Watching movies in your target language is the easiest way to improve your listening skills, which is why we have selected 5 movies among our favorites that will help you work on your comprehension. Watch them with subtitles if your level is Beginner or Intermediate (either in your mother tongue or in French) and if you are Advanced, do take the plunge and enjoy the movie sans sous-titres – we promise it will feel very rewarding!
1. L’Auberge Espagnole – Cédric Klapisch (2002 – France)
L’Auberge Espagnole is the flagship movie of the so-called Erasmus generation, meaning all students who benefitted from the European Erasmus program. It is a student exchange program which was established in 1987 and allows young people who are enrolled at a European university to study at a partner university abroad for one or two semesters.
The movie tells the story of Xavier, an economics student from Paris who decides to study in Barcelona for a year as part of said-program. He moves into a large flatshare with flatmates from all over Europe and the movie revolves around the chaos and culture shock that ensue while they try to find their way through their new, temporary life away from home. It contains many scenes and quotes which are now part of French pop culture, which makes this movie a must-watch.
2. Les Amours Imaginaires – Xavier Dolan (2010 – Canada)
Understanding this movie without subtitles might be tricky unless you’ve been studying French Canadian – actually, even native French speakers struggle and need subtitles when watching French Canadian movies! However, it is interesting to compare both versions of French and the fact that French Canadians avoid using English words as much as possible makes for idioms that other French speakers often find endearing and amusing.
You have probably heard of prodigy director Xavier Dolan – if not, make sure you catch up. At only 26 years old, he has already directed 6 movies and was even on the jury for the main competition section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Les Amour Imaginaires was his second movie and tells the story of two friends that fall in love with the same man. It is set in Montreal and is a great tale of the friendship, love and rivalry. Still not dying to see it? Watch this party scene set to Pass This On by The Knife and you will probably start looking for a way to see it as soon as possible.
3. Two Days In Paris – Julie Delpy (2007 – France)
This movie was written, produced, directed, edited, and soundtracked by French-American multi-talent Julie Delpy. Oh, and did we mention she also played the leading female role? Two Days in Paris follows two days in the relationship of a French-American couple stopping in Paris after a disappointing trip to Rome. They are hoping to finally have a romantic time together but things don’t end up going as planned as Marion (played by Julie Delpy) has to deal with her family and many ex-boyfriends.
The movie is very entertaining and its depiction of cultural differences between France and the United States is very much on point, so give it a go if you enjoy funny situations and interesting characters.
4. Dikkenek – Olivier Van Hoofstadt (2006 – Belgium)
Dikkenek is a Belgian movie which is, well, very Belgian. It is stuffed with Belgian cultural references and humor. It might seem absurd at first but this movie is a great portrayal of some of the archetypes of Belgian society – most characters are not particularly lovable but the movie still manages to make you very empathetic towards them.
The movie tells the story of Claudy, a middle-aged man played by the amazing François Damiens who runs a slaughterhouse and also happens to be an amateur photographer who is into erotic photography. He ends up making his fair share of random new acquaintances after a photoshoot with a beautiful young lady called Natacha and the movie follows all of the characters’ adventures as their life paths cross. Even if your French is very good, we would advise you to watch it with subtitles. Unless you have experience living in Belgium, that is!
5. Entre Les Murs – Laurent Cantet (2008 – France)
Remember when we taught you some of our favorite verlan slang words in French? Well, you’ll find most of these being used in this amazing movie! This one received the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and it covers an academic year in a contemporary Parisian school where a group of 13 to 15 year old pupils from several ethnic groups and backgrounds study together.
The movie revolves around the difficulty that their teachers encounter, especially François Marin who is responsible for teaching them French. Entre Les Murs is very authentic and raw portrayal of French society and of the struggles that are linked with teaching teenagers. Don’t miss out on this one to learn new slang terms and get a realistic vision of France.