Happy Bastille Day (or La Fête Nationale, if you’re actually in France)! Though it’s a holiday celebrating French independence from monarchic rule, French culture — and Paris in particular — is a theme oft-represented onscreen. And who could blame writers, directors, and actors for falling in love with the City of Light? There’s the food, the national love of art, the PDA, the style — to celebrate, here’s a feast of our favorite French moments in pop culture.
Of course, there are classics like Breathless, modern marvels like Amour, and anything by Truffaut that should be included without mention, but we wanted to take a more literal approach to our roundup, choosing visually stunning moments, scenes that reference Paris, and clips that just ooze Parisian style.
Flight of the Conchords, season 1 , “Foux Du Fafa”
New Zealand musicians Bret (Bret McKenzie) and Jemaine (Jemaine Clement) try to impress girls who work at a bakery with this French ‘60s-style pop song that is equal parts silly and endearing. It’s clear by the lyrics that the gents haven’t progressed past French 101, but they have a gift for catchy melodies and cute montages. The chorus (“Foux du fafa, foux du fafa, fafa, Foux fu fafa, ah ee ah”) is as fresh as a croissant straight out of the oven.
Sex and the City, season 6
Pretty much every scene from Carrie’s move to Paris is a picturesque dream. We chose this particular moment when Carrie’s Paris love is at its height. Newly arrived, she visits her hotel room for the first time in the perfect French-striped ‘fit, with the perfect view of la Tour Eiffel, to visit the supposedly perfect man, Petrovsky.
Despite their trash-sifting and sewer-living rep, some rats have finer tastes in food, like Remy in Disney’s Ratatouille. Remy cooks the title dish, a French classic of sautéed vegetables, to perfection, in an energetic scene that shows his love of French food.
“Motherf—ing Paris?!” Annie (Kristen Wiig) exclaims when she realizes her frenemy/archrival Helen (Rose Byrne) stole her Paris idea for their mutual best friend’s birthday. To Annie, Paris is an idea; to Helen, Paris is a strategy; and to Lillian (Maya Rudolph), Paris is her dream.
Paris, je t’aime (2006) “Faubourg Saint-Denis”
In this series of shorts celebrating the City of Light, this film, Faubourg Saint-Denis, in which Natalie Portman plays an aspiring actress (Francine) with a blind boyfriend (Thomas, played by Melchior Beslon), is an arresting take on the city’s famous reputation for love. For a moment, Thomas thinks the relationship is all over, and director Tom Twyker recounts their courtship in the style of a “deer-in-headlights,” “life-flashing-before-your-eyes” sort of montage that leaves you breathless.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
The cliché goes that everything and everyone in Paris is beautiful. In this scene from Sofia Coppola’s arthouse-esque Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst as the doomed queen, aesthetics and Epicurean pleasures abound. With close-ups of satin-y shoes, luscious pastries, pugs, and a glimpse of Versailles, it’s Paris porn at its best.
In this scene from the movie that made Audrey Tautou the patron saint of impossibly cute pixie French girls, Amélie — who has struggled with her introversion in professing her feelings for her crush Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) — daydreams that he is coming up the stairs to see her while she bakes, and to her surprise, it actually comes true.
Beauty and the Beast (1991) “Belle”
Sung here in French, Belle traipses around her little village, with a book, and a dream to go elsewhere (though we wouldn’t want to leave France at all). I think for many young American fans, this is a formative first impression of French culture, albeit a stereotypical one, where the townspeople say “Bonjour!” at every turn and boulangeries populate every corner.
Let us know how we did with our picks in the comments! What other French moments in pop culture are iconique to you?