The Best French Films to Stream Right Now

6 Bastille Day picks for New Wave fans, art house snobs, and classics connoisseurs.

LA CEREMONIE, from left: Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Bonnaire, 1995, © New Yorker/courtesy Everett Co
©New Yorker Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

While Bastille Day may have a bloody and violent history, the holiday has evolved into an exuberant celebration of French spirit. And what better way to fete that joie de vivre than by watching a great French film? For decades, France has produced some of the most respected auteurs—and most influential artistic movements— in the world of cinema. Here, a half dozen French flicks worthy of a Bastille Day binge.

For New Wave Fans: Breathless

It may seem obvious to recommend a Jean-Luc Godard film (and on Bastille Day, of all days), but really, if you haven’t seen Breathless, his first production and the one that cemented his status as a pioneer of the nouvelle vague, then you are really missing out on the fundamentals. Without Breathless, a noirish crime drama about a Humphrey Bogart-obsessed criminal played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, we would not have fallen head over heels for Jean Seberg, the first American to really achieve icon status on the French New Wave scene.

Where to stream: Criterion Channel

For Art House Snobs: Knife + Heart

Set in Paris in 1979, Knife + Heart (also known as Un couteau dans le cœur) stars Vanessa Paradis as a gay porn producer who gets caught up in a murder while attempting to win back her lover. Yann Gonzalez’s 2018 film made a splash on the festival circuit, and even competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Where to stream: Mubi

For Classics Connoisseurs: The Rules of the Game

Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (or La Règle du Jeu) is a masterwork that stands the test of time. Released 80 years ago, in 1939, this Parisian comedy of manners was expensive (with a stacked ensemble cast) and groundbreaking (deep-focus cinematography had yet to become à la mode.)

Where to stream: Criterion Channel

For Auteur Addicts: À Ma Sœur! (Fat Girl)

Catherine Breillat’s films tend to deal with the horrors of the body, and À Ma Sœur! (released as Fat Girl in English-speaking countries) is no different. It tells the controversial coming-of-age tale of Anaïs, who is both impressed with and jealous of her attractive older sister, played by Roxane Mesquida (whom you may know from Gossip Girl or Now Apocalypse). The family goes on vacation, and the sisters have completely different experiences with sex and relationships. It is a controversial story with a truly shocking ending.

Where to stream: Amazon Prime

For Documentary Devotees: Faces Places

Although the late Agnès Varda was born in Belgium, she became a symbol of the French New Wave in the 1960s. Her documentary with artist JR is critically acclaimed and easily accessible. (While you’re at it, you should also watch Varda’s brilliants Cléo from 5 to 7, which is streaming on Kanopy).

Where to stream: Netflix

For the Isabelle Huppert Lovers:La Cérémonie

Isabelle Huppert hive, it’s time to report for duty. Huppert stars in this 1995 thriller— directed by Claude Chabrol and loosely based on the true story of two maids who plotted to kill their employer’s wife and daughter in 1933—alongside Jacqueline Bisset and Sandrine Bonnaire. Jean Genet spun this story into a play called The Maids in 1947, which was performed in Paris at the Théâtre de l’Athénée.

Where to stream: Criterion Channel

Celebrate Bastille Day With the Best French Girl-Approved Pieces

The inspiration: Street style during Paris Couture Week Fall 2016, photographed by George Angelis.

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about this new bag from Givenchy. Givenchy bucket bag, $2,290, farfetch.com{: rel=nofollow}.

Jacquemus’ hit spring collection may be winning Instagram right now, but this staple is something you’ll wear for seasons to come. Jacquemus linen shirt, $297, mytheresa.com{: rel=nofollow}.

Where would she be without a classic scarf wrapped around her neck? The Kooples silk scarf, $105, thekooples.com{: rel=nofollow}.

Wear a lucky talisman around your neck. Maje lucky number necklace, $45, maje.com{: rel=nofollow}.

During the hot summer in the south of France, toss on a barely-there tank. Sandro knit top, $105, sandro-paris.com{: rel=nofollow}.

A french girl effortlessly rocks a bohemian dress; give this blush-hued one from Zadig & Voltaire a try. Zadig & Voltaire ruffle dress, $398, zadig-et-voltaire.com{: rel=nofollow}.

Saint Laurent is the backbone to every cool French girl’s closet. Saint Laurent suede belt, $375, mytheresa.com{: rel=nofollow}.

Every woman inspired by French girl style must own a Louis Vuitton bag – snag this brand new style inspired by the ‘80s. Louis Vuitton New Wave bag, $2,270, louisvuitton.com{: rel=nofollow}.

A classic Balmain knit with brass buttons is a nautical-inspired take on French girl style. Balmain sweater, $528, farfetch.com{: rel=nofollow}.

A flirty denim dress is essential to a French girl’s closet. Alexa Chung denim dress with keyhole, $380, mytheresa.com{: rel=nofollow}.

A chic French girl polishes her look off with a great watch. Tag Heuer Ladies Formula 1 watch, $2,100, tagheuer.com{: rel=nofollow}.

Chloé may be the most sought-after French label of the moment, and you can wear these pants well into fall. Chloé pants, $1,250, mytheresa.com{: rel=nofollow}.

When she is not wearing a ballet flat, the quintessential French girl may opt for a loafer. Bruno Magli metallic loafers, $425, brunomagli.com{: rel=nofollow}.

An A-Line skirt, mini or midi, is a must. Bottega Veneta white leather skirt, $2,980, netaporter.com{: rel=nofollow}.

Red, white, and blue is not just for American girls. Bally stripe turtleneck sweater, $595, bally.com{: rel=nofollow}.

A chic French woman knows she can wear white jeans year-round. AG straight-leg jeans with frayed hem, $215, agjeans.com{: rel=nofollow}.

Parlez-vous françias? Maison Labiche embroidered French sayings shirt, $150, farfetch.com{: rel=nofollow}.

A French girl knows how to show off her best assets, in a chic way. Kenzo knit mini dress, $605, mytheresa.com{: rel=nofollow}.

The French queen of knits was certainly Sonia Rykiel – be sure to snag one of the brand’s classic striped pieces. Sonia Rykiel t-shirt, $263, farfetch.com{: rel=nofollow}.

Embrace a square-toe, even for night. Sergio Rossi crystal-adorned sandal, $750, barneys.com{: rel=nofollow}.

French women know how to dress for the occasion, in an understated manner. Mizuki pearl and diamond earrings, $2,350, modaoperandi.com{: rel=nofollow}.

You don’t need to be french to wear a beret. Maison Michele wool hat, $520, mytheresa.com{: rel=nofollow}.

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