I hold a special place in my heart for French movies. This affinity comes partly from the early, formative years I spent in Paris, and partly from a recognition of all that France has contributed to le cinema.

Think of it: in the beginning, there was Melies; later came the genius of Vigo, Renoir, Bresson, and Melville; then the New Wave transformed the industry in the sixties; and now, filmmakers like Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Olivier Assayas and Michel Gondry are working at the peak of their powers.

This piece pays particular tribute to the French movie actresses we’ve fallen for over the years, and the characters they’ve played. Some of these special ladies broke through internationally, others didn’t. Regardless, all are magnifique.

As you review the players below and the key films they made, you’ll see that even in pre-feminist days, these highly talented mademoiselles tended to play strong, complex characters, not decorative accompaniments.


Just revisit these titles and see for yourself. Oh la la indeed!

Grande Actrice:  Simone Simon

Oh La La Film:  Cat People (1942)

Grande Actrice:  Danielle Darrieux

Oh La La Film:  The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)

Grande Actrice:  Simone Signoret

Oh La La Film:  Diabolique (1954)

Grande Actrice:  Anouk Aimée

Oh La La Film:  A Man and a Woman (1966)

Grande Actrice:  Jeanne Moreau

Movie:  Jules and Jim (1962)

Grande Actrice:  Brigitte Bardot

Oh La La Film:  Contempt (1964)

Grande Actrice:  Catherine Deneuve

Oh La La Film:  Belle de Jour (1967)

Grande Actrice:  Stéphane Audran

Movie:  Babette's Feast (1987)

Grande Actrice:  Fanny Ardant

Movie:  The Woman Next Door (1981)

Grande Actrice:  Isabelle Huppert

Oh La La Film:  White Material (2010)

Grande Actrice:  Juliette Binoche

Oh La La Film:  The English Patient (1996)

Grande Actrice:  Audrey Tautou

Oh La La Film:  Amélie (2001)

Grande Actrice:  Sandrine Bonnaire

Movie:  A Nos Amours (1983)

Grande Actrice:  Charlotte Gainsbourg

Oh La La Film:  The Science of Sleep (2006)

Grande Actrice:  Cécile de France

Oh La La Filme:  The Kid with a Bike (2011)

Grande Actrice:  Marion Cotillard

Oh La La Film:  Two Days, One Night (2014)

More:  10 Fantastique Films to Watch if You Are Missing Paris