top five french holiday films

Stuck at home, or far from home, this holiday season? Need some holiday entertainment to keep you sane? Whether you feel like laughing or crying, we’ve got a film for you. Check out this list of our top five French Christmas films* and brush up your skills while hunkering down.

5. Santa et Cie (Santa and Company, 2017)

A film on the tried and true theme of “saving Christmas,” this movie is less of a classic and more of a typical Hollywood-style escape, but with an eerily prescient plot line: Santa’s elves have all fallen ill with a mysterious illness. A maladapted Santa enters the real world and fails miserably at its navigation as he tries to save his helpers. A cross between Elf and The Santa Klaus, this modern comedy gets an extra special touch with Amélie’s Audrey Tautou as Mrs. Claus. Runtime: 1h32

4. L’Arbre de Noël (The Christmas Tree, 1969)

This Franco-Italian film depicts the bond between a father and son, and the joyful times they spend together after the father learns his son is dying. Taking to heart the adage to “live each day as though it was the last,” the father spoils his child as he tries to give him a lifetime of experiences in a short a time as possible. Beautiful, but be warned: This film was dubbed “the most tearful film of the sixties.” Runtime: 1h52

3. Myrtille et la lettre au Père Noël (Myrtille and the letter to Santa Claus, 2017)

This collection of three short animated films is the perfect antidote to the chaos of 2020. With plenty of pretty visuals and simple plots, this film relates the adventures of Santa and his elves, a brother and sister, and some furry friends. The short film format is great for short attention spans. Enjoyable for children and adults, with the added bonus of short dialogues in simple spoken French for easy listening practice. Runtime: 42 mins

2. Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas, 2005)

The true story of the Christmas truce at the Western Front during the First World War. What if we chose fraternity and compassion over war? This drama follows soldiers from three nations as they make this choice, improvising a truce during the first Christmas of the war and sharing songs, photos, prayers, and the consequences they face as a result. Based on a true story, this epic film toys between giving us hope in humanity and leaving us in despair over the relentless bureaucracy of the war machine. Heartwarming and tear-jerking. Keep some hankies handy. Runtime: 1h55

1. Le Père Noël est une ordure (Santa Claus Is a Stinker, 1982)

(May not be appropriate for young viewers)**

Just right for 2020, this comedy is about a simple Christmas gone horribly wrong. Pierre and Thérèse are strait-laced Catholic volunteers operating a suicide hotline on Christmas Eve. What should be a dull, slow evening gets zany as their work brings them into contact with various characters of all sorts, including a drunken Santa and a lonely crossdresser. Their wacky adventures force them from their comfort zone and challenge their preconceptions. A film with the uplifting message that we should strive to understand each other, delivered through the vehicle of a dark humor just perfect for this year. Runtime: 1h23

Share with us: What are your favorite French-language holiday films?


*Despite the diversity of its population, we’ve found that France’s mainstream holiday films tend to center on Christmas. If you have any French-language film recommendations that address other religions, cultures, or winter holidays, please share them with us!

**Although still considered a holiday classic, like many films from several years ago, some elements of this movie’s humor would be considered inappropriate today, so watch with a grain of salt.

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