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8 Great Movies for Paris Travelers

February 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Features, Travel Gear

Paris, France offers its visitors one of the extraordinary urban playgrounds. Travelers seeking culture, romance, and flavorful cuisine flock to the “City of Light” to engross themselves in all things French. A perfect way to get a taste of Paris before running off to enjoy it is through film. Enduring Wanderlust has assembled eight great movies for travelers or lovers of Paris.

1. Before Sunset (2004)

Director: Richard Linklater
Protagonists: Ethan Hawke (Jesse) and Julie Delpy (Celine)

Jesse: “What do you think were the chances of us ever meeting again?”

Celine: “After that December, I’d say almost zero. But we’re not real anyway, right? We’re just, uh, characters in that old lady’s dream.”

Ever meet the person of your dreams while traveling? Before Sunset sequel to Before Sunrise, is about the second meeting of Jesse and Celine. The two characters, initially, had a brief love affair after meeting on a train to Vienna, Austria. Nine years later, the two met again at Jesse’s book reading about the romance, at Shakespeare & Co in Paris. With just a few hours before Jesse’s plane leaves for the United States, Celine takes him on a stroll through Paris and a walk through memory lane. In addition to showing the beauty of Parisian life, Before Sunset delves into the ways in which the protagonists recall events along with the difference between the idealism of our 20’s and the realism of the next stage of life.

Each person we meet in life, traveling or otherwise, provides a piece of our life’s puzzle. As Celine says, “you can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details.”
shakespeare-and-company-paris.jpg Shakespeare & Co, Paris © KTyler Conk

2. Amélie (2001)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Protagonist: Audrey Tautou (Amelie)

Amélie: “I like to look for things no one else catches. I hate the way drivers never look at the road in old movies.”

It’s the details of Paris that make it such an alluring destination. Jeunet’s film provides a visual masterpiece with a focus on the musing of eccentric Amélie and her Montmartre neighborhood. A single waitress, Amélie spends her time attempting to help Parisians fix their lives. In the process, she realizes that it’s her own life that needs to be altered. Travelers will see a lot of their own quirkiness in Amélie’s character. They’ll also appreciate her father’s longing to travel along with her attempts to motivate him to follow through on the dream using a garden gnome.

3. The Dreamers (2003)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Protagonists: Michael Pitt (Matthew), Eva Green (Isabelle), and Louis Garrel (Theo)

Isabelle & Theo: “We accept you, one of us! One of us!”

The ultimate experience in traveling or living abroad is being accepted as part of the local community. In The Dreamers, Matthew manages to become part of an unusual Parsian family. He originally went to the City of Light, as an American exchange student, with an obsessive love for the cinema. Set in the turbulent May 1968 Paris, Matthew befriends Isabelle and Theo. We learn that the two siblings are a little too close for comfort. Along the way, Bertolucci infuses the film with his love of Paris. In the meantime, his audience slowly falls in love with the city and cinema itself as the characters interminably refer to and act out great film scenes.

As Matthew states, “I saw a movie at the cinémathèque française [and] I thought, “only the French…only the French would house a cinema inside a palace.”

4. Breathless or À bout de soufflé (1960)
breathless-godard.jpg Breathless © Indie Wech

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Protagonists: Jean-Paul Belmondo (Michel Poiccard) and Jean Seberg (Patricia Franchini)

Patricia: “I entered this world on the Champs-Elysees, 1959. La trottoir du Champs Elysees. And do you know what my very first words were? New York Herald Tribune! New York Herald Tribune!”

As with Matthew of The Dreamers, Patricia Franchini is an American studying in Paris in Breathless. A student of journalism at the Sorbonne, Patricia meets Michel. Michel is a young troublemaker who has an affinity for American cinema and petty theft. Along the way, Michel’s troubles escalate leading to the shooting of a police officer. He turns to the alluring Patricia to provide him with shelter during the storm.

Godard, one of the leading directors of the French New Wave of cinema, provides travelers with one of the great films set in Paris. Filled with drama, it gives viewers a taste of Paris in its hectic and revolutionary days.

5. 2 Days in Paris (2007)

Director: Julie Delpy
Protagonists: Adam Goldberg (Jack) and Julie Delpy (Marion)

Jack: “Can I use this thermometer?” [thermometer in mouth]
Marion: “I usually don’t use this one in the mouth. I mean…”
Jack: “Oh, come on! What is wrong with you?”
Marion: “What? It’s a French thermometer.”

Julie Delpy (Marion) returns to direct and star in a tale of a New York-based French woman in love with an American (see Before Sunset). Two Days in Paris chronicles the couples’ trip to Europe including their soujourn to France. Marion and Jack follow the trail of many travelers who take off, across the globe, in hopes of rekindling their relationships. Unfortunately for this couple, Paris is a tougher cultural experience than Jack can handle. Filled with humor and intellectual banter, 2 Days in Paris is a worth a watch.

6. Paris Je T’aime or Paris, I Love You (2007)

Directors: Twenty Different Individuals

Carol: “Sitting there, alone in a foreign country, far from my job and everyone I know, a feeling came over me. It was like remembering something I’d never known before or had always been waiting for, but I didn’t know what.”

Paris, Je T’Aime is a tribute to the City of Light. Twenty directors filmed segements of the movie detailing every aspect of Parisian life. This Ode to Paris delves into the human experience with a connection to their urban jungle. Though there are melancholy segments in the film, viewers walk away with a true feeling that Paris penetrates the core of its inhabitants and visitors. The film may be best for those returning from a trip to Paris. It stirs up all the small joys a traveler experiences in the city.
arc-de-triomphe-paris.jpg Arc de Triomphe © Gennaro Salamone

7. Last Tango in Paris (1973)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Protagonists: Marlon Brando (Paul) and Maria Schneider (Jeanne)

Paul: “I’m awfully sorry to intrude, but I was so struck with your beauty that I thought perhaps I could offer you a glass of champagne.” “Is this seat taken?”

Jeanne: “No.”

A controversial film starring Marlon Brando (Paul) playing an American expatriate in Paris. Paul is struggling to cope with the suicide of his wife. That episode fills the protagonist with grief and aggression. The outlet for his emotions is French woman named Jeanne. Paul proceed to be involved in an intimate relationship with Jeanne. The arrangement calls for no names to be exchanged. Paul continuosly demeans the young French woman over the course of their meetings.

When Jeanne is finally ready to end the affair for a traditional marriage, Paul reveals his love for her: “you ran through Africa and Asia and Indonesia, and now I found you. And I love you. I want to know your name!.” Jeanne responds with a simple, “Jeanne.”

Last Tango in Paris isn’t ideal for all travelers, but it’s a masterpiece in filmmaking and character studies.

8. Ratatouille (2007)

Co-Directors: Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava

Remy: “What are you eating?”
Emile: “I don’t really know. I think it was some sort of wrapper once.”
Remy: “What? No! You’re in Paris now, baby! My town! No brother of mine eats rejecta-menta in my town!”

Ratatouille is perfect for families traveling with young children. It’s also wonderful for adults who are passionate about French cuisine. It’s an animated tale that stars a rat named Remy. Remy has dreams of leaving the sewers of Paris to become a well-respected chef in Paris. Putting his life on the line, Remy manages to win the hearts of the kitchen staff along with the members of the audience.

The film engenders a love for the underdog along with a feeling of passion for French delicacies. It also succeeds in reminding us of the magic of eating at the family table growing up. Don’t let the animation fool you. This story is human at its core.

Editor’s note: This post contains affiliate links.

Read about 5 Great Arts Festivals That You Can’t Miss.
gennaroeditor.jpgGennaro Salamone is the founder and editor of Enduring Wanderlust. Feel free to contact him with questions, comments, or inquiries with reference to contributing an article or photograph for publication.


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29 Responses to “8 Great Movies for Paris Travelers”
  1. Beth says:

    Love the description! Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are two favorites. I met my boyfriend traveling and it was a little different than the movies, but they remind me of it. We watch them every so often. The Dreamers was pretty cool too. I want to check out Breathless as I heard it was a classic.

  2. Lisa says:

    I thought I was the only one who saw 2 Days in Paris, lol. It was funny. Jack’s character was very irritating though. You’re in Paris! Just enjoy it. My favorites on the list are Amelie and Paris Je T’aime.

    The Bourne Identity is completely in Paris, but the scenes shot there are good.

  3. Seth says:

    I’m a sucker for the older films like Breathless and Last Tango in Paris. Newer movies are great too, but there is something about those classics that always gets me. I also like An American in Paris, which is not on the list. Great movies and excellent performances.

  4. sima says:

    For those of you who are interested in learning more about kinky and often enigmatic Frenchmen (and women) I recommend watching three movies by the same director: “Red”, “White” and “Blue”.

  5. Gennaro says:


    Proof that the story line in those films is possible. Very cool


    Agree about Jack, but that’s part of the humor 🙂 I liked those shots in Bourne Identity too. Worth seeing.


    I considered An American in Paris, but wanted to tilt toward the current age. hence just two older films. There are a lot of great earlier films.


    Three top movies. Done by a Polish director, but based in France. Really delve into the human character.

  6. Lance says:

    I will make it to Paris one day! And seeing this list only makes me want to go more…

    The only one I’ve seen on your list – Ratatouille – probably because I have kids!! It was a fun movie to watch.

  7. Gennaro says:


    Paris is a must see. Ratatouille is definitely a favorite with kids and adults alike.

  8. fly girl says:

    Now how did you know it was time to put more movies in my Netflix Que? These are really some great suggestions. Amelie is one of my all time faves because Audrey Tatou is one of my favorite actors so I’m afraid Paris took a back seat in this one for me. Breathless is a classic that showcases Paris and it’s cinematic attitude well. Last Tango in Paris, you’re right, it’s not for everyone and I don’t remember Paris as much as Brando’s dark presence in that film. I didn’t think of Paris when I saw Ratatouille and I never want to think of Paris and rats lol! I’m adding Before Sunset to my que, 2 Days in Paris and Paris I love You are already in there. Funny Face is probably my favorite film about Paris although it is more about the fashion idustry, but you can’t really separate the two. Roman Holiday( Yes, I love the other Audrey too.) inspired me to travel to Italy and probably helped make it one of my favorite countries.

  9. iWalk says:

    Love “Paris Je T’aime or Paris, I Love You”.

    Different directors, different highlights, different stories, That’s a real Paris.

    I never had enough time to enjoy this city, always pass by in a hurry. 🙁

  10. jen laceda says:

    Gennaro – I just saw Paris Je T’aime couple of weeks ago. I love how each vignette takes you to a particular arrondissement in Paris. Some were really quirky, but mostly they were all great — my favourite is Place de Victoire with Juliette Binoche and I like the one with Bob Hoskins (Pigalle, I think?), as well as the one with Gena Rowlands.

    Before Sunset I enjoyed, but perhaps not as much as Before Sunrise…

    Of course, Amelie was a joy to watch as well…All classic choices for Paris.

  11. Gennaro says:


    Audrey Tatou does have a natural allure about her. Very genuine in movies. I, too, have a long list of films to see. Lots of great ones. Travel related and otherwise.


    There are so many sides to the city. Great to have different directors give their vision.

    @jen laceda

    Julie Binoche is a great actress. She’s in “Blue” mentioned by Sima too. I agree that Before Sunrise was better. Getting to know the characters for the first time. Not to mention the premise is so interesting.

  12. Sire says:

    The only ones that I am familiar with is Last Tango In Paris and Ratatouille, the former I can hardly remember and the latter I have yet to see. Perhaps I shall visit France one day, but Italy is first on the agenda. The only thing to do is get enough time off work to make it worth while.

  13. Gennaro says:


    I think you’d like Breathless or The Dreamers. Time is always of the essence. Though even a short trip is great. Then again, you’re flying from a lot further away so it’s a bit more complicated.

  14. John H says:

    Paris Je T’aime was a great film. There were sad segments, but overall it was a beautiful rendition of Paris. The colors in Amelie were fabulous. Beautiful film work. Fun character too.

  15. Oh my – I haven’t seen a single film on that list 🙁

  16. Gennaro says:

    @John H

    It really was nicely synthesized. Can’t be easy with all those directors involved. Though each was sort of its own film. Amelie was a beautiful film to view. They spent a lot of time on presentation.

    @Kim Woodbridge

    Lol, I know how to pick them 🙂

  17. Sheena says:

    Before Sunrise/Sunset are favorites. Very hopeful and fun, but also lots of conversation. Love Amelie too. I’ve seen it three times and it gets better every time.

  18. Hi Gennaro

    I was in Paris almost two years ago, it was the best trip of my life. I have never seen any of the movie on your list. Before Sunset sounds very good to me, so I am going to get it tomorrow. Thank you,
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  19. Gennaro says:


    Three times…now, that’s an endorsement.

    @Giovanna Garcia

    It’s tough to beat Paris. I’d consider watching Before Sunrise first even though it’s in Vienna as it is the first of the two films.

  20. Amelie – what a great movie! Has it really been eight years since it came out?

  21. Gennaro says:


    It does seem like yesterday. We’re on an express train to tomorrow.

  22. Sonya says:

    I absolutely love this post on 8 Great Movies for Paris travelers. I’m planning a trip to Paris soon and I’ll try to track down some of these for travel inspiration. Thanks so much!

  23. Pat says:

    How about an American Werewolf in Paris? a romantic one!

  24. Thais says:

    I was looking everywhere for a list of great Paris movies. I am bookmarking this page!! Love it!!!!!!!

  25. weenthequeen says:

    What about the DaVinci Code? That one is all in Paris too!

  26. Gennaro says:

    @Sonya – Paris is great. Enjoy.

    @Pat – Maybe for the next list.

    @Thais – Appreciate that.

    @weenthequeen – That would work too.

  27. Brent Pallas says:

    Loved your choices. Seen most. And how about PARIS BLUES? A good oldie with Newman and Portier and Joanne Woodward. Of course we love BBEFORE SUNSET and SUNRISE. My wife and I last year even went to Le Pure Cafe where they stopped for a drink and smoke in the movie. They were absolutely lovely too us even after we said we were there because of the movie. The host showed us the table they sat in an warmly shook our hands whn we left. Great food too. Of course we had some duck.


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