There are lots of intelligent and fun French films out there for you to enjoy, and all these below are in the original French with subtitles.
A couple of French series
The Returned (the original French series called ‘Les Revenants’, not the US remake), in which dead people come back to life in a sleepy alpine village and creep everyone out.
Spiral (Engrenages) is a police series; each season is set around one murder/mystery. I don’t watch it because I find it too depressing but my husband loves it. It’s very French, everybody is a bit shady, which is to say it’s more probable than a lot of other current procedurals.
Classic French Films
My Father’s Glory (La Gloire de mon Père) and its sequel My Mother’s Castle (Le Château de ma mère) are based on Marcel Pagnol’s autobiographical novels, which I have not read, but the films are fabulous and classics in their own right.
Santa Claus Is a Stinker (Le Père Noël est Une Ordure) is a typically French Christmas farce.
The Big Blue (Le Grand Bleu) is all about obsession and the ocean. It was a massive hit in France when it came out.
Amelie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain): it goes without saying that Amelie was a big deal, it’s whimsical and a feel-good movie with lots of wonderful touches (the travelling garden gnome is my favourite).
Life Is A Long Quiet River (La vie est un long fleuve tranquille) is about babies switched at birth and an interesting commentary on social classes.
Cyrano De Bergerac; a classic story of unrequited love and France’s best-known actor Gérard Depardieu.
Jean De Florette / Manon Des Sources are two classic Gérard Depardieu movies set in the French countryside.
French Films popular in France in recent times
Joyeux Noël is a brilliant and affecting WWI story retelling the well-known Christmas front-line 1914 truce between the French, German and Brits.
The Chorus (les Choristes) is about a French boarding school choir in 1949.
Brotherhood Of The Wolf (le Pacte des Loups) is a mystery set in the Gévaudan, where a strange beast is killing people. It’s atmospheric and fun.
La Haine is about life on a French estate. Violent, disturbing and eye-opening.
A Very Long Engagement (Un long dimanche de fiançailles) is a WWII drama featuring Audrey Tautou (of Amelie fame).
Le Dîner De Cons (whatever you do, do not get the US remake Dinner for Schmucks, which is a horrible movie). It’s about idle, rich Parisian bourgeois making fun of the less bright and getting a lesson in humanity in the process.
Les Visiteurs (Les Visiteurs) is a silly comedy about two medieval guys who drink a drugged potion and find themselves transported to the 20th century. It has probably aged terribly in the 20 years since it was first aired but it was fun.
Welcome to the Sticks (Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis) is about a postman who gets relocated by his work to the north of France, which might as well be the middle of the Sahara as far as he’s concerned. It’s about culture shock within France and a rare thing, French people laughing at themselves.
Don’t Look Now – We’re Being Shot At (La Grande Vadrouille) Louis de Funès and Bourvil were both popular comedic actors; this is one of their most famous films. It tells the story of a couple of French men who try to get an English solider whose plane was shot down over Paris during WWII across to the neutral zone. Also the translation of the title is completely ridiculous.
Films about the French
French Kiss: Kevin Kline is obviously not even French but he could have fooled me when I first watched this movie.
Before Sunrise Trilogy: this is the best. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are perfect and are typical French and American, the way they express themselves and their relationship captures the difference between two cultures beautifully. The trilogy shows the evolution of their relationship in ‘real time’ (a bit like Richard Linklater’s most recent film Boyhood was filmed over years).
2 Days In Paris: Julie Delpy wrote, directed and starred in this brilliant film that again captures those cultural differences and relationships.