Watching films in the language you’re learning is something that almost feels like a guilty pleasure. How could this possibly be studying? But in fact, it’s one of the most effective and enjoyable ways to learn, as you gain a sense of character, culture and language all in one package. To get you started, our experts at Babbel have rounded up nine of the best movies to learn French — from beginner to advanced level. Happy viewing!
Kirikou et la Sorcière
Kirikou et la Sorcière, translated in English to “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” is an adventure animation film directed by Michel Ocelot. Although the film is targeted at kids, it’s a beautiful and simple tale for all ages. Set in West Africa, it follows a newborn boy, Kirikou, on his journey to save his village from an evil witch.
Rich visuals are accompanied by simple and clearly spoken language, as well as useful vocabulary about feelings, emotions, family, nature, and culture, making it widely suited to beginners and intermediate learners (B1 specifically). When watching, watch out for the grammar: passé composé, to familiarize yourself with the French perfect tense.
Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie
One of the biggest French film success stories is Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie, or simply Amélie as the English title goes. The poetic film was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and tells the story of Amélie Poulain, a young woman who decides to quietly help people find joy in their lives while grappling with her own insecurities.
Set in Montmartre, Paris, the film is a positive look into contemporary French life and celebrates the nuances of human behavior. This is a beautiful story for beginner to intermediate learners who want to indulge in an idyllic French atmosphere.
Another successful film with international acclaim is Les Intouchables, directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. The story follows the touching relationship of a young man becoming the caretaker for a quadriplegic aristocrat.
The blend of straight-talking slang and high-brow French makes the film an enriching viewing experience for beginner to intermediate language learners. A special mention goes to the job hiring scenes for those interested in work-related conversations.
La grande vadrouille
La grande vadrouille is a classic historical comedy widely known in France. The film is directed by Gerard Oury and features two of the most popular French actors, Bourvil and Louis de Funds. The story follows a British bomber crew after they’re shot down over France during WWII and goes on to show how a group of French civilians helped three pilots escape Paris.
Not only is the film a great laugh, but it’s a light-hearted snapshot into the stereotyped characteristics of French people. It’s suited for beginner to intermediate speakers who would enjoy gathering insight into French war history and local humor in equal measure.
Persepolis is an adult animated film based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel about her life growing up during the Islamic revolution. The autobiographical film was actually directed by Satrapi in collaboration with Vincent Paronnaud, and is consequently a very authentic and gripping account of her life.
Intermediate learners at a B1 level will find this one of the best movies to learn French because the characters speak slowly in a mix of dialogues and voiceovers. Made in a simple and elegant black and white animation, it allows you to easily focus on the dialogue and expressions.
La belle verte
This film by Coline Serreau is a sci-fi comedy for the whole family and features Serreau herself as the main protagonist. She stars as a 150-year-old well-meaning alien who finds herself in Paris after an intergalactic coalition seeks to bring harmony and self-realization to those living on Earth.
The characters speak slowly about nature, the environment, and the importance of greenery and consciousness in our daily existence. French learners at an intermediate level will find this one of the best (and most entertaining) films to learn French.
Tanguy is a famous French black comedy directed by Étienne Chatiliez. The film is particularly relatable for young people living with their parents, as the story is about a man who never leaves home after his mother makes a fateful promise that he can live with them forever. Naturally, his parents come to regret this promise and do their best to get him to move out.
The film is best suited to French learners at B1 or B2 level, with the classic humor making it very engaging and fun to watch.
Le dîner de cons
Based on a theater play, Le dîner de cons by Francis Veber is a film about a group of friends who compete to find the “stupidest person” they can bring to dinner. For one friend, this bet backfires spectacularly when his guest innocently starts messing up his host’s life.
The great comedy in the film isn’t overly complicated, which means it’s relatively easy to follow for intermediate and advanced learners. Those at B2 level would find the film the most beneficial to learn from, as it’s one of the more challenging films on this list.
Astérix et Obélix, mission Cléopâtre
Adapted from the much-loved comics is the film Astérix et Obélix, mission Cléopâtre, which follows Astérix and Obélix on their travels to Egypt to help an architect build a palace for Cleopatra.
The comedy by Alain Chabat is full of puns (and laughs), which makes it a favorite to watch and rewatch when learning French. In order to follow the quick-witted storyline and pick up new dialogue each time, it’s best for those at an intermediate or advanced level.