Top 10 French Movies

Tuesday, March 15 by Tom Gordon

The top 10 French movies ever made include outstanding films from the post-World War II New Wave era of French cinema as well as several more recent works. There's tense action, historical drama, as well as plenty of romance and sex. These are, after all, the top ten French movies of all time.

  1. "Wages of Fear." Even though it was made in 1953, "Wages of Fear" remains one of the most tense thrillers ever. The story is about some men who are hired to drive two trucks carrying nitroglycerin through a South American jungle to an oil field. Any bump can set off an explosion.
  2. "La Femme Nikita." Anne Parillaud plays a felon who is given the chance to avoid prison by becoming a government-trained assassin and secret agent. The action is great, with plenty of quirky humor sprinkled in.
  3. "The 400 Blows." No list of the top ten French movies could exist without Francois Truffaut's classic from the French New Wave. Released in 1959, "The 400 Blows" addresses the youthful rebelliousness of the time as it tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who gets involved in petty crime when he gets little attention and affection at home. The final scene of the boy's long run to the ocean's shore is unforgettable.
  4. "Belle de Jour." The beautiful Catherine Deneuve stars in this unusual 1967 drama about a doctor's wife who shuns intimacy in her marriage, but has sometime violent sexual fantasies and eventually winds up working as a prostitute while her husband is at work. The movie cuts between fantasy, the present and flashbacks of her past until you're not sure exactly what is happening.
  5. "City of Lost Children." This surreal 1995 fantasy tells the story of an aging scientist who cannot dream. He kidnaps children to steal their dreams and recapture his youth. The hero (Ron Perlman) sets out to find his little brother, who had been kidnapped. Despite the generally dark mood and look of the film, there's actually a lot of humor.
  6. "The Last Metro." Deneuve in a much different role, this time playing the dutiful wife of a Jewish theater owner in Nazi-occupied France. When her husband feels compelled to leave the country, she sets out to run the theater and star in a new play there. It turns out, however, that her husband is hiding in the theater basement. Truffaut's film tells an inspiring story of art, courage and love.
  7. "Jules et Jim." Made in 1962, but set in the early 20th century, this classic French film by Truffaut depicts the story of two friends, Jules, an Austrian, and Jim, who is French. They both fall in love with the impulsive Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). She loves both of them, but eventually marries Jules at the outbreak of World War I. The two friends are on opposite sides of the war, but after hostilities end, the three reunite and things once again get complicated.
  8. "Au Revoir Les Enfants." Directed by Louis Malle, this is one of the most honored films in French cinema history and easily among the top ten French movies of all time. This 1987 movie tells the story of a Catholic boarding school in France that hides a young Jewish boy from the Nazis.
  9. "Amelie." A nice date-night movie, 2001's "Amelie" is a charming fairy tale-type story of a young woman in Paris who decides to help all the people around her by doing little things to brighten their lives. She falls in love along the way.
  10. "Rules of the Game." This 1939 masterpiece often shows up on lists of the greatest films of the 20th century. Jean Renoir's picture follows the lives of wealthy French men and women and their poor servants at an estate during a large hunting party with the impending war with Germany as a backdrop.