Parisian Living

Classic French Films to Watch Now

by Alessia Armenise

Cinemas might be closed, and this Christmas lacks the usual exciting holiday film releases to watch with the family. Still, there is nothing better than cozying up with loved ones (or solo!) in front of a classic film. To feed your cinema cravings and soothe your longing for France, we selected the best classic French films to watch during the holidays. 

Left: Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. Catherine who has blonde hair and a cream beret, is to the left and François who has red hair and a white beret is to the right. They are both smiling into the camera. Right: Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. Catherine is to the left and Françoise is to the right. They both have on large hats and white dresses and are standing in front of a piano.
Top: capsulebyjuliette / deci_dela / Above: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Do you like musicals? Watch “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort” once, and you will never stop singing its tunes. A classic of French cinema loved by generations, it stars the fantastic Catherine Deneuve and (her real sister) Françoise Dorléac.  

Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain

The film that propelled Audrey Tautou to international stardom, it’s difficult to find someone who hasn’t seen “Amélie” at least once. A feel-good film, both bizarre and adorably romantic—the perfect thing to watch (or re-watch) during the holidays. 

Left: a large green truck with Christmas decorations on it in Paris. There is a large wreath on the front of the truck and more greenery is on the right side of it. Right: the café featured in Amélie. It is the outside of the café and a menu with a small painting of Amélie is visible. There is a white and red bench visible at the bottom of the image.
annemaudette / The café featured in Amélie by jbnska

Le Dîner de Cons

“Le Dîner de Cons” might require an understanding of French culture and a sense of humor, but it’s a real gem of French comedy. It’s mean and hilarious—a comical example of French irony and contempt.

Left: an up close shot of several different types of winter flowers. There is a sign that reads "Viburnum 12€" amongst the flowers. Right: a street in Paris. It is empty except for a person walking away from the camera. There is some greenery growing from a balcony on a building to the left and it is falling down the side of the building.
annemaudette / lavande_et___

Léon

One of Luc Besson’s best films and also the first role for a young Natalie Portman, “Léon” is a classic drama that will keep you on your toes. It follows the story of Léon, a hitman, and his relationship with the young Mathilda, who seeks revenge after her family was killed.   

Left: a black and white still from the movie "Les Quatre Cents Coups." there are four children visible and one, wearing a black turtleneck is looking directly at the camera. Right: a still from the movie "99 Francs." The profiles of a man and a woman are visible and they are leaning in to kiss each other over a table between them.
Les Quatre Cents Coups / 99 Francs

Les Quatre Cents Coups 

If you are into French cinema, you must watch François Truffaut’s directorial debut. The film follows the story of a problematic child, Antoine Doinel, who eventually ends up in reform school before escaping. Doinel is allegedly Truffaut’s alter ego, a way for him to narrate his childhood experiences. 

Left: a florist in Paris at Christmastime. There are Christmas trees, wreaths, and more greenery spilling out of the shop onto the sidewalk. The shop is painted black and the buildings surrounding it are gray. Right: a couple sitting in front of a fountain in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. The couple can be seen snuggling up to one another as they look at the fountain. A seagull can be seen flying out of the frame to the right.
deci_dela / annemaudette

À Bout de Souffle

Another must-watch for French cinema lovers, Jean-Luc Godard’s “À Bout de Souffle” stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as the criminal Michel, and Jean Seberg, a student and aspiring journalist named Patricia. A classic of the Nouvelle Vague, the closing scene, in particular, is considered iconic. 

Left: a large light blue door in Paris. To the right of the door are several Christmas trees, some are still wrapped up. Right: a chocolate shop in Paris. The shop is dark green and the words "Debauve & Gallais Chocolat" is written in a light color over the door. There are Christmas decorations and there are two children on small scooters in front of the shop.
alexandrine_ar / deci_dela

La Vie d’Adèle

“La Vie d’Adèle” shocked quite a few critics when it was shown at Cannes in 2013, but it was a success with both the press and the public. It’s the coming-of-age story of a teenager Adèle Exarchopoulos, who meets and falls in love with an older aspiring painter, Emma, played by Léa Seydoux. The film is raw, intense, and worth watching. 

L’Auberge Espagnole

French student Xavier goes to Barcelona for his Erasmus and ends up living in a flat that he shares with seven other students from all over the world. Any former Erasmus student has seen this film hundreds of times. “L’Auberge Espagnole” is a fun and light watch, perfect for a cozy family night. 

Left: A Parisian scene at night. There are clouds in the sky and they are lit up in purple, gray, and pink as the sun sets. The street is in Montmartre and there are several stairs. There are also several old fashioned light posts lit up, lining the stairs. Right: An image of the Parisian skyline. The Eiffel Tower can be seen but it is not in focus and there is a lot of fog. The only thing that is in focus in the image is a branch with one leaf hanging from it.
quentin_lab_ / erika.kostialova

99 Francs

Adapted from Frédéric Beigbeder’s novel, “99 Francs” is a satirical film starring Jean Dujardin. Octave Parango has a high-paying job in advertising and a frivolous lifestyle until the end of his only long-lasting relationship makes him turn his life upside down.

Left: a still from the movie "Belle de Jour." Catherine Deneuve and a man are sitting in an open carriage, Catherine is wearing a red coat and she is on the left. Right: a still from the movie "Belle de Jour." Catherine Deneuve is speaking with a woman, the profiles of the two woman can be seen with Catherine on the left.
Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour

Another Catherine Deneuve special, “Belle de Jour” is a dramatic comedy by Luis Buñuel that sees Deneuve as Séverine, a young woman who leads a double life as a high-end prostitute when her husband is at work. Séverine seems to find herself in her new life and the relationship with her husband gets better—until everything changes. 

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Written by Alessia Armenise for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates. 

Written By

Alessia Armenise

Alessia is a writer and creative based in Paris. After a few years working in London, she moved back to Paris and now writes freelance for media and brands, specialising in eco-luxury, slow travel and sustainability. Her work has been featured in Stylist, Milk Magazine and Grazia France among others. She also runs a sustainability and slow living focused website called Pretty Slow and hosts a podcast called Pretty Good Business. View Alessia Armenise's Website

One comment on “Classic French Films to Watch Now

Thanks for sending me your email, I really enjoy it, and don’t feel so far away from my beloved Paris. Thanks again. Best wishes for the new year.

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