My love of foreign film started at a young age. I’d really like to say that I was cultured and worldly at the start of my teen years and that’s why I decided to broaden my cinematic horizons. Unfortunately—and embarrassingly—that isn’t the case. The truth is I was lured in by the promise of the “mature” scenes that sometimes accompanied the late-night, subtitled movies. As I grew older filmand less curious about…“maturity”, I kept watching foreign films, by that time I was too addicted to the unique look of the cinematography and the captivating story lines.


It goes without saying that some of my favorite foreign movies are French. I find there’s a fresh, hip quality to them that isn’t always present in mainstream American cinema, probably stemming from the type of boundary-pushing films being made around the 1960s during the movement called La Nouvelle Vague (The New Wave). None of this, however, makes me an expert on French film. Sure, I can tell you that France is the birthplace of cinema, and the first public screening of films at which admission was charged was held on December 28, 1895 at Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris, but that also doesn’t make me an expert. What I’d like to do is share my non-expert opinion on a few of my favorite French movies in hopes that you’ll like them too.


He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not (À la folie… pas du tout)

Amelie is a great movie; I love it. But I do feel that it is a bit overhyped to be on this list. Chances are, you’ve already seen it or heard of it, and I want to try to expose you to films you might not have heard of before. Assuming you have seen Amelie, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Audrey Tautou, who plays the title character, is a wonderful actress. To see her really shine I’d suggest watching the psycho-drama, He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not. Tautou plays Angélique, a fine arts student who is obsessed with a cardiologist (Samuel Le Bihan). The first half of the movie follows Angélique through all her wide-eyed romantic idealism. After a literal rewind of the film, the second half depicts all the events of the first from the point of view of the cardiologist.


the fairyThe Fairy (La Fée)

The Fairy is a French-Belgian film written, directed by, and staring Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy. Fans of silent-era slapstick acting will really enjoy this movie. All three writer/director/actors share a background in theatre and circus, so they execute even the most ridiculous poses and expressions with an effortlessness Jerry Lewis would find enviable.


The Dinner Game (Le dîner de cons)

Anyone who has seen the 2010 American remake, Dinner for Schmucks, will already be familiar with the plot of The Dinner Game. A man must bring an “idiot” to an “idiot dinner” for the other guests to ridicule. This comedy is great for French learners. The time frame and setting both require minimal attention, allowing the viewer to concentrate on the fast paced dialog riddled with puns.


The movies listed are my personal favorites, but by no means do they encompass all French cinema has to offer—as if any three movies could. Sure I could have listed movies that have had more acclaim or made more money, but I wanted to show you what I like so that maybe you’d be inspired to go out and find a few French favorites of your own (if you haven’t already).


How did you get started watching foreign cinema? Was it for a love of the language or, like me, did you have more mature reasons? What are your favorite French films?