Maybe French classics aren’t really your jam. Or maybe you just want to discover the best of new French cinema. Whatever the reason, check out our tips on how to watch the latest French movies if you live in America.
Americans have an undeniable love for French movies. Every year, dozens of French films are distributed in theaters around America. The pandemic has considerably hurt the independent and international film markets but French movies continue to find their audience. In 2022, Petite Maman grossed over $800K, Eiffel $400K and Alice $350K. The movies may have not reached the highs of Amelie but they were some of the most successful foreign films in America in 2022.
To Americans, French movies are, before anything else, movie history. They know and love the films of the New Wave from Godard and Truffaut. They study the love stories of Lelouch, and the thrillers of Henri Verneuil and Jean-Pierre Melville. French cinema is usually seen through the prism of classic French films, not new, recent French movies. From time to time, a couple of films do make headlines. The Intouchables became a worldwide phenomenon and opened the door to Hollywood to Omar Sy. And what about The Artist, a black & white silent French movie who received the Oscar for best film in February 2012.
As French people would say, The Artist and Intouchables are l’arbre qui cache la forêt (the tree that hides the forest). French cinema is very diverse, and each year France produces a lot more movies that deserve a bigger, international audience. Where Hollywood makes less and less original films and more and more big budget blockbusters, France keeps its focus on making a bigger variety of movies, with many different voices and stories. Independent cinema is still alive and well in France as potential profits are not the only thing that drives distributors. That’s partly due to the ways films are financed. Movies receive public funds but also money from TV networks who in return get the rights to broadcast the film. This system means that a French movie doesn’t have to make millions at the box-office to be considered successful. Now that we know why French independent cinema is still thriving. So you might ask: how can I watch recent French movies if I live in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Seattle?
Would you rather watch French movies from the comfort of your home than in theaters? Look no further than TV5MONDE. A global French language entertainment network, it showcases premium French films and programs to the francophone and francophile around the world.
In the U.S., TV5MONDE offers the best and largest selection of French movies and French TV shows through its different channels. It broadcasts without commercial interruptions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So what exactly can you watch on TV5MONDE?
Every year, 300 French movies are broadcast live on TV, usually on prime-time hours. Thanks to its many partnerships with French and foreign film festivals, TV5MONDE often offers films that are touring the festival circuit and that haven’t even been released yet in America. The particularity of TV5MONDE is that its owners are some of the biggest TV groups in the francophone world: France Télévisions, France Médias Monde, RTS, RTBF, CBC/Radio-Canada and more. So it’s no surprise you’ll find on TV5MONDE plenty of the movies and TV shows from France 2 and France 3. The programming is very eclectic. It juggles between classic French movies from Claude Sautet and Bertrand Tavernier to recent box-office comedies and indie dramas. And every movie is broadcast in French with English subtitles!
If you don’t watch live TV like you used to, you can also enjoy TV5MONDE Cinema on Demand. The SVOD platform presents every month a new, curated selection of 30 French movies. Each month has a new theme: family comedies, thrillers, Cannes Film Festival and much more. Some months are focused on an actor or actress highly regarded in France and in America like Omar Sy and Camille Cottin. You can access TV5MONDE Cinema On Demand on Xfinity and Fios cable services. You may also start streaming through fuboTV and Sling TV. You can contact TV5MONDE directly to see if Cinema on Demand is available in your area. If you are already a TV5MONDE subscriber on Fios, fuboTV, Sling TV, or Xfinity, Cinema On Demand is available at no extra cost with your subscription package. And if with all that, you’re still in need of more French movies, we’ve got a few more options…
Every year, 50 to 80 French movies are released in America. And that’s just counting the recent releases and not the eternal rerun of New Wave classics. This is obviously a very limited number out of the hundreds of French movies released every year in France. Out of the dozen French movies distributed in America, only a few have a nationwide release. So if you live in New York, Miami, San Francisco or Chicago, then you’re probably going to have access to all of these movies. But if you reside in a smaller town, chances are only a couple of French movies might be released in your city. And then, you better be on the lookout not to miss them. That’s where FrenchFlicks comes to help with its listing of every French movie playing in theaters in America, whether you live in the heart of Manhattan or in the countryside of Montana! Just select your State or city and see if a French movie is playing in your local theaters in the next 30 days. You’ll quickly notice that the French movies that find a U.S. distributor usually fall into three categories. It can be an independant drama with a powerful story like Petite maman or The Innocents, a movie with a ‘bankable’ French actor or actress like Isabelle Huppert, Nora Arnezeder and Omar Sy, or a movie made by a director highly regarded in America like François Ozon and Anne Fontaine.
There’s lots of options to stream French movies…but not many are good ones! Finding a new French movie on Netflix, Prime, Hulu and the like is no small job. You quickly realize you will have to subscribe to 25 platforms to get access to 50 French movies. Unless… you take a look at the new French streaming platform TV5MONDEplus and its 5,000 hours of French programming. The service boasts an impressive library of French movies and TV shows, with a good mix of French classics and new releases. The whole world of francophonie is represented with titles from Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Maroc, Sénégal and more. Thrillers, comedies, documentaries, kids’ movies, there’s a French film for everyone on the platform! And good news if you are a French-American household, all movies are available in French with English subtitles. TV5MONDEPlus is free if you have a TV5MONDE subscription. So what can you stream on TV5MONDEPlus? A lot of critically-acclaimed new French movies like La nuit venue, L’ordre des médecins or Place des victoires. Some César-winning French classics like Jean Renoir’s La règle du jeu, Marcel Carné’s Les portes de la nuit, Robert Enrico’s Le vieux fusil. And of course, popular movies like the thriller Passage à l’acte with Daniel Auteuil, box-office sensation Les petits flocons or the powerful drama Quelques heures de printemps with Vincent Lindon. Maybe you’re more into TV series than movies? Well, that’s alright, you’ll find plenty of what you’re looking for on TV5MONDEPlus. Fans of CSI and Law & Order, rest assured, there are plenty of crime shows, like P.J., Wilder, and Frank Riva with Alain Delon. France loves its comedies so you won’t miss any of the ones that have made headlines in France, Canada (LINK article The best Canadian TV Series to watch right now) or Switzerland. Finally, take a look at all the historical series like Monsieur Paul, V comme Vian and Clémenceau.
Every year, dozens of French and international Film Festivals present very recent French movies, including films which have yet to be released in France. In March, Unifrance’s Rendez-Vous With French Cinema in New York showcases the best of new French cinema. The selection selects much-anticipated films from major directors like Jacques Audiard, Anne Fontaine and Céline Sciamma as well as more under the radar French movies from up and coming directors. If you’re lucky enough to attend the screenings at the Lincoln Center, you might get a chance to attend a Q&A with the cast of the films. Same goes with the big event of the West Coast when it comes to French movies: The American French Film Festival (formerly known as COLCOA). The festival happens in September or October in Los Angeles at the Directors Guild theater. The festival focuses more on popular comedies, César-Awards winners, and box-office hits from France and less on unknown gems.
Houston, Richmond, Miami, New Orleans, Minneapolis… French and International film festivals are happening all around the country and all year round. Since the pandemic, more and more films presented at festivals are now also available online for the duration of the festival. And the good news is, the movies can usually be streamed across America. Meaning you can watch in Colorado or Maine a French movie from a festival in Austin or Chicago! Finally, don’t miss every year around January, MyFrenchFilmFestival. The online festival aimed at showcasing the vitality of new French cinema gives you access from your TV or laptop to 30 to 40 titles for a month. A great way to watch French movies with English subtitles you’ve heard about during the year.
Theaters across America have been greatly hurt by the pandemic. And that’s true as well to distributors and producers. If big budget movies that spend millions on marketing were able to bounce back, independent and foreign cinema hasn’t recovered and might never will. The only silver lining for the industry was the development of virtual cinema. So what is virtual cinema? It allows viewers who can’t go to the theaters - for cost or health reasons for example - to watch a newly released movie at home. It works just like when you buy a recently-released film on Google Play or Apple TV. Except with virtual cinema, the movies are available while they're still in theaters and the profits go directly to the theaters and distributors, not to the streaming platform. A great system to support your local theater, even if you can’t go to screenings anymore. This service is now offered by most independent theaters as a way to support the cinema industry. So you can now watch new French movies at home and save on popcorn and babysitters!
In America, there are over 100 Alliances Françaises spread out in 46 States! They offer French classes for adults and children, while celebrating French culture and French art-de-vivre. Alliances Françaises regularly organize events for francophones and francophiles. Among these events are often monthly screenings of French movies. The films are usually open to everyone and free, but priority can be given to members. Another option is to join one of the few French ciné-clubs in America - like the ones in Austin or San Francisco. Check your local independent theaters or FrenchFlicks to find out if there’s a French ciné-club in your town.