Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Hugo is set in the Gare Montparnasse train station in 1930s Paris.
If you’re missing the City of Light, keep the spark alive with these movies about Paris.
You may be homebound for the moment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t transport yourself to your favorite destinations through the magic of film. Over the decades, filmmakers have brought the city of Paris to life through a variety of genres. Whether you’re a fan of Baz Luhrmann musicals, Jean-Luc Godard French New Wave films, or Disney cartoons, chances are there’s a movie about Paris to fit the mood you are in. So pour yourself a glass of French wine and settle in for an evening watching these movies set in Paris. They are available to stream on Netflix, Amazon, and more right now.
Set to the music of George Gershwin, Funny Face is both a love letter to the arts and to one of the world’s greatest artistic cities. It’s also Audrey Hepburn’s first musical, and her epic three-minute dance medley is one that will get you up and moving. The always-mesmerizing Fred Astaire, playing a fashion photographer modeled after the real-life Richard Avedon, is a fine bonus. —Katherine LaGrave, Digital features editor
Hugo, a film by Martin Scorsese based on a children’s picture book, follows the story of an orphaned boy who lives in the clock tower of the Gare Montparnasse train station in 1930s Paris. As he unsuccessfully tries to awaken the clockwork interior of an automaton, the boy explores the station (cue the Parisian accordion music, a charming café, plus a sinister station master, and a cross toy store owner). The movie is a celebration of cinema and of Paris—the moody views across the city outside the windowed clockface show the Seine gleaming in the light of the moon and rolling toward the faraway Eiffel Tower. —Ann Shields, Managing editor, Travel Guides
Disney has set several of its movies in Paris over the years, including 1970’s The Aristocats and 1996’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But Pixar’s Ratatouille gets at what many people love the most about the French capital: its food. This heartwarming animated feature follows the friendship between Remy, a rat who loves to cook, and Alfredo Linguini, a hapless kitchen worker, as they work together to save one of the most famous restaurants in Paris. —Lyndsey Matthews, Destination news editor
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Jean-Luc Godard’s film about a sexy, dog-faced hoodlum and his impossibly waifish American girlfriend became one of the first films to herald the arrival of the French New Wave. It’s easy to recognize the film—full of jazz riffs, deliberately rough editing, and rambunctious fresh energy—as a resuscitation of an art form that had been slowly dying from lack of oxygen. For lovers of Paris, there are shots and shots of the city to indulge your passion. Long tracking shots through winding streets and grand boulevards, jump cuts twitch between newspaper-reading patrons of sidewalk cafés, pedestrians, and passing cars. Yes, Breathless captures a historic moment in Parisian time on celluloid but it also feels like something brand new.—A.S.
This over-the-top Baz Luhrmann love story is worth watching simply for the music (including an epic rendition of “Lady Marmalade” performed by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, and Pink) and set designs alone. But factor in the incredibly hot chemistry between lead characters Satine and Christian, played by Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, and the movie jumps to a whole new level. Set in 1899 Paris, the fantastical scenes are centered around the dramatic and splashy productions at the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub. This film will definitely transport you to another place and time, as you get sucked into a heart-wrenching battle for love that is not without its devastating challenges. —Michelle Baran, Travel news editor
Sure, this entire movie was filmed on a soundstage, but if you’ve ever fantasized about splashing around in the Fontaines de la Concorde with Gene Kelly holding your hand, this is your film. Kelly and Leslie Caron, his female lead, are at the peak of their talents as they use dance to express the love they’ve discovered in Paris. Prepare yourself to watch one of the sexiest duets you’ll ever witness on film. —Ciera Velarde, Newsletter engagement editor
French chanteuse Édith Piaf’s greatest ballads were about love and loss, and it’s fitting that this 2007 film helps give context to what exactly she loved and lost. Though remarkably little remains known about Piaf’s life, La Vie en Rose—also the name of Piaf’s most well-known song—does a masterful job with what we do. Marion Cotillard, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Piaf, is chillingly similar to the real-life singer. —K.L.G.
Following 1995’s Before Sunrise, this sequel picks up nine years after Jesse and Céline meet on a train and spend one night together in Vienna. This time, the pair reconnects at Paris’s Shakespeare and Company bookstore where Jesse is giving a reading of his newest book. Though he only has a short while before his flight back home, they spend the afternoon wandering around the city. The flow of their conversation is so natural that it almost feels like you’re right there with them at the café or strolling along the Seine. —L.M.
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You want an epic? The filmmakers slavishly recreated a quarter-mile neighborhood stretch of 1830s Paris—DURING THE NAZI OCCUPATION—to provide a location for this film about avid theatergoers of the period. (The Nazis allowed the filming but watched so closely that some of the actors, members of the Resistance, had to film their scenes in secret.) The movie, about a beautiful young woman loved by four men, follows a script by French poet and musician Jacques Prévert, has been named at Cannes the greatest French film ever made, and the fervidly romantic storyline (with subversive undertones that the Nazis didn’t pick up on) and lavish production bear that out. —A.S.
Monsieur Hulot, played by director Jacques Tati himself, stumbles good-naturedly through the sterile architecture and baffling modern offices and shopping malls of modern Paris, like a Buster Keaton or David Byrne in his big suit. Everything around him is unnatural, obscured somehow, mysterious, a feeling especially familiar to travelers—if only there were a way to understand the language spoken here, or a map that gave more information than the basics. Monsieur Hulot moves through this shiny Rube Goldberg contraption of a world, making do, getting by. It’s a miracle of a movie; even without dialogue or plot, Playtime is thoroughly entertaining and clear. This is the angular and glass-bound Paris, not one you’d like to visit, but one that you’ll be reminded of the next time you walk through Charles de Gaulle airport or stand before a vast glass wall at the Centre Pompidou. —A.S.
If this whimsical comedy about a Parisian waitress didn’t make you want to move to Montmartre and spend your days skipping stones on the Canal Saint-Martin, then you probably weren’t a teenage girl in the early 2000s. As Amélie makes her way through Paris nudging her neighbors and family toward their own happiness, she finds love along the way, too. —L.M.
One of the most viewed French films in the world, Les Intouchables is inspired by a true story. In the film retelling, we learn about the burgeoning friendship between a wealthy Parisian quadripelegic and his charismatic caregiver. Best to watch (digitally) with a friend . . . and some tissue. —K.L.G.
A lettre d’amour to 1920s Paris, Midnight in Paris is filled with the writers, artists, and jazz musicians of the era. Owen Wilson gives an understated and charming performance as Gil, a screenwriter who travels to Paris searching for inspiration. One drunken night, Gil wanders the streets and finds that he has inexplicably traveled back in time to the roaring 20s and interacts with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso, to name just a few of the characters he encounters. Anyone who has meandered the winding streets and alleys of Paris at night has likely fantasized about the centuries of stories the magical city holds, which makes this lighthearted film with an over-the-top plot surprisingly relatable. —C.V.
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