10 Best Old French Movies

Wednesday, March 16 by Mason Kaho

The list of the 10 best old French movies includes some of the best movies to ever come out of Europe. France has a great reputation when it comes to cinema, making dark, brooding films that explore the more intense aspects of life. French cinema was on the cutting edge in the post-World War II era, making movies that influenced film for decades.

  1. "La Symphonie Pastorale" (1946). Certainly one of the best old French movies, this film is about a minister who adopts a young girl and takes her to hear Beethoven’s Sixth, which bears the same name as the movie. The girl is blind, and after surgery to make herself see better, she realizes the world is not as beautiful as her adopted father made it seem.
  2. "Le Salaire de la Peur" (1953). This suspenseful film, one of the best old French movies, won the BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source. It is about a group of men who must make a treacherous truck ride with nitroglycerine.
  3. "Le Monde du Silence" (1956). This film, one of the best old French movies, is unique on this list because it is a documentary. The legendary Jacque Cousteau leads audiences underwater, one of the first films to include underwater cinematography, showing snippets from two year’s worth of film.
  4. "Orfeu Negro" (1959). This movie is based on the ancien Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice and is one of the best old French movies. It won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
  5. "Une Aussi Longue Absence" (1961). This sad movie is about a young woman who loses her husband and mourns him for many years. Eventually a homeless drifter arrives in the town and she is sure it is her husband…but he suffers from amnesia.
  6. "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg" (1964). This film is a musical, with all lines sung. Genevieve is in love with Guy, who impregnates her just before going off to war. She marries another man at her mother’s insistence, and when Guy comes back injured and finds that she has married, he is very despondent.
  7. "Un Homme et Une Femme" (1966). This simple, austere movie is one of the best old French movies, telling the story of a lonely man and woman. The movie is known for striking photography and its changes between color, black-and-white, and sepia-toned shots.
  8. "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" (1959). This film was trend-setting in that it used flashbacks to create a nonlinear storyline and it ushered in the French New Wave style. It is about a deep and intense conversation between a French-Japanese couple.
  9. "Les Enfants du Paradis" (1945). This film, considered by some to be one of the best-ever French movies, was made while France was occupied by the Nazis. It is about a courtesan who is loved by four different men and runs to three hours.
  10. "Les Quatre Cents Coups" (1959). Another film from the French New Wave style, this film won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival. It is about Antoine, a young boy coming to grips with aging, school, parents, and other adolescent issues.