The 7 Best French Movies on Netflix

The 7 Best French Movies on Netflix

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France has been at the forefront of cinema since the dawn of movies. With the most successful film industry outside of the United States, the country continues to turn out hundreds of feature-length titles every year.

Not to mention, the French language has a rich and often impossible to translate vocabulary – words like “Déformation professionnelle”, which means a “quirk, trait or habit caused by one’s occupation” (source: doesnottranslate.com)

From easy comedies to Cannes-winning oeuvres, many of the releases over the past two decades have been sensations on the world stage. Here, we present the best contemporary movies – all or partly in the French language – that are now streaming on Netflix.

7. Phantom Thread (2018)

best

8.4

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Paul Thomas Anderson

Actors

Brian Gleeson, Camilla Rutherford, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dave Simon

Moods

A-list actors, Romantic, Thought-provoking

A flawless Daniel Day‑Lewis stars in this thought-provoking romance. He plays a successful dressmaker in post-second-World-War London who falls for a waitress while on an excursion to the countryside. It’s hard to tell you what this movie is about without ruining the story for you but I can tell you how it made me feel: it kept me guessing the whole time. Day-Lewis’ character is so masterfully played that I felt that every move he made was calculated and that every line meant something. Plus, expect stunning dresses, beautiful country-side sequences, and an all-around gorgeous aesthetic experience.

6. Shéhérazade (2018)

best

8.6

Country

France

Director

Jean-Bernard Marlin

Actors

Dylan Robert, Idir Azougli, Kader Benchoudar, Kenza Fortas

Moods

Action-packed, Intense, Romantic

A gritty and realistic thriller set in France’s notorious capital city of crime – Marseille. 

Zachary is released from Juvenile prison to learn that his mother has abandoned him. He finds kinship in an underage sex worker by the name of Shéhérazade. 

This seems like the set-up for a tough watch, but Shéhérazade plays like a romance when it’s slow, and a crime thriller when it’s fast (it’s mostly fast). Everything about the story and two leads’ relationship rings true. Added to the fact that it has no interest in emotionally manipulating you, the movie is more gripping and thought-provoking than sad.

A great story, fantastic acting from the cast of first-timers, and outstanding direction give the feeling that Shéhérazade is bound to become a modern classic. If you liked City of God, you will love this. 

5. I Am Not Your Negro (2017)

best

8.9

Country

Belgium, France, Switzerland

Director

Raoul Peck

Actors

Bob Dylan, Dick Cavett, H. Rap Brown, Harry Belafonte

Moods

Instructive, Smart, Thought-provoking

In a stunning and vivid (re-) introduction to the Black intellectual, author, and social critic, James Baldwin, this movie digs very deep into the American subconscious and racial history. It tells the story of America by telling the story of “the negro” in America, based on a book Baldwin started to write, which would have studied the famous assassinations of three of Baldwin’s friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He wrote about 30 pages before he passed away in 1987. Haitian director and activist Raoul Peck picked up the project and made it into a movie, earning him an Academy Award nomination. Narrated by none other than Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro highlights, at the same time, Baldwin’s genius, his unique eloquence, and the beauty of his soul as a human being. It is a sad truth that Baldwin’s denouncements feel as relevant today as they did 50 years ago. As such, this movie serves as a sobering reminder of how far America still has to go. A mesmerizing experience!

4. Divines (2016)

9.0

Country

France, Qatar

Director

Female director, Houda Benyamina

Actors

Bass Dhem, Déborah Lukumuena, Farid Larbi, Houda Benyamina

Moods

Character-driven

Winner of a Camera d’Or, the debutant’s prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Director Houda Benyamina’s first feature film is fast-paced and full of energy. Deep in the impoverished suburbs of Paris, the infamous banlieues, it tells the story of Dounia (played by Oulaya Amamra), a mouthy teenager who is not content with what society is prepared to hand out to her. She’s angry; she wants more. And so, together with her best friend Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena), she decides to finally make some cash as a runner for a drug dealer. While there’s obviously some feminism in there somewhere, that’s not at the heart of what this film is about. It’s about the economic reality in a world of poverty and about two friends and their desire for freedom—no matter what the cost. An exhilarating and thought-provoking debut helped along by Amamra’s amazing acting.

3. Virunga (2014)

best

9.0

Country

Congo, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Orlando von Einsiedel

Actors

André Bauma, Emmanuel de Merode, Mélanie Gouby, Orlando von Einsiedel

Moods

Instructive, Raw, Thought-provoking

Orlando von Einsiedel’s epic documentary is at once a stunning natural film, an intimate human drama, and an intense political thriller slash investigative report. The titular Virunga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site in Eastern Congo, serves as the magnifying glass through which we witness the natural, human, and political crisis of this embattled and volatile region. There are poachers killing endangered gorillas, the bloody business of Big Oil companies, government forces fighting a myriad of militias, and, lastly, the three individuals struggling to protect Virunga and its mountain gorillas from death and destruction. The result is a snap-crackle-pop-type situation, like sitting on a powder keg. The film captures all this superbly with great editing, compelling real-life material, and gripping action. Virunga’s intensity can rival a well-made fictional thriller any day of the week.

2. Senna (2010)

best

9.5

Country

France, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Asif Kapadia

Actors

Adriane Galisteu, Alain Prost, Arnaldo Jabor, Ayrton Senna

Moods

Dramatic, Inspiring, Instructive

If you’re not a fan of F1 racing, you might not know who Ayrton Senna is. If you are, there is no way you don’t know. However, this 2010 British-French documentary packs so much thrill and emotion, you don’t have to be a racing enthusiast to be engrossed by it.

So, who is Ayrton Senna? At a time when F1 cars were +1000HP fire-breathing monsters and the grid was stacked with world champions, the Brazilian racing driver rose above the rest to take 3 world championships and win the fabled Monaco Grand Prix a record 6 times. At the age of 34, a devastating car crash took his life.

Director Asif Kapadia develops a compelling, emotional, and exhilarating portrait of F1 racing and the man that was Ayrton Senna. He is still considered by many to be one the best and most exciting racing drivers to have ever stepped into an F1 car. The documentary too, is a thrilling pursuit: moving, psychological intriguing and absolutely nerve-wracking!

1. The Intouchables (2012)

best

9.6

Country

France

Director

Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache

Actors

Absa Diatou Toure, Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi, Alba Gaïa Bellugi, Anne Le Ny

Moods

Challenging, Funny, Intense

A wealthy paraplegic needs a new caretaker. His choice is surprising — an ex-con down on his luck. Both of their lives are changed forever. Based on a true story, it is funny, touching, and very surprising.  It will have you rolling on the floor laughing one minute and reaching for your hankie the next. Intouchables is one of those perfect movies, that will easily and instantly make anyone’s all-time top 10 list.

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