What recent French films would you recommend?
March 10, 2012 7:04 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite French films of the last fifteen years?

I feel like almost every time I watch a French film, I like it. I have no idea why this is. It doesn't matter the genre, either. I've seen a number of older French films, but for the purpose of this question, I'll just focus on films of the last decade and a half.

It would be too tedious for me to list every French film I've seen, but to give you an idea of a few I really liked: Roman de gare, The Class, Amelie, The Nest, Largo Winch, Tell No One, A Prophet, Mesrine, I've Loved You So Long, District B13.
posted by MoonOrb to Media & Arts (70 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
You could try L'homme du train (Man on the Train). Saw it several years ago and was thoroughly charmed by it. Roger Ebert liked it a lot, as did A.O. Scott of the New York Times, if that helps.

posted by vac2003 at 7:12 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed Summer Hours, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Triplets of Belleville (though there is vitally no language in it, it's still quite french), and Elles
posted by zoomorphic at 7:15 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

La Faute à Fidel/Blame it on Fidel
Monsieur Ibrahim - an excellent and touching (relatively unknown) film starring Omar Sharif
posted by raztaj at 7:17 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

OSS117: Cairo, Nest of Spies. The sequel isn't -quite- as great but is still very funny.
posted by mimi at 7:18 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Even though it's 20 years old - Delicatessen. A Very Long Engagement. Both of these are by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie).
posted by mleigh at 7:20 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I love Jacques Audiard! A Prophet is great. The other two I've seen and LOVED are Read My Lips and The Beat My Heart Skipped.

La Haine (17 years old, so squeaking by)!

Catherine Breillat's Bluebeard.

I wouldn't say I enjoyed White Material, but I respect it.

And oh! I just saw Le Havre. If you like older French films, you'll probably enjoy this one immensely.
posted by phonebia at 7:27 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

La Haine is 17 years old, but was a galvanizing film.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 7:27 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

MicMacs à tire-larigot was cute in a very Amélie-likeesque way, as it is yet another Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. It's not a grand masterpiece, but it's fun.
posted by maryr at 7:32 PM on March 10, 2012

Though, a note on Le Havre --- it's actually a Finnish film set in France, in French, etc. But it definitely made me think of French New Wave.
posted by phonebia at 7:33 PM on March 10, 2012

I really like The Butterfly, To Be and To Have, My Best Friend, the Grocer's Son, Madamoiselle Chambon, and The Valet (pure silliness). Forbidden Games is a classic and will tear your heart out.
posted by la petite marie at 7:34 PM on March 10, 2012

Crimson Rivers

posted by deanc at 7:35 PM on March 10, 2012

Sorry -- just re-read your question and you said the last 15 years -- Forbidden Games is definitely not in that time period...
posted by la petite marie at 7:35 PM on March 10, 2012

Welcome is really heart-breaking. I liked The Grocer's Son as well.
posted by devymetal at 7:37 PM on March 10, 2012

A Christmas Tale (2008). Rather dark, about a dysfunctional family, but very cool (added coolness: features both Catherine Deneuve and the daughter she had with Marcello Mastroianni: Chiara Mastroianni).
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 7:39 PM on March 10, 2012

Bienvenue chez les Ch'Tis, l'Arnacoeur, Jeux d'Enfants, Viva l'Aldjerie, Incendies. The last two are in the French languages, though not from the country of France.
posted by msk1985 at 7:42 PM on March 10, 2012


Monsieur Lazhar is Canadian, but in French, and has a very French sensibility. It was also an Academy Award nominee for best foreign film.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Barbarian Invasions
(also Canadian, it is a sequel to The Decline of the American Empire from 1986)

Le Confessional is my favourite French language film. Also Canadian, 1995, very 90s.
posted by looli at 7:45 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I second Summer Hours, definitely. I liked Look At Me/Comme une Image quite a bit.
posted by gudrun at 7:54 PM on March 10, 2012

Seconding Summer Hours, which I saw right after it became clear that my mom needed assisted living and I had to prepare to clear out the stuff in her condo (much of which was part of my childhood) and sell it. Timing could not have been better; I think it's a film that many people of a certain age will "get" regardless of their nationality or language. I also liked Carlos quite a bit (Assayas again).
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:56 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Seducing Doctor Lewis (aka La Grande Seduction) - french canadian
posted by lizbunny at 8:05 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Dreamlife of Angels. Unmissable, so so good. Any words to describe it are lame by comparison, this one has to be seen to believe movies like this exist- all the things I love about French movies.
posted by kettleoffish at 8:13 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for MicMacs, and also La fille sur le pont. Skip the plot summary on that page, though! Gives away too much. It's not your usual romance, it's wry and witty and touching - and very very good.
posted by agentmitten at 8:17 PM on March 10, 2012

Peresepolis, Ensemble, c'est tout (Guillaume Canet in so amazing), Un secret, Vénus beauté (institut)
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 8:23 PM on March 10, 2012

I liked La Moustache and Time Out (L'emploi du temps).
posted by bongo_x at 8:27 PM on March 10, 2012

Le dîner de cons is a classic.
posted by stereo at 8:28 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I also liked Blame It On Fidel.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:41 PM on March 10, 2012

13 Tzameti
posted by Bokmakierie at 8:41 PM on March 10, 2012

Code inconnu, more than most films I've ever seen, has stayed with me. I couldn't analyse exactly why, but it lives in my head like few other films, even though at the time that I saw it, I didn't realize how greatly it affected me.

It's also worth going back in time. Modern French cinema stems from the New Wave, and Truffaut is the best entrance point into that, I feel. Jules et Jim is a great film (a scene from it appears in Amelie) but 400 Blows is great too.
posted by Kattullus at 8:42 PM on March 10, 2012

French horror films have been fantastic, the French/Canadian film Martyrs especially is a standout. (if you can avoid reading about the plot ahead of time it is better).
posted by saucysault at 8:44 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not really a 'favourite' (they've already been covered), but I watched Gregoire Moulin contre l'humanité recently and it was great fun - it's a Parisian After Hours.
posted by Flashman at 8:51 PM on March 10, 2012

Le Dîner de Cons and Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis are my favorite recent French comedy movies. For movies that are a bit more serious and thought-provoking, I would recommend Le scaphandre et le papillon and La Fille sur le pont mentioned above, as well as a very realistic film called Entre les murs, which a semi-autobiographical account of a young teacher at an inner-city middle school in Paris dealing with "problem students" in his French classroom.
posted by datarose at 8:52 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chantal Akerman has made some charming and challenging films (Demain on déménage being the former, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles being of the more critically acclaimed latter).

I recently saw 2 Days in Paris and it was really one of the best movies about contemporary relationships that I have ever seen-- it's in English, but written, directed by and starring the French-American Julie Delpy.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:28 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really liked 8 Women, though be advised that while it looks all cute and cheeky on the box, it's actually a pretty dark film. Triplets of Belleville is fantastic. I also enjoyed Moliere, and I've heard many, many good things about Beau Travail.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 9:46 PM on March 10, 2012

I thought Ricky was pleasant and whimsical. For that matter, I think I also enjoyed Ozon's Sous la sable, but it's been a long time since I saw it. I liked A ma soeur! Not from the last 15 years, but the last 20 is Leolo, which is one of my favourite movies ever (Quebecois, in French but narrated in English). I'll second Barbarian Invasions.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:51 PM on March 10, 2012

I know you asked for the past 15 years, but I just watched Rififi last night and it holds up really well. It was made in '56, I think.

Mick LaSalle is a film critic/historian for the San Francisco Chronicle. He frequently references French cinema. Dig through the archives to find his recommendations.
posted by quadog at 10:20 PM on March 10, 2012

If you liked Amelie, you'll love Le Petit Nicolas. Its really funny and set in that same nostalgic French atmosphere.
posted by vacapinta at 1:46 AM on March 11, 2012

It's 21 years old, and Belgian (but French language): but if you can get over those things, Toto le Héros is a good film that should have got wider acclaim, IMHO.

I haven't seen it yet, but a friend of mine raves about it: Luc Besson's 1998 movie Taxi. Also notable for an early sighting of Marion Cotillard.

Also: a user-created list of the best French films of the last 20 years and a much longer list of all time French films.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:49 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by melizabeth at 1:56 AM on March 11, 2012

Seconding A Christmas Tale. The director Arnaud Desplechin's earlier film Rois et Reine had awesome characters.
posted by Theiform at 3:20 AM on March 11, 2012

36 Quai des Orfèvres is a great crime thriller, Dobermann is an insane crime thriller

Seconding Caché and 13 Tzameti (that's one of those films you want to know as little about as possible before seeing)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:42 AM on March 11, 2012

Erich Rohmer's Conte d'automne (Autumn Tale) (1998)
Patrice Leconte's La fille sur le pont (Girl on the Bridge) (1999)
Agnes Varda's Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaner) (2000)
Jacques Audiard's Sur mes lèvres (Read my Lips) (2001)
Olivier Marchal's 36 Quai des Orfèvres (36th Precinct) (2004)
Olivier Assasyas's L'heure d'été (Summer Hours) (2008)
Dany Boon's Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis (Welcome to the Sticks) (2009)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs à tire-larigot (Micmacs) (2009)
Jacques Audiard's Un prophète (A prophet) (2009)
Olivier Assasyas's Carlos (the life and times of Carlos the Jackal) (2010)
Rachid Bouchareb's Hors la loi (Outside the Law) (2010)
Christophe Barratier's La nouvelle guerre des boutons (War of the Buttons) (2011)
posted by Mister Bijou at 3:51 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sarah's Key
posted by Right On Red at 4:42 AM on March 11, 2012

The two I've saw last fall in Paris are worthwhile: The Artist (yes, a lot of hype, but it was fun), and Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro.

Some earlier films I've enjoyed:

Just outside of your time frame is Microcosmos: Le peuple de l'herbe, by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou. It is about insect behavior.

10e chambre - Instants d'audience, by Raymond Depardon, a documentary about civil and misdemeanor cases before a judge in Paris.

Être et avoir, by Nicolas Philibert, a documentary about a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in the Auvergne. It was a surprise success at the box office. The teacher unsuccessfully sued the production company for a share of the profits.

If you like suspense, Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien, by Dominik Moll, is good.

L'Équipier, by Philippe Lioret, set on the island of Ouessant off the coast of Brittany.

And finally, since Étienne Chatiliez hasn't been mentioned yet: Tanguy, about a young man who refuses to leave home after finishing school; his increasingly desperate parents try all sorts of things to get him to go.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:56 AM on March 11, 2012

Seconding Les Adventures D'Adele Blanc-Sec. I've never really liked Luc Besson films, but it's wildly fun and indulgent in just the right way.
posted by hnnrs at 6:49 AM on March 11, 2012

Seconding With a Friend Like Harry (Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien).

Also Fat Girl (A ma soeur! from above) is probably worth a watch. I don't remember it too well, but I do remember that it was pretty disturbing.

Every French movie I've seen has been good. They know how to do their movies.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:46 AM on March 11, 2012

Oh and I also liked Potiche. It's cute. Denevue is gorgeous as always and Depardieu, big as a mountain, has somehow still got it.
posted by mimi at 8:31 AM on March 11, 2012

Oh, and for anyone who thinks the French can't make a bad movie: try Les Portes de la gloire, about a group of traveling encyclopedia salesmen (if you can find it). It's absolutely awful. I will never have those two hours of my life back.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:56 AM on March 11, 2012

Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2003) is an epic film, by the same director as Amélie and featuring the same star.
posted by furtive at 10:15 AM on March 11, 2012

posted by ifjuly at 10:30 AM on March 11, 2012

Oh yeah, and def. nthing Catherine Breillat's stuff.
posted by ifjuly at 10:31 AM on March 11, 2012

And it's not for everything, but Eric Rohmer put out some stuff right before he died. I didn't love it as much as other work he's done--Love in the Afternoon is one of my favorite movies ever--but I still enjoyed it.
posted by ifjuly at 10:32 AM on March 11, 2012

And I've loved what Chantal Akerman I've seen, but can't personally vouch for anything she's made more recently, but she has done stuff.
posted by ifjuly at 10:33 AM on March 11, 2012

Realizing L'ecole doesn't give you much to work with search terms-wise...it was released in English as Innocence, and sadly was apparently marketed as gross lolibait in markets like Japan, but I loved it, and thought the bonus feature interview with the filmmaker sealed the deal and reassured me she was on the same (non-pedo!) page as me.

Haven't seen Gaspar Noe's newer stuff like Enter the Void, but it comes to mind to consider.
posted by ifjuly at 10:35 AM on March 11, 2012

All my favourites have already been suggested so I'll suggest another Audrey Tatou film, À la folie... pas du tout (He loves me... he loves me not) (it's much darker than the poster would suggest).

For silly but very funny I'd recommend Le Placard/The Closet.

And here are two outside the 15 year limit in case you've not seen them:
- Romuald et Juliette (1989) - much of it is on YouTube.

- 37°2 le matin (Betty Blue)
posted by humph at 10:43 AM on March 11, 2012

Seconding brianogilvie: Être et avoir is fab. It is such a lovely, gentle film. It promises so little and gives so much.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:26 AM on March 11, 2012

Intouchables is a great 2011 film about a tetraplegic aristocrat and the Senegalese young offender from the banlieues who becomes his assistant. It had the second best box office figures of all time in France (after Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis).
posted by rongorongo at 11:40 AM on March 11, 2012

Nthing 36th Precinct and Caché (and La Haine too).
posted by hydatius at 12:09 PM on March 11, 2012

I just saw Farewell a few months ago. It was a good take on the cold war from a French perspective. Very well done, with Fred Ward playing Reagan.

If you are looking for one you may not like, try Film Socialisme by Godard. That film was interesting on some levels but also tedious and not much of a narrative film but it is Godard and he travels uncharted art-film territory like the artist that he is.
posted by JJ86 at 7:46 PM on March 11, 2012

My favorite film director, Bertrand Tavernier, is still making great films. Some of his best of the last 15 years have been:
Holy Lola. Safe Conduct, It All Starts Today and Captain Conan.

In the Electric Mist was not especially French, and it was a bit problematic.
I haven't seen The Princess of Montpensier, but I'm sure it's amazing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:34 AM on March 12, 2012

And it's a little older than you want, but the Three Colors Trilogy (Blue, White, Red) comes to mind.
posted by ifjuly at 9:24 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

La Femme Nikita is now 22 years old (!!!) but I feel it stands the test of time.
posted by BeBoth at 12:21 PM on March 12, 2012

Un Prophete

La Vie En Rose

Paris, Je T'aime

Entre Les Murs
posted by dracomarca at 9:27 AM on March 14, 2012

And it's a little older than you want, but the Three Colors Trilogy (Blue, White, Red) comes to mind.

What defines the nationality of a film is up for discussion, but Kieślowski was Polish.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:45 AM on March 14, 2012

true (and i always find that jarring now that i've seen the decalogue!), but it's in french, the stories' settings are in france, and the general overarching theme/symbolic schema of the trilogy is supposed to be the french flag and the french national principles of liberty, egality, and fraternity--granted, not in straight up political or overt ways at all (which is great and one of kieslowski's great strengths in all his work, i find, making things humane, not generalized/political/doctrinaire), but still, supposedly the springboard motif is as french as french can be.
posted by ifjuly at 1:53 PM on March 14, 2012

What defines the nationality of a film is up for discussion, but Kieślowski was Polish.

It's surely a credit to the quality of Quebecois film-making that quite a few of the titles listed above are not French, but Canadien.
posted by Flashman at 8:41 PM on March 14, 2012

Seconding Sur Mes Levres, a tight suspense noir film. And Carlos which is a large tableau film, not just about terrorism but about a certain time in the 1970s...
posted by storybored at 1:25 PM on March 15, 2012

Check out Copie Conforme, where Abbas Kiarostami channels Juliette Binoche into something out of this world. Technically not 100% French, the texture is still quite European.
posted by severinseverin at 4:00 PM on March 18, 2012

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