The best French film of each decade of the 20th century


When it comes to culture and art, France has – and always has – a lot to offer. From renowned international actors like Gérard Depardieu and Jean Reno, to famous and influential director-authors, like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, France has been a beacon of cinematographic excellence.

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Cinematic waves like the French New Wave and the French New End have influenced European and world cinema to a greater extent than we can imagine. Very early on, the French proved that they would be crucial players in this match. Let’s see what each decade of the 20e century had to offer with regard to the best of French cinema.


ten 1900s – A trip to the moon / Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902)

A trip to the moon

This black and white and silent short film by Georges Méliès is perhaps his most famous film, the best-known short film that exists, and is considered by many to be the first science fiction film of all time. He strongly influenced the history of cinema with his innovative techniques and for the time it was considered an impressive spectacle. Professor Barbenfouillis and the Inconsistent Astronomy Institute decide it’s high time to plan an investigative trip to the Moon. Soon, the brave innovators will land their rocket on the seemingly uninhabited lunar plains, personally observing the miracles of space, but oblivious to the Moon Emperor’s frightening hordes of Selenites, who are ready to fend off intruders.

9 1910s – The Vampires (1915)

This silent detective drama was directed and written by Louis Feuillade. Set in Paris, it follows a journalist and his best friend who get tangled up in their efforts to expose and stop an unusual secret gang of Apaches, called The Vampires (who are not real vampires). The serial film is made up of ten episodes, which differ considerably in length. Lasting around seven hours, it is considered one of the longest films of all time. Due to its technical and artistic similarities with the other films of Feuillade, Fantômas and Judex, the three are often considered a trilogy.

8 1920s – The Passion of Joan of Arc / The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Divine bliss and institutional duplicity come to life in one of the final and unparalleled masterpieces of the Silent Age. Recounting Joan of Arc’s judgment in the hours leading up to her execution, Danish author Carl Theodor Dreyer portrays her martyrdom with astonishing imminence, using a range of practices (expressionist lighting, interdependent sets, terribly personal close-ups) to immerse the public in its unique POV. and personal experience.

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Paired with Dreyer’s courageous experimentation in form is a brilliant performance by Renée Falconetti, whose ghostly face expresses the “agony and ecstasy” of persecution.

7 1930 – The Rules Of The Game / La Règle Du Jeu (1939)

Rules of the game 1939

Often hailed as one of the best movies of all time, The game’s rules, by Jean Renoir, is a contemptuous critique of twisted French high society disguised as a comedy of manners in which a short trip to a marquess’ provincial castle reveals some nasty truths about an assembly of conceited bourgeois friends. The film has had a checkered past: it was subjected to heavy censorship and saw cut scenes after backlash from viewers at the start in 1939, and the first negative was ruined during World War II. The film was only restored in the 1950s.

6 1940s – Children of Paradise / Children of Paradise (1945)

Children of Paradise 1945

Lyrical realism has reached exalted heights with Children of paradise, commonly regarded as one of the supreme French films. This nimble representation of 19e Paris’s dramaturgical demi-monde, shot in the middle of World War II, observes an enigmatic woman (Arletty) imagined by four different men (all based on real individuals): a comedian, a criminal, a nobleman and – most moving – a mime (Jean-Louis Barrault, in a fiery and immersed act that we remember). With compassion and theatrical vivacity, director Marcel Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert bring to life a world teeming with hawkers and nobles, bandits and concubines, pimps and fortune tellers.

5 1950s – Les 400 Coups / Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)

A young boy locked behind bars

François Truffaut’s originality is also deeply personal and is considered autobiographical. Told from the point of view of Truffaut’s cinematographic foil, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), The four hundred Blows insightfully reviews the trials and tribulations of Truffaut’s peculiar childhood, calmly and soberly portraying distant parents, tyrannical teachers and petty crimes, but also a desire for freedom and self-definition.

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The film denoted Truffaut’s transition from high-level critic to rising star writer of the French New Wave. The film received the 40e place in the list of the 250 best films of the critics in 2012 View and sound poll critics.

4 1960s – Pierrot Le Fou [Lit. Pierrot The Madman] (1965)

Dissatisfied with life as a couple and life in general, Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) takes to the road with the babysitter, his former lover Marianne (Anna Karina), and abandons the bourgeois world. However, this is no ordinary road trip: the 10e Virtuoso writer Jean-Luc Godard’s feature film is a sophisticated blend of anti-consumer wit, contemporary politics, and comic book visuals, as well as a fierce, intersecting story of, as Godard called them, “the last romantic couple. “With idyllic color images from director of photography Raoul Coutard, and Belmondo and Karina delivering brilliant performances, Pierrot le fou is a beacon of the French New Wave.

3 1970s – The Red Circle / The Red Circle (1970)

The Red Circle cites a pseudo-Buddhist aphorism essentially stating that people who are meant to meet will do so “in the red circle” no matter what zigzag paths they may follow towards it. Alain Delon portrays a recently released ace thief who comes across an infamous fugitive (Gian Maria Volonté) and a former alcoholic officer (Yves Montand). This dubious trinity plans a heist in the face of terrible odds, until an adamant detective and their demons and personal stories seal their fate. Jean-Pierre Melville’s film mixes admirable anti-heroes, elegantly atmospheric photographs and spectacular sets to shape a masterpiece of black detective cinema.

2 1980s – The Last Metro / The Last Metro (1980)

The last metro 1980

Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve direct the cast as partners of a French theater company which crosses and performs under the German regime during the Second World War in another feature film by François Truffaut: a fascinating study of a humanist character.

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Against all expectations, the ensemble is certain that the show must go on; these chances include their Jewish theater director who went into hiding, a protagonist in the Resistance, and increasingly restrictive Nazi surveillance. A romantic film, a historical drama and maybe sometimes a comedy in equal parts, The last metro is Truffaut’s definitive homage to the art of conquering the ordeal.

1 90s – Haine / La Haine (1995)

Mathieu Kassovitz impressed the world of cinema with Hate, a graphic, disturbing and visually inflamed vision of the racial and cultural instability of contemporary France, in particular of low-income projects on the outskirts of Paris. Losing their days aimlessly in the concrete neighborhoods of their dead ends, Vinz, a young Jew (Vincent Cassel), Hubert, an African (Hubert Koundé) and Saïd, an Arab (Saïd Taghmaoui), offer human faces to the immigrant from France. residents, their growing bitterness towards their marginalization gradually boils up to searing heights that can burn their lives. A showcase of raw exquisiteness, Hate is a milestone of modern French cinema and a fascinating image of the persistent identity issues of its nation.

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