On Friday the 13th of November 2015 Paris was attacked by terrorists. Paris, like New York, London, and many other cities before them, was shocked and saddened by a wave of violence. Paris endured. Paris has one of the most astonishing cultures of any city in the world and it is why it has been the backdrop of some of the best movies of all time.
Join us in tribute to Paris, her citizens, and the enduring legacy of the many stories she has told.
10 - Frantic – 1988
Roman Polanski’s thriller set the standard for the ‘Man chases after his missing family’ genre that we are still seeing today in movies such as Taken. The movie also delves below the surface and into the punk/drug subculture of the city yet manages to preserve the identity of the city that is as much supporting character as it is setting.
9 - Frances Ha – 2013
An endearing performance from Greta Gerwig and beautifully subtle direction from Noah Baumbach make this movie one to watch. It’s a rare thing for a movie to shift location so often and yet not completely lose focus, and yet despite a little narrative drift here and there, Frances Ha manages it. The scenes in Paris are some of the least eventful in the movie but it captures the essence of a character trying desperately to fit in and find their way in the world.
8 – Ratatouille – 2007
Remy the rat dreams of culinary excellence. When fate lands him in the sewers beneath Paris he befriends a lowly chef and begins to turn the world of food on its head. Seriously, could this have been set anywhere but the home of gastronomy?
7 - Midnight In Paris – 2011
Woody Allen’s love affair with Paris reaches its climax with Midnight In Paris. The plot is fantastical and involves Owen Wilson taking night-time walks and finding himself in an idealised 1920s Paris.
A city so loved for its contribution to culture getting an idealised makeover may seem absurd. In the hands of anyone but Woody Allen, it might have been. Here though, it works.
6- The Aristocats – 1970
One of Disney’s less beloved movies, yet one of the best soundtracks. On the one hand, it could be set anywhere, on the other, being set against the backdrop of Paris gives the movie some much needed charm.
5- Charade – 1963
Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in the prime of their careers in the most beautiful city on earth. It’s a classic that combines both romance and suspense. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a Hitchcock thriller as he all but set the standard for this style of movie, but director Stanley Donen delivers a classic of the era and the genre. As with many of the movies on this list, Paris itself is almost a background character as much a living breathing entity as the iconic leads.
4 – French Kiss – 1995
When Kate’s (Meg Ryan) fiancée goes to Paris and meets another woman, she sets off after him determined to win him back. What makes the movie to quintessentially Parisian is the tone of the banter between Meg Ryan and Kevin Klein. Despite the latter’s poor accent, the movie borrows from French art house cinema to great comic effect and couldn’t work as well anywhere else.
3 – Le Divorce – 2003
The differences in cultural norms of French and Americans regarding sex, love, marriage and family bonds are presented through the interactions of two families related by marriage. Cross- cultural stories are nothing new, but playing off of the well-defined stereotypes of the cultures here leads to some stand out funny moments.
2- The Bourne Identity – 2002
Despite spanning several cities in several countries, it’s in Paris that the movie takes a breath and finds itself. Despite the temptation to play Paris as a stereotype or a pastiche, Bourne plays it straight and it’s the Paris scenes that play out as the most authentic.
1- Before Sunset – 2004
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy star as Jesse and Celine, who, years ago, fell in love but didn’t stay together. Their second chance falls against the background of the most romantic city on earth. Nine years previously they met and had one night together in Vienna. Far from a one-night stand, it was genuine and heartfelt. Jessie writes a book about the experience and it’s during the promotional tour for it he meets Celine once more.
Once again, they believe that they only have one night together before reality steps in and parts them, perhaps forever. Paris, in all her majesty, intervenes in order to help these two lovebirds finally find the love they deserve.
It’s a story about second chances.
If Paris symbolises anything, it’s that love can endure. It endured occupation. It’s now endured terror. Paris is so much more than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. It’s a city that embodies culture, love, romance, comedy, and resilience. The recent attacks are not a reason to stay away, Paris will, as it ever has, endure and thrive. It will provide the backdrop to many wonderful movies about love and adventure.