Mar 212013



This is the ninth post in the “The Best Films Set In…” series. The setting can be a place (like Tokyo), a location (like the beach), or a time (like Winter). In these posts I’m going to pick my 5 favourite films that are set in that particular place/location/time and explain why I like them.

In honour of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival which is currently happening around Australia, the location for this group of films is Paris, France.

After the jump, check out my picks for The Best Films Set In…Paris!


Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)

9 years after their first meeting in Vienna, American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Deply) meet again in Paris, where Jesse is visiting to promote his book newly published book. I only watched this film for the first time last week, but I can’t put into words just how beautiful, sad and deeply affecting this film is. While the pair explore Paris, they delve into the past nine years – their hopes, dreams, loves and their realities. An incredible film set in an equally incredible city. Just wonderful.


Red Balloon

The Red Balloon/Le Ballon rouge (Albert Lamorisse, 1956)

This 34 minute short has stayed in my mind due to its simple yet fantastical story. A young boy finds a red balloon in the streets of Paris and starts to play with it. He soon discover the balloon has a mind of its own; and the pair spend the day wandering the street, delighting and surprising people as they go. With almost no dialogue, this film relies on a jaunty score and small pleasures to entertain and engage.



Paris (Cédric Klapisch, 2008)

In the city of love and of lights, the lives of 8 individuals cross paths and intertwine of a period of several months. Some are in love, others facing death and one is making a dangerous journey from Africa in the hope of finding a home in Paris. This is one of my favourite films. It is very emotional; and quite beautiful in the way it portrays such a range of life events. The film is also worth watching just for the soundtrack alone – 5 years on and it’s still a favourite of mine.



Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967) 

Jef Costello (Alain Delon) is a suave hit-man  for whom everything usually goes off without a hitch. Unfortunately for Costello, he is placed at the scene of a murder and is put under investigation. This gripping French-Italian crime caper contains a fantastic chase scene in the Métro, and various other action scenes throughout the streets of Paris. It’s entertaining and it’s stylish, in the way only the French know how.



The Aristocats (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1970)

Set in the streets of 1910 Paris, this animated feature from the Walt Disney Company is centered around a group of aristocratic cats who are kidnapped by their butler who is seeking their mistresses’ fortunes. The cats are helped by a street-smart alley cat, who is voiced wonderfully by Phil Harris. I really love this film. it’s an early Disney that often gets overlooked, but it is really a lot of fun. The cats have wonderful personalities and the streets of Paris provide such a colourful and lively setting.  It’s a shame the sequel was cancelled; I would have liked to revisit their world.



Best of the rest: Hugo, Last Tango in Paris, Amélie, Ratatouille, An American in Paris, Gigi, Paris When it Sizzles, Three Colours: Blue, Holy Motors, Chocolat.

Films suggested that I haven’t seen: Funny Face, Breathless, Hidden, Les Enfants du Paradis.

I am sure there are hundreds of classics I have overlooked or simply have not seen. I don’t have a huge depth of knowledge in French cinema. However, when I thought about Paris the five films above were the ones that really stood out for me.

Oh and to those of you who suggested Woody Alan’s Midnight in Paris. I respect your opinions greatly, but that film is little more than a glorified advertisement for the City of Paris.

So tell me, what have I missed?


By Sam McCosh


  3 Responses to “The Best Films Set In…Paris”

  1. *Squee* The Aristocats! I love that one, I wore at the tape when I was little. Until I started watching Lubitsch films at uni, I had no idea who Maurice Chevalier was, so then I was delighted to discover that HE was the one singing the opening song! Amazing!

  2. Great list! You definitely didn’t miss any of my faves. Before Sunset, Amelie and Tango were the first ones in my mind.

  3. Aww, it’s so nice to see The Aristocats on here 🙂

    I’d give The 400 Blows a look. It’s a simple and frustrating story, but it really highlights Paris in a stunningly realistic way. That’s the only one I can think of that’s missing.

    Great list!