As a city known around the world for its rich diversity of art, film is an inextricable part of Paris’ identity. It has given birth to countless luminaries of the film industry, including Brigitte Bardot, Jean Luc Godard, Luc Besson, Roman Polanski, and Emma Watson. It features countless major cinematic world premières each year, pioneers styles that reverberate throughout the globe, and is home to scores of important critics and intellectuals whose ideas hold international sway. So it is unsurprising that the globally iconic City of Light has been the chosen backdrop for dozens of cinematic masterpieces in the past half century. And though many wonderful films have been shot and set in the city, these five stand out as the top 5 films made in Paris:
5. Le Dernier Metro (1980)
Set in 1942 Paris, Le Dernier Metro is a film about art, war, oppression and love. After her Jewish husband is compelled to flee the country, Marion struggles to keep their family theatre afloat with a new play. But we soon discover that saving the crumbling Parisian theatre is far from her only worry, as it turns out her husband is actually hiding out in the cellar.
The film is famously vivid, perhaps because director François Truffaut experienced the occupation of France as a child. The film was shot primarily in Clichy, near the north-western suburbs of France, in an abandoned chocolate factory on Rue du Landy.
4. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
When a young poet defies his family by involving himself in the glamorous and scandalous world of Paris’ infamous Moulin Rouge, he falls into a tragic love affair with the city’s most renowned courtesan. Starring Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, and John Leguizamo, this stunning musical paints a mesmerizing portrait of Paris at the turn of the century.
Today, the Moulin Rouge cabaret is still there, and still draws huge crowds to the 18th arrondissement near Montmartre – thanks largely to the popularity of this iconic film.
3. Last Tango In Paris (1972)Image Credit
Starring the incomparable cast of Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, and Maria Michi; Last Tango In Paris is surely one of the most important films to ever come out of Paris. Brando plays a tortured American widower adrift in the City of Light, and the film follows his sordid love affair with a young Parisian woman.
The movie, which is notorious for the extent of both its physical and emotional nakedness, has inspired countless film lovers to revisit the locations where its various scenes played out. Perhaps the most iconic of these is the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, which connects the 15th and 16th arrondissements. As there are so few reasonably priced hotels in the upscale vicinity, services like HouseTrip have become a popular way for visitors to stay nearby and get an intimate feel for the suburbs in which the film took shape.
2. La Haine (1995)Image Credit
This film analyzes the intricacies of poverty and race in a city where dense population meets intense cultural diversity. The entire film takes place in just 24 hours, and follows three friends as they combat and commit violence, respond to police brutality, and try to gain respect. Starring Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, and Saïd Taghmaoui; La Haine provides a compelling glimpse into a rarely seen side of Paris.
Filmed in the Parisian suburb Chanteloup-les-Vignes, the film has earned some degree of notoriety due to the manner in which it was shot. Real footage of the riots is used throughout, hence the documentary film that pervades much of the film.
1. Amélie (2001)
Released in the same year as Moulin Rouge!, Amélie was filmed almost entirely in Montmartre and offers a gloriously whimsical depiction of Parisian life. The film stars Audrey Tautou as the titular gamine, a young and shy waitress who resolves to improve the lives of those around her. Raking in over $33 million at the box office, it remains the highest-grossing French-language film in the US.
The Café des Deux Moulins, Amélie’s workplace in the film, has since become a popular tourist destination. It remains open to visitors, and can be found on Rue Lepic near the Blanche metro station.
It is unlikely that filmmakers (or moviegoers, for that matter) will ever tire of Paris’ charm. It is a city inextricably wrapped up in romance, sophistication, and style—so much so, in fact, that even those who have never been there can recognize it almost immediately. From the unmistakable Eiffel Tower to the seemingly timeless cobblestone streets, Paris has a firm hold in our imaginations and an important place in cinematic history.
This post was authored by Laura Mueller, an avid film-fan and traveller from London.