Integral to French film culture, is the Côte d’Azur. The Côte d’Azur gained incredible popularity in French media throughout the 60s and 70s, as it became home to numerous starlets like Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. Fortunately for us, that envious period has been jotted down in the form of movies by French producers. The 60s and 70s were revolutionary years, notably in regards to personal freedoms, sexual liberation, and the birth of French New Wave Cinema. This hippy era’s short pastel dresses, linen garments, wicker baskets, and beach hair, continue to define the Côte d’Azur’s eclectic corner of the south. Here are 11 films to help you recreate the Côte d’Azur mood this summer.
1. Et Dieu Créa la Femme (1957)
The modern French woman’s anthem, this film starring Brigitte Bardot launched her entire career as a seductive, tenacious and witty woman. Swoon-worthy panoramas of St. Tropez, designer garments, and sultry vibes bump this film up to one of the most known pictures depicting the region.
2. Bonjour Tristesse (1958)
Bonjour Tristesse is a film based on Françoise Sagan’s novel of the same name. The title finds its roots in Paul Éluard’s poem, “A peine défigurée” where the speaker states, “Adieu tristesse/Bonjour tristesse.” The film follows Cécile, a 17-year-old girl with a distinct and strong personality as well as a close relationship with her father, Raymond. As Raymond and Cécile enjoy a summer by the Riviera, she becomes enamored with a young man, Philippe, and her father receives an impromptu visit from his late wife’s friend, Anne. However, as Anne and Raymond grow closer, Cécile and her father’s relationship is threatened by the new changes offered by the mystical Côte d’Azur.
3. To Catch A Thief (1955)
To Catch a Thief is a romantic thriller and Hitchcock classic. The film narrates former burglar John Robie’s attempt to clear his name when a slew of robberies are committed along the French Rivera. As Robie tactfully works to prove his innocence, he also begins a romantic relationship with a young woman named Francis. But, when Francis’ jewels are robbed and Robie is yet to be proven innocent, a romantic thriller ensues. To Cath a Thief depicts the French Rivera with a unique edge whilst yet surrounding its characters with the love, tenderness, and sexuality that is iconic to the Côte d’Azur.
4. Mélodie En Sous-Sol (1963)
Mélodie en Sous-Sol is a classic French-Italian crime drama directed by Henri Verneuil. The film follows protagonists Charles and Francis, and their attempt to orchestrate a Casino robbery in Cannes. Despite its crime aspect, the core of this film is its distinctly French comédie.
5. Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez (1964)
Le Gendarme de St. Tropez is a classic French comedy. The film follows Ludovic Curchot—a stern and traditional gendarme—and his daughter Nicole, as they begin a new life in Saint-Tropez, a picturesque beach town along the French Rivera. Despite her strict upbringing, Nicole quickly adapts to the carefree and youthful life of Saint-Tropez. As Nicole develops her own divergent identity, her father struggles to deal with her newfound angst and deviation from his traditional perceptions The film follows an endearing yet honest father-daughter relationship, as the viewers watch both protagonists grow into themselves throughout the film.
6. Pierrot Le Fou (1965)
Pierrot le Fou is a classic Nouvelle Vague picture starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina. In the film, Belmondo’s character, Ferdinand Griffon, is fired from his TV broadcasting job, and soon realizes his unwavering unhappiness in his bourgeois Parisian marriage. When Ferdinand’s wife hires babysitter Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina), he falls desperately in love with her, and chooses to embark on a trip to the Mediterranean. But, as Ferdinand attempts to abandon his family and stagnant life in Paris, Marianne reveals demons of her own, and the couple soon finds themselves on the run from those she is trying to escape.
7. La piscine (1969)
La Piscine is a film set in Saint Tropez and featuring revered stars Alain Deloin and Jane Birkin. This film is both a sensual and psychological thriller sensual thriller and explores the complex dynamics of sexuality, jealousy, love, and power—all along the French Riviera.
8. La Nuit Américaine (1973)
La Nuit Américaine is a film by renowned director François Truffaut. The title of this piece is an ode to the French name for the filming process of adding filters over the camera lens. The film chronicles a fiction 4th wall breakage, as we watch a British and film crew manage depression, social pressures, and other sensitive anxieties as they film a melodrama.
9. La Fille de Monaco (2008)
This modern drama is a story hailing from Monaco. La Fille de Monaco features the complex dynamics of wealth, death, and sexual liberation in coastal France alongside a pending murder trial that truly sets the film’s dichotomous tone.
10. Les Estivants (2018)
This film brings both French and Italian culture together for a semi-autobiographical retelling of director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s experience in the French Rivera. In the film, the protagonist takes a thought-provoking trip to the coast, while seeking inspiration for her screenplay.