adoption—instead of the white parents adopting a black baby, this time it’s the other way around.
French-African couple Paul and Sali, unable to have children, have been waiting for the chance to adopt for ages. One day, they get a call from the adoption agency saying they’ve found a child. His name is Benjamin, and he’s everything they wanted…and white.
Following in similar trails led by “The African Doctor,” this film takes heavy topics like racism and adoption and turns it into a lighthearted, feel-good romp.
From the struggles of getting their families’ acceptance to the social worker attempting to prevent the adoption from taking place, what ultimately wins out is Paul and Sali’s love for their new son.
19. “School Life” (La Vie Scolaire)
Come-from-behind tales of struggling students and motivated teachers are no stranger to the cinematic scene. What makes these stories succeed is their universal nature, and the ones showcased in French films are no exception.
Samia is the newly-appointed principal of Saint-Denis, a suburban school full of students who are on the fringes of society and treated as such.
Despite warnings from her fellow teachers that these kids are unmotivated, destructive and generally lost causes, she refuses to give up on them.
As she gets to know a few particular students, she becomes truly invested in their futures and goes up against the system as well as the students’ own lack of confidence to ensure they succeed.
The raw ambiance and catchy dialogue give tons of realism to this school for at-risk kids, who are treated as little more than nuisances by the world around them.
20. “Atlantics” (Atlantique)
A huge critic’s favorite, “Atlantics” takes place in Senegal, with supernatural romance and dark beauty mixed into this story of transmigration. Not to mention that the cinematography is a feast for the eyes!
Ada is a young woman living in Dakar, and though she’s betrothed to the wealthy Omar, her heart lies with a poor construction worker named Souleiman.
When he and his fellow workers go unpaid for their labor, Souleman sets out with them for a brighter future in Europe. However, as Ada’s wedding day approaches, bizarre mysticism begins to overtake the town…
This film takes a real look at life in Senegal, and the class wars and exploitations that occur in this era.
It’s a great look at the people behind the headlines of refugees and migrant workers that are thrust in the media every day. Parts of it are in Wolof, the lingua franca of Senegal, so turn on those French subtitles to immerse yourself!
21. “Ravenous” (Les affamés)
For a taste of Quebecois in your film schedule, try this more subtle take on the classic zombie apocalypse story.
In a small village in Quebec, the population has been decimated by a sickness that has turned the townspeople into zombies. A group of survivors scattered about the carnage band together, led by a geek named Bolin, to attempt an escape to the city for help.
While “Ravenous” leans more towards artistic melancholy than your traditional hack-and-slash zombie thriller, the refreshing take on the genre coupled with the group’s charming characters makes this film worth watching.
22. “Wedding Unplanned” (Jour J)
Misunderstandings form the basis of many a rom-com—and this particular mistake is quite the doozy!
Alexia discovers a business card for a wedding planner in the pocket of her boyfriend Mathias, and assuming he’s planning a proposal, enthusiastically says yes. Only one problem: The wedding planner is in fact Mathias’s mistress!
Now trapped between the two women, Mathias must now plan the wedding he never wanted while keeping the secret of his affair under wraps.
Gorgeous scenes of the villas of southern France provide a feast for the eyes, with the humorous dynamics of the unsuspecting love triangle breathing life into this lighthearted story.
23. “Lady J” (Mademoiselle de Joncquières)
What would a French historical piece be without gorgeous costumes, stunning scenery and of course, the romantic affairs held by the nobles?
This gorgeous period piece by notable director Emmanuel Mouret weaves a tale of romance, betrayal and revenge among the elite of French society.
A young widow, the Madame de La Pommeraye, attempts to resist the romantic wiles of the Marquis of Arcis, but ends up falling for him. But after time, he tires of her and seeks out other women.
To get revenge on the cheating Marquis, the Madame partners with Mademoiselle de Jonquieres, a young woman who was forced into sex work by her mother, and turns her into the perfect bait for the Marquis to humiliate him.
The dialogue in this film is highly artistic and in line with the times, with clever tricks of conversation that show how beautifully the French language can be arranged.
24. “Bad Seeds” (Mauvaises herbes)
Wael makes his living by conning grocery shoppers with his foster mother, Monique.
When they try to rob a man named Victor, it turns out that he’s an old friend of Monique’s. Victor agrees not to press charges, but in exchange, he has Wael and Monique volunteer at his center for at-risk youths.
Once at the center, Wael begins mentoring a group of six teenagers, and the story focuses on overlaps between their backstories and his own. As a result of their shared experiences, he’s able to reach them in ways others can’t.
Though simple, this film contains powerful messages of hope for the future out of the despair of hard circumstances.
25. “November 13: Attack on Paris”
Netflix has become known for having engaging documentaries. While not as high profile as films like “Tiger King,” this one about the November 2015 Paris attacks isn’t to be missed.
This particular documentary goes into the details of the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 of that year, speaking with first responders and survivors as they share their harrowing firsthand accounts of everything that took place that day.
From former president François Hollande to ordinary French citizens, everyone interviewed expresses what they went through as individuals, and the variety of their stories comes with their own personal styles of speaking French.
From the more technical terms used by the government officials to the emotional responses of the civilians, you’ll find a bounty of French vocabulary in this raw documentary.
26. “Blind Date” (Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément!)
Who would have ever thought an obnoxious neighbor could become your next love interest?
An antisocial man who thrives on quietness to create his complex puzzle games has his world turned upside-down when a young pianist moves next door.
Thanks to the thin walls of the building, her constant practice floods his apartment and thoroughly irritates him. While at first the two deliberately irritate one another, as they begin to talk through the walls, a relationship blossoms between them.
This comedy between two socially awkward people is extremely clever in how it delivers the typical boy-meets-girl romance. Despite never laying eyes on one another, the main characters have fantastic chemistry, and you’ll be cheering them on throughout the film.
27. “Bon Cop, Bad Cop”
This bilingual film is a fantastic buddy-cop story with a distinctive Canadian flair.
The body of a hockey executive is found strewn across the border between Quebec and Ontario, resulting in the two provinces sharing jurisdiction of the case. To find the killer, by-the-book detective Martin and easygoing David must work together despite their extreme differences in everything from disposition to language spoken.
A cult classic in Canada, this movie plays to all of the action stereotypes while making full use of an uproariously funny bilingual script.
Since David speaks Québécois and Martin responds in English, it’s a great chance to practice comprehension, as your interpretations of the Québécois are immediately put to the test in the next English line.
28. “Oxygen” (Oxygène)
Directed by Alexandre Aja, a French master of horror, “Oxygen” takes the audience captive along with the main character for a claustrophobic thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end.
A woman wakes up in a cryogenic chamber without any memories. With only 90 minutes to live, she must employ her limited resources (an AI named MILO) to recall who she is and find a way to get out before she runs out of oxygen.
This is a one-woman show, as the camera is fixed on the main actress for 90% of the film, giving you a front-row seat to her emotional and mental turmoil as she struggles to survive.
For fans of sci-fi, this is a fantastic way to get your fix while practicing technical and medical French vocabulary.
This inspiring Belgian film based on the story of dancer Nora Monsecour swept up awards in dozens of film festivals throughout Europe.
A 15-year-old dancer named Lara is determined to become a professional ballerina, enrolling at a prestigious school to master the art. However, the stresses of school aren’t all she’s dealing with—she was born in a boy’s body, and is in the middle of transitioning.
Tales of transgender people are limited in media, and this film beautifully handles Lara’s emotional turmoil while never drawing away from her humanity. Even though she has a supportive environment, she still struggles with dysphoria and misunderstandings that reflect the experiences of the film’s muse.
With a script that rings true to the realities of life in Marseille, one of France’s most dangerous cities, this smooth-flowing film shows the growth of two teenagers as they struggle to overcome life’s injustices through love.
You wouldn’t guess this was director Jean-Bernard Marlin’s first feature film!
17-year-old Zach was just released from juvie, but upon being rejected by his mother, is left homeless and strapped for cash. When his friends refuse to employ him, he meets a prostitute named Shéhérazade and becomes her pimp. However, their arrangement becomes more complicated after the two begin to fall in love.
While these kids may be hardened by their rough lives, they’re still children, and their novice actors portray their combination of street smarts and innocence perfectly.
What Makes a French Movie Ideal for Learning? 3 Factors to Consider
Before we get into the movies themselves, here’s a look at the factors that went into their selection.
To state the obvious, if there’s not a whole lot of talking in a movie, it’s not going to help your French comprehension.
For improving your listening, more loquacious characters are ideal. The films above all contain a lot of talking. That’s not to say they’re nothing but talking, but they’ll give you a hefty earful of modern, real-world French.
And if you wind up wanting more where that came from, FluentU is your one-stop shop for awesome video material that’s loaded with authentic French speech.
FluentU takes authentic videosreal-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Being able to switch subtitles on and off is a huge advantage for French learners. It makes content useful for a wider range of levels and increases learning possibilities. For this reason, all of the films I’ve compiled into this list contain this feature.
In fact, French subtitles can be a crucial way to learn new vocabulary, especially if you regularly mine the subtitles for words you don’t know and grammar you’re unfamiliar with.
When using subtitles, it’s essential to get in-depth definitions and example sentences of the words you’re learning so that you gain context.
While Netflix’s subtitles don’t do that, features that are available on a program like FluentU can. To get a taste of it, check out this video on FluentU’s French YouTube channel:
Subscribe to the FluentU channel for more fun language learning videos!
A boring movie can be a real bummer and cause you to waste an entire evening.
The good news is that France is a leading film producer, and truly has something for everyone!
French film culture boasts a rich and interesting history. Somewhere along the way, though, it developed a reputation for being overly arty and obtuse.
Like a lot of stereotypes, this has some truth to it, but it’s been blown way out of proportion and is no reason to avoid the artistic side of French cinema altogether.
So the following list exists in a happy middle ground of accessible film with a distinctly “French” touch.
All the films should have wide appeal, but many contain artistic or cultural elements specific to France. As a result, they can be your gateway drug to the land of New Wave if you’d like to travel that path!
How to Find the Best French Movies on Netflix
This list should give you a wealth of material for enjoyment and practice. But you’ll soon want to branch off on your own if you haven’t already.
Here are a couple of things to consider while browsing for more French movies on Netflix.
Expand Your Search Over Multiple Countries
Netflix sorts movies by country or continent, not by language. So if you only search under “French,” you’re going to be missing out on some real Francophone gems.
Be sure to check out the Belgian, African and Canadian categories as well. None of these places has as prolific a film culture as France (yet), but they’re all worth keeping an eye on.
For example, “Grigris,” a film by acclaimed Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, follows a young man who dreams of being a dancer despite having a paralyzed leg. The film was a nominee for the Cannes Palme d’Or.
And Xavier Dolan is a hip, young French-Canadian director who employs influences from both French and international cinema. His movies are simply shot, playful and accessible. Check out “Heartbeats” and “I Killed My Mother” (not as sinister as its title would suggest).
Find Out Who Directs Your Favorite Movies
The French tradition places emphasis on the unique work of each director.
It’s no coincidence that the term auteur, referring to a director who creates films according to their own creative vision, is the French word for “author.”
Getting familiar with French directors is the key to getting familiar with French cinema as a whole. When you reach the point of anticipating a new film by one of your favorites, you’ll be in for a lifetime of French cinematic enjoyment.
Becoming a French film lover is one of the best ways to expose yourself to the language. And the good news is that you can get started at any time.
So pick one film that intrigues you and load it up right now!
Seeing the world from a French first-person point of view (no matter how limited it may be) is always a great opportunity to put yourself in the place of experiencing a conversation with French speakers.
So get started with these best French movies on Netflix and enjoy the learning journey!
Elisabeth Cook is a freelance writer, translator and unabashed French film fanatic. You can follow her on Twitter (@CooksChicken) or read her blog at litallover.com.