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Viva La France! Top Ten Movies for Bastille Day

amelie
If total immersion in French culture is your goal, there's no better way to celebrate Bastille Day on July 14 than by watching a popular French-themed film with a special someone.

Take a tour of Paris, see the Riviera, visit the French countryside, or travel all the way back to the French Revolution.

Here are our Top Ten favorites:

 

1. Casablanca (1942)
In this romance thriller set in wartime, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are young and in love in Paris. The war ultimately separates them, but they find each other again in Casablanca steeped in wartime corruption and Nazi treachery . Plot twists abound around every corner. But "Casablanca" takes a moment to capture one of the most rousing renditions of the "Marseilles" ever put on film.


2. An American in Paris (1951)
One of the last old-time movie musicals, "An American in Paris" is a romp through Paris with a Gershwin soundtrack. Songs and music include "I Got Rhythm", "I'll Build A Stairway to Paradise", " 'S Wonderful", and "Love is Here to Stay". The climax is a 17-minute "An American in Paris" ballet performed by stars Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.

 

3. The 400 Blows (1959)
Come for depictions of 1950's Paris street life, stay for the riveting tale of a troubled kid. The final freeze frame, in which our young hero finds no place left to run, has been haunting audiences since. This was director Francois Truffaut's first film, featuring a gutsy and tender performance by 14-year-old Jean-Pierre Léaud. (Fun fact: The 400 Blows is still considered one of the best films in French cinema history and regularly included in lists of Top 100 Films Ever Made.)

 

4. Les Misérables (2012)

Broadway gets the epic Hollywood treatment in the movie version of Les Misérables, with an all-star cast including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway. While the direction is often panned for its "unblinking" camera (that never moves, tilts or swirls) the musical numbers are the major saving grace. Filmed in real time as the actors sang, the orchestrations were dubbed in later. The results are dramatic performances worthy of a live Broadway show. That includes Oscar winner Anne Hathaway's dynamite rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream".

 

5. Amélie (2001)
This hybrid French confection features a plot that's simple enough. A shy and naive Parisian girl is kind to those around her and eventually discovers true love. But that doesn't explain the otherworldly performance by actress Audrey Tautou, the gorgeous colors and cinematography, plus the Paris backdrop of your dreams. By turns fantastical, heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny, Amelie deserves more than one viewing just to take it all in. (Fun fact: Amelie went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film and later made it into the annals of "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die".)

 

6. La Vie en Rose (2007)
Blessed with a spectacular voice, French singer Edith Piaf's childhood was less than heavenly. Reared in a brothel, the young waif earned her keep busking on the streets of Paris, later resulting in a recording contract and international fame. Most of Piaf's greatest hits are showcased here (in either voice-overs or dubbed by actual Piaf recordings) and delivered with lip-sinc perfection by French star Marion Cotillard. (Fun fact: Cotillard took home the Oscar for Best Actress that year, marking the first time an Oscar had been given for a French-language role.)

 

7. French Kiss (1995)
A jilted Meg Ryan searches for her ex-finance (Timothy Hutton) in Paris, but somehow gets involved with a French smuggler (Kevin Kline). The chance encounter leads to - surprise - a romantic slapstick adventure. The pair provide the star wattage, but mon dieu! don't look for any logical plot developments. Filmed on location, the movie introduces audiences to famous Paris landmarks, French wine country, and laughs galore in what is basically an extended comedy skit.


8. Midnight in Paris (2011)
An American vacationer, Gil Pender (played by Owen Wilson), gets transported to 1920's Paris each night at midnight. And there he meets up with Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker and other luminaries of the era. Woody Allen's flight of imagination was shot entirely on location with set pieces including John XXIII Square (near Notre Dame), Montmartre, the Palace of Versailles, the Opéra, Sacré-Cœur, the Île de la Cité, and streets near the Panthéon. (Fun fact: Paris proved to be Allen's lucky charm with a popular directorial comeback after several box office failures.)

 

9. Julie & Julia (2009)
French foodies will enjoy this comedy drama set in modern day New York and 1950's Paris -- featuring a recipe blogger played by Amy Adams -- and French cookbook author, Julia Child, played to the hilt by Meryl Streep. Across time, the two main characters both thrill to a perfectly cooked chicken or anguish over an overdone roast beef. And, both eventually find success in introducing (or re-introducing) Julia Child's French recipes to Americans. Meanwhile, the movie sends home the old-fashioned Hollywood message that impossible dreams do come true. And, in this case, it really happened. Twice.

 

10. Chocolat (2000)
Juliette Binoche plays the struggling single mother who opens a chocolate shop in a rural French town. She's a temptress and outsider, say the villagers. But who can resist her wisdom and charm? Near the end everyone is opening their hearts - and boxes of chocolate - for a smoothly sweet conclusion. If the plot sounds simple, stick around for the gorgeous scenery, a star turn by Binochet, and a stellar supporting cast including Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, and Alfred Molina.

 

More about French-themed movies around the Web:

Movies Set in Paris to Put You in the Mood - Take your pick from the big list of movies shot in Paris by category: Drama, Comedy, Action & Thrillers, Musicals, and more.

10 Movies Set In France - Another top ten list taking moviegoers from Paris to the French Riviera and ranging from modern day hits to popular classics.

Films Set in France - Get really granular with this Wikipedia list of hundreds of French-theme films by category including Paris, the Riviera, the French Revolution, and lots more.


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