C’est la saison de Noël and we’ve compiled a list of our favorite French Christmas movies to add yuletide spice to your holiday viewing schedule. From family favorites to cult classics, here are 10 festive flicks to delight language learners and movie buffs during the festive season.
List of French Christmas Movies
- Le Père Noël Est Une Ordure (Santa Claus Is A Stinker) – 1982
- Joyeux Noël – 2005
- Les Bronzés Font du Ski (The Bronzés Go Skiing) – 1979
- L’Arbre de Noël (The Christmas Tree)
- La Bûche (Season’s Beatings) – 1999
- Huit Femmes (8 Women) – 2002
- Le Père Noël A Les Yeux Bleus (Santa Claus Has Blue Eyes) – 1967
- Le Père Noël A Les Yeux Bleus (Santa Claus Has Blue Eyes) – 1967
- Un Conte De Noël (A Christmas Story) – 2008
- Santa & Cie (Santa and Co.) – 2017
Le Père Noël Est Une Ordure (Santa Claus Is A Stinker) – 1982
Adapted from a play of the same name, Le Père Noël est une ordure follows two volunteers at a suicide crisis hotline in Paris through a series of madcap adventures triggered by a procession of quirky visitors to their offices.
Among them is pregnant Josette, pursued by her fiancé dressed as the titular Père Noël (Father Christmas), who proves to be both a stinker (the family-friendly translation of ordure) and the cause of a Christmas Eve unlike any other.
Directed by Jean-Marie Poiré and starring members of the theater troupe Le Splendid, who wrote and performed the original play, there’s hilarity and dark twists along the way. But it’s laden with visual gags and colorful dialogue, and you can’t help being swept along with the absurdity.
Sometimes called a cult classic, Le Père Noël Est Une Ordure is actually one of the most popular French Christmas movies ever made.
Joyeux Noël – 2005
Joyeux Noël depicts the famous events of the 1914 Christmas Truce, months after World War I started. A year later, the idea of Allied and Axis troops leaving their trenches to play soccer, sing Silent Night in various languages, and trade rations would become unimaginable.
Christian Carion directs a poignant and beautifully rendered snapshot of that celebrated day from both sides of no man’s land.
Although the characters are fictional, actors speak in their native voices, adding realism to a film that movingly exposes the tragedy of a war nobody but the generals and politicians wanted. It may sound like a heavy French Christmas movie; instead, it paints a picture of optimism, even if we all know that would prove illusory.
Joyeux Noël earned an Oscar nomination and swept up awards at the César awards ceremony of 2006, including Best Film and best-supporting actor for Dany Boon, director and star of Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis, an entry in our list of the greatest French movies of all time. This moving film only narrowly missed a spot on that list, too.
Les Bronzés Font du Ski (The Bronzés Go Skiing) – 1979
Les bronzés font du ski also pulls upon the comedic skills of the legendary Le Splendid theater troupe for a chaotic tale of 8 diverse friends coming together for a skiing vacation that inevitably goes awry.
A sequel to Les Bronzés following the same friends on a Mediterranean holiday (les bronzés means “the tanned ones”), this film retains the same energy and farce that made the first film a big hit in France.
Now transported to the Alps, the flawed but endearing characters end up lost in the mountains and need the help of some screwball characters to find their resort.
Translated into French Fried Vacation 2 for American audiences, this film is still beloved in France. Unlike the forgettable Les Bronzés 3, a sequel that landed 27 years later and lost all the magic of the first two movies.
L’Arbre de Noël (The Christmas Tree) – 1969
L’Arbre de Noël is a bittersweet melodrama about a boy who contracts leukemia in unlikely circumstances and a doting father desperate to fulfill his wildest wishes.
Directed by Terence Young, who helmed several early James Bond films, the movie stars American actor William Holden and French acting icon André Bourvil as old Resistance comrades who help make a dying boy’s dreams come true.
Unusually, there are two versions out there. Filmed first in French (with some dubbing for Holden and other actors) and then in English with a heavily accented Bourvil. Language learners will want to seek out the French version.
Although full of joy and moments of humor, L’Arbre de Noël is not a French Christmas movie tocheer you up. But it is a timeless tale of hope tinged with humor and hope.
La Bûche (Season’s Beatings) – 1999
La Bûche turns a searing spotlight on family drama at Christmas. If you’re looking for this online, you may find it listed as “Season’s Beatings,” a more revealing play on words for English speakers.
It’s a comedy, but there’s plenty of drama as 3 sisters with little in common spend time with other family members they have little in common with.
They do find shared ground over their departed but loved father. Throw in a little social commentary, plenty of festive tunes, and a fresh and unsentimental perspective on Christmas family reunions, and you’ve got the ingredients for a moreish movie.
A stellar cast includes Charlotte Gainsbourg, who won a César for best supporting actress. There’s not much of a plot, and the humor is hit-and-miss. But critics loved La Bûche, and it is ideal for French learners as the dialogue is as thick as the cream on a bûche de Noël.
Huit Femmes (8 Women) – 2002
Like others in this post, Huit Femmes was adapted from a play, is set on Christmas Eve, and centers on a family get-together. Except this time, the father has been murdered, and the eponymous 8 women are all suspects.
Set in the 1950s, it’s a nostalgic comedy romp with an Agatha Christie heart. All the women each get their turn to share their story. They frequently burst into song and dance, this unusual film a farce-musical-thriller. It’s a daring attempt from director François Ozonat to create something fresh and works better than it sounds on paper.
A lineup of famous French actresses, including Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, and Fanny Ardant, help bring the vision to sparkling life. Huit Femmes is fun, campy, and perfect if you’re looking for offbeat French Christmas movies.
Le Père Noël A Les Yeux Bleus (Santa Claus Has Blue Eyes) – 1967
The oldest from our pick of classic French Christmas movies is also the shortest (48 mins). Released in 1967, you could be forgiven for thinking it was even older as it’s filmed in grainy black and white.
Santa outfit aside, Le Père Noël A Les Yeux Bleus is not especially festive. Yet it is an oddly compelling time capsule, peppered with images from small-town France (Narbonne) and 60s culture.
Ostensibly, there’s not much of a story. The lead character, played with cheeky charm by New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud, wants to buy a coat and agrees to dress up a Père Noël to earn a few Francs. He also discovers that women are more drawn to Santa Claus, especially with his blue eyes.
L’Apprenti Père Noël (Santa’s apprentice) – 2010
Animated French Christmas movies are rarer than a partridge in a pear tree. L’Apprenti Père Noël is a little gem that follows Santa recruiting an apprentice for his reluctant retirement.
The film celebrates the true Christmas spirit with an old-fashioned animation style and a guaranteed happy ending (a rarity on this list).
Adapted from a popular TV series (check our guide to discover more French TV online), this is a lighthearted cartoon to amuse your kids while the turkey cooks. And if you forgot to defrost the turkey, there’s a pretty good sequel, too: L’Apprenti Père Noël et le flocon magique (The Magic Snowflake).
English language double-feature DVDs are available on Amazon. Also available on Starz.
Un Conte De Noël (A Christmas Story) – 2008
Un Conte De Noël is another tale of families coming together for Christmas. Bridges are built and destroyed as several generations of estranged family members reunite, primarily to find a bone marrow donor for the family matriarch, played by Catherine Deneuve.
Tears and heartache predictably ensue as the family’s dirty washing is aired, often with wit. Less predictable is how the relationships are explored, giving this film a cerebral air common to many gallic dramas.
There are more upbeat French Christmas movies. And not everyone will enjoy a film that is dialogue-heavy and has an ambiguous ending. But several actors brought their A game, including a notable turn from Mathieu Amalric, making it a thought-provoking dissection of family strife. Which the French do with panache.
Santa & Cie (Santa and Co.) – 2017
It’s time to revive the holly jolly festive spirit with our final French Christmas movie. Santa & Cie is a sweet and uplifting movie that follows Kris Kringle on a mission to save Christmas after the elves fall ill and their workshop grinds to a halt.
Directed by and starring Alain Chabat as the big man, the plot takes Santa to Paris searching for a cure and discovers that Christmas is in peril and his powers are fading. Only with outside help and a few adventures can he turn it around.
Audrey Tatou of Amelie fame stars as Santa’s wife, and the ensemble brings a cheerful charm. Colorful and fantastical with Paris as a backdrop, it’s a movie in the finest Christmas tradition that kids and Francophiles will appreciate.
Et voilà ! You now have a great list of ten French Christmas movies to watch! Now check out our post covering the top 10 best films of all time!