Have you learned French to intermediate level?
Féliciations ! In other words, congratulations! Reaching intermediate level in French is a great accomplishment. But it can also become a barrier.
Some learners manage to reach this level quite quickly but then have trouble making the breakthrough to advanced. This is a little paradoxical since when you reach intermediate, there is so much more material available to help you learn.
One of the best things you can do to help make the step up to advanced level French is to watch TV or films. But as you may know from trying to watch native material, it's sometimes tricky find material that's not too hard.
That's why I've put together this guide to 7 of the best movies to watch in French. These French movies are not only entertaining, but also accessible to you as a intermediate French learner.
That means you won't get frustrated and want to switch off halfway through. At the same time, you'll also learn plenty of new words and expressions, as well as plenty of cultural nuances to impress your French friends with.
There's no better way to boost your French, your listening and your ability to connect with French speakers than delving into the wonderful world of French cinema. So let's get started.
When looking for a film to watch in a foreign language, the best option is not necessarily the easiest one. Of course, you need to choose something that you'll understand.
But when you start watching films, you're stepping into the world of real French. This is no longer material made for language learners. And there will always be words, phrases or even whole dialogues that you miss.
Instead, try to find films that allow you to follow the storyline through the action and images as much as through the words. This will help you understand what the characters are saying and in turn, this will help improve your listening.
Above all, choose films you enjoy. Comedies where you can understand at least some of the jokes. Or action films that give you a few moments rest from the dialogues during chase or fight scenes are just as good as dialogue-heavy, intellectual films. Or probably even better.
One tip for you – don’t watch with English subtitles. If you do, you'll concentrate on reading the English and not hear the French. A good way to start is watching with French subtitles.
When you feel really confident, try turning the subtitles off completely and see how much you understand.
Here are my top recommendations for seven French movies you might consider trying.
Amélie tells the heart-warming story of a shy, naïve and awkward young woman living in Paris. Amélie works in a café and spends her time observing the often-unhappy lives of the people she meets.
One day, she takes it upon herself to intervene. And the film follows her as she travels around the city trying to bring kindness to people in the small ways she can.
This film is probably the best-known French film of recent years, and most people will be familiar with it. You might already have seen it with subtitles. And being familiar with the story will make it easier to tackle in the original language.
Plus, the dialogues are relatively simple. There are few scenes where the speech is overly fast. And the storyline is easy to follow, even if you don’t understand everything being said – all of which make this a great point of entry into the world of French film.
The leading actress is Audrey Tautou, now one of French cinema’s most familiar faces. And the film also includes a minor role for Jamel Debbouze, a popular French-Moroccan comic who is a household name in France.
When a barman in an expensive hotel, Jean, falls for a customer, Irène, he finds himself pretending to be a wealthy patron himself in an effort to impress her.
Jean discovers that Irène is only interested in men with money and that she enjoys her opulent lifestyle thanks only to a millionaire sugar daddy.
After spending all his money on her and losing his job in the process, Jean is then forced to become a male version of Irène by latching on to a wealthy older woman.
This film, set in France’s beautiful Côte d’Azur, has a plot that is simple to follow as well as dialogues that are not too difficult to understand.
As with many films that are good for learners, it's relatively easy to follow the outline of the story even if you don’t understand every line.
There are plenty of humorous scenes that are funny even for those without perfect mastery of French. And above all, the film is well-made and highly enjoyable to watch.
Daniel is a pizza delivery man living in Marseilles who prides himself on his high-speed driving skills. He obtains his taxi licence and leaves his job to start a new career – driving a modified Peugeot capable of reaching extreme speeds.
However, one of his first customers turns out to be a policeman. And after racing at well above the speed limit, he finds himself faced with the choice of losing his licence or teaming up with the hated police to help stop a German gang of bank robbers.
This film is a cult classic in France. And it's quite likely to be referenced in conversation, especially if somebody is driving too fast. It's a bit like a French version of the Fast and Furious films.
It's easy to understand since there's quite a lot of action relative to the dialogues. But there's also plenty of humorous conversation too.
Intermediate learners might not understand all of the jokes first time round. But the film gives a good introduction to a lighter side of French culture.
The film features Marion Cotillard who later became famous internationally for playing Édith Piaf in La Môme (entitled La vie en rose for English language release).
When Cleopatra wagers with Julius Caesar that she can construct a palace greater than Caesar’s palace in Rome, her stand-in architect, Numerobis, is given the impossible task of completing the challenge – on pain of death if he fails.
In a bid to save his own life, Numerobis travels to Gaul to enlist the help of Asterix and Obelix who return to Egypt to aid with the construction.
This fun film is perfect for intermediate learners because it's easy enough to understand many of the jokes, making it a good introduction to French humour.
Asterix and Obelix are familiar to every child in France. And many of the gags in the film are running jokes. The movie is well-known in France, making it another important cultural reference.
It features an all-star cast headed by Gérard Depardieu, one of French cinema’s most recognisable actors. And also includes Monica Bellucci, an Italian actress who has appeared in a number of French films.
The architect Numerobis is played by Jamel Debbouze who also had a minor role in Amélie.
This film tells the story of the unlikely friendship between a white millionaire quadriplegic (Philippe) and a black former convict (Driss) when chance causes their paths to cross.
As the film goes on, you learn more about how their friendship develops. And how Driss helps Philippe come to terms with his disability.
This is a powerful film that proved to be extremely successful in France. It was the second biggest box office hit in France, behind only Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (see number 7 below).
The story is moving and the dialogues are easy to follow. This film explores many current themes such as racial prejudice and the gap between rich and poor while offering an insightful look at life in Paris and France today.
A successful Parisian businessman, Pierre Brochant, and a group of his friends amuse themselves by playing a game. They hold regular dinners, and each must find an “idiot” to bring along.
After the dinner, the group votes and the person who brought the most stupid idiot is the winner.
For the latest edition, Brochant has found the most perfect idiot yet. But after humiliating him at dinner, he becomes reliant upon him to help resolve major issues in his private life.
This is an excellent film if you're an intermediate learner since it's both easy to understand and enjoyable to watch.
There's plenty of good dialogue to listen to that won’t be too difficult to understand. And the film gives some interesting insights, through humour, into modern French society.
Even if you don’t understand every word being said, you should still be able to follow the story and laugh at many of the jokes.
A postal service manager feigns a disability in an attempt to be relocated to the Mediterranean south of France.
Instead, when his superiors discover the deception, he's sent to the far north of the country, a part of France considered to be right out in the “sticks”, hence the English title.
He finds himself in the cold and wet Nord-Pas-de-Calais region where the strange local dialect spoken by the locals (who are known in France as Ch’tis) is almost incomprehensible to him.
This film will be a challenge for an intermediate learner – much of the humour is based on wordplays related to the dialect spoken in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the different pronunciation and the misunderstandings this leads to.
However, it's not impossible, and a good intermediate learner should be able to understand enough to enjoy the film.
It makes a good introduction to regional variation within France. And as one of the most successful French films in recent years, being familiar with it is an essential part of your French cultural education.
Of course, France has a long, rich cinematic tradition, and these seven are just a start. Don’t limit yourself to just these but feel free to experiment.
At the beginning, you might not understand very much. But if you stick with it, you'll find you quickly begin to understand a lot more. And when you reach this stage, you will be on the cusp of stepping up to advanced level.
So, if you want to bridge the gap between intermediate and advanced sooner, get the popcorn out and start watching these seven French movie recommendations.
By the way, if you want some more French movie learning tips, check out this post on how to learn French with the classic Godard film, Contempt.
What are your favourite French movies? Are any of them on this list? And what are you going to watch next in French? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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