10 Movies That Make You Want to Pack Your Bags and Move to France

  • February 26, 2018

“Never a briefcase in Paris and never an umbrella,” said Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 Hollywood classic Sabrina. The movies have a power to romanticize a place so much, that us media-consuming nostalgia lovers eat it up like it is the grandest buffet we’ve ever come across. And we can’t deny it, we love doing so too. A country most romanticized by film over the year is certainly France. Just for fun, we thought of putting a list together of 10 movies that make us want to pack our bags and move to France. Whether is the hot lavender-smelling countryside of Provence, the seaside of Cannes, or the nostalgic streets of Paris, we’ve got a movie for every type of feeling…

Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris (2011)Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris (2011)
Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris (2011)


Midnight in Paris (2011, Woody Allen)
If you love art and literature

Woody Allen’s love letter to Paris and literature follows a nostalgic American screenwriter named Gil (Owen Wilson) looking for inspiration on a pre-wedding holiday with his controlling fiancé. One night, he discovers that he has the ability to travel back to the 1920s. There he meets his literary idols from the Lost Generation, including such iconic figures like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Though it begins as a fun, history-oriented, time travel flick, the movie’s main message is actually wonderfully thought out. It tells viewers that one should never live in the past, because by doing so, we will never move towards the future. Although, Mr. Allen’s screenplay certainly puts it in a more eloquent way then I have. The story will resonate most with artists looking to get out of a funk. In addition, the streets of Paris are shot gorgeously shot by cinematography Darius Khondji. By the end of the 100-minute film, you’ll want nothing but to wander the streets of the City of Lights under the rain.

Ratatouille (2007)
Ratatouille (2007)


Ratatouille (2007, Brad Bird)
If you love food  

Who ever thought that a movie about a cooking rat would inspire so many to be cooks? Even your writer has run to the grocery and bought a selection of vegetables to try and re-create the famous summer French dish Ratatouille that Remy the Rat so perfectly puts together in the Disney film. One thing I learned: it’s impossible to cook Ratatouille as fast as he did. Apart from the solid storyline (Disney writers are consistently very good at creating original stories, so please stop with the remakes), the movie makes you want to eat French cuisine. It doesn’t matter whether it is a simple fried egg or a fantastic soup at one of Paris’ top restaurants, everything in the film (and it’s all animated) makes you want to move to Paris and eat the city.

Audrey Hepburn and William Holden in Sabrina (1954)
Audrey Hepburn and William Holden in Sabrina (1954)


Sabrina (1954, Billy Wilder)
If you’re a hopeless romantic

Though only 5% of the 1954 Billy Wilder movie actually happens in France, it is one subject spoken of throughout the entire film’s runtime that the viewer always associates the city with romance. Audrey Hepburn plays Sabrina Fairchild, the chauffer’s daughter in love with the boss’s son, the womanizing socialite David Larrabee (William Holden). When Sabrina returns from Paris a sophisticated woman, she finally catches the young scion’s eye. David completely forgets his engagement to the daughter of a plastics company owner, in which the Larrabee’s are acquiring. David’s older brother Linus (Humphrey Bogart) will not allow their business deal to go sour, and decides to romance Sabrina himself, drawing her away from David. Paris becomes its own character in Sabrina, despite not actually being set there (most it happens in New York City and Long Island). Sabrina has left her heart in Paris, has become a woman there, and longs to return there with the person she loves. She talks about it, how one should never have an umbrella when it rains, and it makes the heart flutter with such nostalgia. The fact that movie consistently plays La Vie En Rose at the background and features a stunning wardrobe by Hubert de Givenchy surely helps as well.

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief (1955)
Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief (1955)


To Catch a Thief (1955, Alfred Hitchcock)
If you like a life of glamour

The sunny beachside of Cannes in the South of France is where this popular Alfred Hitchcock thriller takes place. It follows an infamous cat burglar (Cary Grant) investigating a copycat robber in which he is being blamed for dozens of heists. Add in the gorgeous Grace Kelly as a wealthy vacationing socialite in fabulous couture creations, and you’ve got a French dream caught on celluloid. The sunny beaches, luxe hotels, blooming flowers, and fast sports cars makes you want to move there rather than simply visiting. Imagine attending a 1800s-themed masquerade ball or picnicking on a cliff with a view of the Mediterranean. It’s the stuff luxury is made of.

Russell Crowe in A Good Year (2006)
Russell Crowe in A Good Year (2006)


A Good Year (2006, Ridley Scott)
If you love good wine

This 2006 Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe collaboration isn’t given enough credit. When it was originally released it was met with harsh critics, saying that the director-actor duo should stick to what they know (epics such as Gladiator) and never come back into this romantic-comedy territory. I beg to differ. What A Good Year offers is simply a good time and a sweet story that has you longing to live amongst the wine vineyards of Provence. Crowe plays a selfish stock trader who discovers that he has inherited his uncle’s estate in France. He travels there to sort out papers and fix up the mansion in time for a sale to the highest bidder. But as his character prepares the house, he remembers his summer’s as a boy, happy and simple, and full of magic. The sunny cinematography and the constant heavy gulping down of vino is enough for us to pack our bags and journey to the South of France. Not to mention, it makes us work-obsessed individuals long for simpler times, where joy was is found in good food and better drinks by the quiet countryside.

Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia (2009)
Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia (2009)


Julie & Julia (2009, Nora Ephron)
If you aspire to be a chef

Julie & Julia is not without its problems. For one, we’d prefer the entire Amy Adams Julie part to be cut out completely and the film to focus primarily on the life of Julia Child (played by the magnificent Meryl Streep). Adams is quite the formidable actress, but her character is so unlikeable that we often find ourselves fast-forwarding her scenes to watch Meryl Streep’s spot-on impersonation of the famous chef in her France years. After watching Julie & Julia, we promise you that your obsession for French cooking will begin. You’ll want to learn how to make the perfect Boeuf Bourguignon, how to debone a duck and cover it in puff pastry, and how to make the ideal sauce to match your lobster. It’ll have you looking for cooking classes in France, where you will make the leap and decide it’s time to learn and follow your dream of becoming a professional chef. 

Kay Thompson, Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face (1957)
Kay Thompson, Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face (1957)


Funny Face (1957, Stanley Donen)
If you think of nothing but fashion

The words Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy go so well together that some movies seem like they were tailored and made just to show off the designer-muses collaborations. Funny Face is one of those movies. The musical film stars Audrey Hepburn as a newly discovered model, who shoots a campaign for a controlling fashion photographer played by Fred Astaire. If the gorgeous clothes aren’t enough to draw you in, then hear this: they match every outfit to famous French monuments that make it stick out even more. Each fashion shot at Funny Face seems like a work of art in itself. For example, how can we forget Audrey walking down the Paris Opera house in a blood red ball gown? Or standing by the Arc de Triomphe in a black ensemble holding dozens of colorful balloons? We think movies were turned into color just for magical fashion moments like this. 

Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in An American in Paris (1951)
Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in An American in Paris (1951)


An American in Paris (1951, Vincente Minnelli)
If you’re an aspiring artist

Dancing/acting extraordinaire Gene Kelly plays Jerry Mulligan, an American GI living in Paris, looking to live a life as one of the great painters. The story follows the simple plot of boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy gets girl again. This time, Leslie Caron’s girl is engaged to another man so owes so much too, although she is in love with Kelly’s Jerry. But the storyline isn’t where An American in Paris flourishes. The true beauty of this Oscar-winning, Best Picture classic happens 17-minutes before the credits roll. As Kelly’s character has lost the girl he loves, he envisions their romance in a high-production ballet sequence almost twenty minutes long. In the sequence, they hop from famous painting to famous painting, dancing to a wonderful composition by no other than the legendary George Gershwin. Lovers of art will have a great time looking at these scenes, identify one iconic work after the other. The sequence can standalone as a short film or ballet, totally worth checking out. 

Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette (2006)
Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette (2006)


Marie Antoinette (2006, Sofia Coppola)
If you’re a history buff

Sofia Coppola’s biopic of the life of French monarch Marie Antoinette was met with much criticism because of its historical inaccuracies. But what’s more fun than being a history buff and pointing these things out? Apart from that, the quality of the movie does not dip. Kirsten Dunst was an inspired choice to play the monarch. Her girlish charm and mischievous smirk is an interesting new take on the infamous queen of France. In addition, the Palace of Versailles never looked better on film. Milena Canonero’s costume design is spot on and looks like candy on film.

Catharine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Catharine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)


The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964, Jacques Demy)
If you’re recovering from a break up

Fair warning: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is not for the weak hearted. La La Land director Damien Chazelle says that the 1964 movie musical was one of his major inspirations for his 2016 Oscar winning hit. So imagine, the heartbreak of La La Land and multiply it by a few hundreds. That is the feeling someone will have with this tragic tale of parted lovers. Catharine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo is impressive as the young couple from the small French town of Cherbourg, who is torn apart by the Algerian war. While Castelnuovo is away, much tragedy happens to Deneuve’s Genevieve that will change her life forever. If you can sit through a film that is completely sung all throughout, then you’re ready for Umbrellas. It may even help you get over your most recent break up, by realizing that some people have it worse than you. Just make sure you see the film with a large box of tissues.


By Chino R. Hernandez