The Best French Films of 2024 (So Far)

Screenshot 2024-06-11 at 5.54.56 PM

2024 is showing all the signs of a fascinating year for French film. The year began with the arthouse crowd swooning over Tran Anh Hung’s culinary romance, The Taste of Things, before going wild for the dystopian, time-jumping love story The Beast, starring France’s most ubiquitous actrice, Léa Seydoux. Meanwhile, two big-budget, action-packed adventures—the new star-studded, two-part version of The Three Musketeers, and the ludicrous, yet captivating shark-on-the-loose-in-the-Seine story Under Paris—killed at the French box office, before grabbing global attention via streaming platforms. Meaning that you can curl up on the couch and watch them right now! (Under Paris in particular has become a breakout hit, debuting with 40.9 million views, to become the most-watched title on Netflix from June 3-9.) We can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store. Voici our favorite French films of 2024 so far.

2024’s French Films to Watch

Paul Kircher in The Animal Kingdom

1. The Taste of Things, directed by Tran Anh Hung

Renowned 19th century gourmand, Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel), lives in an idyllic home in the French countryside, where he prepares elaborate meals with his private cook/lover Eugénie (Juliette Binoche), who has refused his many marriage proposals. In their sun-drenched kitchen, the camera circles and swoops, caressing freshly chopped ingredients, simmering pans, and edible delicacies, as if taking in the angles and curves of the body of an amant. To Dodin and Eugénie, the magic they create together in the kitchen is everything. When Eugénie falls ill, Dodin creates a meal for her that acts as a love letter, expressing all that she means to him. Come for the sumptuous food and stay for the exquisite love story of The Taste of Things, which was France’s official submission for Best International Film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023, and won the festival’s award for Best Director.

Stream on AMC+ or Roku. Rent on Apple TV.

2. The Animal Kingdom, directed by Thomas Cailley

In a world that looks a lot like our own, a mysterious illness is turning people into animals. When his wife Lana starts morphing into a wolflike creature, François (Romain Duris) and his teenage son Emile (Paul Kircher) move south to be closer to the facility where she will be treated. Then, the transport vehicle crashes, and a group of hybrid creatures the locals call “beasties,” including Lana, escapes into the wild. The film was shot in the dense old growth forests of the Landes de Gascogne National Park, where Emile befriends a massive birdman (Tom Mercier) who’s determined to learn to fly. Struggling to navigate a new school, a budding relationship with a classmate, and covering up his mother’s condition is hard enough—then Emile grows claws and hair on his back. The subtext about tolerance mirrors today’s debates in France about immigration, the LGBTQ community, and anyone else viewed as “other.” This thought-provoking speculative drama was nominated for 12 César Awards, including Best Director and Best Film, and won for Best Visual Effects.

Rent on Fandango at Home or YouTube.

3. The Beast, directed by Bertrand Bonello

The brilliant and challenging director Bonello transforms Henry James’ 1903 novella, The Beast in the Jungle, into a romantic thriller that jumps between three time periods: 2044, 2014, and 1910. In the post-apocalyptic Paris of 2044, Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) undergoes a procedure that involves revisiting past lives to rid herself of memories and emotions, in order to thrive in a world where AI reigns. Each jump through time unites her with a man (George Mackay), with whom she unsuccessfully tries to connect. While the hero in James’ story avoided emotional attachment because he feared some unnamed catastrophe, in The Beast, the catastrophes Gabrielle encounters are all too real. With each jump in time illuminating a new threat to humanity—violent floods, incels, hostile technology—Bonello seems to be suggesting that in a world as brutal as ours, love is doomed.

Coming soon to Apple TV.

4. Stay with Us, directed by Gad Elmaleh

Actor and comedian Gad Elmaleh co-writes, directs, and stars in this moving comic drama about an actor and comedian (also named Gad Elmaleh) who returns to Paris from his home in the U.S. to convert from Judaism to Catholicism. When his parents (played by Elmaleh’s actual parents, Régine and David Elmaleh) find out, they freak. Inspired by Elmaleh’s own flirtation with the Catholic church (and his lifelong crush on the Virgin Mary), Stay with Us tells the story of a man in crisis, who’s searching for solace in religion. The cast that surrounds him is made up of the actual priests, rabbis, and nuns who advised him on his journey. The film’s tone couldn’t be more different from his Netflix series Huge in France, also semi-autobiographical, but more of a broad comedy about Elmaleh trying to make it as a comedian in the U.S. You won’t find the hilarity of Elmaleh’s standup here, but you will chuckle at moments of family strife and internal debate in this midlife crisis flick that packs a surprising punch.

Watch on Apple TV.

5. On the Adamant, directed by Nicolas Philibert

Master documentarian Nicolas Philibert (To Be and To Have) turns his camera on l’Adamant, a floating barge in the Seine that houses a treatment center for adults with mental disabilities. In true Cinéma Vérité fashion, the filmmaker lets the camera roll as life on the Adamant unfolds, with patients dropping in to paint, take a dance class, make jam, play music, or work in the center’s café. Interviews allow us to get to know the patients and explore their personal stories, their quirkiness, kindness, and intelligence, as well as the unusual and often troubling ways their minds work. Particularly stunning is the open-hearted way the film presents these fascinating people, who are generally relegated to the fringes of society. On the Adamant makes the case that they deserve a moment in the spotlight. Others seem to agree, as the film won the Golden Bear, the top prize at the 2023 Berlin Film Festival.

Rent on Prime, Apple TV or Google Play.

6. Last Summer, directed by Catherine Breillat

We hear a lot about the male gaze, and the masculine perspective it imposes on depictions of women. To which director Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl, Romance) responds, “Non, merci.” The 75-year-old auteur, as provocative as ever, tells stories that prioritize the female gaze. Her first film in a decade concerns Anne (Léa Drucker), a successful lawyer with two young daughters, who stumbles into an affair with her husband’s teenage son Théo (Samuel Kircher) from a previous marriage, who is temporarily living with them. Professionally, Anne specializes in sexual abuse cases, often involving a young woman and an older man, and has no designs on her stepson. But she’s caught off-guard by her intense attraction to him. The camera laps up Theo’s body and wide-eyed, chiseled face, while capturing only Anne’s pleasure. This is her fantasy. She is in control of the dalliance—and the aftermath, which brings to light the power dynamics at play in a twist that will shock audiences unused to seeing women behave in ways so fierce and self-serving.

The film opens in New York on June 28.

7. Solo, directed by Sophie Dupuis

It’s impossible to take your eyes off Simon, the 20-something Montreal drag queen at the center of this moving coming of age story. As played by the stunning Canadian actor Théodore Pellerin, whose emotions live right under the skin, Simon is as confident as he is insecure, as strong as he is vulnerable, filled with so much love, need, and desire, he might implode under the weight of it. When Olivier (Félix Maritaud), a new guy at the club where he performs, struts right up to him and claims his heart, Simon believes his life is complete. Except that after their first blush, Oliver shows a controlling, even gaslighting side. It doesn’t help that Simon’s famous opera singer mother (Anne-Marie Cadieux), who dumped her kids years earlier to chase her career, shows up at just this moment. The emotional fallout is brutal to watch, given the protectiveness we can’t help but feel for Simon. He’s a wonder both on and off-stage, and we root deeply for the success and fulfillment he deserves.

Coming soon to Apple TV and Fandango at Home.

8. Just the Two of Us, directed by Valérie Donzelli

When Blanche (Virginie Efira) meets Grégoire (Melvil Poupaud), there’s instant heat. They dance, stumble over each other’s sentences, have steamy sex. Blanche’s identical twin, Rose (also played by Efira), is the outgoing one. Blanche is more reserved, even resigned to never marrying or having kids, but she’s blindsided by this intense, handsome guy who is instantly smitten with her. Quicker than you can say, “Is he a touch… psychotic?” they’re married, pregnant, and leaving her doting family behind to move to Metz for his job. What happens next creeps up on you. There are warning signs: he won’t let her go home for Christmas, and she learns he wasn’t forced into the work transfer, but requested it. Soon enough, he’s keeping her virtually caged in their isolated home, calling her nonstop when she’s out. If she resists, violence erupts. Efira is typically excellent as a woman realizing she’s married an abusive man. Her emotions—surprise, fear, defiance, pain—play over her face like a subtle dance. A plan takes shape. This once-passive Blanche will not be threatened or controlled. She will protect herself and her children, whatever it takes. This smart erotic thriller was nominated for four César awards, including Best Actress and Best Actor, and won Best Adapted Screenplay for Donzelli and her co-writer, Audrey Diwan.

Opening in New York and LA on June 14, followed by a national expansion.

9. Amoré Mio, directed by Guillaume Gouix

On the day of her young husband’s funeral, Lola (Alysson Paradis) loses her shit. Not uncommon following the loss of a loved one, but Lola takes it up a notch. On the way to the service, she announces she’s not going. When her level-headed older sister Margaux (the great Élodie Bouchez), which whom she has a strained relationship, tells her to chill, Lola grabs her adorable son, Gaspard (Viggo Ferreira-Redier), and flees. Margaux eventually agrees to blow off the service and take a road trip, driving farther and farther away from the evidence that Lola has actually lost the man she loves. This film bears the familiar tropes of the well-worn roadtrip movie. They stay in shady hotels, get the car stuck in the mud, and make an unexpected stop at Margaux’s upscale city-girl apartment. Along the way, ancient dirty laundry is aired, secrets revealed. It’s a small story with just enough emotional weight and poignancy to keep us transfixed and wondering where all this is headed. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Lola needs to do what she needs to do to be ready to face her grief, and we are lucky enough to be along for the ride.

Rent on Apple TV.

10. The Nature of Love, directed by Monia Chokri

French-Canadian director Chokri brings us a philosophical deep dive into—you guessed it—the nature of love, told through the sexy story of Sophie (Magalie Lépine-Blondeau), a forty-something philosophy professor. Sophie’s comfortable yet predictable relationship with her partner Xavier (Francis-William Rhéaume) is upended when she falls hard for the hunky contractor Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) doing renovations on their country home. Without thinking it through, she leaps into a new life with a new man, her philosophy lectures mirroring every stage of their romance. At first Sophie is so caught up in the rockin’ sex, that she’s willing to overlook their differences. But as they venture outside the bedroom, meet each other’s families, and drink a lot of beer, she wonders if true, passionate love can survive their class differences, their intellectual and political divide, her friends’ and family’s judgment—and his grammatical errors. This smart romantic comedy won the 2024 César for Best Foreign Film.

The film opens on July 5 in New York, and July 12 in LA, followed by a national expansion.

11. Banel & Adama, directed by Ramata-Toulaye Sy 

In Sy’s dreamy, visually striking debut film, Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama (Mamadou Diallo) couldn’t be more in love. The young married couple lounges in the grass outside their remote village in Senegal, recounting the myths that live in their heads. They’re always touching. They don’t need anyone except each other, and spend hours digging out a house that’s covered in sand, determined to live together away from the rules and critical eyes of the village. Banel refuses to fulfill her role as a woman by having children. Adama, who’s next in line to be the village chief, refuses the role. Then the rains don’t come. The cattle start dying. By the time villagers start dying, too, it feels personal. Banel refuses to submit and continues to dig, while Adama feels responsible, his guilt and devastation overshadowing his love for Banel. Sometimes it’s unclear what the film is trying to say. Sometimes you want to shake Banel and tell her to stop being so selfish. But their tragic love and the rich, suggestive natural backdrop are so incredibly beautiful you’re willing to get lost in their story.

Banel & Adama opens in New York on June 7, and in Los Angeles on June 14, with a national expansion to follow.

Andrea Meyer has written creative treatments for commercial directors, a sex & the movies column for IFC, and a horror screenplay for MGM. Her first novel, Room for Love (St. Martin’s Press) is a romantic comedy based on an article she wrote for the New York Post, for which she pretended to look for a roommate as a ploy to meet men. A long-time film and entertainment journalist and former indieWIRE editor, Andrea has interviewed more actors and directors than she can remember. Her articles and essays have appeared in such publications as Elle, Glamour, Variety, Time Out NY, and the Boston Globe.

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