French Language Cinema

A Cat in Paris
A Cat in Paris

This film list celebrates all things French: language, culture, notable filmmakers and much more.

Suitable for both primary and secondary audiences with a wealth of themes including friendship and LGBTQ+ identity, it also features directors including Francois Truffaut, Celine Sciamma, Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jean-Pierre Jeunet; exploring the stories of France and the history of one of the world's foremost cinematic countries. 

Louis' Shoes

CertUnclassified

Age group7–14

Duration6 mins

Louis' Shoes(2020)

An autistic eight-year-old boy introduces himself to his new school class.

Distinctly animated in a way that helps audiences empathise with Louis, a young boy on the autistic spectrum, this film uses both images and language to create a visually compelling story – a fantastic template for discussion around a challenging subject such an autism with the French language sprinkled throughout.

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The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales...

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration83 mins

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales...(2017)

A trio of animated short stories involving a bunch of witty farmyard animals.

Originally conceived to be three 30-minute television episodes, these interlinked stories all take place on a farm somewhere in France that is completely run by animals. Alongside the Fox, there are also stories containing a clumsy rabbit, an immature duck and a smart little pig, making this perfect for students studying animals in French.

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Ernest and Celestine

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration77 mins

Ernest and Celestine(2012)

A beautiful animation about an unlikely friendship between a big clown bear and a clever orphan mouse, from the makers of A Town Called Panic!

Based on a series of children’s books from Belgium, written and illustrated by Gabrielle Vincent, the visuals in this film take their cue from the gorgeous watercolour images of its source material. Friendship and tolerance is explored through a lovingly rendered prism of an exciting adventure story for the ages.

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Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration87 mins

Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion(2018)

Best friends Asterix and Obelix accompany their village druid on his search for a successor to teach the secrets of his magic potion.

The Asterix comics contain some of France’s most beloved and well-known characters and this animated film brings them to life. Blending history and fantasy, it follows the famous Gauls as they go on one of their many exciting and preposterous adventures across the terrain of ancient France.

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Zarafa

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration76 mins

Zarafa(2012)

Stunning animation about a young Sudanese boy’s escape from slave traders and his incredible and perilous journey to Paris with an orphaned giraffe.

Take a trip back to a time when the hot air balloon was the most exciting new invention in the world in this remarkable true story. This animated adventure follows an incredible journey between Africa and France, featuring a touching friendship between a boy and a giraffe, as well as providing a gentle introduction to tougher themes such as slavery.

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Petit Nicolas

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration88 mins

Petit Nicolas(2009)

When the mischievous Nicolas discovers that his parents are going to have a baby, he begins to worry about what that means for his family’s future.

The story of Little Nicholas takes its cue from a popular series of novels in France that present an idealised version of 1950s Paris. Nicolas and his friends are cheeky and relatable enough for any kind of audience all around the world to relate with as they embark on their wacky adventures.

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Tomboy

CertU

Age group7+

Duration79 mins

Tomboy(2011)

A beautifully understated, naturalistic drama about childhood gender identity confusion that’s both touching and gently humorous.

The secret lives of children can sometimes seem so foreign for older audiences but Celine Sciamma’s sweet tale of a young girl’s exploration of her identity succeeds in being intimate and informative without looking down on its characters. A film that uses simple but effective dialogue in French and is bound to create discussion in a classroom situation.

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Une Vie De Chat (A Cat in Paris)

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration62 mins

Une Vie De Chat (A Cat in Paris)(2011)

Enchanting and thrilling animation about a Parisian cat with a double-life.

Paris has always been the crown jewel of locations in French cinema and this hugely stylish animation paints it as a city of opposites. Beautiful and dangerous in equal measure, its also a film that feels entwined with French culture, perfect for introducing young audiences to one of the great national cinemas.

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Tales of the Night

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration81 mins

Tales of the Night(2011)

Complete with werewolves, magical instruments, sorcerers and mythical beasts, this French animation captures the enchantment of storytelling.

Made through the unique and almost forgotten process of silhouette animation, Tales of the Night looks and feels like it is from a different time. Join two friends as they settle down to hear six stories from the local cinema projectionist and get transported to another era, one of pure magic.

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Boule Et Bill (Boule & Bill)

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration79 mins

Boule Et Bill (Boule & Bill)(2013)

A quaint period comedy about a boy and his beloved cocker spaniel, based on a hugely popular and long running French comic strip.

One of the easiest things for audiences around the world to connect with is the relationship between a child and their pet. In this case, Boule rescues his spaniel Bill and they form an immediate bond. Perfect for French lessons about pets and the household, Boule et Bill is a nonstop, and very chaotic, adventure.

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My Life as a Courgette

CertPG

Age group11–16

Duration66 mins

My Life as a Courgette(2016)

Touching and funny French animation about a little boy called Courgette who is taken into care.

A difficult film to categorise but one full of heart and empathy, the story of Courgette is told through eye-catching stop-motion animation. Exploring themes such as family, friendship and grief through simple French dialogue, My Life As a Courgette defies tradition and stands on its own as a little gem of French cinema.

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La Famille Bélier (The Bélier Family)

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration101 mins

La Famille Bélier (The Bélier Family) (2014)

French drama about a girl with an amazing singing voice who, in order to pursue her talents, must move away from her deaf parents who rely on her.

Rarely are films made about deaf characters and their relationship with the hearing world, let alone given such empathetic treatment. With an absorbing narrative full of moral dilemmas, this sweet and informative drama incorporates themes of family and growing up alongside some beautiful musical numbers – all sung in French of course.

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Monsieur Lazhar

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration91 mins

Monsieur Lazhar(2011)

A poignant and hopeful classroom drama about a new teacher who comes in to help a class deal with a recent trauma.

A film that largely takes place in a classroom environment, Monsieur Lazhar touches upon some mature subject but in a completely accessible manner. Due to the nature of the teacher and his students speaking the same language but nevertheless needing to bridge a cultural gap between each other, it is a film that works beautifully to inform French students about society and under

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The Wages Of Fear

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration147 mins

The Wages Of Fear(1952)

This French thriller is a road movie about truck drivers transporting a lethal cargo across dangerous terrain. A nerve-shredding classic.

One of the great French action movies, The Wages of Fear is a fantastic blend of a pulsating story, snappy dialogue and heightened tension contributing towards a great cinematic experience. Mirroring many of the accessible Hollywood films that younger viewers will be familiar with, it works as a great entry point to French cinema for people who may not have experienced it befor

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Micmacs

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration100 mins

Micmacs(2010)

Brilliantly inventive French comedy about a man stuck walking about with a bullet in his skull, who devises an elaborate plan to get his life back.

For those wanting a more irreverent and curious French film, Micmacs fits the bill perfectly. Full of zany, cartoon-like humour and surreal black comedy, it moves forward at a pace that demands audiences keep up with it. For intermediate French learners, the speed and language presents a fun and rewarding challenge.

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Belleville Rendez-Vous

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration80 mins

Belleville Rendez-Vous(2003)

Grandma Souza is hot on the heels of dangerous criminals after they steal her Tour de France-riding grandson in this highly original French animation.

One of many highly-praised and original animations to come out of France in the last two decades, Belleville-Rendez-vous is a delightful oddity that works for all ages. Drawn in an unmistakable style, it may not contain as much dialogue as some of the other films on this list but still presents interesting themes of music, performance and achieving your goals.

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Bande De Filles (Girlhood)

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration110 mins

Bande De Filles (Girlhood)(2014)

Energetic and honest coming-of-age drama about a teenager’s new friendship with a group of girls in the suburbs of Paris.

Offering an alternative view on subjects such as race, new friendships and class, Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood gives a platform to the Black-French communities that make up a large part of Paris but often get overlooked. Full of conversations that many young people will recognise having themselves, Girlhood strives for an authenticity that many films do not.

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La Haine

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration94 mins

La Haine(1995)

Fast, frantic film about three friends from the ghettos of the Paris suburbs, where life is portrayed as being violent and unjust.

Now seen as one of the defining European films of the 1990s, La Haine is a film driven by anger and frustration at the current social and political climate in France. Shot in striking black and white, its use of language is both specific and accessible for older teen audiences, inviting us into a world often ignored by typical mainstream cinema.

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Amelie

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration117 mins

Amelie(2001)

A heartwarming and charisma-packed story about a young woman who decides her mission in life is to spread happiness.

Upon its release in 2001, Amelie broke through the barriers between English-language and French-language cinema to become, at the time, the most successful French-language film in the history of the US box office. Charming beyond measure and offering a glimpse into a fairy-tale version of Paris, Amelie has become part of the fabric of France’s national cinema history.

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The 400 Blows

CertPG

Age group14+

Duration95 mins

The 400 Blows(1959)

An anthem for troubled loners everywhere and an emblem of French cinematic cool, this is the deeply moving tale of a cheeky yet vulnerable schoolboy.

When The 400 Blows burst onto the scene at the end of the 1950s, it changed international cinema forever. The character of Antoine Doinel, who would appear in four subsequent films directed by Francois Truffaut over the next twenty years, would resonate with adults and young people alike, deftly and tenderly exploring themes of childhood and what it means to find happiness.

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