May 17, 2024

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Why are French movies not appreciated outside France?

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Despite the artistic acclaim and unique storytelling of French cinema, French movies often struggle to gain widespread appreciation outside France. Several factors contribute to this phenomenon, including cultural differences, language barriers, and the dominance of Hollywood in the global film market. French films frequently emphasize nuanced narratives and artistic expression, which may not align with the preferences of international audiences…

French movies depicts French daily life: a man with a lover, a family winning the lottery, a woman who can’t choose between two men, family fights, friends on vacation together, etc.

But are we really going to the movie theater to be entertained by what we encounter in everyday life (that, we must admit, can sometimes be depressing)? Apparently, that is the case for French people!


One of the reasons why people enjoy watching movies or going to the movie theater is to be entertained, to escape from reality for about 2 hours and to think about nothing else but the movie they are watching.

Being propelled in a world that does not exist with zombies, super-heroes or robots for instance is one of the ways to clear our head, even though we must admit that this can also be quite stressful and cause anxiety or fear (yes, I admit that after watching a horror movie, I am scared to go to the bathroom alone!).

If you are not in the mood for science-fiction, some movies also can make you feel good: musicals, love stories or cartoons, with one thing in common, Happy-ending.

In contrast to that, French movies usually do not fall into those categories. As a matter of fact, French movie-directors tend to reflect real-life in their movie, like a must-do.

In other words, the situations must be likely to arrive in anybody’s life, whether that is a surprising twist, a gloomy context or a cheerful situation, so that the viewer can fully identify to the characters. To make the movie look and sound like a true story, special effects are avoided and close-ups, dialogues and dramas are kings.

When the audience is not used to that, French movies can indeed be boring, unexciting or predictable. But don’t give up ! The more you will watch it, the better you will like it. And if you still don’t enjoy it, at least, you can learn some French words, attitudes or pieces of culture.

TOP 6 FRENCH MOVIES IN FRANCE (with the most cinema admissions)

The below trailers are in French with English subtitles, so that you get the full experience 🙂

Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis

Ch’tis is the nickname of French people living in the North of France. The title could be translated as “Welcome to the North of France”. It’s the story of a man who is transferred to guess where… the North of France, where we (as French people not coming from there) believe that the weather is awful (cold, rain, wind) and where people speak with a weird accent and use weird words. Almost would need a translator to go there!

It was a HUGE hit in France. My point of view: this comedy is full of bad stereotypes and does not deserve the praises around it. However, it fulfills its role : a nice moment with a few funny scenes.


This comedy (adapted in the USA as “The Upside” in English) is based on a true story: a wealthy quadriplegic middle-aged man needs help in his daily life and hires a young unemployed man with criminal records and coming from the suburbs. Friendship is the main theme of this movie.

I LOVE this movie that makes the audience goes from laughters to tears. The atmosphere is delightful. Indeed, it’s deep, it’s fun and it’s true. I know this movie was not so well welcomed outside France and accused of clichés. I don’t agree. If you have never watched the original French version, please watch it and let me know in the comments if you enjoyed it !

La Grande Vadrouille

This movie is a classic comedy in France with two of the most famous French actors of all time: Louis de Funès and Bourvil. The story takes place during WWII. Two French men have to help three British soldiers reach the Zone Libre, the Free Zone while being chased by the German soldiers.

Definitely not my cup tea: Never watched it and probably never will… Despite the fact that it’s a must-watched French movie ! You might not agree with me, but I think it’s outdated and not funny.

Astérix et Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre

This movie is based on the French Comic Astérix, that takes place in 50 BC, in ancient France, la Gaulle and was created in 1959 by Goscinny and Uderzo. This comic is very popular in France, thus the movie could only be a hit!

This comedy is entertaining, yet be warned: the situations are not subtils, nor are the humor or the dialogue, and sometimes it’s even dumb. That is the purpose, and that is also why you will have quite a good time watching it.

Les Visiteurs

Les Visiteurs truly is a cult movie in France. I don’t know anybody who has never watched it ! It is about two men coming from the Middle-Age, discovering today’s world (well, the 1980’s world). How quirky !

I couldn’t find the official trailer with the subtitles (I hope you will forgive me!), but I found one of the most famous scenes with subtitles: when both men from the past see a car for the first time ! It’s the favorite movie of my son, and we love watching it with my family! It is hilarious for all ages, the actors are fantastic and most of the scenes are absolutely cult ! There even is an American version of it, called just visiting.

But if you have the chance to watch the first French one, it really worth it!

Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu ?

This comedy deals with hot topics in France: Immigration and diversity. A French couple has 4 daughters and three of them married men coming from other cultures. They wish for their 4th daughter to marry somebody that shares the same culture as theirs.

I really enjoyed this movie. Despite the clichés that are omnipresent in this movie and that also made some people despise this movie, I thought it was funny and witty. Of course, we have to keep in mind that some people really are intolerant, but the movie is also a denunciation of this kind of behavior.


Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain

Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie poulain is the naïve story of a young lady living in Paris and finding happiness, nuggets of love and beauty in her daily life. Amelie interferes in every one she meets life and tries to bring them bliss.

I couldn’t find the trailer with English subtitles, but only a scene. This movie was a huge success aborad, as it idealises Paris, Parisian and small moments are romanticized. I think it is a very nice movie, but if you have never travelled to France, please do not believe that this is real life, otherwise, you will be highly disappointed. The soundtrack by Yann Tiersen is wonderful from my point of view.


Lucy is a French science-fiction movie, directed by Luc Besson. The main character, Lucy develops extra psychokinetic abilities after she was injected psychedelic drugs.

I have never watched this movie, nor have I even heard about it!!! It seems nice, but here, only Luc Besson is French. The whole movie itself is closer to an American: actors, special effects, story, budget. I would watch it, but I definitely wouldn’t call it a French movie! (sorry Luc!)

The Artist

The Artist is a French romantic comédie. Its particularity: silent and black and white !

Once again, this is a movie that I did not watch yet, even though the critics are excellent. In my mind, the audience of this movie feels like they are watching an American movie with of pinch of Frenchness, as it is replicating old American movies and as it is also taking place in Hollywood, but clearly not as a French movie.

Have you ever watched it or any of the movies above? Comment and tell me what is the French movie you enjoyed the most, or on the contrary, the one that you really didn’t like!