The French language is so dang beautiful. Even after learning French for nearly a decade, I am still enamored with its sound and structure, and one way I love learning it is through French movies. It behooves me as to why so many people dread learning a foreign language. Sure, there’s many ways you could learn a subject such as math or biology whether it’s worksheets or experiments.
But when it comes to learning a foreign language, the sky is truly the limit. You can read a book, you can follow a YouTuber, you can follow an Instagram account, you can practice with a native speaker, you can make a Duolingo account. Literally, there are a million ways to learn a foreign language, but here are my 7 favorite ways.
One of these ways is watching foreign language movies. I’ve had the privilege of taking several film classes and have seen some great French movies over the years. If you’re looking to learn French in a fun way (perhaps in quarantine), here are my 9 French movies to add to your list and where to stream them.
I always watch with subtitles, even with English movies sometimes. Adding subtitles in English is a great way to start learning a language, and once you’re ready for a challenge, put the subtitles in French.
Another pro tip is get a Kanopy.com account. It’s where I access the majority of my foreign language films, and it’s through your public library card, which means it’s free. (They also have plenty of English-language films.)
Pépé Le Moko (1937)
Filmmaker Julien Duvivier brings his viewers into a complicated love story in Algeria. Pépé runs about the Casbah where he tries to hide from the police. And in the process, this gangster played by the dreamy Jean Gabin falls in love with a Parisian. I’m a sucker for old French films, and Pépé Le Moko is no exception and is a great way to learn French in the process.
Where to watch it: Available to rent on iTunes for $3.99. Also available on the Criterion Channel with subscription.
During my sophomore year of high school, my French teacher showed our class this film, and I remember how much our 15 year-old selves loved this thriller. Made in 1955 by Henri-Georges Clouzot, this murder mystery will have you on the edge of your seat and teach you French along the way.
Where to watch it: 99 cents on Amazon Prime
Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)
Made by François Truffaut, this French film is my all-time favorite. This New Wave film is a loose biography of Truffaut’s own troubled childhood told through Antoine, a child who’s dealing with difficult parents and teachers. Les Quatre Cents Coups was nominated for a smorgasbord of awards, including ones at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Awards. This is a classic French film of Truffaut, a major influence in the New Wave Movement.
Where to watch it: Available for free on some Kanopy.com memberships. Also available on YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, Amazon Prime and iTunes from $2.99.
À Bout de Souffle (1960)
Another leader in the New Wave Movement, Jean-Luc Godard made his mark on French cinema with À Bout de Souffle. If I had to describe this classic, I’d call it avant garde as this filmmaker has a very distinct artsy style. The film follows a French man and his relationship with a New Yorker living in France.
Where to watch it: Available for free on some Kanopy.com memberships. Also available on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu and iTunes from $2.99.
Jules et Jim (1962)
Another masterpiece by François Truffaut, this film follows a love triangle of three friends and their very complicated existence, which takes place in the Austrian countryside. It’s a classic among French movies by Truffaut (one of my faves!) and helps you learn French along the way.
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964)
Think old French movies are a thing of the past? Not so, at least for Damien Chazelle. He says he watched this Jacques Demy film hundreds of times and that it inspired his own work, La La Land, according to The Guardian. This colorful musical made brings you into a story of young love, wartime and a disapproving mother. From the score to the camera angles, the film is both whimsical and delighted. And it stars the well-renowned Catherine Deneuve in her earlier days.
À la Folie… Pas du Tout (2003)
Starring Audrey Tautou, this more recent film draws viewers in for a very complicated love story of a young woman who’s in love with a married man with a child on the way — and a crazy big plot twist. The English title was translated to “He loves me, he loves me not,” and oh boy, does filmmaker Laetitia Colombani take this to a new level!
Les Choristes (2004)
Set during the 1940s, this heartwarming story takes you into a boys’ boarding school and one teacher’s quest to share his love of music with them. If you need a cheery pick-me-up and want to learn French at the same time, this is the film for you.
Where to watch it: Available on Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and Fandango from $3.99.
Whew, you’ve got a lot of movies to watch — a fantastique way to spend your quarantine hours. From the 1930s to present day, here are my top 9 French movies to help you improve your French. On y va !