From Louis Malle to Jean-Luc Godard, 10 Fabulous French Movies to Stream on Bastille Day

From the New Wave pleasures of Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut to the stark emotional realism of Maurice Pialat, there are certain French directors whose work we cannot stop obsessing over. Whether they’re telling lovelorn tales of infidelity and desire, philosophical conversation pieces and moral fables, or everyday tales of the working class, these 10 French movies to stream online exemplify some of cinema’s best offerings. Mix a Kir Royale or French 75 and curl up with one of French cinema’s best films, and if you’re in New York City, check out where to celebrate Bastille Day today.

VIVRE SA VIE, Jean-Luc Godard 

“The more one talks, the less the words mean.”

Vivre sa vie was a turning point for Jean-Luc Godard and remains one of his most dynamic films, combining brilliant visual design with a tragic character study. The lovely Anna Karina, Godard’s greatest muse, plays Nana, a young Parisian who aspires to be an actress but instead ends up a prostitute, her downward spiral depicted in a series of discrete tableaux of daydreams and dances. Featuring some of Karina and Godard’s most iconic moments—from her movie theater vigil with The Passion of Joan of Arc to her seductive pool-hall strut—Vivre sa vie is a landmark of the French New Wave that still surprises at every turn. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on iTunes and Hulu

NEWS FROM HOME, Chantal Akerman

“Sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating, but other days I enjoy it.”

Letters from Chantal Akerman’s mother are read over a series of elegantly composed shots of 1976 New York, where our (unseen) filmmaker and protagonist has relocated. Akerman’s unforgettable time capsule of the city is also a gorgeous meditation on urban alienation and personal and familial disconnection. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on Hulu

MY NIGHT AT MAUD’S, Eric Rohmer 

“I hate leaving people. I’m faithful, even to you.”

In the brilliantly accomplished centerpiece of Rohmer’s “Moral Tales” series, Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Jean-Louis, one of the great conflicted figures of sixties cinema. A pious Catholic engineer in his early thirties, he lives by a strict moral code in order to rationalize his world, drowning himself in mathematics and the philosophy of Pascal. After spotting the delicate, blonde Françoise at Mass, he vows to make her his wife, although when he unwittingly spends the night at the apartment of the bold, brunette divorcée Maud, his rigid ethical standards are challenged. A breakout hit in the United States, My Night at Maud’s was one of the most influential and talked-about films of the decade. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on Hulu

LES COUSINS, Claude Chabrol 

A New Wave Moral Fable

In Les cousins, Claude Chabrol crafts a sly moral fable about a provincial boy who comes to live with his sophisticated bohemian cousin in Paris. Through these seeming opposites, Chabrol conjures a darkly comic character study that questions notions of good and evil, love and jealousy, and success in the modern world. A mirror image of Le beau Serge, Chabrol’s debut, Les cousinsrecasts that film’s stars, Jean-Claude Brialy and Gérard Blain, in startlingly reversed roles. This dagger-sharp drama won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and was an important early entry in the French New Wave. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on Hulu

THE SOFT SKIN, Francois Truffaut

 An Underseen New Wave Treasure

François Truffaut followed up the international phenomenon Jules and Jim with this tense tale of infidelity. The unassuming Jean Desailly is perfectly cast as a celebrated literary scholar, seemingly happily married, who embarks on an affair with a gorgeous stewardess, played by Françoise Dorléac, who is captivated by his charm and reputation. As their romance gets serious, the film grows anxious, leading to a wallop of a conclusion. Truffaut made The Soft Skin at a time when he was immersing himself in the work of Alfred Hitchcock, and that master’s influence can be felt throughout this complex, insightful, and underseen French New Wave treasure. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on Hulu

ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS, Louis Malle

“Anything’s good for an alibi. Wives, girlfriends, bartenders, childhood friends, deceived husbands – but not an elevator.”

In his mesmerizing debut feature, twenty-four-year-old director Louis Malle brought together the beauty of Jeanne Moreau, the camerawork of Henri Decaë, and a now legendary score by Miles Davis. A touchstone of the careers of both its star and director, Elevator to the Gallows is a richly atmospheric thriller of murder and mistaken identity unfolding over one restless Parisian night. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on Hulu

THE LAST METRO, Francois Truffaut 

It takes two to love, as it takes two to hate. And I will keep loving you, in spite of yourself.”

Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve star as members of a French theater company living under the German occupation during World War II in François Truffaut’s gripping, humanist character study. Against all odds—a Jewish theater manager in hiding; a leading man who’s in the Resistance; increasingly restrictive Nazi oversight—the troupe believes the show must go on. Equal parts romance, historical tragedy, and even comedy, The Last Metro(Le dernier métro) is Truffaut’s ultimate tribute to art overcoming adversity. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on Hulu

À NOS AMOURS, Maurice Pialat

“You think you’re in love, but you just want to be loved.”

With his raw style of filmmaking, Maurice Pialat has been called the John Cassavetes of French cinema, and the scorching À nos amours is one of his greatest achievements. In a revelatory film debut, the dynamic, fresh-faced Sandrine Bonnaire plays Suzanne, a fifteen-year-old Parisian who embarks on a sexual rampage in an effort to separate herself from her overbearing, beloved father (played with astonishing magnetism by Pialat himself), ineffectual mother, and brutish brother. A tender character study that can erupt in startling violence, À nos amours is one of the high-water marks of eighties French cinema. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on Hulu

2 or 3 THING I KNOW ABOUT HER, Jean-Luc Godard

“False love leaves me as I am. Time changes me and the person I love.”

In 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle), Jean-Luc Godard beckons us ever closer, whispering in our ears as narrator. About what? Money, sex, fashion, the city, love, language, war: in a word, everything. Among the legendary French filmmaker’s finest achievements, the film takes as its ostensible subject the daily life of Juliette Janson (Marina Vlady), a housewife from the Paris suburbs who prostitutes herself for extra money. Yet this is only a template for Godard to spin off into provocative philosophical tangents and gorgeous images. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is perhaps Godard’s most revelatory look at consumer culture, shot in ravishing widescreen color by Raoul Coutard. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on Hulu

LOLA, Jacques Demy

Demy’s Crystalline Debut

Jacques Demy’s crystalline debut gave birth to the fictional universe in which so many of his characters would live, play, and love. It’s among his most profoundly felt films, a tale of crisscrossing lives in Nantes (Demy’s hometown) that floats on waves of longing and desire. Heading the film’s ensemble is the enchanting Anouk Aimée as the title character, a cabaret chanteuse who’s awaiting the return of a long-lost lover and unwilling to entertain the adoration of another love-struck soul, the wanderer Roland (Marc Michel). Humane, wistful, and witty, Lola is a testament to the resilience of the heartbroken. — Criterion Collection

Available to watch on Hulu

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