Movies to Inspire a Trip to France

Back before I started working here at Prometour, I used to teach filmmaking to students at a school here in Montreal, and during my time teaching, I often would show foreign films to my students in hopes it would inspire them to either travel the world when they get older, and/or maybe learn a second language. There was nothing more rewarding than introducing the kids to one of my biggest passions in life – while also introducing them to new cultures. Now that I’m working for a travel agency, I figured it would be a fun idea to whip up a list of movies to recommend to anyone interested in travelling to France in the near future. Whether you’re planning a trip to Paris, Nice, or Normandy, or are just a lover of all things European, movies are a great way to temporarily transport yourself to another part of the world you haven’t yet visited. And nothing will get your students more fired up for a trip to France than by showing them a really good movie that exemplifies the beauty of the French culture.

Quick Note: While there are hundreds of movies I can recommend, because this list is targeted for students under the age of 18, I have chosen to only include films rated G. 

Cat In Paris

A Cat in Paris

This unexpected Best Animated Feature Oscar winner is a prime example of how old-school, hand-drawn animation will never go out of style. Directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, working from a script by Gagnol and Jacques-Remy Girerd, give A Cat in Paris a lovely handcrafted appeal. The stylish animation, jazzy soundtrack and enchanting views of the city at night should keep every student enthralled throughout its brief running time. A great flick for a class full of students who may have a short attention span.

The Triplets of Belleville

French comic-book artist turned filmmaker Sylvain Chomet directed this odd, delightful charmer that took the festival circuit by storm when released in 2003.  It was one of my favorite films of that year thanks to the extraordinary character design (recalling the work of Chomet’s friend, artist Nicolas Decrecy), the superb jazzy melodies (courtesy of French-Canadian Benoit Charest) and the deliberately scratchy black and white pastiche reminiscent of early 30s Disney and Max Fleischer. Heavily influenced by Jacques Tati, The Triplets of Belleville provides plenty of laughs,  delights and is guaranteed to have your students interested in either learning French, taking Jazz lessons, or getting involved in animation. Steeped in nostalgia, and filled with wonderfully bizarre characters, this film is not to be missed!


If you’ve watched Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen or The City of Lost Children, you already know what to expect. Like those two films, Amelie uses odd camera angles, quick edits, and other stylish tricks to keep the movie visually dynamic. Only unlike those movies, Amélie isn’t a twisted dark sci-fi fantasy but instead, a romantic comedy set in a timeless Paris that is so romantic, you may want to drop everything and fly to France right away. If you are looking for a wonderfully uplifting motion picture set in the City of Lights, look no further.

The Red Balloon 

From the Lumière brothers to Georges Méliès, to the French New Wave and everything in between, France can, with some justification, claim to have invented the whole concept of cinema as we know it. There are so many great French films I could recommend to inspire a trip to France (or at least inspire your students to learn French) but The Red Balloon holds a very special place in my heart since it was the first movie I watched in film school. The story of a boy and his balloon is a cinematic landmark and widely praised for its narrative and visual “purity”.  Albert Lamorisse’s film is still the only short feature to ever win a major Oscar (original screenplay) despite having almost no dialogue and might be one of the best-loved and least-sentimental children’s films of all time. More importantly, The Red Balloon holds up extremely well, and in my opinion is timeless.


Throughout his extraordinary career, Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese has directed a series of unforgettable films, but Hugo is nothing like what we have come to expect from the legendary filmmaker. Adapted from the 2007 illustrated historical fiction, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brain Selznick, Hugo tells the story of an orphan (Asa Butterfield) who lives inside the walls of a Parisian train station in the early 1930s and goes on an adventure with none other than the pioneering fantasy filmmaker Georges Melies (A Trip to the Moon). Scorsese’s directorial approach with its whimsical Dickensian overtones makes Hugo one of his greatest achievements; meanwhile, his vision of Paris is the stuff of dreams! For a filmmaker primarily known for his dark, twisted gangster pics, Hugo is one of the best family movies in quite some time and pure movie magic!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

After the critical and commercial success of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, the Walt Disney Pictures animation studio embarked on their most serious and ambitious animated feature of the 1990’s with an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel Notre Dame de Paris. Truth be told, The Hunchback of Notre Dame isn’t close to being the best Disney film (and in no way is as good as the original source material) but like the 1939 Charles Laughton version, it’s an emotionally rounded fairy tale that balances darkness and melodrama – and – pathos and jubilance, with incredible finesse.


Following The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, acclaimed filmmaker Brad Bird turned his attention to the sewers and kitchens of Paris with Ratatouille, a small screen masterpiece and in my opinion, one of the greatest animated films ever made. Ratatouille added another delightfully entertaining entry in the Pixar oeuvre — and a rather unlikely hero to the Pixar canon. It’s the story of a rat named Remy who achieves his dream of becoming a master chef in a fine Paris restaurant but also a story ultimately centered around a parable about racism and tolerance. Along with a great script and fine performances from an all-star cast, Ratatouille is also a gorgeous film, with the city of Paris, brought to life via a lively mix of 19th-century Impressionism and contemporary photo-realism. Of the countless movies set in France, Ratatouille is honestly the closest and best onscreen recreation of the big city that I’ve seen. That aside, while Ratatouille may look and feel kind of French, its message of self-realization against all odds is somewhat universal – making it a great pick for students who may worry about cultural differences when travelling.


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