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Film blog: The 20 best French back-to-school movies

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Film blog: The 20 best French back-to-school movies
Remind yourself of the highs and lows of school days. Photo: AFP
09:19 CEST+02:00
As France settles back into work again after the long summer break, our friends at Lost in Frenchlation have put together a list of the best French back-to-school movies.

Some will make you laugh out loud, some will keep you on the edge of your seat, and some will make it seem like someone in the rooms was cutting onions!

1. La Lutte Des Classes (Battle of the Classes)

This comedy was released in 2019 and directed by Michel Leclerc which tells a story of two parents of opposite origin and personalities raising their son Corentin. Sofia, the mother, is an incredibly bright lawyer from North African origin, and Paul, the father, is the drummer of a semi-washed up punk-rock band. They move to the suburb of Paris where Sofia spent her childhood and Corentin is enrolled in school here.

However, all of his friends transfer to a different school, and he struggles with religion, class, and socioeconomic problems. A heavy, but interesting and funny back-to-school movie that will really open your mind to some of the issues of the French education system.

2. Entre les Murs (Between The Walls)

This dramedy, released in 2008 and directed by Laurent Cantet, tells the story of a teacher who moves to an inner-city school in Paris.

He begins to reach out to each of them and get to know them better. Through this, he encounters problems with violence, ethnic tensions among each other, and the struggles of education. All of this begins to test not only his patience, but what he really is made of. What type of educator will he be, and can he really make a difference? 

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Entre les Murs was written by and stars formed teacher François Begaudeau, who drew heavily on his own classroom experiences. Photo: AFP

3. Être et Avoir (To Be And To Have)                              

Directed by Nicolas Philibert and released in 2002, this documentary caused a lot of legal controversy on its release, but it brings to light the conditions of the French learning environment.

The film was shot in a very small community in Auvergne where a single teacher, Georges Lopez, teaches about fifteen children of different ages. It is by all means an interesting watch, and will showcase a unique school environment.

4. LOL (Laugh Out Loud)

You may know this film from the 2012 remake starring Miley Cyrus, but this was actually originally released in France in 2008 and directed by Lisa Azuelos.

In fact the original movie did about three times better in the box office than the American version! The films are about a high school student, Lola, who is going through the drama of life, love, and her own mental prism. Her boyfriend cheats on her and as pay-back, she goes after his best friend but ends up finding something unexpected. A classic coming-of-age movie.

5. Les Choristes (The Chorus)

The students at this austere boarding school in France are constantly bickering and at odds with their teachers and faculty. That is, until Clément Mathieu (played by Gérard Jugnot) arrives and starts a choir.

Clément makes major changes to the school, and is very encouraging to his students. All of the student’s lives are changed by Clément’s ways. This heart-warming and soulful  2004 movie that shows how beautiful and hard education can be.

6. Les Beaux Gosses (The French Kissers)

This teen comedy that follows Hervé, an ordinary middle-school boy with average looks, skills, and grades.

He has little luck with girls, until Aurore - a beautiful girl from his school - takes an interest in him. The two embark on an awkward middle school relationship, but the film does not end in the happy way you would think it does. 

READ ALSO Why the Americans are not keen on a 'French ending'


Les Choristes follows the life-changing experiences of a French school choir. Photo: AFP

7. L’Heure de la Sortie (School’s Out)

This 2018 film from director Sébastien Marnier has a eerie tone as a new substitute teacher, Pierre Hoffman, begins to work at a prestigious college because the previous teacher committed suicide.

He is greeted with hostility and passive-aggressiveness from the students and begins to search for their secret. But at what cost? This film is a back-to-school movie that will send chills down your spin!

8. La Boum (The Party)

This comedy was released in 1980 and directed by Claude Pinoteau about a thirteen-year-old French girl coping with the struggles of her new school, boys, and parents with their own set of problems.

The story revolves around the big party she wants to have, the boy she has fallen in love with, and her relationship with her family. This is another classic coming-of-age movie where the struggles of being a kid in high school are not easy, but certainly are entertaining. 

9. L’Epine Dans le Coeur  (The Thorn in the Heart)

This documentary was released in 2009 and was directed by (as well as stars)  Michel Gondry. It shows Gondry visiting his aunt who was a teacher in Cévennes from 1952 to 1986. As he travels with her, they recall all of the various places that she taught and through all of this, he reflects on his own self-discovery.

10. L’Esquive  (Games of Love and Chance)

A group of students who go to school in the rough districts of Paris, most of whom are North African and Southeast Asian immigrants, are putting on a production of the Marivaux play “Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard”, a work which highlights the class distinctions they face.

This movie is perfect for a back-to-school drama that touches on young love and some of the underlying issues of life!

11. La Belle Personne (The Beautiful Person)

Junie, after her mother’s tragic death, transfers to another high school where she finds herself caught between the love of her boyfriend Otto, and her young and handsome Italian teacher, Nemours.


Issues with the French schooling system are tackled in many of these films. Photo: AFP

12. Le Concours (The Graduation)

This documentary, released 2016, and directed by Claire Simon touches on the intense struggles of preparing and getting into the grande école, Fémis. Out of the thousands of students who have spent endless time preparing, only about 60 will be chosen.

13. Les Profs (Serial Teachers)

This comedy, released in 2013 and directed by Pierre-François Martin-Laval, is the story of a bunch of different teachers coming together to try to rescue a school full of poorly-behaved students.

Each of the teachers specialise in a different field, and none of the teachers mess around. The comedy film is perfect for a back-to-school watch, and is a feel-good comedy!

14. Le Peril Jeune (Good Old Daze) 

This is a dramedy released in 1994 directed by Cédric Klapisch that has been compared to the American film The Breakfast Club. It is about four different friends meeting up 10 years after high school and reflecting on their Parisian high school days in the 1970s. It touches on first loves, drugs, and the quickness of youth. 

15. L’Atelier (The Workshop)

This 2017 Drama directed by Laurent Cantet revolves around a summer love when  well-respected and successful writer Olivia is assigned to work with a man named Antoine on a summer writing project. Antoine’s facetious personality intrigues Olivia and the two end up finding something more than just a good story . .

16. Les Grands Esprits (The Teacher)

This dramedy was released in 2017 and directed by Olivier Ayache-Vidal. It tells the story of a teacher who is teaching at a high-end school in Paris, but is overheard by a representative of the Ministry of Education talking down teachers in disadvantaged areas.

Forced to move out to the suburbs to a school with a tough reputation, he ends up learning just as much from his new students as they do from him. 


The Holocaust forms a backdrop to Les Heritiers Photo: AFP

17.  Camille Redouble

This 2012 film tells a story of a girl named Camille who is sixteen which she meets Eric, the father of her child. Twenty five years later, he ends up cheating on her and leaving her for a younger woman.

The night of December 31st, she suddenly wakes up and has returned to her 16-year-old self in high school when she had first met Eric. What decision will she make? Will she change everything?

18. Les Heritiers (Once In A Lifetime)

This 2014 film directed by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar is actually based on a true story. It chronicles a teacher who has struggled with the school system of Leon Blum high school. She decides to enter the students in a national competition where they were able to meet survivors of the Nazi concentration camp system and opened their eyes to different struggles and people throughout the world. 

19. La Journée de la Jupe (Skirt Day)

This 2008 film directed by Jean-Paul Lilienfeld puts a little twist on conventional teaching.

This story follows a teacher who endures racial, sexist, and violent outbursts from her students everyday. One day, she finds a gun in one of her student’s bags and ends up accidentally shooting a student in the leg. She then, out of panic, ends up taking her class hostage. A weird, twisted, heavy film that touches on underlying issues of education but will also have you on the edge of your seat.

20. La Vie Soclaire (School Life)

This upcoming 2019 film directed by Mehdi Idir and Grand Corps Malade revolves around the high school of Saint Denis, where the personality and lives of several students are followed.

The students soon meet Samia who comes to Saint Denis and discovers many of the disciplinary and social problems in the neighborhood, but also all of the humour and passion that comes with it.  

Lost in Frenchlation screen French films at cinemas in Paris with English subtitles. To see their upcoming events, visit their website here.

 
 
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