10 Top French Movies for Expanding Your Knowledge of French Culture

Amélie is great and all, but there are so many other fantastic contemporary French movies out there! Here’s just a few that will shed some light on French and Francophone culture.

As intermediate & advanced learners of French, it’s extremely important to begin expanding your language input horizons and begin familiarizing yourself with more than just standard Parisian French. Some of the below movies are from Québec, one from Belgium, and another from Francophone Africa.

While these varying accents and different expressions will see exceptionally foreign at first, becoming accustomed to different types of the French language will only make you a more successful language learner. At the very least, English speakers have no issue understanding a southern Texas accent or a proper English accent or a thick New York twang; to be fully proficient in French, you should know how French affects the world and how to understand its many speakers.


Henri Henri (Québec)

You might not be too inclined to watch Henri Henri when I tell you it’s about an orphaned electrician who meets a pickle magnate and falls in love with a blind sex shop worker, but I promise it’s a lovely feel-good movie. Between the music, cinematography, and storyline, it’s an Amélie type of experience.

There’s fewer dialogue in this movie than most so it is a bit easier to follow along to you as you have more time to process what’s being said between the sparce lines.

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Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément

As you can tell by this movie, the French aren’t so hot with creative movie titles. I promise that the content of Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément is quite wonderful, however.

This is the farcical love story of a rude French inventor and his new neighbor who, at least according to him, is much too loud.

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Le prénom

Le prénom is a quick-paced, quick-witted comedy surrounding a dinner party and a raucous jokester who says he wants to name his baby Adolf.

This is French comedy at its finest and, on top of being 1 hours 49 minutes of hilarity, will teach you tons about how uproarious French comedy really can be. The speaking in this movie is fast, fast, fast – best for advanced learners of French already used to listening to swift speech.

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Potiche

Catherine Deneuve transforms in this movie from potiche (“trophy wife”) to CEO when her husband’s company needs new leadership following a strike (surprise, a company strike in a French movie…).

This is a great film to watch for the inner workings of French companies the how gender roles play into the strong hierarchy of French business. A little comedy sprinkled throughout doesn’t hurt, either!

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2 Days in Paris

Mostly in English, 2 Days in Paris is a great opportunity to immerse yourself more in French culture (with some language sprinkled here and there). An American man goes to Paris with his French girlfriend to meet her family and friends. A great way to see more of the less exciting everyday activities of life in France (family reunion, get-together with friends, daily errands, etc.).

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Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont (Belgian-produced film with Congolese characters)

When a Congolese doctor receives a job as a physican in France, he quickly moves his entire family with him to follow his dream. What he isn’t told, however, is that he will be working in a small, rural town. He and his family’s struggles with racism and the hostile welcome they receive are a strong commentary of the darker side of French culture and identity.

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Neuilly sa mère !

What do you get when you mix the richest town in France, Neuilly-sur-Seine, with the quaint expression ‘nique ta mère?’

When a poor, immigrant kid from the French projects enrolls in a prestigious private school, two very different French worlds collide. It’s rare that we learn about France’s poor; Neuilly sa mère sheds light on the cultural and linguistic differences between the haves and have-nots in France.

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L’homme qui aimait les femmes

The quintessential story of French romance: a woman-obsessed man moves from one fling to the next and begins recording his rendez-vous in a memoir. If you can ignore the searing misogyny, L’homme qui aimait les femmes is good fodder for grasping stereotypes of the French ideals of love and romance. And let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like watching a vintage French film on a rainy day with a glass of red wine in hand.

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C.R.A.Z.Y (Québec)

C.R.A.Z.Y profiles a young gay man growing up in Québec, learning how to come to terms with his identity and how his family and friends perceive that new sense of self.

This isn’t the happiest of movies, but sheds light onto Québec’s strong Catholic history and how that continues to affect daily life to this day (despite a now-secularized society). You’ll also have a blast trying to muddle through the strong Québécois accents 😉

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La Boum

I’ll be honest with you. La Boum is a pretty awful movie. But it’s a cult classic and certainly worth the experience (maybe we should get t-shirts that say ‘I survived La Boum’).

Even though the movie is certainly dated, it centers around a highschool party so is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with slang (and some romance à la française).

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