Top 12 Romantic French Movies To Fall In Love With

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Movies

There’s just something about French romance films that makes my heart flutter and gives me all the feels. France, after all, is known as the country of love and romance.

Paris, in particular, with its quaint cafes, charming cobblestone streets and magical lights sparkling on the Seine at night, provides the perfect backdrop for stories of love, heartbreak, passion and new beginnings.

12 Iconic Romantic French Movies You Need To See

French cinema has gifted us some of the most romantic films of all time, from enchanting classics filled with poetic realism to contemporary light-hearted romantic comedies.

Let me walk you through my personal top 12 list of the most romantic French movies ever made. Get ready to be swept away!

Amélie (2001)

1. Amélie (2001)

It should come as no surprise that topping my list is Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, the whimsical story of an introverted Parisian waitress, Amélie Poulain (played by the adorable Audrey Tautou), who decides to secretly orchestrate acts of kindness for the people around her, all while matchmaking and pulling pranks around Paris.

But as Amélie becomes consumed with spreading joy to others, she realizes that she has neglected her own happiness.

My heart flutters every time I watch Amélie’s imagination run wild, as she transforms her quaint Montmartre neighborhood into a vibrant playground, full of quirky characters and serendipitous moments.

With its optimism, vibrant visuals, eccentric characters and Yann Tiersen’s accordion-filled soundtrack, Amélie is a quirky modern fairy tale that has rightfully earned its status as a cult classic. It’s my number one pick for a feel-good French romance.

Breathless (1960)

2. Breathless (1960)

No list of romantic French films is complete without Jean-Luc Godard’s groundbreaking À Bout de Souffle (Breathless). This trailblazing French New Wave film is an ode to reckless youthful abandon and living in the moment.

The luminous Jean Seberg lights up the screen as Patricia, an audacious American girl interviewed by a journalist on the streets of Paris.

She soon crosses paths with the roguish petty criminal Michel Poiccard (played by the handsome Jean-Paul Belmondo). Michel is immediately transfixed by Patricia’s girl-next-door charm and I can see why! He spontaneously romances her as he steals cars and evades police through Paris.

With its experimental editing techniques, improvised acting and intoxicating chemistry between the leads, Breathless encapsulates the dizzying euphoria and unrestrained passion of young love. It’s a must-see for diehard romantics.

Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

3. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

Abdellatif Kechiche’s sensual lesbian love story Blue is the Warmest Color (La Vie d’Adèle) charts the passionate relationship between Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), an introverted French teenager, and the blue-haired, bohemian artist Emma (Léa Seydoux) she meets in Lille.

The extended takes and cinéma vérité shooting style gives an intimate, voyeuristic look at the euphoric highs and lows of Adèle and Emma’s tumultuous love affair. Their connection is tangible – you can feel the irresistible magnetism drawing them together as their personalities clash yet complement one another.

Raw, real and unrestrained in depicting sexual awakening, identity and self-discovery, Blue Is the Warmest Color left me emotionally shaken, but it remains one of the most powerful recent cinematic depictions of consuming first love.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

4. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

For a taste of quintessential French romanticism, look no further than Jacques Demy’s musical masterpiece The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This film introduced melancholy realism to the movie musical through an operatic love story.

Catherine Deneuve glows as the angelic Geneviève, an umbrella shop girl who falls in love with the dashing mechanic Guy (Nino Castelnuovo). But their picture-perfect romance is threatened when Guy is drafted to the Algerian War.

The star-crossed lovers are torn apart, as their relationship plays out entirely through the film’s sweeping, lyrical dialog and Michel Legrand’s orchestral score.

The candy-colored visuals pop against the bittersweet tale of young love interrupted by circumstance. An elegant, heart-wrenching ode to the sorrow of separation, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is musical melodrama at its finest.

5. Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

A Left Bank jewel of the French New Wave, Agnes Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 follows spirited pop singer Cléo during two tense hours as she awaits potentially tragic medical results and comes to terms with her own mortality.

Cléo sheds her shallow, superficial concerns as she wanders the bustling streets of ‘60s Paris, crossing paths with lovers, philosophers and musicians who enable her personal growth and self-reflection. When she befriends the kind, handsome soldier Antoine near the film’s end, there is a spark of romance between the newly enlightened Cléo and her empathetic listener.

More than a conventional love story, Cleo from 5 to 7 is a love letter to feminine self-discovery, mortality, and chance encounters in the city of light. Varda captures the romanticism of everyday miracles in Paris.

Love Me If You Dare (2003)

6. Love Me If You Dare (2003)

For a playful twist on the French romance, Yann Samuell’s Jeux d’enfants (Love Me If You Dare) traces the unconventional relationship between Julien (Guillaume Canet) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard), friends bonded through childhood dares and pranks that eventually blossom into an unlikely adult romance.

As children, Julien and Sophie forge a connection through a mischievous game of escalating dares, which later becomes their language of love as awkward teens and stubborn adults. Their romantic dynamic is as infuriating as it is intoxicating!

The film mirrors their competitiveness, using clever editing and visual motifs. Love Me If You Dare is a cat-and-mouse tale of the exhilarating madness of love, accented by Parisian panache.

Betty Blue (1986)

7. Betty Blue (1986)

Jean-Jacques Beineix’s steamy cult film Betty Blue follows the passionate and increasingly destructive love affair between the brooding writer Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) and the fiery, mentally unstable Betty (Béatrice Dalle).

When they first meet, their untamed lust and desire ignites an intoxicating romance bordering on madness, as they travel around France indulging every whim. Unhinged and exhilarating, Betty takes the traditionally feminine role of “muse” and flips it with her sexual dominance over Zorg.

Dalle’s raw and fearless performance as the wild, temperamental Betty simmers with unbridled sensuality. Their mutual addiction and volatility speeds towards an inevitable tragic end. Reckless, sexy and dangerous, Betty Blue remains an provocative ode to sexual freedom and passion’s destructive power.

A Very Long Engagement (2004)

8. A Very Long Engagement (2004)

Set during World War I, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s romantic mystery A Very Long Engagement tells the story of Matthieu (Gaspard Ulliel) and Mathilde (Audrey Tautou), lovers separated when Matthieu is wounded in the horrific Battle of the Somme and falsely reported dead.

Refusing to believe the news, the steadfast Mathilde investigates what happened, motivated by her faith in their destiny to reunite. Jeunet blends whimsical imagination, old-Hollywood romance, and wartime tragedy in this emotional tale of hope and devotion. At its heart, A Very Long Engagement is an ode to the resilience of love in even the darkest times.

The Science of Sleep (2006)

9. The Science of Sleep (2006)

Michel Gondry’s surrealist romantic comedy The Science of Sleep follows Stéphane (Gael García Bernal), a quirky dreamer who falls for his charming neighbor Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as the line between his dreams and reality fades.

Whimsical visuals and playful editing transport us into Stéphane’s imagination as he courts Stéphanie in fanciful ways.

Their flirtation unfolds through glimpses of Stéphane’s childlike creativity and flights of fancy. Offbeat and irreverent, The Science of Sleep is an ode to youthful imagination and romance.

Declaration of War (2011)

10. Declaration of War (2011)

Valérie Donzelli’s moving drama Declaration of War depicts the romance between new parents Roméo (Jérémie Elkaïm) and Juliette (Donzelli) as they face their young son’s cancer diagnosis.

Richly drawn characters and raw performances beautifully convey the soaring highs of new love and early parenthood along with the crushing lows of childhood illness.

The unflinching depiction of this young family in crisis is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Declaration of War is an emotional testament to undying love through life’s darkest storms.

The Dreamers (2003)

11. The Dreamers (2003)

Bernardo Bertolucci’s sensual drama The Dreamers seduces us into the intoxicating world of three young cinephiles (Michael Pitt, Eva Green, Louis Garrel) who bond over their passion for film during the Paris student riots of 1968.

The political turmoil mirrors their sexual exploration as the lines blur between reality, fiction and dreams. Youthful hedonism abounds in this provocative ode to the thrill of first love and discovery against a revolutionary time and place.

Summer Hours (2008)

12. Summer Hours (2008)

Olivier Assayas’ refined family drama Summer Hours is on the surface an ode to the artifacts and memories we inherit, but at its heart is Éloïse (Juliette Binoche), a woman reminiscing during her brothers’ country estate sale.

When love interest (Charles Berling) resurfaces from her youth, their middle-aged connection evokes nostalgia for the past and seizing the present. Subtle yet deeply romantic, Summer Hours captures the emotional power of reconnecting with a once-in-a-lifetime love.

The Enduring Allure of French Romance

And there you have it – my personal picks for the most stirring, seductive and swoon-worthy French love stories. From the experimental boldness of the French New Wave era to the contemporary light-hearted romantic comedies, French cinema beautifully captures the high of new love, the pleasure and pain of romance and the enduring hope that love can conquer all.

With their celebration of life’s simple pleasures, fearless sensuality and longing for meaning, these films reflect the French appreciation for love’s joy and agony.

As the French say, “C’est la vie!” Such is life when it comes to affairs of the heart, and I will never tire of these timeless on-screen romances set against the charming backdrop of France’s cafés, cobblestones and twinkling city lights.

If you’re searching for love stories that will make your heart flutter and remind you of the power of passion, look no further than the intoxicating realm of French romantic cinema.