Paris has long attracted filmmakers and why not? The beauty of Paris makes any movie better! And when you add in glamorous movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and Alain Delon back in the 1960s or Tom Cruise and Audrey Tautou today, what you get is visually stunning. Paris is one of the stars, and so beautiful you can’t look away from it.

The list of great movies set in Paris is long. Let’s take a look at 10 favourites.

An American in Paris (1951)
An American in Paris: public domain

An American in Paris (1951)

You can’t talk about films set in Paris without including this classic musical starring Gene Kelly. The winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, it includes some of the greatest dance numbers in film history. The only downside is that it was almost entirely filmed in Hollywood backlots, rather than in the City of Light.

Le Ballon Rouge / The Red Balloon (1956)
Le Ballon Rouge: Wikipedia © Films Montsouris

Le Ballon Rouge / The Red Balloon (1956)

This short and charming film is about a balloon that follows a young boy around Paris, causing mischief along the way. As it does, we see lovely Parisian street scenes, especially in the Montmartre neighborhood. Le Ballon Rouge won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, despite being only 35 minutes long.

Zazie dans le Métro / Zazie in the Metro (1960)

A zany and sometimes surrealistic film, it follows the adventures of 9-year-old Zazie as she visits Paris for the first time. Arguably director Louis Malle’s finest work, the storyline is odd but the scenes around Paris are wonderful.

Charade (1963)

A thriller starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, Charade has been called “the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made.” Unusually for its day, the film was shot in Paris and there are wonderful scenes all over the city, especially the dramatic one near the end of the film, among the colonnades at the Palais Royal.

La Haine / Hate (1995)

This is not your typical Paris movie, as it shows us a part of the city that few of us ever see—the banlieues where many poor immigrants live. The film follows the lives of three young men in the aftermath of a riot, which exploded after the police beat a crime suspect. Not an easy film to watch, but an important one and as relevant today as when it was released. French Prime Minister Alain Juppé thought it so important that he commissioned a special screening for his cabinet, which ministers were required to attend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWrXQ8LsKYg

Amélie (2001)

This quirky movie is about a lonely young woman who tries to bring happiness to others. It is also the highest grossing French film ever in the U.S.! If you want a virtual tour of Paris then this is your movie, as it was filmed in 80 different locations around the City of Light.

Before Sunset (2004)

The second film in a trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as star-crossed lovers, this one is set in Paris. Fall in love with the city as Ethan and Julie fall in love with each other.

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Tom Hanks unlocks the secrets of the Holy Grail after a stunning murder in Paris. Based on Dan Brown’s bestseller, this film gives us a wonderful inside look at the Louvre and other landmarks like the Saint-Sulpice church, plus a dramatic chase scene through the streets of Paris.

Midnight in Paris (2011)

This movie is worth the price of admission just for the opening montage of Paris—it reminds you that there is no more beautiful city in the world. A fantasy/comedy with a star-studded cast, it was filmed at numerous locations throughout Paris and is a feast for the eyes.

Mission Impossible—Fallout (2018)

Tom Cruise and the gang save the world once again in this action-packed adventure. The high-speed motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris is spectacular, especially when you consider that Cruise does his own stunts and was not wearing a helmet! The film had its worldwide premier at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, converted into an IMAX theater for the occasion.

Also For Your Consideration

  • Sabrina (1954)
  • Funny Face (1957)
  • À bout de souffle / Breathless (1960)
  • The Pink Panther franchise (1963-1976)
  • Le Cercle Rouge / The Red Circle (1970)
  • Diva (1982)
  • La femme Nikita / Nikita (1990)
  • Forget Paris (1995)
  • Moulin Rouge! (2001)
  • Paris, Je T’aime (2006)
  • Ratatouille (2007)
  • Inception (2010)
  • Hugo (2011)
  • Intouchables / Untouchable (2011)
  • Les Misérables (2012 and 2019)

8 COMMENTS

  1. The opening montage in Midnight in Paris captures the essence of Paris. When I’m sad I can’t travel to Paris, i watch this.
    J

  2. “Sabrina (1954)”

    Sorry to nitpick but not a single scene was filmed in Paris. It was all on a sound stage in Hollywood. We wuz robbed, and a disgrace for a film with Audrey Hepburn!

    By contrast the 1995 remake, by Sidney Pollack and starring Julia Ormond & Harrison Ford had about 20 minutes shot in Paris, and which was rather good. The Parisian segment in which Sabrina gets her education under instruction from fashion photographer played by dreamy Patrick Bruel, and her boss/confidant Vogue editor played by Fanny Ardant. Another nice touch was when Linus Larrabee/Harrison Ford reneged on his promise to go to Paris with Sabrina, she departs solo on an Air France 747, only to have a change of heart a few hours later and arrives in Paris before Sabrina by taking Concorde.

    Oh, and the famous Sabrina maxim “Paris is always a good idea” was not in the 1954 movie, and only in the ’95 remake. True, even if mostly everyone will swear they remember Audrey saying it!

    For these reasons, and that Julia Ormond was rather terrific in the role and better matched to Harrison Ford (and Greg Kinnear as the original Larrabee brother lover interest) than Bogart, leads me to sacrilege: the remake should replace the original film on these lists.

    And speaking of Harrison Ford, I would nominate Polanski’s Frantic which is entirely shot in Paris and is a terrific thriller that gets better with each viewing. But I have a sentimental attachment because it was shot when I was living in Paris.

    • I see that the music was by Ennio Morricone who died two weeks ago. It was another thing in the movie that was extremely well done, including the use of Grace Jones’ “I’ve seen that face before” in almost hypnotic fashion throughout.

  3. Not sure why American movies that were filmed on a studio stage in Hollywood or Burbank were included. Also, Ratatouille is an animation film so it does not qualify either. I would add Reversible by Gaspard Noe which would show the underbelly of Paris and is a lot more “hardcore” than La Haine. There is also a Kevin Costner film which I just watched titled 3 Days to Kill written by Luc Besson and taking place mostly in Paris. There is even a scene on Place Dalida in Montmartre.

    • Funny you should mention 3 Days to Kill as it was on tv the other night, and I watched it. Though it is not a good movie on most counts, turns out to be one of those movies one (well, me) is happy to rewatch, and it seems to get better each view. (Except Amber Heard. Each viewing only deepens the mystery of her (mis)-casting.) One thing is that it is almost entirely set in Paris which is nice compared to most spy-thrillers which insist on pogo-ing around the world’s big cities in rather fatiguing fashion. And it messes around with the geography less than most movies. Place Dalida features multiple times because his estranged wife (portrayed by Connie Nielsen) and daughter (portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld) live there, on rue de l’Abreuvoir. The Cité Universitaire is a stand-in for her school.
      It has that quirky humour of Besson which sometimes works but sometimes misses. For example, the Costner character’s surly teenage daughter programs his mobile phone to play the iconic snippet (“I don’t care – I love it”, Charli XCX) when she calls him, and it recurs at amusing moments throughout the film. However that may owe more to the director, McG, whose career began with music videos.
      Unlike a usual frenetic pacing it has a certain languidity; though there are the obligatory absurd car chases on Parisian streets (so much for cred) there’s also Kevin Costner on a bicycle, and teaching his daughter to ride a bicycle on the viewing terrace in front of Sacré Coeur.

  4. Gigi? With the song “I Hate the Parisians.” I’m not saying you need to have a Leslie Caron film festival, but check out her list of films.

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