As a former Parisian stuck in the North of England, I’m doing everything I can to bring Paris to me. From reading books set in Paris to trying to embody the Parisian lifestyle at home. But sometimes you need to actually see Paris in order to transport yourself. Here are my top five movies set in Paris (and where to watch them online).
Psst! Several movies set in Paris were featured in our recent post on the best French movies of all time. So we’re sticking with English language films here.
1) Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris is generally considered one of the director’s greatest films in recent years. It stars Owen Wilson as Gil, a successful yet unfulfilled Hollywood screenwriter, on holiday in Paris with his materialistic and selfish fiancée. Every night at midnight, Gil travels back in time and cavorts with the ex-pat writers and artists of the 1920. Clearly, it’s a plot which would have been simply ridiculous in the hands of most other directors. Here, it works surprisingly well and is miraculously done with very little cheesiness.
There have been so many second-rate knock offs of Taken since it was released in 2008 that it’s easy to forget how good the original is. The film stars Liam Neeson as an ex-CIA agent turned suburban dad. For most of the film, he’s on an action-filled rampage through the suburbs of Paris, exercising his “very particular set of skills” to look for his daughter, who has been abducted by sex traffickers. Look – no one is denying it’s a cheesy action film. But as cheesy action films go, it’s one of the best (and I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best English-language movies set in Paris too!).
3) An American Werewolf in Paris
An American Werewolf in Paris is a truly silly film. It’s the sequel to the (just as silly) 1981 comedy-horror An American Werewolf in London, released 16 years earlier. And, apart from the setting, it follows largely the same plot. However, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of silliness – particularly right now. The Paris movie tells the story of Andy, an American tourist visiting Paris with two friends. Given the title, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that at least one of them is transformed into a werewolf before the credits roll. Both films are basically gore-fests, so don’t watch if you’re squeamish. But they’re also both enjoyable in that good-bad movie way.
4) Les Misérables
There’s not much to say about the epic musical historical drama Les Miserables that hasn’t already been said. I will say, though, that even if you’re not a fan of musicals generally, you may just find this movie – set in Paris and its surroundings at the time of the French revolution – enjoyable nonetheless. The show-stopping musical numbers are what drew the crowds when the film opened in 2012. But the period costume and setting, dramatic plot (based on Victor Hugo’s novel, widely considered to be one of the greatest novels of the 19th century), and talented ensemble cast all played their part in ensuring the movie’s success.
5) An American in Paris
The Hollywood classic, An American in Paris stars Gene Kelly as Jerry, an exuberant, struggling expat painter trying to make a life and career in Paris. Naturally, he falls in love with the young (and spoken-for) French ingenue, Lise, played by Leslie Caron. What follows is a silly but fun romp of singing, dancing, and frolicking. Modern critics tend to say (perhaps fairly) that the film doesn’t stand up to Kelly’s next musical, Singin’ In the Rain, which was released the following year. But hey – there are much worse ways to spend a couple of hours watching Gene Kelly dance through the streets of Paris.
Your favourite movies set in Paris?
Did we miss anything? Let us know your favourite movies set in Paris, or shots of Paris in the movies in the comments! And if you’re hungry for more movie content, check out our posts on the best French films, best films about art, and best travel movies, here on the THATMuse blog.