I love sharing French movies with my students! Not necessarily from France, but in the French language. After each unit test, I like to give them an enjoyable culture break where they can just sit back and enjoy the movie. But you know how students are these days – if the movie doesn’t catch their attention, they’ll tune out and you’ll end up just wasting a couple of days of instruction while they sleep or try to look at their phones without you noticing. Here’s a list of some of the French movies I’ve used that are interesting enough to grab their attention – and maybe even lead to some good conversation about the film afterwards!
A la folie, pas du tout (He loves me, He loves me not)
This French movie is a classic! My students LOVE this movie and some of them even ask to watch it again in second year. I always warn them that they will think it’s a chick flick at the beginning, but by the end they will realize that they are very wrong. It’s a great introduction to Audrey Tautou and it’s one that you can tell them is better when they pay close attention. Even the reluctant watchers start to get intrigued when they realize the plot twist.
It also leads to some great conversation afterwards – what is going to happen next? I take this opportunity to explain to my students that French movies don’t always end with a neatly tied package where everyone lives happily ever after – the director WANTS you to think about the movie even after the credits have rolled.
I show this one in later November or early December, after the weather has gotten nice and chilly. It’s in three different languages – French, Scots English and German – so the kids HAVE to pay attention to the subtitles, they can’t tell you “Oh, I understand the words, I don’t need to look at the screen.” Since it’s a war film, some of the kids who may not get into other types of French movies will like this one.
It’s not too gory, but of course there is some violence, especially at the beginning. It leads to some good discussion questions – why does the one Scottish soldier kiss his brother? What do you think will happen to the soldiers now? Do you think that they were right to do what they did?
Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis
This French movie has some alcohol in it, so if your district frowns on that you may not want to show it. A hit in French theaters, it’s the story of a man who gets sent to the north and isn’t thrilled about it. It’s hilarious but also sweet, and you can use it to prompt discussions of cultural stereotypes and whether or not they are based in truth, or just stupid.
There was supposed to be an American remake, but that never happened. I like to ask my students to think about how they would rewrite the film if it took place in America – where would the main character be sent? What would the desirable regions be? What stereotypes would you include?
I sometimes show this French movie in October at the start of hockey season. It’s not a French movie, it’s Canadian. It tells the story of Maurice Richard and his treatment in the NHL as a Québecois player. My students are almost never familiar with hockey, so it’s something entirely new for them. It blows their minds to think that a professional athlete might have a full-time job in addition to playing sports. They (of course) love the fight scenes, but they get more than that out of the movie. It is a nice jumping-off point to start talking about the treatment of minorities and how language is a huge part of identity.
Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont
Sadly, this French movie can be very hard to find. It was on Netflix under the title The African Doctor but has disappeared. It’s the biography of Kamini, who became a hit on YouTube for his video featuring his small town and a lot of cows. His father is a doctor who stays in a small town in rural France and is treated poorly until he earns the respect of the others in the village. Lots of cute scenes and you can discuss how people are treated differently due to skin color and national origin.
La Famille Bélier
This French movie has a few more mature themes in it, so definitely consider the maturity level of your students before showing it! Some of the scenes can be skipped (the doctor’s office scene) without affecting the rest of the film, but there are some other plot lines that can’t really be skipped over involving sex and puberty. Louane stars in the story about a hearing girl who grows up in a Deaf family. She discovers a talent for music and has to make a difficult choice.
Many of my students identify strongly with this film as they have been in the same situation, having to interpret for their family members who aren’t comfortable speaking English. I do have an activity packet for this film if you’re looking for something to accompany it.