It is a well-known fact that one of the best ways to learn and improve your language skills are through watching films. As a French-language student, I have watched my fair share of French films and I am going to share with you some of my personal recommendations. For learners of French I recommend watching these films with the French subtitles if you find the dialogue too fast to understand. For English speakers, I would always recommend watching these films in French wherever possible and using English subtitles to keep the films in their original state, but it is always down to your own preference.
Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain – The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain (2001)
What better film to start off with than this Parisian fairy tale? Amélie is one of the most famous French films, largely due to its huge success internationally, and the first French film that I remember watching. It follows the story of Amélie Poulain who makes her personal mission to help others in their lives. It is sweet and quirky, with scenery and music that will make you want to book a Eurostar to Paris the moment we come out of lockdown.
Au Revoir les Enfants – Goodbye, children (1987)
Au Revoir les Enfants is one of those films that everybody needs to see at least once. It is based on the childhood memories of director Louis Malle in Nazi-occupied France where he was enrolled in a new boarding school. At this time three Jewish students were also enrolled with their identities disguised in an attempt to stay hidden. The viewer is invited to join the daily routine and lives of these school boys and watch the situation through the eyes of a young boy who did not quite understand what was going on. The final scene of this film is truly heart-breaking and has stuck with me ever since I first watched it back in my French A-level class.
The final scene of this film is truly heart-breaking and has stuck with me ever since I first watched it back in my French A-level class
Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont – The African Doctor (2016)
Called The African Doctor on Netflix UK, this movie is based on the real-life story of the father of French rapper Kamini. It is about Congolese doctor Seyolo Zantoko who moves from Zaire (now the DRC) to a rural French village with his family in pursuit of a job offer. However, the move is far from smooth as the family become the first black family in the village and face hostility from the locals. The African Doctor showcases racism and the struggles of cultural acceptance, yet still remains a comedy, with the directors having put a lighter touch on it. The issues in questions are not desensitised but rather allows us to connect with the family and sympathise with their challenges on a personal level. The added bonus of it being on Netflix means you get the added bonus of a wider range of subtitles and dubbing to choose from when watching.
J’irai ou tu iras – I’ll go where you go (2019)
If you’re looking for some laughter, then this a French film you may not have heard of before. The characters are your classic set of two completely-unalike sisters, one of which must accompany the other to an audition to be in Celine Dion’s chorus. The film deals with quite dramatic and serious issues such as illness among its comedy and provides a heart-warming experience for its viewers. This was the first film that I watched in a cinema in France while at the very beginning of my year abroad. It really did make me laugh out loud a few times and the language was fairly easy to follow without subtitles.
Un héros très discret – A self-made hero (1996)
Any Warwick French student who took the Story of Modern France module in first year knows this film a little too well. Although I overanalysed it to death, Un héros très discret is one that left me thinking even after I had finished it. The main character, Albert Dehousse, grew up with a love for heroic novels and desire to be part of a heroic story himself. He leaves his home after World War II to lead a new life in Paris where he passes himself off as a hero of the French resistance. Although it is fascinating to watch how Dehousse spins his web of lies, this film also pulls into question the more serious matter of France’s real role in WWII.
Although I overanalysed it to death, Un héros très discret is one that left me thinking even after I had finished it
Les Intouchables – Untouchable (2011)
The French favourite Les Intouchables concludes my list of recommendations. Les Intouchables is based on a true story depicting the story of a disabled millionaire and his new ex-con caretaker. I love that this film is based on friendship rather than a love story as we watch the two men help one another in their own ways. I was really rooting for these two the entire film and they became such a loveable pair. If the theme of friendship is what you’re looking for then I would also recommend Mon meilleur ami for another story of wholesome male friendship.
And there we have it, my list of French film recommendations. If these films do not take your fancy then you can search Netflix UK for a whole list of French films and series, many of which are still sitting on my own lockdown watch-list. Amusez-vous bien et à la prochaine!