Watching movies in their original format (a.k.a. without dubbing) is a remarkably fun and effective way to improve your foreign language skills. Not long ago, we wrote about the best movies to watch for learning Spanish. And many people requested a similar list for French, so we decided to come up with the top 5 best French movies that will help you learn the language.
As a reminder, the most effective way to watch is to:
- watch the French movie once with English subtitles
- watch it a second time (or more!) with French subtitles
- and watch it again with no subtitles at all!
List of the Best French Movies to Improve Your Skills
[Entre les murs – France – 2008 – Directed by Laurent Cantet – Drama – Trailer]
In a school on the outskirts of Paris, a young teacher is assigned a very difficult class. One in which family problems, language barriers, and differences in identity impede learning and conversation. It reads almost more like a documentary than a film, which makes sense since it’s based on a semi-autobiographical book. This movie, starring amateur actors, received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival.
The French in Entre les murs is a mix of classroom-style French and the language of the youth that we hear in the banlieues. Rich in colloquial expressions, slang, and bad words, the movie can be hard to follow, so subtitles are most likely necessary.
[Tanguy – France – 2001 – Directed by Étienne Chatilliez – Comedy – Trailer]
Tanguy is a brilliant and fascinating young man who, at first glance, could make any parent envious to have such a son: he has a master’s degree in philosophy, is fluent in Japanese, and has written theses in Chinese. But the twenty-something-year-old has not learned how to leave his house, a point that causes his parents much anguish. A very funny comedy about a momma’s boy.
This movie is ideal for numerous reasons. The characters speak at a normal pace, and the vocabulary they use is rather simple, with few colloquial expressions. The dialog revolves around everyday contexts, which is helpful for learners.
[Les invasions barbares – Canada/France – 2003 – Directed by Denys Arcand – Drama – Trailer]
A fabulous movie that tells of the last moments in the life of a man named Remy, a college professor who has terminal cancer. Old friends, his ex-wife, and his son help him to confront the past and present. Intense.
This movie is truly interesting from a linguistic point of view. Since it takes place in Quebec where French is the official language, you get to hear Canadian accents, which are different but not impossible to understand. Training your ear to pick up on different accents makes you a more well-rounded speaker. Plus, you get to take in new vocabulary that is often different from the French from France.
Un Homme Qui Crie
[Un homme qui crie – France/Belgium – 2010 – Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun – Drama – Trailer]
In present-day Chad, Adam is a lifeguard at a pool in a luxury hotel of N’Djamena. After Chinese businessmen buy out the building, Adam will have to allow his son to take over. With the country on the brink of civil war, Adam is asked to contribute his part.
Un homme qui crie is almost entirely in French, though Chad has two official languages: French and Arabic. One of the best parts of this movie is that it lets you hear French as it sounds in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since there are more French speakers in the world who live outside of France than in France, it’s important to be able to understand different accents. This film gives you that chance.
[Le Nid – France – 2002 – Directed by Florent-Emilio Siri – Action – Trailer]
A French female special forces agent must escort an Albanian mafia boss to prison in this French movie. Also accompanying him are agents with the German and Italian special forces. An engaging French action film that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
With the deafening noise of gunfire and rapid exchange amongst the agents, it can be a little tricky to catch everything they say. They also use uncommon expressions related to organized crime, law enforcement, war, and firearms.
[Intouchables – France – 2011 – Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano – Dramatic Comedy – Trailer]
This award-winning feel-good movie is based on the true story of the friendship between a rich quadriplegic and a kid from the projects. Injured from a paragliding accident, the disabled aristocrat hires a young man to be his caregiver. They form a bond beyond what either ever expected.
The juxtaposition of the younger caretaker and the older man immerses you into two different worlds. The vocabulary and expressions that each character uses says a lot about who they are. The result is that you hear several ways of speaking. Such variety may be harder for beginners to understand, but you can truly benefit from hearing French in multiple contexts.
French Movies Too Hard? Try This Bonus Listening Exercise
If you feel like your level of French isn’t quite advanced enough for movies or TV, check out MosaSeries: L’Homme Sans Nom. It’s an original and gripping audio series. Work on your listening skills, learn tons of new and useful vocab, and pick up important grammar and conjugation. At the end, come back to this list and see how much you’ve improved!
I hope you enjoy these flicks as much as we have. We’ll update this list often, so check back for new recommendations. And feel free to share some of your favorite French movies in the comments section!
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