"Polisse" and "L'exercice de l'Etat" scored 13 and 11 nominations respectively. "The Artist", which has already picked up three Golden Globe awards and ten Academy Award nominations, also picked up ten César nominations.
"Polisse" is a drama that centres on the Paris Child Protection Unit and a photographer who is assigned to cover it. It won the jury prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
"L'exercice de l'Etat" (known outside France as "The Minister") tells a story of political intrigue between a minister and his chief of staff.
Other films to be nominated include the runaway box office favourite of 2011, "Intouchables" (Untouchables), which became the second most successful French film ever. The most popular French film of all time is "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" (Welcome to the sticks).
The César Academy nominated a total of seven films, rather than the usual five, to "better reflect the richness of French film" said Alain Terzian, the academy's president.
The awards will be given on February 24th in Paris, just two days before the Oscars are handed out in Los Angeles.