Watch a French movie & improve your learning French

My top 10 Popular French movies

Watching French films is a great way for students of French language to speed up the consolidation process of learning French.

Germain Tottet, from Saint Mandrier, South of France, our Film Editor, has chosen 10 of his favourite French flicks and recommends them for the French language learner.

Here we explain why watching French videos & DVD's is a great way to improve your French language skills, no matter what your level of French.

How to watch French movies and learn French

Here's how to do it, for those who are not at a high level of understanding French.

  1. Get the DVD or video of your choice. Amazon has loads of them. You are best doing this at home because they tend to be unwilling to stop movies at the local cinema.
  2. Get a pen and paper or your laptop.
  3. Get your French-English dictionary.
  4. Most French DVD's now have sub-titles in English so you can start out with these on, and turn them off on later viewings.
  5. Ideally get your French teacher or a friend who is fluent in French and English. Let's call him/her Franco, because he/she is a Francophone.
  6. Be patient.

You can first go through the film once in its entirety and just let it wash over you. In fact you can do this on your own without Franco.

At first viewing of a French movie it can just sound like a mix of burble and machine-gun chatter, if you are at a early level of learning French.

Then with your Franco and dictionary you can transcribe the parts of the French movie that you did not understand. Franco will help you with:

  • spelling,
  • understanding the slang and colloquialisms, the regional twists and the inevitable double entendres, and plays on words.
  • unravelling the speedy speech and translating it into the French that your text book has ...
  • will explain the humour and subtleties which can often go sailing over your head.
Once you have ground through this process you are now in a position to watch the movie again and again on your own.

Each time you do so you will remember more and more, and you you will remember the context in which expressions and phrases are used, retorts are snorted and such like.

Anyway, get yourself and Franco a drink and start watching movies for your homework.

Buying your DVD or Video through Amazon France
How to Buy on - Instructions Buying through Amazon France is the same as Amazon US or Amazon UK, except that the instructions are in French. Never fear! You can do it if you carefully follow the instructions. Click here for a brief Review of the French instructions and procedures.
DVD formats/zones
European DVD formats may differ to those in US and Asia. Formats are classified by 'Zone'. But most modern DVD players now play all 3 formats. Click for more info.
Many modern French DVDs have sub-titles. Some of the older ones do not.

Have fun!
Prenez du plaisir! Amusez-vous!

1) Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain: a happy French movie

Director: Jean Pierre Jeunet Main actors: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Isabelle Nanty Screenplay: Guillaume Laurant, Jean Pierre Jeunet Producer: Claudie Ossard

Le fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain

Ø Highlights of this French movie:

I like this film because it is, in essence, a two hour poem in which you simply relax and forget your daily problems... and at the end of which you feel simply... happy.

This 2001 French movie is very refreshing and shows Paris from a very different point of view.

It deals with the story of a dreamy young lady whose aim is to make people happy.

To do that she invents all sorts of funny stratagems like exchanging the toothpaste of the nasty fruit seller with his shoe cream or making a hypochondriac girl meeting a disillusioned and cynical man for an improbable love story.

It is simply a beautiful story.

ASIN: B0000640VO
To buy this movie click here :Le fabuleux destin d'amelie Poulain

2) Les visiteurs: Back to the future à la française!

Launching date: January 27, 1993 Director : Jean Marie Poiré. Main actors : Jean Reno, Valérie Lemercier, Marie Anne Chazel. Producer: Alain Terzian. Screenplay: Jean Marie Poiré, Christian Clavier.

les visiteurs

Ø Main attractive points: The story takes place during the Middle Ages in the French countryside. A chivalrous knight is supposed to marry the daughter of the future French king.

But the knight (Jean Reno), being poisoned by a witch, kills his future bride.

To rectify the situation Reno's Knight character approaches the local wizard, and asks him to take him back in time.

However, the wizard gets the magic formula wrong and the knight followed by his faithful horseman finds himself in the late 20th century. Shades of 'Back to the Future', French movie style7.

From here on the movie transcends into a series of jokes. Many have become so popular as to have entered French common vocabulary like the so famous "ok!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". (You have to see the movie to get the full thrust of its meaning and impact.)

To sum up it is a typical French comedy mainly based on misunderstandings, so if you just want to laugh and forget about your problems, just go!

To buy this movie click here :Les visiteurs

3) Le Pere Noel est une ordure: Funny French film

1982 Director : Jean Marie Poiré Main actors : Anémone, Marie Anne Chazel, Thierry Lermitte, Christian Clavier, Josianne Balasko, Gérard Jugnot, Michel Blanc. Producer: Yves Rousset-Rouard Screenplay: Jean Marie Poiré, Marie Anne Chazel, Josianne Balasko, Thierry Lermitte, Christian Clavier, Gérard Jugnot.

Le pere noel est une ordure

Ø Main attractive points: To be brief this is THE French cult comedy film.

Based on a theatre play, this is the story of a telephone call centre called SOS Detresse Amitié - "SOS Distress-Friendship".

The Centre is regularly disturbed by the visits of fringe and scatter-brained characters on Christmas Eve.

These crazy and lost people drive Pierre (Thierry Lermitte) and Thérèse (Anemone) completely mad thanks to cult lines like "ça dépend ça dépasse" or "the doubitchous from Sofia" in a series of misunderstandings and sudden revivals making this movie a delightful experience.

(une ordure is trash, garbage, rubbish, refuse.

To buy this movie click here : Le Père Noël est une ordure

4) Le grand bleu: a French spectacle movie - un film à grand spectacle

May 11, 1988 Director : Luc Besson Main actors : Jean Marc Barre, Jean Reno, Rosanna Arquette Producer: Patrice Ledoux Screenplay: Robert Garland, Jacques Mayol, Luc Besson, Marylin Goldin, Marc Perrier.
Le Grand Bleu

Ø Main attractive points:

This French movie spectacular is based on a true story. Inspired by Jacques Mayol's life it is the story of two divers who become friends thanks to their mutual passion for diving, but who in reality, become competitors.

The story sees their childhood rivalry increase with the importance of the competition.

The main interest of this French movie consists in the quality of the stunning images. There are dramatic shots of Peruvian lakes and of the Mediterranean shores.

It is the French movie that made Luc Besson famous in France. He is now certainly one of the most popular French movie directors abroad.

To sum up it is a simple hymn to the undersea world, a universe that always has attracted Luc Besson.

ASIN: 6302801249
To buy this movie click here :Le Grand bleu

5) La Grande Vadrouille: Historical French comedy flick

December 1st, 1966 Director : Gerard Oury Main actors : Bourvil, Louis de Funes, Paul Presboit Producer: Robert Dorfman Screenplay: Gerard Oury, Danielle Thompson, Marcel Jullian

La grande vadrouille

Ø Main attractive points:

La Grande Vadrouille is one of the great comic achievements of French cinema.

It deals with the adventures of 3 English airmen whose aircraft was shot down by the Nazis in World War 2.

They are helped by two ordinary Frenchmen who unwittingly become Nazi targets themselves.

A major attraction of this movie is the presence of two of the most popular French movie actors ever: Bourvil and Louis de Funes.

French movie director Gerard Oury achieved a delightful combination of comedy and War as the scene takes place during one of the most serious periods of French history: The 2nd World War.

Despite being 40 years old, the movie remains the most successful French movie in France with more than 17 million tickets sold.

( vadrouiller means to wander about. In this movie title its sense is used to mean a long journey.)

To buy this movie click here : La Grande Vadrouille

6) "Les Bronzés": Modern French Comedy film

Launching date: November 1st, 1978 Director : Patrice Leconte. Main actors : Josianne Balasko, Michel Blanc, Gerard Jugnot, Dominique Lavanant, Christian Clavier, Thierry Lhermitte, Marie Anne Chazel Producer: Yves Rousset-Rouard. Screenplay: Patrice Leconte Josianne Balasko, Michel Blanc, Gerard Jugnot, Thierry Lhermitte.
Les Bronzes

Ø Main attractive points: This is one of the extremely successful French movie comedies in which the actors of the Groupe du Splendide participate. (from the name of the Parisian theatre where they used to play).

The scene takes place in a "Club Méditerranée" on the Ivory Coast.

The main strength of the film lies in the personality of the characters: Popeye (Thierry Lhermitte) and Jérôme (Christian Clavier) are two of the group leaders and they are competing to win the hearts of the most ladies.

Jean-Claude Dusse (Michel Blanc) is the typical loser always trying to compete with the group leaders but he is so unlucky that he becomes bit of a laughing stock.

Christiane (Dominique Lavanant) and Bernard (Gerard Jugnot) are the typical Parisian couple always stressed...

The movie has developed a huge cult following.

To buy this movie click here : Les Bronzes

7) Les bronzes font du ski: More French movie laughs

Launching date: November 1st, 1978 Director : Patrice Leconte. Main actors : Josianne Balasko, Michel Blanc, Gerard Jugnot, Dominique Lavanant, Christian Clavier, Thierry Lhermitte, Marie Anne Chazel... Producer: Yves Rousset-Rouard. Screenplay: Patrice Leconte, Gerard Jugnot, Thierry Lhermitte and Christian Clavier.

Les Bronzes font du ski

Ø Main attractive points:

One year after the tremendous success of their first meeting in the Ivory Coast the Groupe du Splendide crew gather one more time but this time in the French Alps.

This is the perfect opportunity for Patrice Leconte to deal with the major skiing topics like the so-called "planté de bâton" (sticking of the stick) well known by ski-addicts.

This is as well the opportunity for the director to put the stress on the faults of his characters that some times (I have to confess) reflect so faithfully the French mentality since there is no doubt in my mind that lots of French people recognize themselves in this movie.

To buy this movie click here : Les Bronzes font du ski

8) Le diner de con: More French Movie fun

Launching date: 15 avril 1998 Director : Francis Veber Main actors : Jacques Villeret, Thierry Lhermitte, Francis Huster, Alexandra Vandernoot, Daniel Prévost, Catherine Frot Producer: Philippe Desmoulins and Henri Brichetti Screenplay: Francis Veber

Le diner de cons

Ø Main attractive points:

This story, based on a theatre play, deals with an upper class man whose main hobby is finding idiots, who he then invites for dinner, allowing his upper-class friends the opportunity to mock and laugh at the special guest.

This time Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) is convinced that he has found the ultimate fool, when he meets François Pignon (Jacques Villeret) for the first time on the train.

... and it turns out that his judgement is right...

... but his future guest has more surprises in store than he could have imagined.

Indeed Pignon is so stupid that he will progressively interfere in Pierre Brochant's life and nearly destroy it with a series of acts so silly and so stupid that we sometimes wonder if he does all these things on purpose.

The main interest of this movie is the performance of some of the best contemporary French actors.

ASIN: 2266072994 (only the book)
To buy this movie click here : Le diner de cons

9) Taxi: Movie action - a la française!

Launching date: April 8th, 1998 Director : Gérard Pires Main actors : Samy Nacery, Frederic Difenthal, Marion Cotillard, Emma Sjoberg, Bernard Farcy. Producer: Luc Besson, Laurant Petin, Michele Petin Screenplay: Luc Besson


Ø Main attractive points:

Here again the Luc Besson's touch was extremely successful. This time the story is about Daniel (Samy Nacery) a pizza deliveryman who becomes a taxi driver.

But Daniel is a special taxi driver as he is fond of car racing, so to satisfy his passion he makes his taxi a real rally car.

Unfortunately, one day he took a policeman Emilien (Frederic Difenthal) as his customer.

But instead of confiscating his driving licence Emilien proposes him to work for the police because Daniel's automobile skills could be very useful in identifying the cars of a German gang specialising in bank robberies.

If you want action and humour, grab this movie.

Most of the scenes are simply breathtaking and when you are no longer speechless you can't stop laughing.

The setting of the movie (Marseille) is nearly perfect as the characters were born in this symbolic French city and speak with the local Marseillais accent.

In addition the city is very large and some streets are sometimes very narrow lending themselves to some extraordinary stunts.

ASIN: B00007H00C
To buy this movie clidk here : Taxi

10) Germinal: Historical drama great for the student of French cinema

Launching date: September 29th, 1993 Director : Claude Berry Main actors : Renaud, Judith Henry, Miou-Miou, Gérard Depardieu, Jean Carmet Producer: Claude Berry Screenplay: Claude Berry, Arlette Langmann.


Ø Main attractive points: Based on Emile Zola's novel this film is about Etienne Lantier (Renaud), a man who becomes unemployed and has to take work as a miner.

To sum up it is a tough movie of which you cannot be insensitive.

It shows the real wretchedness and destitute living conditions of the miners who would work ten hours a day for a poor wage, while the mine-owners lived in splendour.

It is the combat between the Proletariat which do not hesitate to do some silly things like flooding mine shafts because they dream of rebuilding a new and fair world, and the bourgeoisie so dear to the humanist Zola.

ASIN: 6303269370
To buy this movie click here : Germinal

Amusez vous!!

by Germain Tottet

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