In France, she is simply known as “La Binoche,” which makes her sound exactly like the phenomenon she is.

Juliette Binoche is among the most celebrated of French actresses, and well into her fifties, she just keeps getting better. Yet too many Americans have seen only a fraction of her best work.

Fame came early to her, but she was determined to resist the lure of Hollywood, not on principle but because she wanted, in her words, “to make films that are political and social. Films with a message or an idea. Films that dare to ask.”

An overnight star at 23 with the release of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (1988), she became the third French actress to receive an Oscar for her role in “The English Patient” (1996). In her own country, she has racked up a whopping nine Cesar Award nominations, winning for “Three Colors: Blue” (1993). She is among the highest paid French stars out there.

So, what’s all the fuss about? Put simply, she is astonishingly talented, so talented that it’s still worth seeing one of her more indifferent films just to watch her in it. She is that good.

As beautiful as she is, what captivates us is her intelligence and emotional depth. She is strong yet vulnerable, noble yet flawed. She is, in short, achingly human.

And she has known pain. Born in Paris, she was sent away to boarding school at an early age when her parents, both part-time actors, divorced. As she confided once: “My earliest memory is loneliness. That's a hard thing to live with.” Though she gave birth to a son and a daughter with former companions Andre Halle and Benoit Magimel, she has never married.

Beyond her acting, Binoche loves to paint and, appropriately, design movie posters. She is also a philanthropist and activist. She has been intimately involved with a charity called “Enfants d’Asie”;  through her work there she adopted five French Cambodian orphans and funded the construction of a children’s home. She has also lobbied against the Iranian Government’s ongoing oppression and persecution of brilliant director Jafar Panahi.

Her fundamental commitment to issues and causes greater than herself is reflected in many of the characters she plays. However conflicted they may be, they are actively engaged in the messy and challenging business of life. 

For those who’ve only seen a couple of Juliette Binoche films, you have a treat in store. This site features, as of this date, ten of her best films. Dive in.

Below are fifteen photos that celebrate one of France’s most precious cultural exports, a force of nature known as “La Binoche.”

Young Juliette, breaking through with Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (1988).

Binoche, pensive in polka dots.

Radiant in the role that won her an Oscar: The English Patient” (1996).

Beautiful in burgundy, in The Widow of Saint-Pierre” (2000).

Dreamy gaze.

In a very creepy place: Juliette keeps it together, barely, in Caché” (2005).

Smart can be very sexy.

Binoche, never better, as a frazzled actress and mother in “Flight of the Red Balloon” (2007).

Harborside attraction.

Enjoying the limelight, with killer earrings.

French women bloom at 40. Thats for sure.

Wrap up some red roses for this blue lady.

Movies are open doors, and at every door, I change character and life...I live for the present always. I accept this risk. I don't deny the past, but its a page to turn.

Still captivating at 50, in Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014).

If a star is someone who gives light, then I can be a star. But if a star is someone who goes after money and magazine covers, then it's sick and I dont want it!

More:  16 French Actresses We've Loved and the Movies That Made Us Love Them