The French are known for having a particularly powerful movie industry. In fact, the first ever cinema was invented by the famous Frères Lumières in 1895, Paris. It’s no wonder there are so many talented French actors and actresses who have caused sensation not only in France, but also internationally.
One of the things that surprised me the most when I lived in Paris as part of my Erasmus experience was the sheer quantity of cinemas dotted all over the city! This was how I came to realize that film plays such a huge role in French culture. When we are learning a new language I believe it’s important to get to know aspects of the culture too.
Watching movies (and series) in French was a big part of my language learning journey. It allowed me to pick up new vocabulary, listen to how French was spoken properly, but it also introduced me to several French actors and actresses I became really fond of.
Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Brigitte Bardot are known as some of France’s biggest movie icons from the past. But now, there are other big talents worth looking out for.
Here is a list of my 6 favorite French actors and actresses. They have taken the movie industry by storm, not only in France but also internationally.
All pictures copyright Elle.
Laure Calamy has become a rising international star thanks to her hilarious role in the Netflix comedy series Call my Agent! She is a very versatile actress, and with her killer sense of humor, she is an absolute joy to watch on screen.
She was also heavily praised for her role in the movie Full Time (2021) where she plays a woman pushed to her limits by the hectic modern day life. I believe she can take on just about any role and she is definitely a star worth looking out for. I hope to see her taking on bigger roles in the future!
Not only is she beautiful (which explains why she was chosen to be a Bond girl twice), Léa is a phenomenal actress. She is now one of the most recognizable French actresses in Hollywood today. Her role as a lesbian art student in movie Blue Is The Warmest Color is where she really began to gain fame in France.
To me, Léa comes across as an interesting contradiction: she can be feminine but also quite boy-ish, tough but also sensitive. She seems to be able to adapt to almost any role (You would probably never guess she actually suffers from crippling shyness in real life!). She just has that… ‘je ne sais quoi’ …
Omar Sy has come a long way since growing up on a council estate in a Parisian suburb. In 2011 he took on a role for the heartwarming movie The Intouchables where he acts as a caregiver for a rich quadriplegic. He played this role with such sincerity. Omar then became the first black man to receive the César award for best actor.
But it was thanks to his role in the popular Netflix series Lupin that his popularity really took off internationally. It became one of the most watched series ever in such a short amount of time. His charm and mystery, his dazzling smile, and his undeniably good acting skills all make him one of France’s most loved icons.
You are probably already familiar with Marion Cotillard. She is a big name in the world of cinema. She has taken part in well-known movies such as Midnight in Paris, Inception and A Good Year. However her Oscar winning performance of Édith Piaf in La Vie en Rose is the one that marked me the most. Her attention to detail in this movie is phenomenal.
Cotillard is a woman who is fearless when it comes to her roles (she shaved off her eyebrows for the Piaf role). She is the type of star that makes acting look easy (all her performances seem so organic), and I think she truly deserves all the recognition she gets.
During the pandemic Cottin went global with her fabulous role in Call My Agent! She plays Andréa, a tough, sexy, cool, bitchy, proud and a little complicated character. It’s truly difficult not to fall in love with Camille in this role. This woman just exudes power and feminine strength.
She has recently acted in the movie House of Gucci with Lady Gaga. Hollywood has described her as the new Juliette Binoche! She is definitely one to look out for.
This charismatic actor is in my opinion, one of France’s finest. He originally started as a stand up comedian but then leapt into the world of movies. His Oscar-winning performance in The Artist is what made him so well-known both in France and overseas.
He practically carries this entire movie without any audible dialogue to it (using only movements, mannerisms and facial expressions). I’m sure very few could pull this off as well as he did. Jean is an extremely versatile actor. Of course, as a bonus, he’s definitely got the tall, dark, handsome look to him ;)
What about you, what are some of your own favorite French actors and actresses?