Contemporary French Language Directors

by AltonMann | created - 13 Nov 2011 | updated - 11 Feb 2013 | Public

These are key directors from France. I have recommended 12 films (no more than 1 per director) with a notation * as a good introduction to French film. For directors whose films I've yet to see, I've listed those films rated most highly in IMDB. Note that the biographies for each director below are from their IMDB page. I provided the selected list of titles for each director.

1. Patrice Leconte

Director | La fille sur le pont

Patrice Leconte was born on November 12, 1947 in Paris, France. He is a director and writer, known for The Girl on the Bridge (1999), Ridicule (1996) and Monsieur Hire (1989).

b 1947 Ridicule (1996) * Man on the Train (2002) Girl on the Bridge (1999) The Widow of Saint-Pierre (2000) Monsieur Hire (1989)

2. Laurent Cantet

Director | Entre les murs

Laurent Cantet was born on June 15, 1961 in Melle, Deux-Sevres, France. He is a director and writer, known for The Class (2008), Human Resources (1999) and Return to Ithaca (2014).

b 1961 Time Out (2001) * The Class (2008) Human Resources (1999) Les sanguinaires (1997) Heading South (2005)

3. Agnès Jaoui

Actress | Comme une image

Agnès Jaoui was born on October 19, 1964 in Antony, Hauts-de-Seine, France. She is an actress and writer, known for Look at Me (2004), The Taste of Others (2000) and Un air de famille (1996). She was previously married to Jean-Pierre Bacri.

b. 1964 Look at Me (2004) * Parlez-moi de la pluie (2008) The Taste of Others (2000)

4. Bertrand Tavernier

Director | Un dimanche à la campagne

Bertrand Tavernier was a law student that preferred write film criticisms. He also wrote a few books about American movies. Then his first film won a few awards in France and abroad and established his reputation.

b. 1941 Life and Nothing But (1989) * It All Starts Today (1999) 'Round Midnight (1986) The Clockmaker of St. Paul (1974) Safe Conduct (2002)

5. Jacques Audiard

Writer | De rouille et d'os

Born in Paris, France, in 1952. Jacques Audiard's family has always been involved in movie business. His father, Michel, was a popular screenwriter and director and his uncle a producer. But in his teens he refused that world and wanted to be a teacher. He studied literature and philosophy at the ...

b 1952 A Prophet (2009) * Read My Lips (2001) Rust and Bone (2012) See How They Fall (1994) A Self-Made Hero (1996) The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005)

6. Olivier Assayas

Writer | Personal Shopper

Olivier Assayas is a French film director, screenwriter and film critic. He is best know for his films Demonlover (2002), Something in the Air (2012), Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Personal Shopper (2016).

Assayas is the son of French director/screenwriter Raymond Assayas, alias Jacques Rémy.

His ...

b. 1955 Summer Hours (2008) * Late August, Early September (1998) Clean (2004/I) Paris, Je T'Aime (2006) Carlos (2010)

7. Agnès Varda

Director | Sans toit ni loi

Agnès Varda was born on May 30, 1928 in Brussels, Belgium as Arlette Varda. She was a director and writer, known for Vagabond (1985), Faces Places (2017) and Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962). She was married to Jacques Demy. She died on March 29, 2019 in Paris, France.

b. 1928 The Beaches of Agnès (2008) * The Gleaners & I (2000) Jacquot de Nantes (1991) Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) Vagabond (1985)

8. Arnaud Desplechin

Writer | Rois et reine

Arnaud Desplechin was born on October 31, 1960 in Roubaix, Nord, France. He is a writer and director, known for Kings & Queen (2004), La vie des morts (1991) and La sentinelle (1992).

b.1960 Kings & Queen (2004) * A Christmas Tale (2008) La vie des morts (1991) My Sex Life... or How I Got Into an Argument (1996) Esther Kahn (2000)

9. Luc Besson

Writer | The Fifth Element

Luc Besson spent the first years of his life following his parents, scuba diving instructors, around the world. His early life was entirely aquatic. He already showed amazing creativity as a youth, writing early drafts of The Big Blue (1988) and The Fifth Element (1997), as an adolescent bored in ...

b. 1959 Leon: The Professional (1994) * The Fifth Element (1997) La Femme Nikita (1990) The Lady (2011) Angel-A (2005)

10. Jean-Pierre Dardenne

Producer | Deux jours, une nuit

After studying drama in the arts institute, Jean Pierre Dardenne and his brother Luc made some videos about the rough life in blue-collar small towns in the Wallonie. After their meeting with filmmaker Armad Gatti and cinematographer Ned Burgess, they decided to enter in the movie business.

In 1978 ...

b. 1951 The Kid with a Bike (2011) The Child (2005) * La Promesse (1996) The Son (2002) Rosetta (1999) Lorna's Silence (2008)

11. Michael Haneke

Writer | Caché

A true master of his craft, Michael Haneke is one of the greatest film artists working today and one who challenges his viewers each year and work goes by, with films that reflect real portions of life in realistic, disturbing and unforgettable ways. One of the most genuine filmmakers of the world ...

b. 1942 Amour (2012) The White Ribbon (2009) Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys (2000) Caché (Hidden) (2005) Funny Games (2007) Time of the Wolf (2003) The Piano Teacher (2001)

12. André Téchiné

Writer | Les roseaux sauvages

André Téchiné was born on March 13, 1943 in Valence, Tarn-et-Garonne, France. He is a writer and director, known for Wild Reeds (1994), Rendez-vous (1985) and The Witnesses (2007).

b. 1943 Wild Reeds (1994) * My Favorite Season (1993) Thieves (1996) The Witnesses (2007) Scene of the Crime (1986)

13. Claire Denis

Director | High Life

Claire Denis was born on April 21, 1946 in Paris, France. She is a director and writer, known for High Life (2018), Beau travail (1999) and 35 Shots of Rum (2008).

b. 1948 35 Shots of Rum (2008) White Material (2009) Chocolate (1988) The Intruder (2004) Beau Travail (1999)

14. Alain Corneau

Writer | Tous les matins du monde

Alain Corneau was a Cesar Award-winning French writer-director best known for his multiple collaborations with French cinema superstars Yves Montand, Simone Signoret and Gérard Depardieu. Born on August 7, 1943 in Meung-sur-Loire, Loiret, Corneay trained as a musician but switched his interest to ...

b. 1943 Fear and Trembling (2003) Love Crime (2010) Tous les Matins du Monde (1991) Série noire (1979) Lumière and Company (1995)

15. Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Director | Un long dimanche de fiançailles

Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a self-taught director who was very quickly interested by cinema, with a predilection for a fantastic cinema where form is as important as the subject. Thus he started directing TV commercials and video clips (such as Julien Clerc in 1984). At the same time he met designer/...

b. 1953 Amélie (2001) Delicatessen (1991) A Very Long Engagement (2004) Things I Like, Things I Don't Like (1989) The City of Lost Children (1995)

16. Sylvain Chomet

Director | Les triplettes de Belleville

Sylvain Chomet was born on November 10, 1963 in Maisons-Laffitte, Seine-et-Oise [now Yvelines, Île-de-France], France. He is a director and writer, known for The Triplets of Belleville (2003), The Illusionist (2010) and The Old Lady and the Pigeons (1997).

b. 1963 The Triplets of Belleville (2003) * The Illusionist (2010) The Old Lady and the Pigeons (1998)

17. Jacques Rivette

Director | La belle noiseuse

Although François Truffaut has written that the New Wave began "thanks to Rivette," the films of this masterful French director are not well known. Rivette, like his "Cahiers du Cinéma" colleagues Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Éric Rohmer, did graduate to filmmaking but, like Rohmer...

b. 1928 Va Savoir (Who Knows?) (2001) Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) La belle noiseuse (1991) Lumière and Company (1995) Paris Belongs to Us (1961)

18. Alain Resnais

Director | Hiroshima mon amour

Alain Resnais was born on June 3, 1922 in Vannes, Morbihan, France as Alain Pierre Marie Jean Georges Resnais. He was a director and editor, known for Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), Same Old Song (1997) and My American Uncle (1980). He was married to Sabine Azéma and Florence Malraux. He died on March...

b. 1922 Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) Last Year at Marienbad (1961) Mon oncle d'Amérique (1980) Same Old Song (1997) Smoking/No Smoking (1993)

19. Xavier Beauvois

Writer | Des hommes et des dieux

Xavier Beauvois was born on March 20, 1967 in Auchel, Pas-de-Calais, France. He is an actor and writer, known for Of Gods and Men (2010), North (1991) and Don't Forget You're Going to Die (1995).

b 1967 Of Gods and Men (2010) * Le petit lieutenant (2005) Don't Forget You're Going to Die (1995) Nord (1991)

20. Guillaume Canet

Actor | Jeux d'enfants

Son of horse breeders, the young man spent his childhood in the countryside near Paris. In his youth, Guillaume wanted to be a horse-rider, and briefly followed a professional career in the sport. A bad fall broke his dreams, but is at the origin of his acting career, and success. After briefly ...

b. 1973 Tell No One (2006) Little White Lies (2010) Whatever You Say (2002)

21. Leos Carax

Director | Holy Motors

Leos Carax made several short films and also wrote film criticism, then at the age of 24 years made a very strong first feature Boy Meets Girl (1984). The film played at the 1984 Cannes film festival and was a critical triumph. It paved the way for Carax's second feature Mauvais Sang (1986) (Bad ...

b. 1960 Holy Motors (2012) The Lovers on the Bridge (1991) Mauvais sang (1986) Tokyo! (2008)

22. François Dupeyron

Writer | C'est quoi la vie?

François Dupeyron was born on August 14, 1950 in Tartas, Landes, France. He was a writer and director, known for C'est quoi la vie? (1999), Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera (2008) and Lamento (1988). He was married to Dominique Faysse. He died on February 25, 2016 in Paris, France.

b. 1950 Monsieur Ibrahim (2003) The Officer's Ward (2001) C'est quoi la vie? (1999) Strange Place for an Encounter (1988)

23. Danièle Thompson

Writer | La bûche

Danièle Thompson was born on January 3, 1942 in Monaco. She is a writer and director, known for La bûche (1999), Avenue Montaigne (2006) and Queen Margot (1994). She is married to Albert Koski. She was previously married to Richard Thompson.

b.1942 Avenue Montaigne (2006) La bûche (1999) Jet Lag (2002)

24. Erick Zonca

Writer | La vie rêvée des anges

Erick Zonca was born on September 10, 1956 in Orléans, Loiret, France. He is a writer and director, known for The Dreamlife of Angels (1998), Julia (2008) and Le petit voleur (1999).

b. 1956 The Dreamlife of Angels (1998) Julia (2008) Le petit voleur (1999)

25. Philippe Claudel

Writer | Il y a longtemps que je t'aime

Philippe Claudel was born on February 2, 1962 in Dombasle-sur-Meurthe, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France. He is a writer and director, known for I've Loved You So Long (2008), A Childhood (2015) and Tous les soleils (2011).

b. 1962 I've Loved You So Long (2008) Tous les soleils (2011)

26. Mathieu Kassovitz

Actor | Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain

Mathieu Kassovitz was born on August 3, 1967 in Paris, France. He is an actor, known for Amélie (2001), La Haine (1995) and The Crimson Rivers (2000). He is married to Julie Mauduech. They have one child.

b. 1967 La Haine (1995) Rebellion (2011) The Crimson Rivers (2000) Assassin(s) (1997)

27. Cédric Klapisch

Director | L'auberge espagnole

Cédric Klapisch was born on September 4, 1961 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France. He is a director and writer, known for L'auberge espagnole (2002), Un air de famille (1996) and When the Cat's Away (1996). He has been married to Lola Doillon since 2002. They have one child.

b. 1961 L'Auberge Espagnole (2002) Le péril jeune (1994) Family Resemblances (1996) Russian Dolls (2005) Lumière and Company (1995)

28. Philippe Lioret

Director | Welcome

Philippe Lioret was born on October 10, 1955 in Paris, France. He is known for his work on Welcome (2009), Lost in Transit (1993) and A Kid (2016).

b. 1965 Welcome (2009/I) Don't Worry, I'm Fine (2006) The Light (2004) All Our Desires (2011)

29. François Ozon

Director | Dans la maison

François Ozon was born on November 15, 1967 in Paris, France. He is a director and writer, known for In the House (2012), 8 Women (2002) and Swimming Pool (2003).

b. 1967 Under the Sand (2000) Time to Leave (2005) 8 Women (2002) Water Drops on Burning Rocks (2000) Un lever de rideau (2006)

30. Gaspar Noé

Director | Climax

Gaspar Noé was born on December 27, 1963 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a director and producer, known for Climax (2018), Irreversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009).

b. 1963 I Stand Alone (1998) Irreversible (2002) Enter the Void (2009) Carne (1991)

31. Chantal Akerman

Director | Je tu il elle

Chantal Akerman was born on June 6, 1950 in Brussels, Belgium as Chantal Anne Akerman. She was a director and writer, known for Je Tu Il Elle (1974), A Couch in New York (1996) and The Meetings of Anna (1978). She was married to Sonia Wieder-Atherton. She died on October 5, 2015 in Paris, France.

b. 1950 Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) News from Home (1977) The Meetings of Anna (1978) From the Other Side (2002/I) Almayer's Folly (2011)

32. Christian Carion

Director | Joyeux Noël

Christian Carion was born in a family of farmers in the North of France. Despite nursing a passion for films since he was 13, he travels a scientific path. After passing his baccalauréat, he joins an engineering school affiliated to the french ministry of agriculture, thus answering his family's ...

b. 1963 Joyeux Noel (2005) Farewell (2009) The Girl from Paris (2001)

33. Radu Mihaileanu

Writer | Le concert

Radu Mihaileanu was born on April 23, 1958 in Bucharest, Romania. He is a writer and director, known for The Concert (2009), Live and Become (2005) and Train of Life (1998).

b. 1958 Live and Become (2005) Train of Life (1998) The Concert (2009

34. Francis Veber

Writer | Le dîner de cons

Francis Veber was born on July 28, 1937 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France. He is a writer and director, known for Le Dîner de Cons (1998), The Birdcage (1996) and Ruby & Quentin (2003). He has been married to Françoise Veber since January 11, 1964. They have two ...

b. 1937 The Dinner Game (1998) The Toy (1976) The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972) The Goat (1981) The Closet (2001)

35. Jaco Van Dormael

Director | Mr. Nobody

Jaco Van Dormael was born on February 9, 1957 in Ixelles, Brabant, Belgium. He is a director and writer, known for Mr. Nobody (2009), The Brand New Testament (2015) and Toto the Hero (1991).

b. 1957 Mr. Nobody (2009/I) Toto the Hero (1991) The Eighth Day (1996) Lumière and Company (1995)



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