5 of Omar Sy’s best French-language films and TV series

French actor Omar Sy
French actor Omar Sy. Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP
French actor Omar Sy's profile is rapidly rising in Hollywood with a series of blockbuster films and a new Netflix deal, but he has also done some great work in French cinema. Here's our pick of his back catalogue.

Les Intouchables (Untouchable) – 2011

This is the film that saw Sy really break through in France, a more serious role after an early career in mostly comedy or light fare.

Inspired by true events, Les Intouchables tells the story of Philippe (François Cluzet), a rich man who is left paralysed after a paragliding accident. Trapped inside his own dysfunctioning body, Philippe is frustrated and depressed, unable to take care of himself.

Enter Driss (Sy) – the tall, handsome black man with an unrelentingly optimistic approach to life despite his tough background. It’s a clash of two different Frances – Philippe’s wealthy and white and Driss’ poor and black – and two men who turn out to have much more in common than they think. 

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Chocolat – 2016

No, not the Johnny Depp film about the chocolate-maker, this is loosely based on the true life story of 19th-century black circus clown Rafael Padilla, who took the stage name Chocolat.

The biopic allows Sy to show off his comedy gifts and his talent for physical performance through the clowning routines, but also tackles some tough questions around prejudice and stereotyping.

It also features a classic ‘French ending’.

Tout simplement Noir (Simply Black) – 2020

This film saw a return to comedy for Sy, playing an unemployed actor who hits on the idea of organising a march protesting about the under-representation of black voices in the media as a way of boosting his career.

The film itself is a little uneven in its tone, but it gives Sy the opportunity to demonstrate his range, from slapstick comedy through to serious subjects and emotional moments.

READ ALSO 5 Netflix shows that will teach you French as the locals speak it

Omar Sy and Virginie Efira at the Berlin premier of Police (Night Shift)

Omar Sy and Virginie Efira at the Berlin premier of Police (Night Shift). Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP

Police (Night Shift) – 2020

This remarkable film from director Anne Fontaine tells a simple story – three police officers are tasked with transferring a failed asylum seeker to the airport so that he can be deported.

What makes it so compelling is the shifting narrative – showing the same events of the day from the different perspectives of the three officers – and the startling performances from Sy and his co-stars Virginie Efira and Grégory Gadebois.

It’s great if you want to understand some of the problems in France around policing, racism and migration.

ANALYSIS How did France’s relationship with its own police get so bad?

Lupin (2020)

A dubbed-into-English version of this exists on Netflix, but for our money it has more nuance and character in French.

It’s a clever modern rethink of the classic Arsène Lupin novels, with a lot of glitz, glamour and complicated plot twists (and bears some similarity to the British show Sherlock, another re-imagining of a classic character from literature).

You can watch the show for the fun and thrills alone, but there are also some serious points about racism, prejudice and corruption in France.

It became Netflix’s third most watched series ever, according to internal company data, and helped propel Sy to a multi-year Netflix deal, meaning we can expect to see more of him in the future, although whether his new work will be in English or French is not yet clear.

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