The City of Light is also the city of film. From the modern to the classic, Paris has provided the backdrop to countless films of all genres. Here are eight of the best films that truly capture the spirit of the city - watch these before you go and you’ll feel like you’ve already arrived.
Paris, Je T’aime (Paris, I Love You; 2006) - An ode to Paris in 18 short films shot in different arrondissements (the 11e and 15e were dropped at the last minute) by different directors, including the Coen Brothers and Gus Van Sant.
La Môme (La Vie en Rose; France, 2007) - A biopic so faithful to the person and the time it’s as if Édith Piaf - played by the highly honored (and deservedly so) Marion Cotillard - had just woken up from a long sleep at Père Lachaise cemetery. Incroyable.
Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (Amelie; France, 2001) - One of the most popular French films internationally in years, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s feel-good story of a winsome young Parisian dogooder named Amélie takes viewers on a colorful tour of Pigalle, Notre Dame, train stations and, above all, Montmartre.
Midnight in Paris (USA, 2011) - Can you know if you’re living through a Golden Age? Woody Allen’s love letter to Paris and to its literary and artistic denizens of the past makes a strong argument that in Paris the Golden Age is always now.
Last Tango in Paris (USA, 1972) - In Bernardo Bertolucci’s classic, Marlon Brando gives the performance of his career portraying a grief-stricken American in Paris who tries to find salvation in anonymous, sadomasochistic sex.
La Haine (Hate; France, 1995) - Matthieu Kassovitz’s incendiary B&W film examines the racism, social repression and violence among Parisian beurs (young French-born Algerians).
Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows; France, 1959) - Based on the French idiom faire les quatre cents coups (to raise hell), François Truffaut’s first film is the semiautobiographical story of a downtrodden and neglected Parisian teenage boy who turns to outward rebellion.
Originally published as “Paris: films to see before you go” © 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved.