In January 1896, the Lumières brothers invited a paying audience to watch their movie, and people panicked.
These people had never been to the cinema before and seeing a train moving on screen ovewhelmed them so much that they ran to the back of the room.
Whether this story is true or not remains uncertain, but one thing is certain: watching movies is an excellent way to learn French.
The movies you’ll find on this page are movies French learners like you enjoyed the most and a few movies I personally love. But before getting to the movies themselves, let’s talk about subtitles!
- 1 Should you watch French movies with or without subtitles?
- 2 Intouchables
- 3 Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain
- 4 Les Choristes
- 5 La Haine
- 6 Un prophète
- 7 Le concert
- 8 The Spanish Apartment
- 9 Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis
- 10 OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
- 11 OSS 117 Lost in Rio
- 12 Le dîner de cons
- 13 Le Placard
- 14 Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopatre
- 15 Le prénom
- 16 Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu ?
- 17 L’arnacoeur
- 18 La cité de la peur
- 19 Starbuck
- 20 Kirikou
- 21 Taxi
- 22 Over to you
Should you watch French movies with or without subtitles?
People often ask me whether they should watch French movies with or without subtitles, and whether the subtitles should be in French or in English.
It actually depends on your level. The most important is that you actually understand what’s happening on the screen. Otherwise you’ll just get bored and give up.
- If you’re a complete beginner, watch movies in French with English subtitles. You’ll get used to the sounds of the language and may even recognize a few words from your beginner French course. Don’t feel guilty about using English subtitles, it’s a necessary first step.
- If you can understand written French, but struggle with spoken French, watching movies with French subtitles is a great idea. Hearing words you already know will help you improve your pronunciation and you’ll be able to expand your vocabulary and learn grammar naturally. Another possibility is to start by watching a movie with English subtitles and then watch it again with French subtitles.
- If you can understand most of what is said in the trailers below, you can watch movies without subtitles at all. This will help you focus on spoken French and improve your listening skills.
Now, here are the French movie I recommend!
When a rich Frenchman in a wheelchair meets a young and dynamic Frenchman from la banlieue (the outskirt of Paris), you get Intouchables.
A very touching movie which highlights the clash between rich and poor suburbs, and shows the difficulties handicapped people face in their daily life.
This is also the story of a beautiful and unexpected friendship between two persons who seemed to have nothing in common.
Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain
One of the most famous romantic French movies, and one which gave many people the desire to visit Paris and discover the Montmartre district.
Amélie, a young and innocent girl working as a waitress in Paris does her best to help people around her and hopes to find love in the French capital.tclém
Her quest makes her realize she forgets about herself and she decides to take control of her destiny.
Can a teacher change his students’ lives?
That’s what Clément Mathieu, a new teacher at a at a strict boys’ boarding school tries to do in the twentieth century.
He decides to use music and to create a chorus to positively change his students’ life.
The beautiful music, touching story and special atmosphere of this movie make it one of the most successful French movies of all time.
If what’s going in the French suburbs interests you, La Haine is the movie you should watch.
After a fight with the police, Abdel, a young man falls unconscious Riots follow and violence escalates.
La Haine is a particularly touching movie and a sadly accurate representation of what’s happening in some French suburbs.
Malik El Djebena, a young criminal is sent to prison where Corsican mafia forces him to kill another inmate.
He becomes a trusted ally of César Luciani, the Corsican mafia boss while working on his own secret plan.
After being fired from the Bolshoi orchestra for hiring Jewish musicians, Andrei Simoniovich Filipov spends 30 years working as a janitor.
Everything changes when he finds an invitation to play in le Théâtre du Châtelet and decides to reunite his old orchestra and perform in Paris.
The Spanish Apartment
He quickly realizes that moving to a new country isn’t as easy as he imagined and faces many obstacles when he lands in Barcelona.
What was supposed to be a simple semester abroad turns out to be a truly life-changing experience.
L’auberge espagnole speaks to an entire generation of students who experienced a similar adventure and spent a semester abroad.
Once you’re done watching it, check out the two sequels Les Poupées Russes and Casse-tête Chinois.
Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis
After being caught trying to scam an inspector, Philippe is sent to the north of France for his job, a region said to be freezing cold and populated by unemployed alcoholics
Soon, Philippe discovers that all he heard about his new region is wrong and that beyond the prejudices hides a wonderful place to live.
This is a movie you should absolutely watch in French, because many of the jokes are based on the (exaggerated) differences between the ch’ti accent and the traditional French accent.
Unfortunately, the strong accent of most characters also make it a particularly challenging movie to watch for French learners, so don’t be frustrated if you don’t understand everything.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
This parody of James Bond shows a French spy full of himself, sexist and racist who makes mistake after mistake and finally ends up looking almost sweet.
This movie won’t make you think too much, which makes it ideal to relax after a long day of work.
OSS 117 Lost in Rio
If you enjoyed watching OSS 117 Cairo Nest of Spies, its sequel won’t disappoint you.
This time our “hero” is looking for a former nazi and desperately tries to seduce the charming Mossad agent he is working with while insulting her without even realizing it.
Le dîner de cons
Bring the biggest idiot to the dinner party, that’s the challenge Pierre and his friends set for each others.
Unfortunately for them, the idiot is not the one the one they thought he was and the dinner party ends up being a disaster.
François Pignon, an accountant, is about to get fired.
Luckily for him, a rumor saying he is homosexual spreads in the company and the management decides not to fire him, fearing this would be seen as a discrimination.
Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopatre
Cleopatra decides to build a palace in the middle of the desert in only 3 months to show Caesar how great the Egyptian civilization is.
She gives this crazy task to Numerobis, an architect, who decides to look for a magic potion that’ll help him accomplish the impossible.
How are you going to name your child?
The answer to this question wreaks havoc on what started as an innocent meeting between old friends and family members who can’t accept the scandalous name they heard.
Old problems resurface and the party ends up being a hilarious battlefield.
This is the movie to watch if you enjoy theatre and would like to learn all the vocabulary you need to argue in French.
Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu ?
This movie tells the story of two Catholic parents who feel less than comfortable when they learn their three daughters want to marry immigrants.
When everybody meets, chaos ensues and the parents wonder: what did we do to God?
10 days to break up a couple about to get married.
That’s the mission Alex and his sister are hired for.
Unfortunately things are never that easy and the result is not what the dad expected…
La cité de la peur
A terrible horror movie is supposed to be shown at the Festival de Cannes, but each time, the projectionist is murdered, exactly like in the movie.
This entertaining movie is also a terrible idea if you want to learn proper French, because the characters regularly and purposely make grammar and spelling mistakes.
After making several donations at a sperm bank, David Wozniak ends up having 533 children, 142 of which have joined a class action lawsuit to force the sperm bank to reveal their father’s identity.
Kirikou has to be brave and clever in order to fight the sorceress.
This children’s movie is idea for French learners, because the characters speak more slowly than average. It’s also a good way to discover the French African accent.
When a crazy taxi driver meets a loser police inspector, he has no other choice but to help him…or explain his numerous speedings to the court.
Ensues a hilarious car chase between the not so talented policemen and German robbers.
Over to you
Did you watch any of these movies? What is your favorite French movie? Tell us in the comments below!
Quel est votre film français préféré ?