The 25 Best French Movies to Learn French [Updated for 2023]
French movies can be an incredibly effective yet fun way to learn the language.
They teach grammar and sentence structure, informal conversation, everyday slang and colloquial language.
Plus, watching movies from different regions can expose you to various accents and regional dialects.
These 25 movies cover a range of genres and topics, so you’re sure to find a few that appeal to you.
- 1. “Intouchables” (“The Intouchables”)
- 2. “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain” (“Amélie”)
- 3. “Jean de Florette”
- 4. “Le ballon rouge” (“The Red Balloon”)
- 5. “Persepolis”
- 6. “La grande vadrouille” (The great stroll)
- 7. “Les choristes” (“The Chorus”)
- 8. “Les parapluies de Cherbourg” (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”)
- 9. “Être et avoir” (“To Be and to Have”)
- 10. “Le vent se lève” (“The Wind Rises”)
- 11. “Le roi et l’oiseau” (“The King and the Mockingbird”)
- 12. “La gloire de mon père” (“My Father’s Glory”)
- 13. “La marche de l’empereur” (“March of the Penguins”)
- 14. “Kirikou et la sorcière” (“Kirikou and the Sorceress”)
- 15. “Le jouet” (“The Toy”)
- 16. “Un air de famille” (“Family Resemblances”)
- 17. “L’auberge espagnole” (“The Spanish Apartment”)
- 18. “La famille Bélier” (“The Bélier Family”)
- 19. “Jour de fête” (festival day)
- 20. “Banlieue 13” (“District B13″)
- 21. “Les visiteurs” (“The Visitors”)
- 22. “Une vie de chat” (“A Cat in Paris”)
- 23. “L’arnacoeur” (“Heartbreaker”)
- 24. “Du vent dans mes mollets” (“The Dandelions”)
- 25. “Potiche” (trophy wife)
- Tips for Using French Movies to Learn French
- And one more thing...
1. “Intouchables” (“The Intouchables”)
Year Released: 2011
Prepare to be deeply moved by this incredible film inspired by a true story. Philippe is a wealthy quadriplegic and Driss is a street-smart and recently paroled young man from a less privileged neighborhood. Fate brings these two contrasting worlds together when Driss is hired as Philippe’s caregiver.
Despite their different backgrounds, a beautiful bond blossoms between them. Driss infuses Philippe’s life with newfound energy and a fresh perspective, while Philippe offers Driss much-needed guidance and stability. Their friendship knows no boundaries as they navigate life’s challenges together with humor and compassion.
2. “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain” (“Amélie”)
Year Released: 2001
Genre: Romantic comedy
This modern French classic is set in the charming streets of the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. Amélie Poulain is an introverted young woman with a heart of gold who decides to embark on a mission: spreading happiness to everyone around her.
Through her quirky escapades, Amélie leaves a trail of joy in her wake, touching the lives of strangers and friends alike. Yet, she also yearns for love and connection in her own life. This film beautifully captures the soul of Paris and reminds us of the profound impact that simple acts of kindness can have on the world.
3. “Jean de Florette”
Year Released: 1986
In this sorrowful and beautiful film, a couple of men from southern France discover a water source on their neighbor, Jean de Florette’s, property. They conceal the existence of the spring and sit back as he works himself to death on the land they know won’t yield enough crops without more water.
In the sequel, “Manon des sources,” Jean de Florette’s daughter Manon seeks revenge for her father after discovering the water source. This moving story is a diamond of French culture and will give you a glimpse of some regional variations in the French language, vocabulary and accent.
4. “Le ballon rouge” (“The Red Balloon”)
Year Released: 1956
This timeless short film weaves its spell with simplicity and captivating visual storytelling. In the bustling streets of Paris, a young boy named Pascal stumbles upon a mystical red balloon on his way to school. The balloon seems to have a life of its own, following him through the city streets and becoming his faithful companion through challenges and obstacles.
Through its minimal dialogue (great for beginners!), the film lets the beautiful cinematography and poignant portrayal of childhood wonder do all the talking, leaving a profound emotional impact that transcends language barriers.
Year Released: 2007
“Persepolis” is a touching and visually striking French animated film that has garnered critical acclaim and international recognition. Adapted from Satrapi’s graphic novel memoir, it offers a glimpse into her life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and subsequent war with Iraq.
The film beautifully captures the complexities of her childhood, family and personal journey as she navigates the challenges of her homeland’s political turmoil and her own identity. Through powerful black-and-white animation, “Persepolis” explores themes of freedom, exile and the resilience of the human spirit, offering a unique perspective on a tumultuous period in Iranian history.
6. “La grande vadrouille” (The great stroll)
Year Released: 1966
This World War II classic is perhaps one of the most quoted films in France. The French characters in the film will stop at nothing (despite sometimes lacking in motivation and conviction) to help the American and English soldiers that have parachuted into Paris and must get south and out of the German-occupied part of the country.
The movie plays on stereotypes and clichés, making it a gem of cultural insight. You’ll learn a lot from the characterizations of the different nationalities and the interactions between them, though perhaps considerably less about how to be inconspicuous in an occupied war zone!
7. “Les choristes” (“The Chorus”)
Year Released: 2004
Before “Glee” started filling up high school choir rooms with burgeoning stars, “Les Choristes” captured the hearts of the French. It’s the timeless tale of the arrival of a new teacher at a remote boys’ school in post-WWII France.
With disciplinary problems rampant, and the policies of the strict, old-fashioned headmaster not helping, Monsieur Mathieu decides to introduce choral singing as a way to bridge the gap with his students. The songs from Les Choristes will stick with you, and you might even be tempted to download the soundtrack to sing along yourself!
8. “Les parapluies de Cherbourg” (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”)
Year Released: 1966
This is a classic French musical film set in the picturesque coastal town of Cherbourg. It tells the bittersweet love story of Geneviève, a young umbrella shop assistant, and Guy, a mechanic. Against the backdrop of the Algerian War, the couple’s love faces challenges as Guy is drafted into the army, leading to heartbreak and separation.
The film’s unique and enchanting aspect is that every line of dialogue is delivered as a song. The film is known for its vivid colors, memorable music and emotionally resonant storytelling, creating an unforgettable cinematic experience.
9. “Être et avoir” (“To Be and to Have”)
Year Released: 2002
This film takes you inside a one-room schoolhouse in a rural village in Auvergne, France, where a dedicated teacher, Georges Lopez, teaches a group of children. Through a gentle and patient approach, Lopez imparts not only academic knowledge but also life lessons and values. The film beautifully captures the daily routines, challenges and joys of both the teacher and his students.
In the numerous lessons that Georges gives his children, it’s easy to comprehend and learn tidbits about the French language. The movie also offers an interesting view of the French schooling system.
10. “Le vent se lève” (“The Wind Rises”)
Year Released: 2013
Genre: Animated Drama
While not strictly a French film, Hiyao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” enjoyed a French language release with widespread acclaim. Telling the story of aero engineer Jiro Horikoshi, the film plays out the airplane designer’s life and influence on Japanese fighter planes.
As with all Miyazaki films, the narrative is engaging from the start, and the dialogue is very easy to follow. The characters in the film quote the same piece of French poetry throughout, and it’s a fun way to get a peek at the world of creative French without getting confused.
11. “Le roi et l’oiseau” (“The King and the Mockingbird”)
Year Released: 1980
Genre: Animated Fairytale
This classic animated fairytale from Paul Grimault is set in the fictional kingdom of Takicardia. The film follows the iron reign of the heartless king who’s hated by all. He manages to trap and cage a bird (oiseau) in his castle. Soon, paintings start coming to life and strange creatures make themselves known.
Like many other animations, the film balances dialogue and physical comedy very well, making it perfect for beginners to follow. The events on screen are a bit strange, but with the help of the dialogue, it’s not hard to get your bearings.
12. “La gloire de mon père” (“My Father’s Glory”)
Year Released: 1990
Adapted from the novel by Marcel Pagnol, “La gloire de mon père” is a classic French tale and a great way into rural French history. The film follows the fate of a family and village in the heart of a farming community during the early 20th century. Largely a family drama, the movie is a great example of more traditional conversation, presented in an easy-to-digest manner.
If you enjoy this film or “Jean de Florette” (#3 on this list) and its sequel, check out “Le château de ma mère,” another film adapted from a Marcel Pagnol novel.
13. “La marche de l’empereur” (“March of the Penguins”)
Year Released: 2005
This is a very common French movie recommendation because it’s frankly really good. It’s very different than the well-known English version with a voice-over by Morgan Freeman. This one is the original, and it provides a unique viewing experience.
In this version, the penguins themselves narrate, with voice-over actors speaking as the mother, father and infant birds. It has everything a French learner needs: a relatively simple story, clear narration and one voice at a time. You can spend some time with each narrator, letting your ears get used to it.
14. “Kirikou et la sorcière” (“Kirikou and the Sorceress”)
Year Released: 1998
This classic from Michel Ocelot is an enriching film that any level of language learner can understand. It tells the story of a brave and clever young boy named Kirikou. Living in a small African village, Kirikou embarks on a quest to save his people from an evil sorceress who has cursed the land.
Successful enough to spawn two sequels, Kirikou has a simple plot and dialogue but draws on a setting and mythology that are rich enough to hold your interest. The film also offers a great insight into the African-French accent.
15. “Le jouet” (“The Toy”)
Year Released: 1976
This delightful French comedy film revolves around François Perrin, a struggling journalist who takes a temporary job as a plaything for a wealthy industrialist’s young son, Eric. The film humorously explores the social and class differences between François, who’s treated like a toy, and the boy’s father, Pierre, portrayed by comedy legend Louis de Funès.
The film offers both laughs and social commentary, making it a timeless classic of French cinema. Although some of the speech is a bit fast at times, the context of the scene can assist in your understanding.
16. “Un air de famille” (“Family Resemblances”)
Year Released: 1996
If you want to find out what French family life is like, then you might want to take a look at this film by Cédric Klapisch. The film portrays a dysfunctional family gathering at a local café to celebrate a birthday.
As the evening progresses, old wounds, secrets and familial tensions come to the surface. The characters, brilliantly portrayed by a talented ensemble cast, navigate their complex relationships with humor and pathos. The dialogue in the film is very easy to follow as long as you’re prepared to listen to an argument or two.
17. “L’auberge espagnole” (“The Spanish Apartment”)
Year Released: 2010
Genre: Romantic Comedy
“L’auberge espagnole” tells the story of a recent college graduate who decides to spend a year studying in Spain to brush up on his Spanish before moving on to the corporate career that his family has planned for him. We accompany him in his emotional ups and downs as he adjusts to a new culture and friends and navigates his relationship with the girlfriend he’s left behind in France.
This movie is the first of a trilogy featuring the young Xavier from his early years into adulthood with “Les poupées russes” (2005) and “Casse-tête chinois” (2013).
18. “La famille Bélier” (“The Bélier Family”)
Year Released: 2014
This touching film revolves around the dynamics of one French family. Everyone in the family is deaf, except for the youngest daughter, Paula. As the only hearing member, Paula plays a vital role, acting as a bridge between her family and the outside world.
Life takes an interesting turn when Paula discovers her incredible singing talent. Suddenly, she’s faced with a big dilemma: should she chase her dream of becoming a professional singer or stay back to support her family’s farm? It’s a journey of self-discovery and tough choices, as Paula finds herself torn between her passion and her responsibilities.
19. “Jour de fête” (festival day)
Year Released: 1949
French mime, actor and filmmaker Jacques Tati is like France’s version of Mister Bean. Tati’s “Jour de fête”is set in a small French village and takes place leading up to and during the yearly town fête (festival). Tati plays the village postman who gets into more than his fair share of tumbles.
The film uses a lot of physical comedy, which makes for clear and simple language. The combination of physical action and exclamative speech makes the plot very easy to follow, even for beginner French learners.
20. “Banlieue 13” (“District B13″)
Year Released: 2004
Set in a dystopian near-future Paris, this film follows the story of Leïto, a resident of a crime-ridden and impoverished urban area. When Leïto’s sister is kidnapped by a powerful drug lord named Taha, he joins forces with Damien, an elite police officer skilled in parkour and combat. Together, they must infiltrate District 13, disarm a stolen neutron bomb and bring down Taha’s criminal empire.
Filled with adrenaline-pumping stunts and jaw-dropping parkour sequences, the film is known for its fast-paced action and visually stunning portrayal of a divided and chaotic urban landscape.
21. “Les visiteurs” (“The Visitors”)
Year Released: 1993
This is a hilarious cult classic loved by many French people. Jean Reno and Christian Clavier are a knight and his squire from medieval times who have been transported into the future. They must find a way to return, running into their great, great, great… grandaughter along the way.
It’s an absolute riot to watch these two men struggle to face the horrors and silliness of modern(ish) times. As the two main characters talk in a very distinct way from the other French characters, you’ll no doubt come across some wonderfully outrageous medieval expressions.
22. “Une vie de chat” (“A Cat in Paris”)
This film is an absolute visual treat, whisking you away on a mesmerizing animated adventure through the enchanting streets of Paris. Dino is a clever house cat with a secret nighttime persona. By day, he’s a devoted companion to Zoé, a spirited young girl who misses her father, who’s a police officer.
But when the moon rises, Dino transforms into his trusty alter ego: Nico, a masterful burglar. Hold on tight as the film takes you on a thrilling and humorous escapade, scaling Parisian rooftops, delving into art heists and forming unexpected alliances.
23. “L’arnacoeur” (“Heartbreaker”)
Year Released: 2010
Genre: Romantic Comedy
“L’arnacoeur” is a light, heart-warming film starring Vanessa Paradis and Romain Duris. It follows the standard rom-com formula so the story is easy to follow, but there’s an interesting twist that will keep you hooked.
What happens when a man whose job is to break up unhappy couples actually falls in love with one of his unsuspecting clients? A lot of laughs and tears, apparently, and plenty of winks and nods to the reigning champion of all rom-coms: Dirty Dancing.
24. “Du vent dans mes mollets” (“The Dandelions”)
Year Released: 2012
This sweet film deals with the familial dramas of a rather eccentric but relatable family. Rachel is an eleven-year-old girl growing up in a world that doesn’t understand her nearly as well as she understands it. Meanwhile, her father searches for the happiness he once found in his marriage and her mother struggles to rediscover her womanhood and identity.
This film features a wide variety of day-to-day situations and features plenty of dialogue that can help you learn conversational French. The relationship portrayed between Rachel and her new neighbor, Valérie, will warm your heart and keep you entertained.
25. “Potiche” (trophy wife)
Year Released: 2010
Set in 1977, “Potiche” tells the story of a trophy wife turned factory worker. After her husband suffers a heart attack, Suzanne Pojol is forced to take over the family business, to the dismay of the workers and management. Soon, however, it’s clear that Suzanne holds a far superior understanding of business and human relationships, and it’s not long before she’s a favorite among the workers.
The film is incredibly entertaining, engaging and interesting to watch. While the dialogue does run away with itself a little from time to time, the narrative is perfectly easy to follow.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Tips for Using French Movies to Learn French
Before you embark on your French cinematic odyssey, here are a few pointers to make your viewing a little more enjoyable (and effective):
- Subtitles are your friend. If you need to, set the subtitles to French while you watch the film. Getting accustomed to the French accent can be challenging at first, so the subtitles will greatly aid your comprehension. Think of it as a fun way to improve your listening and reading skills simultaneously.
- Rewind, rewind, rewind. If you need to go back and take things in again, go for it! While you might not have the same option in real life, it’s good to take advantage of this feature when watching films.
- Take notes as you watch. If there are any new words that you hear a lot, or that are necessary to understand the plot, try and jot them down as you go. Google is great at deciphering rough spellings in a foreign language, so don’t worry about getting it wrong—though here’s another reason why French subtitles are useful.
- Make it your routine. Watching a film in French is a really wonderful accomplishment, but if you really want to get better, you’ve got to do it regularly. Set aside one day every week when you’ll watch a movie in French. It can replace an evening in which you would normally watch something in your native language.
Film and TV are treasure troves of authentic French lessons. For one example, check out the video below to learn grammar, pronouns and other key French language components from the film “C’est Tout Pour Moi”:
There are a huge number of French films out there that you can use to learn the language.
Once you’ve finished these, check out the best French movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Or, if you still need some practice at the beginner level, check out more animated French films.
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 the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)