When I posted on The Good Life France Facebook page about five of my favourite French films I asked my friends – what’s your favourite film set in France, about France or French? Little did I know that a whole host of fabulous recommendations would be shared. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of recommendations to bring a flavour of France to you, wherever you are.
I’ve put together a list of the most popular films (you can see all the comments people made here on Facebook) and a huge thanks to everyone for their suggestions and reasons why these are great films, and especially, feel good films about France…
Some are available on Netflix, some on Amazon Prime, YouTube or DVD. There’s also TV5MONDEplus – the free on demand platform for French films and shows (with English subtitles).
The best feel good films about France
Amelie: Despite being caught in her imaginative world, Amelie, a young waitress in Paris, decides to help people find happiness. Her quest to spread joy leads her on a journey where she finds true love. It’s funny, whimsical and fabulously French.
100 foot journey: The Kadam family from India move to France and set up a restaurant opposite a well-established French haute cuisine restaurant. An intense professional rivalry breaks out between the restaurateurs. Brilliant acting, lovely scenery (set in Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val) and properly feel good!
Midnight in Paris: Gil arrives with his fiancée and her family in Paris for a vacation, even as he tries to finish his debut novel. He is beguiled by the city, which takes him to a time past, away from his fiancée. Seriously magical, especially the scenes of yesteryear…
Jean de Florette and Manon des sources: Jean de Florette is a French cinema cult film. A period drama based in Provence, two local farmers plot to trick a newcomer out of his newly inherited property in the 1920s. It’s not feel good but it is incredibly beautiful and the acting is wonderful. The sequel Manon des Sources carries on the tale, equally beautiful to watch. Have tissues handy for both films though…
Funny, romantic, unmissable
Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis: The highest-grossing film of all time at the box office in France. A postal worker from the sunny south is sent to work in the rainy north as a “punishment” for misbehaving at work. It’s wonderfully written, seriously funny (I still laugh out loud when I watch it and I’ve seen it 5 times), witty, quirky and fabulous. I live in the area and I can promise you, the people really are that fun!
French Kiss: So many people said this is their favourite film about France. Kate (Meg Ryan) rushes to Paris to confront her cheating fiancée who’s at a conference there. On her way she meets Luc, a French thief, who hides a stolen necklace in her bag. Her life changes when she falls in love with Luc.
Chocolat: A woman and her daughter open a chocolate shop in a conservative village in France, much to the villagers’ disapproval. Over time, they win the people’s hearts and also help them with their troubles. Romantic and feel good…
A Good Year: London-based investment banker Max Skinner learns that his Uncle Henry has died and left him a chateau and vineyard in Provence. He travels to France in order to sell off the property. Romantic and sweet plus gorgeous scenery – it doesn’t get much more feel good than this… If you love Provence, you’re going to love this film.
La Vie en Rose: Edith Piaf fans will adore this tale of her rise from rags to riches. Tissues required, as it’s bittersweet tale…
Intouchables: An unusual friendship develops when a street smart immigrant is hired to take care of a disabled French nobleman. So many people said they loved this feel-good comedy based on a true story…
And here are a few more films that people recommended
A Very Long Engagement: Mathilde, a young woman, embarks on a journey to look for her fiancée Manech, who is soldier stationed at Somme during World War I and is said to be dead along with four other soldiers.
Hugo: Hugo is a young orphan who loves pottering around with the station clocks in Paris and whose most treasured possession is his late father’s automaton. His mission is to find a key that will get it working. Very quirky.
Diner des Cons: Follow the life of Pierre, an editor, who, every Wednesday, attends a dinner for idiots where everyone brings the dumbest person they could find as a guest. Great, happy ending…
Umbrellas of Cherbourg: Made in 1963, a musical romantic drama. Genevieve, who is pregnant from Guy, a mere motor mechanic, is pressurized by her mother who owns an umbrella shop in Cherbourg, to marry the wealthy Roland, who is ready to accept and raise her child. Will Genevieve accept the proposal?
Micmacs: Quite mad and utterly fabulous. Bazil (Dany Boon) has been a victim of weapons manufacturers his entire life. His father was killed by a land mine, and Bazil lost his job after he was shot by an errant bullet which is still lodged in his skull. Now Bazil lives on the streets of Paris. With his friends he devises a plan to exact revenge on the companies that took so much from him.
Journey to France from your armchair
Sabrina: An oldie but a goodie made in 1954. Chauffeur’s daughter Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn) returns home from two years in Paris and catches the attention of the playboy son of her father’s rich employers. David woos and wins Sabrina, who has always been in love with him, however their romance is threatened by David’s older brother… Apparently, the “Paris” scenes were all filmed on the Paramount set in Hollywood. Audrey Hepburn though…
French Toast: With only her mother’s diary and a locket as clues, a South African woman travels to Paris in search of the long-lost sibling she never knew she had. Easy watching…
Ever After with Drew Barrymore. Filmed at Chateau Hautefort and Chateau Fenelon in the Dordogne it’s Cinderella retold. Great for kids
Les Visiteurs: A sorcerer inadvertently sends a medieval knight and his clumsy squire to the future. The technological and cultural changes in the future stun them and returning home proves to be difficult. Very funny, like laugh out loud funny!
And a few more films about France for inspiration
Gigi, An American in Paris and Lost in Paris. King of Hearts: a quirky comedic war film (1966) focuses on Scottish soldier Charles Plumpick (Alan Bates), who is sent to a French town on a mission to disarm a bomb left behind by the retreating German army. Plumpick discovers that the area is deserted except for the inmates of the local asylum.
My Mothers Castle, and My Fathers Glory about the life of Marcel Pagnol, beautifully filmed.
Forget Paris – Billy Crystal, Debra Winger; Julie and Julia – the tale of a blogger inspired to recreate the recipes of Julia Child – doesn’t sound as good as it is, very watchable.
Rosalie Blum French comedy-drama; Mon Oncle and Les Vacances de M Hulot by French great Jacques Tati.
My Afternoons with Marguerite starring the wonderful Gerard Depardieu. (I once stayed in a hotel in Sarlat in Dordogne where he’d stayed the week before, I begged to have the same room). A 95-year-old woman loves to and strikes up a conversation with a sweet German oaf who is virtually illiterate but their odd friendship blossoms.
Fuel your dreams of France through film
The Return of Martin Guerre, another Depardieu film. Set in medieval France, a man undergoes a personality change which makes other doubt him. It’s beautifully filmed and marvellous acting.
And one more for luck. Cyrano de Bergerac played by Depardieu. Roxanne with Steve Martin was based on this story of a man with a big nose and a big heart. Pure gold.
Delicatessen (black comedy and very quirky), Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight: a trilogy of films where a French student meets and American student in Vienna one night and agree to meet again. The films follow their encounters over a series of years.
My Old Lady comedy drama about an impoverished New Yorker who inherits a valuable apartment in Paris but discover Maggie Smith living in it.
Comme un chef, French comedy.
And finally, ending on a high – Rien a Declarer. A Belgian Francophobe customs officer is forced to team up with a Frenchman during the elimination of the Franco-Belgian borders. Seriously funny, sweet and feel good.