French Cinema: My top 10

In All, lifestyle, Travel, Cinema by Coraline0 Comments

Ok, let’s be honest here. I could have done a top 50 and it would have been easier.
There are many great French movies and a top 10 won’t be enough. This top 10 is not considering the box office entrances or the number of “Palmes” won for “Le festival de Cannes”.

It is only my top 10.I don’t have the pretension to say that it is the best top 10 and I will probably leave aside some amazing movies but here are movies I really love. Movies that I saw once, twice maybe ten times for some of them, movies that have a particular meaning to me. Movies that made me laugh ,cry, dream or simply remind me of home, of people I love.

If you haven’t seen this movies. Then there is no excuse. Some of them are real classics and I bet most of you have seem them all. If you haven’t then you know what you have to do.


1.Jean de Florette & its sequel Manon des sources by Claude Berri (1986)

DirectorClaude Berri

: Claude Berri & Gérard Brach

Adaptation of a novel by Marcel Pagnol

Stars: Gérard Depardieu (Jean de Florette)

Yves Montand (Le papet ou Cesar Soubeyran)

Daniel Auteil (Ugolin)

Elisabeth Depardieu (Aimée)

Synopsis: We are in small village in Provence (South East of France) in the 1920’s and Jean De Florette is moving in the plot of land he has just inherited. He is positive and dreaming about using his land as a cultivated land.The first world war has just ended and Ugolin (Daniel Auteil) is coming back home from his military functions with a project in mind. He dreams of becoming rich and successful by growing carnations. His oncle Cesar Soubeyran also called “Le papet” is an old single men ready to do everything in his power to help his nephew to become a successful men and husband in order to perpetuate the family name. Ugolin was planning on using “La ferme des romarins” for his project but Jean de Florette who just moved in has no intention of leaving it…..

DirectorClaude Berri

WritersClaude Berri Gérard Brach

Adaptation of a novel by Marcel Pagnol

Stars: Yves Montand (Le papet ou Cesar Soubeyran)

Daniel Auteil (Ugolin)

Elisabeth Depardieu (Aimée)

Emmanuelle Béart (Manon)

Synopsis: 10 years after the death of her dad (Jean de Florette) Manon is back into the land of her childhood and she is determined to find revenge. Indeed, her dad died under her eyes while he was trying to find water to feed the land he was trying to cultivate. Manon is going to try and get revenge by diverting the spring and so deprive the village of water. Meanwhile, Ugolin fell in love with her but the silence has been broken and Papet and Ugolin are publicly accused of the death of Jean de Florette


Review:With a first part better than the second Jean de Florette and Manon des sources is still the one of the most successful duology of French cinema. Berri managed to put brilliantly on screen this heartbreaking story. Heartbreaking is definitely the best word to describe it. The audience will find itself cought in between the sympathy for the genuinely kind father that is Jean to Florette and to whom all the possible struggles will happen and the méchant but somehow touching Ugolin who will be perpetually torn between his uncle and his friendship for Jean De Florette. The storie owe its success not only to a touching story and brilliant acting but also from the amazingly honest and beautiful representation of the south of France land. The music, and the theme of the movie is a brilliant piece by Giuseppe Verdi that suits the movie perfectly and surely played a big part of its success. To me, this movie represent home, the landscape, the southern accents, the particular noise of the cicadas. ……It reminds me of my grand-dad and always make me emotional. In other words I love it!

2.Un prophète by Jaques Audiard (2009)

Director: Jaques Audiard

WritersJaques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain

Stars: Tahar Rahim (Malik) , Niels Arestrup ( César)

SynopsisAfter attacking a cop with a knife, Malik, 19 is sentenced for six years in jail. Malik cannot read or write and find himself younger and weaker when he arrive at Centrale Paris jail. Quickly he find himself under the control of a groupe of prisoners from Corsica who are the one in power of this jail. Malik is learning fast and gain the confidence of his new jail-mates. But quickly he is developing his own network…. “Grand prix du jury, festival de Cannes 2009”. 9 césars in 2010 including best movie and best director.


Review: There is no wonder why this film is coming n.2 in my classement. As far as I can remember French cinema haven’t explored the “jail film” for years. The last movie of this genre I can recall is “Le trou” by Jaques Becker, I remember talking about it in class but never managed to see it fully. However, when de credits of “un prophetète” appeared on screen at the end of the movie I stayed on my sit for a while, impressed and still processing what I just saw. Un prophetète is much more that a film about jail, it touch and underline issues like payback, inequity, violence, illiteracy, politics and much more. The tense and somehow disturbing atmosphere maintained through the film works perfectly with the mise-en-scene created by Audiard. Un prophète is a movie playing on contrasts, individualist and generous , honest and cruel, Audiard film can sometimes remind of a documentary movie. You might love it, You might not, but you must see it!

3.Le grand bleu by Luc Besson (1988)


Director: Luc Besson

WritersLuc Besson 

Stars: Jean RenoJean Marc barrRosanna Arquette.

Synopsis: Jaques Mayol (Jean Marc Barr) and Enzo Molinari (Jean Reno) grew up in the same Mediterranean village. Their friendship has always been torn between their commun passion for diving and their rivalry. A terrible accident will separate them until, years later, Jaques decide to join Enzo to competete one against the other in the wold diving championship.

Trailer: [youtube]

Review: Le Grand Bleu is an incontrovertible movie that has marked French cinema in the 80’s/90’s. Don’t expect crazy characters, bombs and action. In “Le Grand Bleu” the principal character is deep blue, quiet and full or surprises.The cinematography is beautiful and as in many marking movies the soundtrack is playing an important role. In France, when it came out, Le Grand Bleu had the effect of a bomb. A real generation movie, with teenagers going to the cinema 3,4,5 times to see it. Consequently, and logically (like in the case of Amelie Poulain) the critiques were sometimes harsh. Too long, boring and unrealistic plot just to name a few. I tend to agree on the fact that somes scenes are far too long. The slow peace is however needed in order to keep the viewer hypnotise by the sea and its language. Really, Le Grand Bleu has just all the elements needed to make a movie that will work. Good actors, beautiful soundtrack, interesting cutting and beautiful shots and sceneries.

4.Léon by Luc Besson (1994)

Director:Luc Besson

Writers: Luc Besson

Stars: Jean RenoNathalie PortmanGary OldmanDanny Aiello.

Synopsis: A hit man that answers to the name of Léon (Jean reno) take a 12 years old girl called Mathilda under his wing after she survives to a mass murder that hit her hole family. Mathilda wants to take revenge for the murder of her little brother and Léon will help her to become a “cleaner” just like him…


Review: Nominated 7 times for the Césars in 1995 Léon won the reward for :

  1. – César “Best French film of the year” (Luc Besson)
  2. – César “Best Director” (Luc Besson)
  3. – César “Best Actor” (Jean Reno)
  4. – César “Best Original soundtrack) (Eric Serra)
  5. – César “Best photography”  (Thierry Arbogast)
  6. – César “Best sound cutting”  (Pierre Excoffier, Gérard Lamps, François Groult,Bruno Tarrière)
  7. – César “Best Editing” (Sylvie Landra)
A great and successful movie that has changed the carrer of Besson. Indeed thanks to the success of Léon Luc Besson managed to get in the top of the box office in the U.S and gain in reputation while conserving and confirming his statuts and popularity in France. Léon is certainly one of the best movie Besson has made, a perfect blend of emotions, drama and action. To my opinion this is also the greatest performance of Jean Reno as an actor. The music, composed be Eric Serra gives a particular feel to the movie. Set in New York and yet, it feels somehow European. With a mix or actors, music, settings, cultures, places, actions and emotions Léon is a must see.


5. La belle et la bête by Jean Cocteau (1946)

Director: Jean Cocteau , Jean Marais

WriterJean Cocteau

Stars: Jean Marais , Josette Day

Synopsis: Here we are, I could write a synopsis but really we all know the story so instead I’ll just give you a translation of the presentation of the film by Cocteau himself :

Childhood believe what is told and doesn’t question it.
She believes that a rose that you pick can create a drama in a family.
She believes that the hands of a human beast started smoking and that this beast is ashamed when a young woman lives in his house.
She believes one other thousand of innocent things.
It is a bit of this innocence that I am asking you and, for the sake of us all, let me tell you four magic words, The true :”Sesame open your doors” of the childhood:
Once upon a time
Jean Cocteau

Review: There is certainly more than cinema in life but if cinema as an art exist, it all started here. In 1946 La belle et la bête is made in a realistic cinema era while driving the audience back to childhood via the poetry of a legendary fairy tail brought to life by the visionary that was Jean Cocteau. Beautifully poetic and with impressive special effects for the time however simplistic at times, here is a movie that should not be taken too seriously but just as a piece of art. Put the popcorn in the microwave and get anything that reminds you of your childhood and press play. La belle et la bete is a fairy tail and aim to bring back the child soul of every adults. Watch it now and let me know how you felt.

6. 99 Francs by Jan Kounen (2007)

Director: Jan Kounen

WritersNicolas Charlet Bruno LavaineJan Kounen

Stars: Jean DujardinJocelyn Quivrin, Patrick Mille 

Synopsis: Octave (Jean Dujardin) is the king of the world, Ad director, he is the one that decides what you will se tomorrow. For him “The man is a product like any other” he is rich and work for the biggest advertising agency of the world. He can have it all, fame, drugs women but yet he is doubting. This movie is a great and funny satire or the advertising industry that also underlines some crucial aspects of the modern society driven by capitalism.


Review: Jan Kouen who has known and evolved in this parallel world in the past seems to be as bitter against the advertising industry asFrédéric Beigbeder, the writer of the best seller the film is issue from. His adaptation of the book is brilliant , tackling in the heart of the subject in a strong and opinionated way whilst keeping the audience laughing. Constant movement, original editing and brilliant acting. 99 Francs is a must see. I am not sure however if it will make much sense to a foreign as most of the references are made in regards to French adverts but it will for sure make you laugh.

7.La haine by Mathieu Kassovitz (1995)

Director:  Mathieu Kassovitz

WritersMathieu Kassovitz

Stars: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé Said Taghmaoui .

Synopsis: Abdel, a resident of the “Cité des Mugets” in the suburb of Paris is in the coma , injured in a fight against a policeman,following a night of riots. As everybody, following the incident,Said, Hubert and Vinz are full of hate. But these 3 have something more : The Berreta 9mm automatic lost by one of the policeman. And when you are full of resentment and hate, what other solution than killing a cop with its own weapon? 

Review: “Did you hear this story about this guy that fell of a skyscrapper with 50 floors. On his way down passing each floor he keeps saying to reassure himself: So far so good, so far so good, so far so good. But how you fall doesn’t matter. What matters is how you land! ” This was 16 years ago, and yet, this sentence that introduce and close the film of Mathieu Kassovitz didn’t take a single winkle. It resonates in the memory of a whole generation as a mantra describing perfectly the difficulties met by a second generation of young immigrants. Yet Said, vinz and Hubert have not changed, lost and rebellious, funny and likeable they go against the politically correct and show a strong and honest picture of a reality that has touched and open the eyes of many on the reality of the French guettos. Already in the middle of the 90’s the film was subject to controversy due to his revolutionary character. Indeed Mathieu Kassovitz film is seen by many as an answer to the “security” political plans that had been recently adopted. Still actual, La haine is more than a simple film. It expose the social tension of a country that has put into blocks a whole second generation of immigrants, without thinking of the future and how integrated (or not) they would become….


8.Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain by Jean Pierre Jeunet (2001)

Director:  Jean Pierre Jeunet

Writers: Jean Pierre JeunetGuilllaume Laurant ,

Stars: Audrey Tautou,Mathieu Kassovitz , Jamel Debbouze

Synopsis: Amélie’s life is not as nice as it seems, her mother is dead as she took her own life a few years ago and her dad, already cold and distant with her is now giving all his affection to the garden gnome. Amélie, 22 years old, waitress in Montmartre spend most of her days observing people and day dreaming. Everything is going to change on the night of the 30th of August 1997 as she found back a box full of memories that have once belong to the old landlord. She decides to give it back to him in order to make him happy. If it works, she will try and do it again by interfering secretly into people existence and bring happiness to them….


Review: What to say. So much and meanwhile so little. A modern fairy tail, magical, water of jouvence, likeable, funny, pretty. You will love Amelie, you will love Paris, you will love France, you will love the smalls street, the coffee, the innocence of the characters and the music.. You will love it. This is it.

9.Les petits mouchoirs by Guillaume Canet (2010)

Director: Guillaume Canet

Writer: Guillaume Canet

StarsFrançois CluzetMarion CotillardBenoît MagimelJean Dujardin

Synopsis: Following a distressing event, a group of friends decides to go, anyway, to their summer vacations on the sea side. Their friendships, personal struggles , belief and loves are going to be  shaken and they will discover that many secrets have been kept through the year ….

Review: Les petits mouchoirs is one of these films that leaves you for a feeling of “real”. There is no super hero or impossible love, no stupidly rich or crazy character. No, none of those. Just people, like you, like me. People that are trying to figure out their lives, loves and friendships. People that have kept secrets, away from their friends and certainly away from themselves too. Sometimes, it is so much easier to put problems in a box and pretend they are not there, put on a face and just lie to yourself pretending that everything is alright. When actually it is not. A beautiful and dramatique comedy that has already become a classic of French cinema.

10.Ne le dis a personne by Guillaume Canet (2006) 

Director: Guillaume Canet

WritersGuillaume Canet, Phillipe lefebvre.

Stars: Andre DussollierFrancois Cluzet 

Synopsis: His wife Margot has been brutally killed by a serial killer. Alex is completely broken and suffer everyday of the loss of his lost love. Eight years later, Alex find an anonymous email in his mail box. He opens it, there it is, an image, a video filmed in live. In the middle of the crowd he recognise a face, it is Margot….

Review: A fast paced movie with all the ingredients needed for a good thriller. A good and somehow complicated plot that keeps your attention and focus through the first hour. However the reason one it is only n.10 in this classement is due to the fact that the really explicative and detailed end tend to be a bit too long. Overall, still a very good movie.

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