The 8 Best French Movies on Netflix

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The 8 Best French Movies on Netflix

There’s no easy way to navigate to “French Movies” within Netflix’s “International Movies” genre. And Netflix’s offering of French films has continued to shrink. While you won’t find the French impressionist cinema of the 1930s or the French New Wave of the ’60s and ’70s, you can still find a few of the better French movies of the 21st century.

So if you’re looking for Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette or Eric Rohmer, you might want to check out services like The Criterion Channel or Sundance Now. But if you want to discover what’s happening in French cinema right now, from timely political tales to avant garde experiments, Netflix is a surprisingly good resource.

Here are the 8 best French Movies on Netflix:

1. The Artist

the-artist.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 100 minutes

Watch on Netflix

In his black-and-white ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood, Gallic writer-director Michael Hazanavicius honors form as well as content, packaging his romantic melodrama about the rise of a new ingénue and the fall of a silent movie star in 1920s and ’30s Los Angeles in luxurious black, white, and shades of shimmering silver. It’s a beautiful, ambitious, nostalgic endeavor that demonstrates its makers are, indeed, artists. —Annlee Ellingson


2. Blue is the Warmest Color

blue-warmest.jpg
Year: 2013
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Stars: Léa Sydoux, Adéle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: NC17
Runtime: 187 minutes

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Three-hour movies usually are the terrain of Westerns, period epics or sweeping, tragic romances. They don’t tend to be intimate character pieces, but Blue Is the Warmest Color (La Vie D’Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2) more than justifies its length. A beautiful, wise, erotic, devastating love story, this tale of a young lesbian couple’s beginning, middle and possible end utilizes its running time to give us a full sense of two individuals growing together and apart over the course of years. It hurts like real life, yet leaves you enraptured by its power. —Tim Grierson


3. April and the Extraordinary World

april-extraordinary-world-poster.jpg
Year: 2015
Directors: Christian Desmares, Franck Ekinci
Stars: Marion Cotillard, Marc-André Grondin, Jean Rochefort, Olivier Gourmet, Macha Grenon, Philippe Katerine
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 105 minutes

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Keeping real life global history straight in narratives that leapfrog across decades and centuries is tough enough—making sense of alternate history when it’s articulated at breakneck speed throughout multiple eras of European cultural advancement is just downright strenuous. Think of April and the Extraordinary World as an intense workout for your brain, during which the film shapes a surrogate Earth in the span of mere minutes and fires off salvos of detail, visual and aural alike, in the pursuit of recalibrating the past. The inattentive and unimaginative need not apply. Good news for diligent viewing types, though: April and the Extraordinary World is pretty great, a compact exercise in world building without handholding that rewards a patient, observant audience. If you can keep pace with the film’s plot deployment, you’ll be in for a wonderful ride littered with talking cats, fabulous steampunk backdrops, rollercoaster excitement and terrific characters, all drawn through the fundamental beauty of cel animation. April and the Extraordinary World reminds us of the aesthetic value of traditional animation and the necessity of human ingenuity, all without treating its audience like idiots. —Andy Crump


4. The Pianist

the-pianist.jpg Year: 2002
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Adrien Brody, Emilia Fox, Thomas Kretschmann, Maureen Lipman, Ed Stoppard
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: R
Runtime: 148 minutes

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While many great performances rely on dramatic and affecting dialogue, Adrien Brody’s turn as real life musician Wladyslaw Szpilman in Roman Polanski’s Holocaust drama The Pianist is hushed, a sullen-eyed lost soul hanging on to a world cloaked in gray. As the title character, Brody became a living skeleton, an all-too-real representation of one of history’s darkest periods. —Justin Jacobs


5. I Lost My Body

i-lost-my-body.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Jérémy Clapin
Stars: Hakim Faris Hamza, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick d’Assumçao
Genre: Animation, Science Fiction
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: NR
Runtime: minutes

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While we’re on board, at least passively, for however many sequels Pixar wants to give Toy Story, patient for however long another one takes, I Lost My Body is a singular animated film, increasingly of the kind that, frankly, don’t get made anymore. Partly because hand-drawn features made by small studios are rarer than ever, but mostly because it’s a defiantly adult animated film, wreathed in oblique storytelling and steeped in grief. Ostensibly about an anthropomorphic hand climbing and skittering its way across the city to find the person to whom it was once attached—the story of its severing slowly coming to light—the beauty of director Jérémy Clapin’s images, often limned in filth and decay, is in how revelatory they can be when tied so irrevocably to the perspective of a small hand navigating both its nascent life in the treacherous urban underground and the traumatic memories of its host body’s past. I Lost My Body is an unassuming, quietly heartbreaking achievement, one the Academy needs to prioritize now more than ever over expectedly competent big studio fare. —Dom Sinacola


6. He Even Has Your Eyes

he-even-has-your-eyes.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Lucien Jean-Baptiste
Stars: Lucien Jean-Baptiste, Aïssa Maïga, Zabou Breitman
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: NA
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Few films have been able to capture the inherent absurdity at the core of racism, but He Even Has Your Eyes achieves just this, all while providing an entertaining look at young coupledom and those early, terrifying stages of motherhood. From director Lucien Jean-Baptiste (who co-stars in the movie), the French-language comedy centers on a young black couple in Paris who decide to adopt a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, very white baby boy. Transracial adoption has been an acceptable aspect of society for so long, and it’s fascinating how, well, absurd things get when the adoptive parents are not white. Jean-Baptiste plays Paul Aloka, but the film is carried by Aïssa Maïga’s performance as his wife, Salimata. Both must navigate a meddling, racist adoption agent and the shock, awe and disappointment of their family members as they venture into parenthood for the first time—and yet, somehow the film never feels heavy or depressing, despite the seriousness of the topics. Unlike many other similar works concerned with race and racism, He Even Has Your Eyes is written in a way that doesn’t attempt to overly explain the black characters’ perspective, or (thank heavens) center any of the white characters either. Some of the cultural humor specific to Sali’s Senegalese family will only be funny to those of us who grew up in fear of our mothers hearing us suck our teeth. But like all stories concerned with a specific narrative and spoken with a distinctive voice, the film has a universal quality that makes it a heartwarming delight from beginning to end. —Shannon M. Houston


7. MFKZ

mfkz.jpg Year: 2018
Directors: Shojiro Nishimi (as Shoujirou Nishimi), Guillaume Renard
Starring: Giancarlo Esposito, Vince Staples, RZA, Dascha Polanco
Genre: Animated, Action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 41%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 105 minutes

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France and Japan have always had something of a cross-continental love affair when it comes to art. From the impact of ukiyo-e prints on the rise of impressionism to the influence of Jean “Moebius” Giraud’s bandes dessinée comics on artists like Hayao Miyazaki and Katsuhiro Otomo, the aesthetic trajectories of these two countries have been in constant conversation with one another throughout history. MFKZ is only the latest link in this chain of cultural exchange, an international work whose origins stress the fault lines what can be known as “anime” or “world animation.” Co-directed by Studio 4°C’s Shojiro Nishimi and comic author Guillaume “Run” Renard, MFKZ is adapted from Renard’s original comic Mutafukaz and follows Angelino, a onyx-skinned young man eking out a life of minimum wage survival in Dark Meat City, a funhouse mirror depiction of South Central Los Angeles by way of Brazilian Favelas. Angelino’s meek and unassuming life is upended when he crosses paths with a mysterious young woman and subsequently gets into an moped accident. Waking up with a splitting headache and suddenly ensnared in a centuries-old conspiracy by shadowy government agents, Angelino and his friends Vinz and Willy must find a way to escape the city alive, all the while uncovering the secrets of Angelino’s own forgotten past. MFKZ is a labor of perseverance, and it shows. While it flares up before fizzling out in its final moments, the view is admittedly entertaining and worth witnessing if only to relish in the thrill of its visual excess. Whether MFKZ is an end in of itself or the entry in a larger series to come, it’s a marvel to see such an avowed international effort stake its claim to legitimacy amidst the medium’s global transformation. —Toussaint Egan


8. West Coast

west-coast.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Benjamin Weill
Stars: Devi Couzigou, Mathis Crusson, Victor Le Blond
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: NA
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 80 minutes

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In this one hour and 20-minute film, a band of French teens—Delete, King Kong, Flé O, and Copkiller—obsessed with West Coast American rap culture set out on a journey to retrieve a dangerous lost (originally stolen) item. As is often the case, this journey shows the deep friendship of four boys navigating their own identities while trying to impress the girls of their dreams. Their trip takes them outside of their small French town, via hitchhiking, a bike, and a stolen car. Epic water gun battles ensue and internet relationships are brought to light, all while these four boys travel western France to find a way out of the tangled web they’ve woven for themselves. —Grace Williamson

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