5 Films for Improving your French

Watching subtitled movies will boost your listening comprehension if you’re new to learning French, and it’s also a great way for translators to keep up to date with a language or culture. And who would consider watching foreign films a chore! So think about renting a few – and indulge in a bit of stress-free ‘homework’.

Below are a few that I enjoyed, although there are many, many more to choose from – the French are masterful filmmakers.

Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (Amélie) – 2001: Who can forget this charming romantic comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. A must-see if you missed out.

Le Placard (The Closet) – 2001: A side-splitting comedy directed by Francis Verber about a man who needs to keep his job – and pretends to be gay in order to do so. Of course, a number of complications ensue.

Le Dîner de Cons (The Dinner Game) – 1998: Also a comedy directed by Francis Verber. Successful Parisian businessmen play a game, known as ‘The Dinner Game’, and invite ‘idiots’ to dinner, with the Winning Idiot selected at the end of each evening. One evening, on the way to one of these dinners, things go very wrong.

Être et avoir (To Be and To Have) – 2002: Directed by Nicolas Philibert is a touching French documentary that follows the pupils of a small rural school, as well as their teacher, George Lopez.

Léon (The Professional) – 1994:  Written and directed by the formidable Luc Besson, this French thriller features a hitman (Jean Reno) who takes in Mathilda (who I’ve just realised was played by a very young Natalie Portman!), a girl whose family has been murdered. I’ve always appreciated Jeno Reno’s work and his gruff quirkiness doesn’t disappoint in this film.

Have you watched any of these? What are some of your favourite foreign films? I’d love to hear so that I can keep an eye out for them.

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4 Comments on “5 Films for Improving your French”

  1. intralingo says:

    Marie-Louise,
    I haven’t been to a foreign film in a while and you really sparked my interest with these! Of the five, I’ve only seen Amélie, so will have to check the others out.
    As a translator, though, I must admit that subtitled films can often be distracting. Though I know only a little French, it’s enough that my translator brain kicks in and I start comparing what I understand versus how the subtitle is phrased. Often I wind up getting lost in a haze of thoughts about vocabulary and the art of subtitling, then inevitably miss the next few seconds — or minutes! — of the movie. Does that ever happen to you?!

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thanks or your comment. Michelle has me itching to see the Marcel Pagnol films again, so look out for those too, if you feel like a French movie. And yes, you’re absolutely right – watching a movie with subtitles as a translator can at times be quite distracting. A bit like listening to the radio that isn’t tuned properly and stuck between two stations. All the white ‘noise’!

  2. Two French movies that tell one story, Jean De Florette and Manon des Sources (released in the U.S. as Manon of the Spring).

    • Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for stopping by and adding these two. The movies based on Marcel Pagnol’s novels are fabulous. Although I didn’t see Jean de Florette, I did see Manon of the Spring, My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle. Great films, so timeless. Thanks, you’ve inspired me to watch them again and I’ll get Jean de Florette this time!


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