A self-proclaimed love letter to the City of Light, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is set to be released later this week to a great deal of positive buzz from its opening at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie stars Owen Wilson as a hopeless romantic who pines for the era of 1920′s Paris when one could meet Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein while taking a stroll. In honor of the film’s release, we have compiled the following list of the 9 best movies set in the most romantic and picturesque city in the world.
Starring Audrey Tautou as a quirky and painfully shy woman with a heart of gold, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s enchanted romantic comedy Amelie made people all over the world fall in love with Paris’ 18th district. This charming movie was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay and was predominantly shot in the communal neighborhood of Montmartre in Paris. You can still hang out at the Café des Deux Moulins where Amelie worked or visit Mr. Collignon’s little grocery store Au Marche de la Butte if you ever visit Paris. It’s a dreamy and glowing depiction of the French capital and the film was so popular that the locations used in the movie have become major tourist attractions of their own.
One of the great masterpieces of the French New Wave, Breathless was Jean-Luc Godard first feature film. This seminal movie revolves around Michel (the great Jean-Paul Belmondo), a handsome small-time criminal, who is on the run from the law after stealing a car and killing a policeman. He hides out in the Paris apartment of Patricia (Jean Seberg), a fetching young American writer who sells newspapers in the streets of Paris. When they aren’t busy escaping the law, the two engage in fascinating pillow talk and attempt to raise money so they can run away to Italy. Godard’s unorthodox editing and hand-held photography capture Paris in a peculiar light and make Breathless one of the most influential French movie in cinematic history.
In 1995, Richard Linklater directed Before Sunrise, a wonderfully poignant movie about two strangers (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) wandering around Vienna, talking, and falling in love. Before Sunset, the hopelessly romantic sequel which reunites the two characters nine years later in Paris, is a two-hour walking tour of the city of love. With only a few hours before he has to fly back to New York, Hawke and Delpy walk around Paris, talk, and fall in love all over again. It sounds deceptively dull and simple, but the movie is written with such skill and acted so naturally that it feels like visiting two old friends.
Last Tango in Paris
Exuding a raw and sordid sexual energy that initially earned it an X-rating from the MPAA, Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris has managed to remain one of the most controversial movie in film history. New Yorker critic Pauline Kael gave her most memorable endorsement of a movie by saying “Tango has altered the face of an art form. This is a movie people will be arguing about for as long as there are movies” and calling it “the most powerfully erotic movie ever made.” Marlon Brando plays a 45-year old American living in Paris and reeling from his wife’s suicide. He takes up an anonymous, sex-only relationship with Maria Schneider, a 20-year-old Parisian beauty. The two tortured souls come together to satisfy their sexual cravings in an apartment as bare as their dark, tragic lives. Let’s just finish by saying you will never look at a stick of butter the same way.
Directed by Brad Bird, this wonderful Pixar animation sees Remy, a French rat with a particularly refined palate, rising from his humble origins to become head chef of a Paris restaurant. With the help of garbage boy Linguini, Remy soon cooks up fabulous dishes, raising both Linguini’s and the restaurant’s reputation. Don’t let the notion of a rat in a restaurant kitchen scare you away from this delectable film because Ratatouille features some of the best Paris panoramic views you will ever see.
An American in Paris
Vincente Minnelli’s gorgeous love letter to the City of Lights received six Oscars including Best Picture and starred the iconic Gene Kelly as a former American soldier trying to make a living in France as an artist after World War II. There, he falls in love with a young French woman (Leslie Caron) who is already engaged to a Parisian cabaret singer (Georges Guetary). The film relies heavily on the music of George Gershwin and Kelly gives one of his best performances, dazzling most notably in the duet “‘S Wonderful,” the ballad “Love Is Here to Stay,” and the wonderful “I Got Rhythm” scene. John Alton’s photography depicts the French capital at its most fascinating, a dreamy backdrop oozing the essence of artistic Paris.
The 400 Blows
Francois Truffaut’s intensely touching story of a rebellious young Parisian boy was the director’s first and most intimate feature film and one of the defining films of the French New Wave. Jean-Pierre Leaud stars as Antoine Doinel, a teenager neglected by his parents and oppressed by his teacher. His struggle to understand the world takes a giant leap forward when he experiences freedom by skipping school and running away from home. It’s a simple yet unpredictable movie which captures so many vivid emotions in a seemingly random fashion. Truffaut and Leaud made many films together after this but this may well top them all. Master Akira Kurosawa himself called it “one of the most beautiful films that I have ever seen”.
Audrey Hepburn stars in this deliciously dark comedy thriller as a young American in Paris fleeing a trio of crooks, who are trying to recover the fortune her late husband stole from them. The only person she can trust is a suave yet mysterious stranger played by Cary Grant. Director Stanley Donen’s Charade dazzles with style, suspense and macabre Hitchcockian wit to spare. This clever movie makes wonderful use of the stunning locales and even makes reference to previous movies set in Paris such as An American in Paris.
Paris, Je t’Aime
Celebrated directors from around the world, including the Coen Brothers, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, Walter Salles, Alexander Payne and Olivier Assayas came together to assemble a series of short films set in Paris in a way never before imagined. Made by a team of contributors as cosmopolitan as the city itself, this portrait of the city is as diverse as its creators’ backgrounds and nationalities. With each director telling the story of an unusual encounter in one of the city’s neighborhoods, the vignettes go beyond the ‘postcard’ view of Paris to portray aspects of the city rarely seen on the big screen. While the 18 shorts are uneven, one can’t deny that as a whole, Paris Je t’Aime is a wonderful declaration of love to the City of Light.
There you have it! The 9 Greatest Films Set in Paris. What do you think of Paris? What other movies set in Paris do you love?