The Best French Films on Netflix

french films on netflix, foreign films on netflix, best french films netflix, netflix, french films

France-Amerique, a specialized publication for us frenchies living in the United States, sent out this neat little list of French films to watch on Netflix in their online newsletter today. The list includes comedies like Potiche, documentaries like the 2002 hit To Be and To Have and some classics like Luis Buñuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire or Delicatessen. The article is in French, but if language is not an issue for you, I’d love to hear your opinion on the movies that were included and most importantly, which films you think were left out. I had a very hard time narrowing it to 15 like they did, so here is a list of some 20(ish) of the best French films on Netflix, according to moi:

Funny Hits Available on Demand

populaire

Populaire ~ One of my current favourite “RomCom” streaming on Netflix right now is the adorable and colourful Populaire. It’s the sotry of Rose, a small town girl with big dreams and fingers that can type so fast that she catches the attention of Louis, a former athlete who decides to hire her… and train her for a speed typing competition. It’s a charming, if predictable, film starring Romain Duris as her competition boss slash coach. Remember his name, he’ll come up quite a few times on this list.

Les Intouchables ~ This film quickly became the largest grossing French film ever. And there’s a reason for that: it’s funny but not silly and unlike the previous title holder, Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis which has very little cultural appeal outside of France, Les Intouchables, is a crowd pleaser for everyone… Based on a true story, and friendship, Les Intouchables tells the tale of a millionaire quadriplegic who learns to live again after giving a chance to an impulsive young kid from the projects that he hires as his caretaker.

Les Intouchables / the Untouchables

OSS 17: Cairo Nest of Spies ~ Before they made The Artist (itself one of the best French movie available to stream on Netflix) Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo made a hilarious spy-film spoof. Actually, let me rephrase that. Since OSS 17 was such a hit in France, with more than 2 million tickets sold, its director Michel Hazanavicus was able to convince studio executives in France to pretty much let him do anything he wanted as long as he could reunite Jean and Berenice on screen. And that meant letting him film a silent movie in black and white ;-) Jean Dujardin is self-mockingly charming as a French secret agent undercover (as a poultry executive) whose mission is to secure the Middle East for French imperialism. Don’t bother with the follow up OSS 17: Lost in Rio though. It’s also available on demand, but it’s definitely not as good! You may recognize Berenice Bojo from Populaire too…

 
OSS 17, Jean Dujardin, OSS Jean Dujardin, French films, Jean Dujardin films
 
I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single ~ Luis Costa leads a charmed life: he’s a good looking, carefree, single 40-something, with a great job as a nose for a perfume maker and an attentive family that cooks for him and does his laundry. Until they (his mother and five sisters) decide they’re tired of waiting on him and try to find him a wife. Consequently, Luis designs what he thinks is the perfect plan: hire someone to pretend to be his fiancee only to ditch him at the altar, which would make his mother and sisters feel so sorry for him that they would stop setting him on blind dates and start taking care of him again. It’s a romantic comedy, so you can easily imagine that things don’t quite work out the way he intended ;-)
 
Funny Hits Not Available on Demand ~ but Funny Nonetheless
L’Auberge Espagnole ~ If L’Auberge Espagnole doesn’t make you want to move to Barcelona, nothing will.  OK, maybe Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona will. This ensemble cast film features Romain Duris (I told you I’d mention him again) as a bookish young graduate who needs to speak Spanish before he can start a boring government job. So he leaves his girlfriend (Audrey Tautou) behind to study in Barcelona, where he befriends a group of students from all over Europe who teach him that there’s more to life than what you learn in school, and sometimes, what you’ve been working towards for so long, isn’t what you really want… the sequel Russian Dolls is not as good but it’s still a decent little film and is also available on Netflix on demand.
 
Delusions of Grandeur ~ I wanted to have at least one Louis de Funès film in this list, but there are just not many of them on Netflix. This film is (loosely) inspired by Victor Hugo’s play Ruy Blas. It’s slapstick humour at its French finest. I absolutely *loved* this film as a kid. Louis de Funès is, well, his typical over the top humourous self (his nickname was the man with 40 faces per minute for a reason), and Yves Montand is absolutely charming as his valet-slash-pawn in his plot to catch the Queen of Spain in an embarrassing situation after she demoted him from his job as minister of the treasury.
 
Would I Lie to You ~ This rag-to-riches comedy is set in Paris’ garment district and could have been considered scandalous for its borderline offensive caricaturization of Sephardic Jews in the Sentier’s neighbourhood. Instead, it was a hit in France and they even made a second and third one, which weren’t as good and are not available on Netflix anyway.
 
The Dinner Game ~ Do not let Dinner for Schmucks mislead you into thinking that the original is not one of the funniest French film ever made. The Francis Veber hit shows that slapstick humour can be sharp and clever, though some of the nuances and cultural references in this unmistakably French comedy may be missed by foreign audiences. Veber has a lot of other funny films on Netflix like The Closet with Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu (on demand), La Chèvre or The Valet, also featuring Auteuil.
 
 
the dinner game, french film, le diner de cons, dinne for schmucks original
 
 
Documentaries 
March of the Penguins ~ Missing from the U.S. version was the amazing soundtrack by Emilie Simon. Nonetheless, the narration by Morgan Freeman makes up for this loss and this film about the yearly journey of the emperor penguins of Antarctica is just delightful, in French or English!
 
King of Pastries ~ the French takes their pastries seriously and this documentary takes a look at the deliciously cutthroat Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the legendary French pastry competition, to capture this fascinating account of what it takes to be the best “patissier.”
 
For les petits kiddies
The Bear ~ It’s the classic cute kid meets grumpy old man story line, but with bears. This movie came out when I was 8 years old and I just remember crying all the tears of my little body as I followed the adventures of an orphaned cub who attempts to befriend a grizzly. The older bear initially rejects the cub, only to finally take him under his wing as they navigate the tricky mountains of British Columbia, filled with mean Canadian hunters and hungry cougars. It’s a very sweet film, and best of all if you’re not big on reading subtitles, bear growls are pretty universal ;-)  or  Two Brothers ~ same director as The Bear but different animal… this time we follow two cute little tigers who are separated and then reunited by life. The movie is mainly in Thai and English, but it’s French (and super cute) nonetheless. Neither film is available on demand.
 

French Dramas

l'amant film, the lover film, french filmL’Amant ~ Directed by the man behind The Bear and Two Brothers (and produced by the guy who made Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources, mentioned next), this steamy drama is not quite as family friendly. I mean, it is titled “the lover” ;-) Based on Marguerite Duras’ semi-autobiographical book The Lover, it relates in details the illicit affair between a teenage French girl and a wealthy Chinese man in 1929 colonial Vietnam. In very explicit details… Also available on Netflix and set in the same place at the same time is Indochine featuring Catherine Deneuve. A lot less skin in shown, but the movie is excellent, and won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture in a Foreign Language.

Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources ~ While Manon des Sources is a great film on its own, a lot of the plot will make no sense if you haven’t seen (or read) Jean de Florette so I am counting these two films as one (and so does Netflix). Based on the books by Marcel Pagnol, they follow the sometimes tragic machinations of Provençal peasant life at the turn of the twentieth century, when access to water could make or break fortunes, destroy lives and bring peace to a village. More recently, I also really enjoyed the new version of Pagnol’s La Fille du Puisatier, featuring Daniel Auteuil (who is also in Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, and Le Valet, and Le Closet…) On DVD only.

 
Emmanuelle Beart, manon des sources, manon film, french films


The Conquest ~ Maybe I’ve spent too much time in D.C. but I just loved this ironic yet fact-based political drama about Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign. In addition to trying to woo French voters into voting for him, the politician was also trying to woo his wife back to him and salvage their marriage… On DVD only.

Au Revoir Les Enfants ~ The WW2 drama is based on director Louis Malle’s childhood. Seen through the eyes of children, it’s a deeply moving masterpiece of cinema, telling the story of a Jewish child, sheltered in a catholic boarding school by a courageous headmaster until the Gestapo raids the establishment. Louis Malle was in tears at the film’s première, and if I were you, I’d keep a box of kleenex nearby too… on DVD only.

I've loved you so long, il y a longtemps que je t'aime, french filmsI’ve Loved You for So Long ~ I’m convinced that Kristin Scott Thomas is the best French actress around these days. Yes, I know she’s not actually French, but she speaks beautiful French and happens to star in some excellent French film like this 2008 drama about a woman struggling to interact with her family and find her place in society after spending fifteen years in prison for murder. Kristin Scott Thomas is also excellent in Elle s’appelait Sarah (on DVD only) based on the Tatiana de Rosnay’s book Sarah’s Key. That one is about the treatment of the jews during the war in France, so it’s not exactly a happy film… I also really like her (and Fabrice Luchini who is simply brilliant in every movie he does) In the House (streaming). Speaking of Luchini, catch him in The Women on the Sixth Floor (streaming) or Potiche (on DVD only). Both are great films

Honorable Mentions
While good French films are slim picking on Netflix, I did have a hard time narrowing it down to almost 20. I wish I could have included Trois Hommes et un Bebe (the original Three men and a baby, on DVD only)) Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain or Delicatessen, The Chorus, or My Life in Pink and newly released Little White Lies and Rust and BonesI’ll just give them an honorable mention because they’re all very good French films in very different ways. I included a lot of recent movies in this list, because I felt there were already many excellent lists comprised of the best classic French movies…

Which French movies available on Netflix would you have included on this list? Why? As for which French films should be available on Netflix but are not…well, that’ll need its own post ;-)

{This list was first posted on 12/27/2011 and most recently updated on 2/7/2014}

26 thoughts on “The Best French Films on Netflix

  1. I really loved the first OSS 117 – the second less but still good. You have missed La Tour Montparnasse Infernale which is brilliant! Agree about Amelie Poulain, too. Now I have to go back and think of other French films I love! Happy Holidays to you!

  2. I debated having Amelie Poulain on the list and leaving out the Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources out… I guess it's good that I found more than 15 movies to list and had to narrow it down ;-)

  3. Thank you for this list! I feel like I'm always falling back on my go-to's (Au Revoir les Enfants, Amelie, Le Placard) and it's great to have some new inspiration! wasn't I've Loved You So Long just heartbreaking?? Great list!

  4. Hi Laetitia – just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy this list. Not only does it remind me of my first forays into French cinema – i first watched Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources back in middle school – but friends and I are slowly making our way through this list during a regular “french movie night”.

    I've recently started blogging and linked to this post from my latest piece: http://dreaminginfranglais.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/the-cure-for-election-day-a-summer-of-french-cinema/

    Megan (you may know me as @Meggo8)

  5. I really liked OSS 117 as well, I wasn't expecting much going into it but it was a super fun movie.

    I can't believe how many French movies you guys get on Netflix down there! I get Canadian netflix and we have like one page. I'll have to check if we have any that are on your list, thanks for the suggestions!

  6. Laetitia: I stumbled upon your blog looking for a French film to warm me up for my pending trip to Paris… Tomorrow! I am traveling with the French Embassy as part of a cultural exchange program with Congressional staff from DC and we are meeting with various officials within the French government. Thus far, I feel intellectually prepared for the meetings; however, tonight I must pack. I am actually more anxious about what I should be wearing in these meetings rather than what I should be saying. Do you have any suggestions on how to best pack for a “business professional” week in Paris? Any do’s and don’ts you think I should keep in mind? I appreciate any advice you have!

    Jess

      • I’d like some pointers on business fashion on Paris. Gearing up for my own travels to Paris with my firm.

      • Sofia – it’s pretty much the same as in the US, just a little more trendy and a little less conservative… though I guess it depends on the industry.

  7. Amélie is a favorite. I have recently seen Romantics Anonymous, which is a very cute feel good romantic comedy, but as it involves two people with social anxiety, it feels more Fresh. But, I prefer the different quirky “rom-coms”. ;)

  8. Romantics Anonymous was cute indeed! Try The Day I Saw Your Heart. You might like it. How to get married and stay single definitely falls in the rom com category otherwise…

  9. Thank u so much! I’m starting to learn french (on my own) so I thought I’d start watching french movies and you’ve given me a great selection! Merci

  10. have been search for the film about a french woman painter starts out she is a housekeeper at a art collectors mothers home man sees the house keepers art and brings forth for the word to see what is the name of the film

  11. I really like the Louis de Funes films. My favorite is “L’aile ou la cuisse?” but his others are great too. Too bad they aren’t on Netflix….

  12. I’m thrilled for such a great list! Does anyone know any other French options for listening and reading French text? I’m going to France in a couple of months and I’m realizing that listening to as much French as possible is really helping me remember the language.

  13. Thanks for this list! Found it while trying to find a list of French musicals and/or French comedies. Have bookmarked all of these. Les Chansons d’Amour should totally be on this list! Louis Garrell can get it!

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