For many budding cinephiles, French movies are the final boss of film fandom. In the popular mind, it’s the most highfalutin of movie cultures, laden with philosophy, avant-garde structures and impenetrable characters. In other words, for most mainstream audiences, ‘French’ is a code for ‘pretentious.’ But the truth is, few countries can claim to have exerted as strong and consistent an influence over global moviemaking as France. And sure, a lot of it can be hard for non-scholars to grasp – pioneering New Wavers like Jean-Luc Godard and Agnès Varda prided themselves on it. Once you start digging into the history of French film, though, you’ll discover pleasures unlike those found anywhere else in world cinema.
Jumping in, however, can be difficult – and ranking the greatest French films is no easy task. But whether you’re a Nouvelle Vague obsessive whose Criterion Collection has overtaken your living room or just a big fan of Amélie, you’re sure to discover something new in this countdown of the best French films released between 1902 and 2022.
Written by Tom Huddleston, Geoff Andrew, Dave Calhoun, Cath Clarke, Trevor Johnston, Joshua Rothkopf, Keith Uhlich and Matthew Singer
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