Strolling through the streets of Paris last month and passing many famous filming locations, I wondered about the top movies set in Paris, especially those that would make any viewer fall in love with the French capital. So after some thinking, here are my eclectic top 5 of movies that take place in Paris.
Paris has never been depicted more beautifully than in this Pixar animated movie about a talented rat that “accidentally” becomes a chef in a well-known Parisian restaurant.
The writer, producer and some of the crew of Ratatouille conducted research in Paris by touring the city by motorcycle, dining at its top five restaurants, and taking over 4,500 reference photographs. Many location details are based on reality. For example, the shop that displays dead rats in its window is actually an exterminator in Rue des Halles in the first arrondissement.
The combination of food, animals, charming decors, and technical brilliance makes Ratatouille one of the best movies set in Paris.
Holy Motors (2012)
In this film by Leos Carax, Mr. Oscar has nine appointments to honor during the day. For each appointment, he will be someone different: a crippled old woman, a businessman, a one-eyed lunatic, etc. As a limousine takes Mr. Oscar to his appointments in different parts of Paris, we get to see the city in all its glory. Some of the most famous places you'll recognize are the Père Lachaise cemetery, Pont Neuf, Hotel Raphael, Champs Elysées, the former Citroën factory, Boulevard Ménilmontant, Boulevard Voltaire, Alexandre III bridge, and more.
Holy Motors is a masterpiece – beautifully shot and brilliantly structured - but it's also a strange film that not everyone will appreciate. However, the main reason why you should watch Holy Motors is Denis Lavant's incredible performance as he seamlessly transforms into all the different characters. Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue make special appearances.
By the way, there are also really great shots of Paris in Leos Carax' previous movies, especially Les Amants du Pont Neuf (The Lovers on the Bridge) and Mauvais Sang.
Paris, Je T'aime (2006)
Paris, Je T'aime is an anthology movie, comprised of 18 shorts set in different arrondissements. As is the case with most anthologies, the contributions range from average to brilliant (my favorite is Tuilleries, directed by Joel & Ethan Coen, starring Steve Buscemi).
An ensemble of famous names is attached to this film. Among the cast, you will recognize Willem Dafoe, Elijah Wood, Natalie Portman, Gena Rowlands, Juliette Binoche, Gérard Dépardieu, Nick Nolte, Miranda Richardson, Emily Mortimer, and many others. The directors of the short films are just as impressive. To name a few: Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Vincenzo Natali, Gus Van Sant, Olivier Assayas, etc.
Director Cédric Clapisch makes it no secret that he's in love with Paris. Hence, the name and setting of his film. In Paris, Pierre (Romain Duris) suffers from a heart disease and will possibly not survive his upcoming transplant. As he watches life in Paris from the balcony of his apartment, he learns to appreciate life in an entirely new way. As Pierre observes his neighbors, we get to know these people, too. It's a beautiful, touching film that will make you ponder the meaning of “seize the day” for long after the film has ended.
Fun fact: Paris was a huge influence for A Good Man. I watched it over and over while writing because it had the exact atmosphere I wanted to convey in the story.
Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
Most people would pick Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris as one of the best movies set in the French capital. However, his hilarious musical comedy Everyone Says I Love You does an even better job of bringing out the charm of Paris, though the city is only portrayed in its fullest in the last half hour of the movie (the rest takes place in Venice and New York).
Apart from the singing, Everyone Says I Love You is a typical Woody Allen comedy. Though the themes are dark and realistic, the tone is light-weight and hilarious. It's the story of a man (Woody Allen) who makes his love-interest (Julia Roberts) believe he's the man of her dreams. When they return to his home in Paris, their fake relationship starts falling apart. Meanwhile, the family has arrived in the capital to celebrate Christmas at the Ritz.
Some of the Paris locations you will recognize are Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, the banks of the river Seine, the Pont Neuf, the Ritz hotel, and Les Deux Magots.
Everyone Says I Love You is both Woody Allen and Paris at its finest.
Which movies set in Paris would have made your personal top five?
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