The Best French Films of movie star Alain Delon

Alain Delon in Rome, 1959 © Licio D'aloisio / Reporters Associati & Archivi / Mondadori, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Alain Delon in Rome, 1959 © Licio D'aloisio / Reporters Associati & Archivi / Mondadori, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Alain Delon in Rome, 1959 © Licio D'aloisio / Reporters Associati & Archivi / Mondadori, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover Alain Delon's best movies...


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Alain Delon in Rome, 1959 © Licio D'aloisio / Reporters Associati & Archivi / Mondadori, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

With his chiseled features and piercing blue eyes, Alain Delon is one of France's most celebrated actors and an icon of European cinema. Delon's career began in the late 1950s, and he quickly rose to stardom, becoming a symbol of the French New Wave movement. He has worked with some of the most prestigious directors, delivering memorable performances in films such as "Le Samouraï," "L'Éclipse," and "Rocco and His Brothers." In this article, we explore ten of Alain Delon's best films, including the timeless classic "Purple Noon" (Plein Soleil).

- Where to watch French movies in America -

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And if you've seen all of Alain Delon's classics and you're looking to discover his later work, stream his hit cop TV show Frank Riva now on TV5MONDEplus!

1. Purple Noon (Plein Soleil) - 1960

Director: René Clément

"Purple Noon" is a gripping psychological thriller that catapulted Alain Delon to international fame. Directed by René Clément, this film is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Delon stars as Tom Ripley, a young man sent to Europe to retrieve a wealthy industrialist's son, Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet). As the plot unfolds, Ripley becomes enamored with Greenleaf's luxurious lifestyle and decides to take it for himself, leading to a series of deceitful and murderous events.

Delon's portrayal of Ripley is both chilling and mesmerizing, capturing the character's charm and malevolence with subtlety and intensity. "Purple Noon" received critical acclaim for its taut direction, lush cinematography, and Delon's standout performance. The film won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Foreign Film and remains a classic in the thriller genre.

Read more on Purple Noon

2. Le Samouraï (The Samurai) - 1967

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

In "Le Samouraï," Alain Delon delivers one of his most iconic performances as Jef Costello, a meticulous and stoic hitman navigating the criminal underworld of Paris. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, this film is a masterpiece of French noir, blending minimalist style with existential themes.

Jef Costello's life is governed by a strict code of honor, reminiscent of the samurai warriors of ancient Japan. When a contract killing goes awry, Jef finds himself pursued by both the police and his employers. Delon's portrayal of Costello is hauntingly enigmatic, his silence and restraint speaking volumes. The film's stark visuals and moody atmosphere have made it a cult classic. "Le Samouraï" was well-received by critics and has since been regarded as a seminal work in the genre, influencing countless filmmakers.

3. Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli) - 1960

Director: Luchino Visconti

Directed by the legendary Luchino Visconti, "Rocco and His Brothers" is an epic family saga set against the backdrop of post-war Italy. The film tells the story of the Parondi family, who move from the impoverished south to the industrial north in search of a better life. Alain Delon plays Rocco Parondi, the second eldest brother, whose kindness and sense of duty contrast sharply with the brutality of his surroundings.

Rocco's journey is marked by sacrifice and heartbreak as he navigates his complex relationships with his brothers, particularly Simone (Renato Salvatori), whose destructive path threatens to tear the family apart. Delon's performance is deeply affecting, showcasing his ability to convey vulnerability and strength. "Rocco and His Brothers" was critically acclaimed and won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Delon's portrayal of Rocco is considered one of his finest, solidifying his reputation as a versatile and powerful actor.

- Read more in Alain Delon: How The French Actor Became a Global Star -

4. The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) - 1963

Director: Luchino Visconti

In "The Leopard," Alain Delon reunites with director Luchino Visconti to create a historical epic based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel. Set during the Risorgimento, the film chronicles the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy and the rise of a new social order. Delon stars as Tancredi Falconeri, the dashing and ambitious nephew of Prince Don Fabrizio Salina (Burt Lancaster).

Tancredi's charm and pragmatism contrast with his uncle's melancholic acceptance of change. Delon brings a vibrant energy to the role, capturing Tancredi's youthful exuberance and political savvy. The film's lavish production design and meticulous attention to historical detail contribute to its grandeur.

"The Leopard" won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and received widespread critical acclaim. Delon's performance, alongside those of Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale, helped make the film a timeless classic in Italian cinema.

5. The Sicilian Clan (Le Clan des Siciliens) - 1969

Director: Henri Verneuil

"The Sicilian Clan" is a taut crime thriller that brings together three of France's biggest stars: Alain Delon, Jean Gabin, and Lino Ventura. Directed by Henri Verneuil, the film follows the elaborate heist orchestrated by a Sicilian crime family. Delon plays Roger Sartet, a suave and cunning jewel thief who escapes from prison with the help of the Manalese clan.

As Sartet works with Vittorio Manalese (Jean Gabin) to steal a valuable diamond, tensions rise, leading to a gripping showdown. Delon's charisma and intensity drive the film, making Sartet a compelling anti-hero. The film's intricate plot and stylish direction make it a standout in the heist genre. "The Sicilian Clan" was a commercial success and praised for its performances and suspenseful narrative. Delon's collaboration with Gabin and Ventura is a highlight, showcasing the talents of three legendary actors.

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6. Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle) - 1970

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

"Le Cercle Rouge" is another collaboration between Alain Delon and director Jean-Pierre Melville, cementing their status as a formidable duo in French cinema. In this film, Delon plays Corey, a recently released convict who teams up with a fellow escapee, Vogel (Gian Maria Volonté), and an ex-police sharpshooter, Jansen (Yves Montand), to pull off a meticulously planned heist.

The film's title refers to a Zen Buddhist proverb about fate bringing people together. Melville's signature style—cool, methodical, and visually striking—is evident throughout the film. Delon's portrayal of Corey is understated yet powerful, embodying the stoic professionalism of a seasoned criminal. "Le Cercle Rouge" was well-received by critics and is considered one of Melville's finest works. Its influence can be seen in numerous heist films that followed, and Delon's performance remains a benchmark for the genre.

7. Un Flic (A Cop) - 1972

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

"Un Flic" marks the final collaboration between Alain Delon and Jean-Pierre Melville. In this film, Delon switches sides, playing police commissioner Edouard Coleman. The story follows Coleman's pursuit of a gang of bank robbers, one of whom is his close friend Simon (Richard Crenna). Delon's portrayal of Coleman is marked by a cool detachment and relentless determination. The film's opening heist sequence, set in a rain-soaked Paris, is a masterclass in tension and atmosphere. As Coleman closes in on the gang, the lines between right and wrong blur, leading to a morally ambiguous conclusion.

Although "Un Flic" did not achieve the same level of acclaim as Melville's earlier works, it remains a compelling and stylish crime thriller. Delon's performance as a morally complex cop adds depth to the film, making it a worthy addition to his filmography.

8. L'Éclipse (The Eclipse) - 1962

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

"L'Éclipse" is a meditative and visually stunning film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Alain Delon stars opposite Monica Vitti in this exploration of alienation and existential ennui. Delon plays Piero, a young stockbroker who becomes romantically involved with Vittoria (Vitti), a woman recently out of a tumultuous relationship.

The film's narrative is secondary to its exploration of mood and atmosphere. Antonioni uses the modernist landscapes of Rome to reflect the characters' emotional states. "L'Éclipse" was acclaimed for its innovative cinematography and Antonioni's direction. It won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and is considered a landmark in arthouse cinema. Delon's work in the film further established him as an actor capable of profound and introspective roles.

9. La Piscine (The Swimming Pool) - 1969

Director: Jacques Deray

In "La Piscine," Alain Delon reunites with Romy Schneider in a sultry and suspenseful drama directed by Jacques Deray. Delon plays Jean-Paul, a writer vacationing with his girlfriend Marianne (Schneider) at a luxurious villa in the South of France. Their idyllic getaway is disrupted by the arrival of Marianne's former lover, Harry (Maurice Ronet), and his daughter, Penelope (Jane Birkin).

Tensions escalate as old rivalries and new attractions come to the surface. Delon's portrayal of Jean-Paul is simmering with jealousy and insecurity, making the film's climax all the more gripping. The film's lush setting and slow-burning tension have made it a classic of French cinema. "La Piscine" was a commercial success and received positive reviews for its performances and direction. Delon's chemistry with Schneider and the film's atmospheric style have contributed to its enduring appeal.

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10. Borsalino - 1970

Director: Jacques Deray

"Borsalino" is a classic French gangster film directed by Jacques Deray, featuring Alain Delon alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo. Set in the vibrant and tumultuous world of 1930s Marseille, the film follows the story of two small-time crooks, Roch Siffredi (Delon) and François Capella (Belmondo), who join forces to climb the ranks of the local underworld.

Delon's character, Roch, is suave, ambitious, and determined to make a name for himself. His partnership with the equally charismatic Capella leads to a series of daring exploits, including heists, confrontations with rival gangs, and run-ins with the law. Their bond and rivalry drive the narrative, making "Borsalino" as much a character study as it is a crime drama.

The film was a box office hit and is noted for its stylish direction, period-accurate production design, and the dynamic chemistry between Delon and Belmondo. The two leading actors' star power drew significant attention, and their performances were widely praised. "Borsalino" has since become a cult favorite, remembered for its thrilling action sequences and the magnetic presence of its stars. The film's success led to a sequel, "Borsalino & Co.," further cementing its legacy in French cinema.

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