The 12 Best French Documentaries You Can Watch Online Now
French cinema has brought us many masterpieces, and the documentary genre is no exception.
Check out the 12 French documentaries below, all available online so you can queue them up today.
These films will educate and entertain you at the same time.
So grab some snacks, find a comfortable seat and get ready for some captivating true stories—in French!
- 1. “Home”
- 2. “Chef’s Table: France”
- 3. “Les plages d’Agnès” (“The Beaches of Agnès”)
- 4. “Demain” (“Tomorrow”)
- 5. “Le peuple migrateur” (“Winged Migration”)
- 6. “Visages villages” (“Faces Places”)
- 7. “Etre et avoir” (“To Be and to Have”)
- 8. “La panthère des neiges” (“The Velvet Queen”)
- 9. “Voyage à travers le cinéma français” (“My Journey Through French Cinema”)
- 10. “Petite fille” (“Little Girl”)
- 11. “La marche de l’empereur” (“March of the Penguins”)
- 12. “L’Affaire Fourniret: Dans la tête de Monique Olivier” (“Monique Olivier: Accessory to Evil”)
- Why Watch French Documentaries?
- And one more thing...
“Home” is a visually arresting documentary that underscores the beauty and fragility of our planet. Through stunning aerial photography, it portrays Earth’s diverse ecosystems and explores the ecological challenges it faces due to human activity.
This cinematic journey serves as a powerful call to action, urging viewers to reflect on the environment’s significance and the urgent need for conservation and sustainable practices. And you can watch it on Youtube for free!
Watch it on Youtube
2. “Chef’s Table: France”
This documentary series takes a look at a different famous French chef in each episode. You’ll get behind-the-scenes footage of how each chef runs their kitchen, manages their restaurant and cooks delicious French cuisine.
This series is perfect for foodies or anyone interested in getting an insider look into France’s wonderful world of fine dining. What’s more, each episode takes place in a different city or town in France, so you’ll also get to know various regions and cultures.
Watch it on Netflix
3. “Les plages d’Agnès” (“The Beaches of Agnès”)
This is a deeply personal and autobiographical documentary directed by Agnès Varda, a highly influential French film director, photographer and artist often regarded as one of the leading figures in the French New Wave cinema movement.
This introspective film takes viewers on a reflective journey through the director’s life, memories and artistic career. Varda’s unique storytelling blends fiction and reality, creating a moving exploration of her experiences, relationships and the passage of time.
Watch it on DA Films
4. “Demain” (“Tomorrow”)
“Demain” provides an uplifting and solution-oriented perspective on global environmental challenges and climate change. The documentary travels worldwide to spotlight inspiring grassroots initiatives and innovative approaches to addressing pressing ecological issues.
By showcasing practical solutions and success stories, this film empowers viewers to become active participants in shaping a brighter future for our planet.
Watch it on Prime Video
5. “Le peuple migrateur” (“Winged Migration”)
6. “Visages villages” (“Faces Places”)
This is a charming and whimsical documentary featuring the unlikely collaboration between director Agnès Varda and street artist JR. Together, they embark on a creative road trip through rural France, transforming ordinary faces and places into extraordinary works of art.
The film celebrates art, community and human connection, capturing the essence of small-town life and the transformative power of visual storytelling. It’s another must-watch film from Varda, demonstrating why she’s known as an icon in the world of French cinema.
7. “Etre et avoir” (“To Be and to Have”)
This touching documentary offers an intimate glimpse into the life of a dedicated schoolteacher in a remote France village. The film takes place in a one-room schoolhouse where the devoted educator guides a small group of multi-age students through their academic and personal development.
The film showcases the teacher’s unwavering commitment and the universal struggles and triumphs of growing up, making it a heartwarming exploration of the pivotal role of education in shaping young minds.
8. “La panthère des neiges” (“The Velvet Queen”)
9. “Voyage à travers le cinéma français” (“My Journey Through French Cinema”)
This documentary film is a passionate and nostalgic odyssey guided by celebrated French director Bertrand Tavernier. It pays tribute to the rich history of French cinema, highlighting directors, actors and films that have left an indelible mark on the world of cinema.
Through insightful commentary and film clips, Tavernier takes viewers on a heartfelt and informative tour, showcasing the magic of French cinema.
10. “Petite fille” (“Little Girl”)
This film offers an intimate and sensitive exploration of the life of Sasha, a young transgender girl living in France. It follows Sasha and her family as they navigate the challenges and complexities of her gender identity.
The film delves into Sasha’s experiences at school, her interactions with friends and family and her conversations with medical professionals, all of which contribute to her journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. It captures the beauty of her resilience and determination and sheds light on an important issue.
11. “La marche de l’empereur” (“March of the Penguins”)
You’re probably familiar with the English version of this documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman. The original French version is worth a watch even if you’ve already seen it in English. The French actors provide voices for a family of penguins who narrate the events.
The film takes audiences on a captivating journey to the harsh and icy landscape of Antarctica. With stunning visuals, it captures the remarkable annual journey of Emperor penguins as they march across the frozen tundra to breed and survive in the world’s most unforgiving environment.
Watch it on Apple TV
12. “L’Affaire Fourniret: Dans la tête de Monique Olivier” (“Monique Olivier: Accessory to Evil”)
If you’re a fan of murder shows, this documentary series is for you. It offers a chilling glimpse into the psyche of Monique Olivier, the wife and accomplice of infamous French serial killer Michel Fourniret.
The mini-series delves into the complex and disturbing dynamics of their relationship, as well as Monique Olivier’s role in a series of heinous crimes. Through interviews and testimonies, it unravels the intricate web of deception and manipulation in a real-life criminal case.
Watch it on Netflix
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Why Watch French Documentaries?
If you’re learning the language, watching French documentaries is a great way to improve your skills and build your vocabulary. Most of them come with subtitles, which can make a world of difference for learners.
Watching with English subtitles is a great idea for beginners, as your French vocabulary won’t be wide enough to catch all the movie’s dialogue. You’ll also need time to get used to the rhythm of French, which will sound very fast at the beginning.
If you choose to watch with French subtitles, you’ll improve both your listening and reading skills simultaneously. You’ll also learn how to discern specific French words in context, as the many French liaisons (two words whose sounds are linked together) can be confusing when simply listening to spoken French.
Watching French documentaries can expose you to a myriad of interesting topics—and greatly improve your skills if you’re learning the language.
Through them, we can discover so much about the French language and culture and truly learn without boundaries!
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.