There’s no doubt about it, Paris just looks incredible on film. And with so many fantastic movies filmed and set in the City of Lights, it’s tough to narrow them down. But I’ve given it a shot, and I apologise for my love for Audrey Hepburn coming through in the fact she has three films in this list! The great thing is that many of the films below have unique spots, so you can use it for inspiration on where to go on your next trip to the French capital.
Movies Set in Paris
Funny Face (Stanley Donen, 1956)
Audrey Hepburn shines in this musical romantic comedy where she plays a shy book store assistant whisked away to Paris to become a model with photographer Fred Astaire! And it just so happens a big part of the plot is their trek across the city to shoot portraits at famous landmarks. They manage to go on quite the sightseeing tour, taking in the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees, Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Gare du Nord, Opéra Garnier, the Eiffel Tower, and the unforgettable moment on the Daru Steps in the Louvre.
Gigi (Vincente Minnelli, 1958)
This Oscar-winning rom-com musical based on a novella set during the Belle Epoque, sees some stunning location work despite much of it being filmed in LA, including the famous Art Nouveau restaurant Maxim’s (Rue Royale), indoor ice skating at the old Palais des Glaces (now the Theatre du Rond-Point), and opening and end scenes set in public park Bois de Boulogne.
The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)
This coming-of-age French film and debut from Truffaut sees Antoine rebelling and running away from school, encountering the fountain at Square d’Estienne d’Orves, walking through Place Gustave-Toudouze and committing the robbery in a shop on the Champs Elysees, after which they flee via Franklin D. Roosevelt Metro Station and cross over Pont Caulaincourt. Of course, the memorable beach ending is some way away from Paris, at Villers-sur-Mer in Normandy.
À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
The iconic New Wave film, which will embed the phrase “New York Herald Tribune” in your head forever, is Jean-Luc Godard’s first feature-length work. It was a breakthrough role for Jean-Paul Belmondo, who first encounters Jean Seberg selling papers on the gloriously black and white Champs Elysees. The film goes on to include the George V Metro Entrance, the Cinema Mac-Mahon, St-Germain, Place de la Concorde and Boulevard Montparnasse as the pair are chased through the City, ending in a powerful ending.
Jules and Jim (Francois Truffaut, 1962)
This fantastic New Wave love triangle classic is set before, during and after the Great War, with many scenes in Paris (and many scenes set elsewhere but filmed in Paris!), including the famous dash across the covered railway footbridge at Passerelle de Valmy, which has long been replaced by a modern, less aesthetic version. Some of the other spots are the iconic Père-Lachaise cemetery, the riverside Seine path by Pont au Double, and the other footbridge Passerelle de la Mare in Belleville.
Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963)
Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in Paris – what more could you want? Well, in this rom-com murder mystery Audrey and Grant tear through Paris, including walks along the Seine by Pont au Double and Notre Dame, Metro chase scenes, the Stamp Market at Carré Marigny and a finale showdown among the colonnades of the Jardin du Palais Royal! Sadly, a few spots, like the Les Halles food market area, and the American Express office, are no longer around today.
Bande a Part (Band of Outsiders) (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)
Another Godard entry, this playful film features an exciting race on foot through the Louvre, cafe dancing and singing on the Metro, having boarded the train at Saint Michel Station – what a perfect way to experience Paris! (Warning, please don’t run through the Louvre).
How To Steal A Million (William Wyler, 1966)
Audrey is back again in Paris in this cute romantic crime caper opposite Peter O’Toole, with the director of Roman Holiday – so of course it’s gonna be good. The fantastically stylish intro sees Audrey’s character drive up past Notre Dame, while you also get the pleasure of seeing the Champs Elysee, Place Vendome by the Ritz, the famous Art Nouveau restaurant Maxim’s (also in Gigi), and the little Carré Marigny park (also in Charade).
Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 1974)
This groundbreaking film breaks all the rules, with influences all the way from cartoons to musicals and silent comedy, and really puts Montmartre on the screen in style. The small park at Place Dalida, the Funiculaire de Montmartre, and the raised promenade on Rue Saint-Vincent are among many of the treasures you can still visit today.
Three Colours: Blue (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993)
This award-winning art-house favourite sees Juliette Binoche in a powerful drama set across the City of Lights. Some of the main spots include Binoche’s apartment on Rue Mouffetard, neon-lit escapades in Pigalle, and the famous bridge Pont Bir Hakeim, also seen in Inception.
La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995)
This gritty crime feature shows us a Paris not often shown on film, that of the housing estates, specifically the Cité de la Noé in Chanteloup-les-Vignes, some 30 km north-west of the city centre. The film also features snapshots of the centre, including around Boulevard Montparnasse, Rue au Maire, Gare St-Lazare, Forum des Halles Metro Station, and the giant head sculpture Ecoute, outside the Church of Saint-Eustache.
Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
This stunning romantic comedy made Audrey Tatout an international star, and it also showed Paris in magical beauty. Some of its locations include the Café des 2 Moulins, Monsieur Collignon’s, the cinema Studio 28, and Sacré Coeur, all in Montmartre, while further afield are the Piscine des Amiraux, Notre Dame, Canal Saint-Martin, Gare du Nord, and of course, the Pont des Arts (formerly known as the Love Lock Bridge).
The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003)
A film so in love with Paris, it refers to Parisian film classics like Bande a Part, The 400 Blows and Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, as well as featuring the city in all its glory itself. Some of the best shots include Pont d’Iena across the Seine, Palais de Chaillot (Eiffel Tower backdrop), Université Paris Descartes, The Eiffel Tower, Church of the Val-de-Grâce and not forgetting, the Louvre, where the characters race through the gallery paying tribute to the classic film Band a Part.
Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
One of my favourite entries, this romantic drama is the second in Linklater’s Before trilogy, with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphie really makes use of its city location, including Le Pure Cafe, the bookshop Shakespeare and Company, walks around Rue des Jardins Saint-Paul, Rue Saint Julien le Pauvre and Rue Galande and Promenade Plantée, and not forgetting the Bateaux Mouches Seine river cruise. A film that makes you fall in love with the characters again, as well as the new city they inhabit.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Luc Besson, 2010)
Not exactly a classic, but this fun adventure film takes a French spin on Indiana Jones, and includes Paris spots like the Elysee Palace Gardens, Gare du Nord, the Hôtel Du Louvre and the Jardin des Plantes as Adele travels across the city trying to solve historic and magic mysteries.