It was one of those late-night study slams in the school library.
I had a French oral exam coming up that I was sure would be nothing short of certain doom.
I was wearily reading one of my many grammar books and feeling my eyelids get heavier and heavier. When I was getting ready to throw in the towel, my phone started vibrating—my friend had sent me the link for the trailer of a movie we both wanted to see.
As the morning dawned, it dawned on me (pun intended…) that I could ditch the grammar drills and learn more effectively by binging some French movie trailers. Not only would I be honing my listening comprehension skills, but I’d also be perpetually entertained by the greatness of French cinema.
In the end, however, I failed my oral exam when the professor told me to move closer to him and I misunderstood and took my coat off instead. Just kidding, although that did once happen during a Spanish oral exam…
I actually passed my French class with flying colors, and have become a trailer buff ever since!
You’ll find my favorite nine down below that can help you get the same linguistic boost. I’ve split the movies up by genre, with options for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners throughout.
The Perks of Watching French Movie Trailers
- You learn in a non-academic context, which is arguably the best way to pick up any language. As someone who speaks three and a quarter languages (it’s complicated…), I can personally say that I’ve learned most efficiently through casual, real-world media because of the exposure to more conversational and everyday language.
- French movie trailers provide a quick and valuable window to the ins and outs of French culture. In the span of a few minutes, you’ll observe how people interact and get a sense of cultural norms, which ultimately helps prepare you to interact with native speakers.
- Above all else, movie trailers reinvigorate your passion and motivation for learning. Those snapshots of sumptuous food, gorgeous scenery and lively entertainment will remind you why you started learning French in the first place.
When sitting miles away from your dream destination, it can be easy to call it quits, but visuals always fuel your fire and convince you to turn on that next podcast or finish memorizing your conjugations.
After zipping through a handful of French movie trailers, you might get hooked just like I was! If that’s the case, you should check out FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—including movie trailers as well as music videos, funny YouTube clips, news reports and more—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
Each video has interactive subtitles you can use to learn any unfamiliar word in the movie trailer you’re watching. Just click on any word for an instant definition and grammar info.
For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what you see:
You’ll then get flashcards and exercises to test you on those words after you watch. FluentU also puts aimless browsing to an end by recommending new videos based on what you’ve already learned.
What to Know Before Watching French Movie Trailers
- Most video streaming websites (including YouTube and Dailymotion) allow you to slow a video’s speed, so use this feature to better understand the dialogue or pick up new words.
- Not all titles listed below are direct translations because an alternative English title is sometimes more suitable than a translation.
Now Playing: 9 French Movie Trailers for All Language Learners
1. “Taj Mahal”
This story is based on the 2008 Mumbai attacks. It follows a woman who’s staying at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which was attacked by terrorists who—among other possible motivations—were attempting to contribute to a climate of fear.
I would recommend this trailer for beginners because the language is fairly straightforward and the characters’ lines aren’t long, so it’s generally easy to follow.
2. “Arrêtez-moi là” (“Stop Me Here”)
Based on the novel of the same name by Iain Levison, this trailer is about the ensuing drama after a taxi driver is accused of kidnapping a little girl. He maintains his innocence but his credibility is called into question by certain developments.
Intermediate learners, otherwise known as the awkward middle children of language learning, rejoice! There are even French trailers and movies for you. This trailer works because there’s a good mix of vocabulary and much of the dialogue is emotionally-charged, so viewers can pick up on pronunciations that are delivered naturally.
Many of the lines are delivered a bit slowly too, so it isn’t too hard to follow along.
3. “L’Économie du couple” (“After Love”)
This movie received rave reviews from critics, in no small part because of its premise. It follows a couple with two kids who, despite deciding to divorce, must continue living together in the same apartment. As even people without J.K. Rowling’s imagination can envision, this arrangement proves to be quite challenging.
Seeing as this movie is a portrait of separation and the baggage that comes with it, the dialogue in this trailer is very fast and conversational, so it provides a bite-sized opportunity for advanced learners to practice their listening skills.
No, not the Brazilian dance style—this movie is about the trials and tribulations of a recent immigrant to France who must provide for his family back home.
Beginners will enjoy this trailer because most of the characters’ lines are brief and much of the dialogue could be found in any introductory course. A variety of accents are heard throughout but none are hard to understand.
5. “L’Étudiante et Monsieur Henri” (“The Student and Mr. Henri”)
This one follows a devious but charming old man who offers free room and board to a desperate student on one condition: she must ruin his son’s marriage.
Your language skills, on the other hand, won’t be ruined because the vocabulary is quite broad and there’s a nice balance of enunciation between the two main characters. The girl speaks clearly, while the older man’s voice is more croaky, so intermediate learners won’t find the trailer overly difficult, but still challenging enough.
6. “La vache” (“The Cow”)
A cute story about an Algerian farmer who receives an invitation to attend the Paris International Agricultural Show with his cow. After arriving in Marseilles and having spent all his money on his trip, he walks to Paris with his cow by his side and encounters several strange people and situations, and also receives media attention along the way.
Students closest to the upper advanced level will like this trailer because it features some unusual, nuanced vocabulary and the characters speak very quickly.
Somewhere in Between:
7. “Tokyo Fiancée”
If you love both French and Japanese culture, it might soon feel like Christmas.
The trailer is about a Belgian woman who fulfills her dream of moving to Japan, where she begins a romance with a Japanese man she’d been tutoring in French.
Beginners are best suited for this trailer because the characters generally speak quite slowly (though there are moments of faster speech) and it’s easy to understand their enunciation. The trailer also contains several introductory/basic phrases and even a mini pronunciation lesson.
If you like unibrows, this one’s for you.
The movie explores the complications evoked by a strange love triangle between a schoolteacher, an overzealous aspiring actress and a theater star who’s hired the teacher to tutor her son.
Intermediate learners should press “play” if they’re looking for a trailer filled with natural dialogue, as well as common words and expressions.
9. “L’Avenir” (“Things to Come”)
“L’avenir” means “future” in French, so the title isn’t an exact translation. However, I’d recommend making some time in your future to watch this trailer, which concerns a woman whose life falls apart after a series of unfortunate developments, including the death of her mother and her husband’s affair.
The characters speak very fluidly and their word choice is uncommon, so it’ll take advanced learners one step further.
And there we have it, fellow French enthusiasts. These trailers are efficient and effective ways for you to learn French, and I hope they bring you eternal joy, or something like that.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.