Learning anything new part-time can be difficult when time is so precious. So if you are struggling to find the time for your French lessons for beginners, why not combine your learning with your leisure time by watching French films?
Starting with something that you love and enjoy, like choosing French subtitles for your favourite film or finding French movies on Netflix and choosing an English subtitle, makes a lot of sense. Not only do you already know the story and its context, but it is also a perfect way to hear French vocabulary.
Actually French subtitles are the way to help you recognise words that you may not have ever heard aloud. Watch the film a few times and then turn the subtitles off. When it comes to French pronunciation, you really need to listen to the fall and rise of the language which is totally different from just learning the written word.
It doesn’t matter whether you prefer biographies like the famous La Vie en Rose about the life of Edith Piaf, comedy or horror, look up the best French movies to supplement your French lessons for beginners and watch how you improve.
Feel-Good French Films to Practise French
When it comes to comedy, French films are fantastic feel-good therapy. You’ll notice that the timing of the jokes is different from that of British comedy. The French love to use situational and visual comedy and rely less on words.
By the way, French board games are another way to improve your French speaking if you like the idea of learning through entertainment.
Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (Amélie)
If you like French films – and especially those on the lighter side, don’t miss Amélie which is a wonderful story about a young girl who chooses to see the world differently. In the movie, she embarks on a journey to solve a mystery about a man who keeps popping up.
As she does this, she ends up gently touching the lives of those around her from her own father to the ageing invalid and local grocer.
Intouchables is a French movie that stars François Cluzet and Omar Sy. It’s a story that is based on friendship and the life of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou, his caregiver.
The story is spun around Phillipe, an eccentric and rich Frenchman who is confined to a wheelchair following a paragliding accident. As he conducts interviews for potential caretakers, he decides to employ Driss, a French speaking Algerian who only arrives so that he can assure unemployment that he is job searching. The touching story goes on to show how Phillipe is able to unlock Driss’s artistic talent while Driss shows Phillipe that he still has a life to live.
When it comes to using French movies to learn French or improve French pronunciation, this is one not to miss. In fact, Omar collected a César for best actor.
If you are trying to improve the French speaking of your whole family, then Les Visiteurs is not to be missed. The story is about a medieval French knight who is played by Jean Reno, and his servant. In the story, the pair travel to the 20th century through the magical power of a wizard where they find themselves adrift in the 20th century.
Don’t forget that at any age, French movies are the ideal way to perfect French pronunciation.
Iconic French Movies to Improve French Speaking
La Régle du Jeu
Directed by Jean Renoir, who also directed La Grande Illusion which is considered the best French movie of all time, the Rules of the Game is a comedy of errors that actually started as a box office disaster. Originally deemed too long for its 1939 audience, it was cut from 113 minutes to only 85, but this was to the story’s detriment.
In the end, the love triangle, which featured Renoir as both actor and director, became famous for its wide camera angles, earned a cult following, and is even taught in school.
La Nouvelle Vague
Something else to look out for when searching for French movies to improve your French pronunciation is the cinematographic movement that took place in the French film industry during the 1950s and 1960s.
This was an exciting time where French filmmakers were keen to break away from mainstream cinema and try something new.
With more of a documentary style that featured long takes and minimal editing, this style also known as French New Wave achieved a new level of realism in theatre.
Inspired by American filmmakers like Orson Wells, the Nouvelle Vague includes famous French films like The 400 Blows in 1959, Breathless, 1960, Alphaville, 1965, Hiroshima Mon Amour, 1959 and Paris Belongs to Us, 1958.
La Nouvelle Vague, the 1990 feature film by Jean-Luc Godard pays homage to this important period of the history of French films.
Le Salaire de la Peur
This one is worth mentioning if you are looking for French movies to add something to your French lessons for beginners. A 1950 film by Henri-Georges Clouzot (who was actually opposed to the New Wave movement), Le Salaire de la Peur is a psychological thriller that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes as well as the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
Action Packed French Movies to Improve French Speaking
If you love thrillers and action movies, don’t make the mistake of thinking that only the American film industry makes this genre of films, grab your popcorn, get ready with your subtitles and get ready to be entertained while you improve your French pronunciation at the same time.
If you cannot find an action movie that was filmed in French, choose your favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and turn on your French subtitles. Imagine improving your French pronunciation by watching a Schwarzenegger movie?
Léon: The Professional
This touching story of friendship by cult sci-fi movie director, Luc Besson, featuring Nathalie Portman and Jean Reno is about a professional hitman, a young girl, and his plant. A story of murder, revenge, and danger, this is an outstanding French film.
Literary Classics that Turned into French Films
This genre of French movies with its formal and flowery language is lacking in the ordinary, contemporary French phrases and vocabulary and therefore not suited as an adjunct for French lessons for beginners. These are fantastic films for advanced French students who want to perfect their French pronunciation and speaking.
The Asterix Films
While the animation is not completely ideal for learning a new language because of the inaccurate lip-syncing, for French-speaking novices and other animated film lovers, there is an entire series of action Asterix French films. The recommended ones include Asterix and the Normans; Asterix and Cleopatra and Asterix Legionnaire. These charming, simple (yet a bit violent) narratives are perfect films to watch to improve your French speaking.
Other Classic French Films to Watch
Cyrano de Bergerac
This classic play by Edmond Rostand was brought to life for the big screen in an epic performance by Gérard Depardieu that resulted in him being nominated for a César. It is known as one of the best French movies of our time.
Jean de Florette
Played by Gérard Depardieu and based on the book by Marcel Pagnol, Jean de Florette has been brilliantly adapted for cinema. It was filmed at the same time as the new Manon de Sources adaptation.
Princess of the Sun (La Reine Soleil)
This French movie is inspired by a novel by Christian Jacq an Egyptologist.
Kirilou and the Sorceress
A marvellous film based on a West African folktale.
De Dieux et des Hommes (Of Gods and Men)
This 2010 French movie is based on a true story and is set during the time of the Algerian Civil war of 1996. It is an award-winner that is considered a masterpiece of its time.
Blue is the Warmest Colour
A romantic 2013 French film that received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival.
Whatever genre of movie you love to be entertained by, films are an excellent way to improve any language and vocabulary, especially as a student.
If you are looking to improve your French speaking and French pronunciation, watching French films with subtitles over and over again, particularly if you already know the plot in English, is a perfect way to boost your French lessons for beginners and is guaranteed to improve and accelerate your French learning.
If you are feeling inspired to improve your French speaking, consider finding a private French tutor, you might even be able to find one near you. In South Africa, check out the online platform, Superprof which hosts tutors for almost every imaginable topic and actually filters them by location. If you can’t find one near you, all you need is an internet connection and a webcam to connect with a French tutor anywhere in the world. An added bonus is that on Superprof, many of their tutors actually offer their introductory session for free.