As the sixth most widely spoken language in the world in 2016, French has over 220 million speakers worldwide and is estimated to rise to over 700 million by 2050. In celebration of UN French Language Day also known as International Francophonie Day on 20 March, we’ve put together a list of topnotch French films from the past decade. Whether you’re learning the language or it simply sounds like music to your ears, these are des films magnifiques you shouldn’t miss.
1. Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (2007)
Inspired by a remarkable true story, Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), is a memoir written by Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French actor and Elle editor who suffered a massive stroke that left his entire body paralyzed except for one eyelid. Bauby could only communicate with the outside world by blinking his left eye and he astonishingly authored his autobiography by “dictating” it one letter at a time.
2. Des hommes et des dieux (2010)
Based on a historic event in Algeria in 1996, Des hommes et des dieux (English: Of Gods and Men) centers on the lives of eight Trappist monks who lived in harmony with the largely Muslim population until they were taken hostage by fundamentalist terrorists. The movie highlights the binding power of religion and won the second-most prestigious award, the Grand Prix, at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.
3. Intouchables (2011)
A record-breaking success in France, Intouchables is an uplifting true story and comedy-drama about the unlikely friendship between a quadriplegic aristocrat and his unqualified caregiver, an ex-con from the Paris ghettos. Based on the international best-selling book, “You Changed My Life”,the film’s characters discover humor that helped bridge the cultural and class divide between them.
4. Deux jours, une nuit (2014)
This Belgian film revolves around a young wife and mother who suffers a nervous breakdown that forces her to take time off from her job. When she returns, she finds out that her job is on the line unless she convinces her 16 coworkers to reject the monetary bonus offered by the company. Marion Cotillard’s performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for this critically acclaimed film in 2015.
5. Bande de filles (2014)
A coming-of-age film by Céline Sciamma, Bande de filles (English: Girlhood) is about a girl gang in the suburbs of northwest Paris. The protagonist is a shy, 16-year-old Marieme played by Karidja Touré, who was fed up with domestic and personal issues so she decides to take matters into her own hands. When she meets a trio of local bad girls, she emerges from her shell and her life is transformed.
6. L’Avenir (2016)
Acclaimed French actress Isabelle Huppert plays the role of a middle-aged woman who soldiers through life’s turmoils – from the burden of having a senile mother, being fired from her job to being dumped by a philandering husband. This French-German drama has been nominated for “Best foreign language film” in various film festivals in the US and Europe.
7. Elle (2016)
Topping The Hollywood Reporter’s critics’ picks for foreign-language films of 2016, Elle is a tastefully twisted film about a woman’s complicated response to the man who sexually assaulted her. The first feature film of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, the movie stars Isabelle Huppert who earned her first Oscar nomination for her fearless performance in this psychological drama.
Do you have other recommended movies in French? Feel free to share and tell us why we should watch them!