31 Movies You Need To See To Pull Off Your Cool French-Girl Persona

How do we define the Cool French Girl? That is the question.

She is, as the moniker implies, the very definition of cool. But what does that even mean? Are there different kinds of Cool French Girls? Varying levels of cool? Can one be a Cool French Girl without actually being French?

To get to the bottom of this existential question, I turned to the movies. My theory: Marion Cotillard might just hold the key to that indescribable très chic aura. Catherine Deneuve could potentially teach me to project that sultry yet carefree allure. Or maybe — if I observed Brigitte Bardot long enough — I'd also absorb just a fraction of her je ne sais quoi.

I cannot confirm if any of those things happened. However, I did compile a handy guide for those who, like me, strive to internalize the enigma of the Cool French Girl. Naturally, some of these films feature our favorite French stars. Some are simply required viewing for anyone who's putting on Gallic airs. All of them are magnifiques.
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Amélie (2001)

Where would a modern French film roundup be without the quirkiest one of them all?

Audrey Tautou is Amélie Poulain, a charmingly bizarre Parisienne whose hobbies include cracking the crust of her crème brulée and skipping stones on the Canal St-Martin. Like Jane Austen's Emma, she's convinced she can change the lives of those around her for the better — until she realizes that she is the one who's life is really in need of a shake up.
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Breathless (1960)

When you say Paris, I picture Jean Seberg — an American, but honorary French girl — strolling down a Parisian boulevard.

Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a charming rogue and petty criminal, finds himself in a spot of trouble when he steals a car and shoots a cop. While on the run, he turns to American student and aspiring journalist Patricia (Seberg), who hides him — until she finds out exactly what he's done.

This '60s classic basically launched the French New Wave era. Enjoy with a fresh baguette and a glass of crisp white wine.
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The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964)

If you're not into musicals, steer clear of this one — even the most trivial conversations are conveyed in song.

Though, you'd really be missing out: no one does the Cool-French-Girl-on-a-bicycle look quite like Catherine Deneuve.

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La Boum (1980)

For those who think all French movies are highbrow, think of this as a Gallic version of Pretty In Pink.

Sophie Marceau plays 13-year-old Vic, who is desperate to attend a major party. Add teenage boy problems and a parental affair into the mix, and you have a true recipe for '80s drama.
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Jules & Jim (1962)

Jules meets Jim. Jules and Jim meet Catherine. Jules falls in love with Catherine. Jim falls in love with Catherine. Catherine picks Jules. Jules and Jim fight World War I on opposite sides. They reunite. Catherine picks Jim. Catherine picks Jules and Jim. (You get the picture.)

Directed by François Truffaut, this iconic film is sexy and scandalous. Most importantly, Jeanne Moreau rocks a striped sailor shirt like a boss. A cool French boss of course.
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Beauty & The Beast (1946)

The tale as old as time actually dates back to 1757, when Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont published it as part of an anthology of children's tales.

This 1946 version, directed by Jean Cocteau, is much darker than the Disney classic you remember: Belle's father is actually sentenced to death for picking a rose in the Beast's garden.
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A Very Long Engagement (2004)

Cool French Girls are also tenacious. In this lesser-known gem by the director of Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) Mathilde and Mathieu grow up to be inseparable. When World War I comes between them, Mathilde goes on a trying and almost fantastic quest to find out what became of her beloved.
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Hiroshima, My Love (1959)

Documenting a fictional 36-hour conversation between a French actress (Her) and a Japanese architect (Him), this film questions the very idea of memory. The end of these former lovers' brief affair is juxtaposed with the after effects of the Hiroshima atomic blast.

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Belle De Jour (1967)

Further proof that Catherine Deneuve is the Cool French Girl we all strive to be. She plays Séverine Serizy, whose masochistic fantasies seem to clash with her quiet life as a housewife — until she starts to moonlight as a high-class escort named Belle de Jour.

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The Troops Of St. Tropez (1964)

Is there anything as glamorous as the French Riviera circa 1964? Probably not. Relive the glory days of Saint Tropez by following the antics of a group of policemen trying to keep their resort town from falling prey to nudists, tourists, and rock 'n' roll. Basically every extra in this movie qualifies as Cool French Girl, so take notes.

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Contempt (1963)

As if Brigitte Bardot (the pinnacle of Cool French Girlness) reading broodingly in the bath — complete with that perfectly teased messy bun — isn't enticing enough, this film has perhaps the most compelling and entertaining trailer ever.
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The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2007)

The Cool French Girl is sensitive.

After suffering a major stroke at the age of 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) must learn to live with locked-in syndrome, a condition which leaves him paralyzed from the neck down. With only one eye functional, he must learn to communicate by blinking his left eyelid. This biographical drama is based on Bauby's memoir of the same name, which he wrote by spelling out each letter, blink by blink.

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The Intouchables (2011)

The touching story about the unlikely friendship between a quadriplegic millionaire and his live-in caregiver from the banlieues of Paris has earned this film its place as one of France's most celebrated (and watched) exports. Cool French Girls love this movie, and so should you.
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The Chorus (2004)

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song at the 77th Academy Awards, this film follows music teacher Clement Mathieu as he tries to bring purpose to a group of delinquent boarding school students through song, a la Dead Poets Society.

(Confession: There are no Cool French Girls in this movie, but it's amazing and well worth your time.)
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Little White Lies (2010)

Cool French Girls enjoy eight weeks of paid vacances, so think of this movie as a guide to the perfect French vacation.

Step 1: Picturesque oceanside villa getaway. Step 2: Days spent sailing from town to town, stopping only for some cheese and a bottle of wine. Step 3: Wine. Lots of wine. Step 4: All the family drama. Step 5: Sex.
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Persepolis (2007)

The Cool French Girl isn't always born that way.

Based on Marjane Satrapi's celebrated autobiographical graphic novel, the film follows her journey from impressionable child to rebellious young woman questioning the legitimacy of the Iranian revolution. It's a bitingly funny look at the double standards women face in a repressive regime. Come for the political satire, stay for the truly epic Michael Jackson cover.

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Amour (2012)

A simultaneously tender and terrifying look at the real-life trials of old age, this film will make you rethink the meaning of "Till death do us part." Emmanuelle Riva (remember her from Hiroshima, My Love?) plays Anne, a retired music teacher who suffers a series of strokes. Her husband, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), also in his 80s, must find a way to care for her while keeping his promise not to send her to a nursing home.

Bring on the Kleenex.
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The Triplets Of Belleville (2003)

Cool French Girls are artsy.

When a Tour de France cyclist is kidnapped by the mafia and taken to the fictional city of Belleville (a mashup of New York, Montreal, and Quebec City), his grandmother must enlist the help of former 1930s music-hall-singer triplets to save him. It's all pretty mad, rad, and fantastic.
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Joyeux Noel (2005)

In 1917, German, French, and Scottish troops reportedly declared a Christmas truce over a small section of the Western Front. They drank, they caroled, and they played soccer, only to start shooting at each other the next day. It's a perfect holiday movie. Because, really, nothing says Merry Christmas like a visit from Cool (French-Speaking) Girl Diane Kruger in the cold trenches of war-torn Europe.
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Blue Is The Warmest Color (2014)

Adele is a typical French teenager — she gossips about boys, smokes in front of her high school, and dreams of freedom. When she meets Emma, a mysterious girl with blue hair, Adele discovers the true meaning of desire and sexuality — and the heartbreak that goes with it.
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The Spanish Apartment (2002)

The only thing better than a French film is one that takes place in an apartment in Barcelona. Xavier (Romain Duris), an economics grad student bored with his Parisian life, decides to leave for a year abroad in Spain. There, he ends up sharing a ramshackle apartment with students representing all corners of the European Union. Multi-lingual shenanigans ensue.

(Spoiler: He breaks up with one Cool French Girl, only to immediately hook up with another. Men...)
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La Vie En Rose (2007)

France's greatest singer also inspired one of its most fabulous films. Based on a series of milestone moments in the life of Edith Piaf, this film is a must-see. After all, this is the woman who literally came up with #noregrets.
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Potiche (2011)

The Cool French Girl doesn't have an age. Once she's cool, she stays that way. And no one proves this point more than Catherine Deneuve. She was fabulous at 20 and she's even more fabulous now. In Potiche, she plays a bored housewife who goes to work for the first time in her life after her husband has a heart attack. Spoiler: she slays.
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Cyrano De Bergerac (1990)

Every Cool French Girl knows that the only way to be wooed is in verse. So if you're in the mood for some lovin', take a page out of Cyrano's book and get someone else to do the heavy lifting for you.
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A Trip To The Moon (1902)

An oldie, but goodie. (The Cool French Girl is not a recent invention.)

Join Professeur Barbenfouillis (played by director Georges Méliès) and his lovely sailor-suit clad attendants as they travel to the moon and back. And those lovely colors? All added by hand.
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2 Days In Paris (2007)

Sometimes, the Cool French Girl (Julie Delpy) gets a neurotic American boyfriend (Adam Goldberg) and has to bring him home to her cool French home to meet her cool French parents. It doesn't always go well.
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Rust & Bone (2012)

The love story between a single-dad bouncer (Cool Belgian Boy Matthias Schoenaerts) and an injured marine park worker (Cool French Girl Marion Cotillard) was the critical darling of its awards season. If you're a sucker for damaged romance, this is your jam.
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The Artist (2011)

The Cool French Girl doesn't even have to speak. Bérénice Bejo proved that when she won our hearts as rising star Peppy Miller, who rescues mentor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) from silent obscurity.
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Going Places (1974)

Cool French Girls are sexy.

This movie's original French title, Les Valseuses, refers to a slang term for testicles. (They swing — get it?) That should give you the gist of the plot of this sexy dramedy. Starring a very young (and surprisingly good-looking) Gérard Depardieu alongside Patrick Dewaere and Miou-Miou, the film follows the adventures of two hooligans robbing and fucking their way through France.
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Manon Des Sources (1986)

The Cool French Girl isn't always from the city. Inspired by a series of novels by Marcel Pagnol, Manon des Sources is a celebration of the southern region of Provence.
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The Dinner Game (1998)

Cool French Girls sometimes marry Cool French Assholes, whose idea of fun consists of inviting "idiots" over for dinner in order to mock them. But in the end, they're cool, funny, and French, so we forgive them.
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