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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

daily list: my 10 most favorite movies set in Paris

I’m off to Paris tonight! It’s almost hard to believe I’ve never been there before: it feels like I know the city already because I’ve seen it so often on film. Now, as a New Yorker who has encountered people who think they know New York because they’ve seen it on TV and in the movies, I know that my sense of knowing Paris is wrong, and I’m looking forward to finding out just how wrong it is… but still.

There are too many movies to count that have been set entirely or partly in Paris (go here for a list of movies actually shot there; scroll down to “Paris”), and my little list is far, far from inclusive. But here are some of my favorites:
1. Paris, je t’aime (2007): We often say that a movie is a Valentine to a particular place, but in this case, it’s actually true. For a glimpse of all sorts of different Parisian neighborhoods, this one can’t be beat. [buy at Amazon]

2. Gigi (1958): A beautiful replication of Paris at the turn of the 20th century — watch for one scene shot at the famous Jardin des Tuileries. [buy at Amazon]

3. The Bourne Identity (2002): Another look at the Tuileries. Plus spectacular car chases and other cool action in the French capital. [buy at Amazon]

4. La Femme Nikita (1990): Not the American version, and not the TV show — check out the French original for more Parisian action. [buy at Amazon]

5. Team America: World Police (2004): That scene at the Eiffel Tower? Brilliant? [buy at Amazon]

6. Irreversible (2003): This film is so brutal that it’s tough to call it a “favorite,” but it does offer a look at everyday, nontouristy Paris, including a great scene on the Metro. [buy at Amazon]

7. Moulin Rouge! (2001): A lovely fantasy Paris, even if it feels more like fantasy horror by the end (and even if it was shot on soundstages in Australia). [buy at Amazon]

8. Amelie (2001): Another fantasy Paris, this one candy-sweet and electrically charged with joie de vivre. [buy at Amazon]

9. Before Sunset (2004): Wander the streets of Paris with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy. [buy at Amazon]

10. French Kiss (1995): It’s one of the few movies in which I can actually tolerate Meg Ryan, though maybe that’s because she’s got Kevin Kline all over her and I’m merely jealous. Plus, she’s in France, and even occasionally in Paris. [buy at Amazon]

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  • Nice list; especially Paris, je t’aime and Before Sunset. Have you seen 2 Days in Paris?

  • How could you forget Forget Paris? It’s one of the most honest romantic comedies ever made!

  • Doa766

    ratatouille?

  • MaryAnn

    I have not seen *2 Days* or *Forget Paris,* so they can’t be among my favorites.

    I honestly did not think of *Ratatouille.* It’s a fantastic movie, of course, but I was thinking more about actual locations that I might be able to see while I’m there.

  • Kate

    I always liked “Frantic,” too, that Harrison Ford thriller that took place in Paris. I remember being particularly enchanted with the glimpse of what felt like a real apartment, that belonging to the character of the young woman….There was great rooftop views, as I recall.

  • ClaudiaN

    I’m excited for you — have a wonderful trip.

    Charade, with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, captures the old glamor of Paris, while its remake by Jonathan Demme captured the current color.

    My first view of the Tuilleries was from the movie Julia–Jane Fonda, in her evening gown and fur coat, talking to Maximillian Schell in the early dawn.

  • Kathy A

    1. Paris, je t’aime

    I seriously love this film! Did you hear the same producers are doing “New York, I Love
    You”? I don’t know which directors have been signed, but they’ve already signed some actors who were in PJT–Elijah Wood and Nick Nolte, so far.

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