The 100 best French films: 40-31

Our definitive countdown of the finest French films – as chosen by industry experts

40

Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

Director: Alain Resnais

Hiroshima's mushroom cloud has probably inspired more glib statements and images than any other 20th century phenomenon. So it's particularly refreshing to find that it still has some meaning in Resnais' first feature, now almost thirty years old...

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39

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Devilishly suspenseful, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s thriller about two women who conspire to knock off a sadistic boarding-school headmaster (Paul Meurisse)  – one of the women is his wife, the other his mistress – has all the dark humour and clever tension of a Hitchcock...

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38

To Our Loves (À nos amours) (1983)

Director: Maurice Pialat

15-year-old Suzanne (Bonnaire) seems unable to progress beyond a rather doleful promiscuity in her relations with boys. Alone of her family, her father (played by Pialat himself) understands her, but when he leaves home for another woman...

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37

Lola Montès (1955)

Director: Max Ophüls

A biography of the celebrated 19th century adventuress, but not a biography in the conventional sense: the lady's life is chronicled in a highly selective series of flashbacks, framed by scenes in a New Orleans circus where she allows herself to be put on show to a vulgar and impressionable public...

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36

Les Tontons flingueurs (1963)

Director: Georges Lautner

Homicides provide the punch lines in this classic gangster comedy. The trouble starts when dying mob boss “The Mexican” (Jacques Dumesnil) summons ex-gangster Fernand (Lino Ventura) to take care of some of his business, and as can only be expected...

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35

Le Boucher (1969)

Director: Claude Chabrol

Classically simple but relentlessly probing thriller, set in a French village shadowed by the presence of a compulsive killer. Some lovely Hitchcockian games, like the strange ketchup that drips onto a picnic hamburger from a clifftop where the latest victim has been claimed...

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34

Breathless (À bout de souffle) (1960)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Godard's first feature, adapted from an existing scenario written by François Truffaut, spins a pastiche with pathos as joyrider Belmondo shoots a cop, chases friends and debts across a night-time Paris, and falls in love with a literary lady. Seberg quotes books and ideas and names...

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33

La Jetée (1962)

Director: Chris Marker

“This is the story of a man marked by an image of his childhood.” So begins Chris Marker’s 1962 elliptical 27-minute time-travel adventure, “La Jetée,” a narrated montage of black-and-white still photographs about a man who leaves his irradiated, post–World War III present and leaps into the past and future...

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32

Celine and Julie Go Boating (Céline et Julie vont en bateau) (1974)

Director: Jacques Rivette

They meet, like Alice and the White Rabbit, in a sun-dappled French park, amateur illusionist Celine (Juliet Berto) bounding heedlessly past studious librarian Julie (Dominique Labourier). One dropped scarf and a lengthy foot-chase later, these two effusive ladies with catlike curiosity are practically inseparable...

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31

La Haine (1995)

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Twenty-four hours in the Paris projects: an Arab boy is critically wounded in hospital, gut-shot, and a police revolver has found its way into the hands of a young Jewish skinhead, Vinz (Cassel), who vows to even the score if his pal dies...

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30-21

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