Film blog: How France resisted the Hollywood franchises of the 2000s

Coming of age in the early 2000s was quite a time. In the golden age of reality television there were also some classic French films, as Yeeseon Chae discovers.

Film blog: How France resisted the Hollywood franchises of the 2000s
The stars of the American Twilight series. Photo: AFP

For American audiences, the 2000s was the decade of franchise, from superheroes to Harry Potter and the Twilight films. But French audiences were having a very different movie experience with quirky comedies, love stories and – of course – Amelie.

READ ALSO Film blog: The French films breaking box office records in the 1980s

Amelie inspired its own mini tourist industry in Montmatre. Photo: AFP


USA: Cast Away 

One of the biggest films at the start of the millennium featured Tom Hanks and a gripping performance by his co-star – a volleyball.

The harrowing and lonesome tale of Chuck Noland and his time on an deserted island introduced a new sense to the idea of being grateful for what you have. Most likely fueled by the Y2K scare, the year was filled with many other movies with a similar theme of confusion and peril with films like the first Final Destination and X-Men. 

France: Le Gout Des Autres

While American audiences were trying to figure out how they would survive stranded on an island, French audiences were watching people try to communicate their feelings on screen. Le Gout des Autres follows multiple storylines of people falling in love with each other. This film proves that not even France was immune to the cheesy, yet heartwarming setup of the rom-com, eventually leading this film to win the Cesar award for Best Film.


USA: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

2001 was truly an impactful year for film with the launching of several blockbusters – including the first of eight Harry Potter movies. Adapted from the highly successful books, the Harry Potter movies were widely acclaimed and launched merchandise and amusement parks that made a decent profit for Warner Bros.

France: Amelie

France's most popular film of 2001 didn't quite get its own theme park, but it was a hugely popular international hit and also saw the neighborhood of Montmartre in Paris becoming an Amelie-themed tourist site. The movie got a musical adaptation as well.


USA: Spider-Man

For movie franchises, 2002 can be marked as the beginning of the Spider-series, with now seasoned actors Tobey MaGuire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco right at the start of it all. Much of the early 2000s were filled with major studios fighting for the top spot with their franchise films, and the beginning of the superhero franchise craze can be set up around this time, with hits like Spider-Man as well as X-Men.

France: 8 Femmes

The defining film of the year for France was 8 Femmes, an exploration into a Hitchcockian murder-mystery featuring an all-star cast of French actresses. Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve are among the big names in this 1950s period film where each person is a possible suspect of an unsettling murder.


USA: The Lizzie McGuire Movie

If you ask any American millennial or Gen Z-er “what dreams are made of,” they are sure to bring up this movie. What every young teen dreams of studying abroad, this movie is the first to pop in everyone’s minds. Set in Rome, Disney favorite Lizzie McGuire goes abroad to discover Rome and gasp, herself! 

France: Chouchou

For France, Chouchou hit the silver screen in 2003 to become a cult classic. The story follows the titular character, gay Maghrebin man who travels up to the big city of Paris to find his nephew and, of course, love. 

Romain Duris starred in Les Poupées russes, one of the biggest hits of the decade in France. Photo: AFP


USA: Mean Girls

The high school screenplay, written by Tina Fey, is nothing short of a classic at this point and there are so many who can recite this movie on the spot. Mean Girls is the story of Cady Heron, played by a young Lindsay Lohan, and how she figures out high school and its many pressing dynamics. The movie eventually made its way to becoming a Broadway musical as well.

France: Les Choristes

Though both movies are set in schools, the French film of the same year was quite the opposite stylistically with Les Choristes (The Chorus). The movie follows a group of young boys at a boarding school in the years after Word War II and a music teacher who changes their lives for the better.


USA: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 

The remake of the hit classic (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder) was led by a cast of relatively new young actors and Johnny Depp. Although it was a film that audiences could laugh at, the film still connected with audiences, showing that the old narrative was still relevant. 

France: Les Poupées russes

Les Poupées russe (Russian Dolls) was the hit in France of 2005 and it is the second installment of the now classic Spanish Apartment series.

Starring Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou, the film follows Xavier, who while struggling with his writing career, has very little struggle trying to find women who want him. This later coming-of-age story teaches the important lesson of differentiating between relationships of fantasy and reality.


USA: High School Musical 

The Disney TV movie, directed by Kenny Ortega, launched the careers of teen heartthrobs Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron. Like many other high school movies, this also idealised the high school experience and most likely also made kids want to join musical theater when they grew up.

France: Ne le dis à personne

Ne le dis à personne, or Tell No One, is quite the opposite in both genre and plot, but it made the waves for French audiences. The Guillaume Canet feature is in a similar vein to Taken and follows Alexandre, played by François Cluzet, as he tries to track down the truth of what happened to his wife, who he previously thought was dead.

The film telling the life story of Edith Piaf was a huge worldwide hit. Photo: AFP


USA: Ratatouille 

The only instance where both movies of the year were set in France, the films of 2007 sparked a real interest in France and French culture around the world.

The Pixar feature follows Remy, a rat who wants nothing more than to cook beautifully. Emboldened by the spirit of a famous and accepting chef, Remy goes on to realise his dreams in no place other than Paris.

France: La Môme

Somewhat darker, La Môme (or La Vie en Rose as it appeared n the Anglophone world) tells the real story of legendary French singer Edith Piaf, played by Marion Cotillard in a career-defining role.

Although there's plenty of heartwarming moments and, of course, great songs, the film does not shy away from the sadder and more brutal aspects of Piaf's life.


USA: Twilight

For better or worse, the movie of growing up in the USA in 2008 was Twilight. Setting off so many arguments with this tale of vampire romance, Twilight at this point is iconic for its almost campy dialogue and a plot that doesn’t quite make sense.

Still, it made no less of an impact and went off to inspire audiences everywhere (including the Fifty Shades of Grey series, which started life as Twilight fan fiction).

France: Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis

The comedy Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis (Welcome to the Sticks) was the 2008 hit for French audiences. The highest-grossing film of the French box offices combines the forms of buddy comedy and slapstick humor to tell this tale of a postman from Provence relocated to the cold north, replete with French regional stereotypes.

READ ALSO French regional stereotypes: Is half the country really always drunk?


USA: Avatar 

Hugely popular, but if you ask anyone now, they will have no real recollection of what happened in the movie.

Something to mention about the film is that though audiences couldn’t really remember anything about the film, they were certain to remember the pop cultural after effects and the multiple parodies that came after the release. Avatar is the pinnacle of the movies in the 2000s, representing a heightened sense of movie technology and a world of franchises. 

France: LOL

For French audiences, the movie was LOL, a heartwarming feature by Lisa Azuelos about a teenage daughter and her mother. The movie was later remade for American audiences with Miley Cyrus and Demi Moore. 

Yeeseon Chae Lanier works for Lost in Frenchlation, a Paris-based cinema club that screens French films with English subtitles, to open up the word of French cinema to English-speakers. Find out more about their programme here.


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French films with English subtitles to watch in November

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, November is a great month to enjoy a warm and comforting moment at the cinema. Here’s a round up of the French movies with English subtitles to see in Paris this month.

Cinema in France
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The cinema group Lost in Frenchlation runs regular screenings of French films in the capital, with English subtitles to help non-native speakers follow the action. The club kicks off every screening with drinks at the cinema’s bar one hour before the movie, so it’s also a fun way to meet people if you’re new to Paris.

These are the events they have coming up in November.

Friday, November 5th

Boîte Noire – What happened on board the Dubai-Paris flight before it crashed in the Alps? In this thriller Matthieu, a young and talented black box analyst played by Pierre Niney (star of Yves Saint-Laurent among other movies) is determined to solve the reason behind this deadly crash, no matter the costs. 

The screening will take place at the Club de l’étoile cinema at 8pm. But you can arrive early for drinks at the bar from 7pm. 

Tickets are €10 full price, €8 for students and all other concessions, and can be reserved here.

Sunday, November 14th

Tralala – In the mood for music? This new delightful French musical brings you into the life of Tralala (played by Mathieu Amalric), a 48 years old, homeless and worn-out street singer, who one day gets mistaken for someone else. Tralala sees an opportunity to get a better life by taking on a new personality. He now has a brother, nephews, ex-girlfriends, and maybe even a daughter. But where is the lie? Where is the truth? And who is he, deep down?

The night will start with drinks from 6pm followed by the screening at 7pm at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema. There is also a two-hour cinema-themed walk where you’ll be taken on a “musicals movie tour” in the heart of Paris, which begins at 4pm.

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here. Tickets for the walking tour cost €20 and must be reserved online here.

Thursday, November 18th

Illusions Perdues – Based on the great novel series by Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843, this historical drama captures the writer Lucien’s life and dilemmas who dreams about a great career of writing and moves to the city to get a job at a newspaper. As a young poet entering the field of journalism, he is constantly challenged by his desire to write dramatic and eye-catching stories for the press. But are they all true?

The evening will kick off with drinks at L’Entrepôt cinema bar at 7pm, followed by the movie screening at 8pm. Tickets are available online here, and cost €8.50 full price; €7 for students and all other concessions.

Sunday, November 21st

Eiffel – Having just finished working on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (played by Romain Duris) is tasked with creating a spectacular monument for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. It’s ultimately his love story with Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey) that will inspire him to come up with the idea for the Eiffel Tower.

After a first screening last month, Lost in Frenchlation is organising a new one at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema, with pre-screening drinks at the cinema bar. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here

Thursday, November 25th

Les Héroïques – Michel is a former junkie and overgrown child who only dreams of motorbikes and of hanging out with his 17-year-old son Léo and his friends. But at 50 years old, he now has to handle the baby he just had with his ex, and try not to make the same mistakes he has done in the past. 

The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director Maxime Roy who will discuss his very first feature. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here.

Full details of Lost in Frenchlation’s events can be found on their website or Facebook page. In France, a health pass is required in order to go to the cinema.