The 10 best French movies of Guillaume Canet

Guillaume Canet at the César ceremony in 2012
Guillaume Canet at the César ceremony in 2012
Guillaume Canet at the César ceremony in 2012

Actor, director, France, Hollywood…Guillaume Canet has done it all. TV5MONDE USA looks back at his career with his 10 best films from The Beach with Leonardo di Caprio to Rock’N’Roll with his wife Marion Cotillard.


  1. Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne)

His second movie as a director is also his best overall. Adapted from a Harlan Coben novel, Tell No One is an emotional rollercoaster. It tells the story of Alexandre (François Cluzet) who, thanks to new evidence, becomes a suspect in the unsolved case of the disappearance of his wife eight years ago. On the same day the police are looking to arrest him, Alexandre receives an email with a video showing someone looking exactly like his wife alive and well, along with a simple message: "Tell no one". With the police breathing down his neck, Alexandre goes on the run with the hope to find what has happened to his wife.

Expect lots of plot twists, like in any good novel by Harlan Coben. What elevates the story is the assured direction from Guillaume Canet. The movie constantly shifts between beautiful traveling shots when evoking flash-backs of Alexandre and his wife, and a nervous shoulder camera in the present time. In so many ways, Tell No One is undoubtedly reminiscent of the classic thriller with Harrison Ford The Fugitive. The fabulous soundtrack that includes Otis Redding, U2 and compositions from French artist -M- doesn’t hurt either. Tell No One was one of the box-office hits of 2006 and won dozens of prizes all over the world. At the Césars ceremony, it won 4 awards: best director for Guillaume Canet, best actor for François Cluzet, best music and best editing.


Guillaume Canet credit Wikimedia/Gil Zetbase
Guillaume Canet credit Wikimedia/Gil Zetbase


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tell no one [video trailer - 1 min 45 s]


  1. Next Time, I’ll Aim For Our Heart (La prochaine fois je viserai le cœur)

This thriller directed by Cédric Anger is without a doubt Guillaume Canet’s best acting role. With its Hitchcockian atmosphere, it tells the true story of a series of murders of hitchhikers in a rural part of France. Guillaume Canet, in a chilling and troubling performance, plays the detective in charge of solving the murder. A cop who seems to know a lot more about the case than he leads others to believe… From the 50’s to the 70’s, France created and specialized in film noir. At the release of the movie, Cédric Anger was crowned by the critics as the legitimate heir of Jean-Pierre Melville (Elevator to the Gallows) and Henri-George Clouzot (Quai des Orfèvres). The director creates a slow burning tension, magnified by the restraint and composed nature of Guillaume Canet’s character, until it erupts… The French actor was nominated for the César Award for best actor but ultimately lost to Pierre Niney for his role in Yves Saint Laurent.


Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart / La Prochaine Fois je viserai le coeur (2014) Trailer English Subs



  1. Sink or Swim (Le Grand bain)

Several 40-something guys, all on the verge of a mid-life crisis, decide to form their local pool's first synchronized swimming team for men. With a premise that silly, you wouldn’t know that Sink or Swim is a bittersweet gem of French cinema. The French dramedy follows the common arc seen in the British classic The Full Monty of a group of men finding a new meaning to their lives in unexpected situations. But Sink or Swim is more than just a well-crafted French feel-good movie. It is a beautifully told story of people looking for self-esteem and reassurance in the reasons for their existence. In that way, the French movie borrows themes from Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Of course, the movie wouldn’t be what it is without its outstanding cast lead by Mathieu Amalric, Guillaume Canet and Benoît Poelvoorde.

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Sink or Swim / Le Grand Bain (2018) - Trailer (English Subs)


  1. Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noël)

Before its release in November 2005, Joyeux Noël was the most talked about film in France for months. Why? Because of its controversial topic, although backed by historians and archives. It relates the unlikely and beautiful event that happened in the trenches of the Western Front in 1914. As Christmas was approaching and the soldiers missed their home after months among blood-soaked battles, some English, Scottish, French and German generals decided on Christmas eve to have a cease-fire to ‘celebrate’ together. The connections created on that one night will make the next day of battle all the more difficult between soldiers tormented to fight an enemy that is no longer nameless or faceless… Within a tragedy, this movie brings hope and joy, and is made all the more powerful by the fact that it is a true story. Although the French army tried to hide it for years, the many letters written by soldiers present on that night and archives made public by the German army have described in detail what actually happened that night. Even at the time of the shoot, the French army refused to have some of their facilities used as a set for the shoot. They saw it as an admission of truth behind the story. The film was presented at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and represented France at the Oscars in 2006. It won many awards in film festivals across the world. Guillaume Canet plays the French lieutenant Audebert, a man who is forced to hide his fear and melancholy – as his pregnant wife waits for him at home – to lead the French army to victory.


Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noël) (Trailer) [Oscar's Best Foreign Movie]


  1. The Beach (La plage)

When Danny Boyle’s adventure movie came out, it made headlines. It was Leonardo Di Caprio’s third film after Titanic. He continues his iconic image as an American backpacker on a mystical adventure in Thailand. Along the way, he meets a French couple who decides to follow him on his journey at their own risk. The two French actors, Viriginie Ledoyen and Guillaume Canet, were not known to American audiences at the time. Even in France, Guillaume Canet wasn’t the big star he is today. To land the role, he had simply gone to a worldwide casting. Director Danny Boyle had a good feeling about him and felt he was adventurous enough for the role. It required the whole cast to spend four months in Thaïland with no ability to go home during the whole shoot. When the movie was released, critics did not hold back, calling the movie a shallow adaptation with beautiful cinematography but not much to say. Despite the reviews, the movie was a box-office hit, mostly thanks to the presence of Leonardo di Caprio. More than 20 years after the release of the movie, The Beach is now considered a cult classic and made the actual beach in Phuket a worldwide known tourist destination. Guillaume Canet only has good memories of the shoot in such a beautiful location. Soon after, he received many calls from American studios to be featured in more Hollywood movies but declined all of them to focus on his career in France and his aspiration to become a director.


Trailer The Beach


  1. Love Me If You Dare (Jeux d’enfants)

Two years after Amélie (Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain), the world was on the hunt for a new French romantic comedy. Well, at least French and American producers were looking to piggyback on the success of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s offbeat, stylized comedy with Audrey Tautou. So when Yann Samuell presented a sweet and sour comedy with visual tricks à la Amélie, it was the perfect timing. Convinced by the potential of the movie, the producers gave it the cast it deserved: Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet. Both actors were not a couple (at the time) but they were the rising stars of French cinema.

When the movie was released, the comparison to Amélie was inevitable. Some even accused Yann Samuell of doing a copycat. But the director, who had studied and worked in visual art, always had a sensibility for flamboyant and colorful cinematography. To no one's surprise, the movie was a massive hit in France and America as well as in Japan. The movie was so popular in Japan in fact, it was adapted into a best-selling novel. In the U.S., Paramount snatched the distribution rights and managed to get the movie selected in many festivals. It even won two awards at the Newport Beach and Palm Springs Film Festivals.

Haven’t seen this classic French movie yet? Don’t miss out on this romantic dramedy about two close childhood friends continuously daring each other to pull pranks in a twisted game of one-upmanship. They’re capable of everything but saying “I love you…” The movie holds a sweet spot for Guillaume Canet as this is when he first met Marion Cotillard. Just four years later, in 2007, the two would start becoming France’s most glamorous couple.

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Love Me If You Dare - Trailer


  1. Whatever You Say (Mon idole)

Before Mon idole, Guillaume Canet was the pretty face of French cinema. Everything changed with his first movie as a director. The movie is a slow-burning comedy that turns thriller that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Guillaume Canet plays an ambitious and devoted production assistant who idolizes a daytime TV talk show producer. When he’s invited with his girlfriend to spend a weekend getaway with the producer, weird and worrying things start happening… Sarcastic and grandiose,, Mon idole is a fascinating satire on the making of trash TV. Guillaume Canet won the César award for Best first film at the 2003 ceremony for this one.

MON IDOLE - Bande annonce (2002)


  1. Little White Lies (Les Petits mouchoirs)

One of the biggest box-office hits of 2010 in France (finishing second only to Harry Potter!) Les petits mouchoirs is either loved or hated. At TV5MONDE, we love it. The story is one of many French movies: a group of old friends decide to spend a week together at a summer house with no kids allowed. Enough time to (re)ignite old grudges and new love. The story might be a bit basic but the cast is so sensational that every little dispute or laugh feels intense and you just want to sit by the fireplace with this dysfunctional group of friends! Marion Cotillard, Gilles Lellouche, François Cluzet, Benoît Magimel, Laurent Laffite, Valérie Bonneton and Pascal Arbillot form the group of friends. With an unforgettable appearance of Jean Dujardin… As often with French movies, what starts as a comedy about a group of friends who didn’t grow at the same pace and towards the same direction, turns into a drama about unsaid things. No doubt you’ll find yourself laughing and crying within the two hours. Isn’t that what cinema is about after all?

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Little White Lies / Les Petits Mouchoirs (2010) - Trailer English Subs


  1. Rock’n’Roll

Guillaume Canet’s latest film is a tender meta film and a mockery of his own career and life. Guillaume Canet plays himself (well, a less successful version of himself). In the movie, he can’t land roles anymore because casting directors tell him his very tidy life with Marion Cotillard just doesn’t appeal to audiences anymore. He decides to live a more rock’n’roll life that’s totally out of character in the hope it’ll revive his acting career. A bittersweet satire, the film is all the more amusing as Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard play loser versions of themselves!

James_Caan and Guillaume Canet in Cannes credit Wikimedia/George Biard
James_Caan and Guillaume Canet in Cannes credit Wikimedia/George Biard

Rock'n Roll (2017) - Trailer (English Subs)


  1.  Blood Ties

One of the lesser known movies of Guillaume Canet, it’s nonetheless one worth watching for many reasons. Firstly, because it is the only Hollywood movie made by Guillaume Canet. Secondly, because the movie is a remake of a French film Les liens de sang, released only a few years earlier starring Guillaume Canet (Jacques Maillot was the director). Thirdly, because the script was co-written by James Gray - the acclaimed director of We Own the Night and Armageddon Time. And lastly because this story of two brothers – one’s a gangster, one’s a cop – boasts an impressive cast: Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Billy Crudup and James Caan.


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Blood Ties - Official Trailer