There are many movies about France (and set in France), and understandably so. The country’s vibrant cities, picturesque medieval villages, snow-capped mountain peaks and dramatic coastlines create a spectacular, colourful backdrop for any French cinema set.
In the south of France, the beautiful region of Provence has been the scenic filming location for a variety of movie blockbuster movies over the last century, including ‘A Good Year’, ‘The Horseman on the Roof’, and the classic, ‘To Catch a Thief’ starring Hollywood royalty Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.
If you are interested in learning more about the best movies about Provence, France, and would like to discover some fun facts along the way, continue to read about our favourite Provence movies below!
Cezanne et Moi (2016)
One of the most interesting French movies in recent years, Cezanne et Moi features a host of French actors including Guillaume Gallienne as Cezanne the Impressionist painter, and Guillaume Canet as Emile Zola, the 19th-century novelist. Based on a true story, the pair met in the schoolyard in Aix-en-Provence and developed a strong friendship with shared hopes and dreams.
Following their move to Montmartre in Paris and subsequent returns to Aix, the movie depicts the parallels between both of their lives as one flourishes and becomes rich and famous, and the other faces countless rejections and hardships, thus, testing their friendship to the very limits.
Admirers of the French painter or the novelist will enjoy observing the patchwork landscapes of Cassis, Aix-en-Provence and the mountains and towns that inspired Cezanne such as Montagne Sainte-Victoire and L’Estaque. It’s one of the best movies set in Provence providing inspiration to anyone wishing to visit this bucolic region.
Paris Can Wait (2016)
As the name suggests, this lighthearted rom-com is all about Anne (played by Diane Lane) and her extended, yet unexpected, journey across France to her intended destination, Paris. While the plot may leave you wanting, the movie’s swoon-worthy locations make up for any lack of sustenance.
Of all the movies filmed in Provence, France, this one packs a lot of sightseeing into its modest length. It starts out in Cannes, before heading towards Aix-en-Provence and past the majestic Mont Sainte-Victoire. They then head up into the Luberon – see if you can spot some iconic hilltop towns as they drive by! – before weaving through picturesque lavender fields and strolling by the Pont du Gard. They then head up through the rest of the country, taking in many more sights, before eventually arriving in Paris.
If you loved “Under the Tuscan Sun” (also starring Diane Lane in the lead role), you’ll enjoy this languid spin through the French countryside. Directed by Eleanor Coppola, it’s the ideal movie to watch when planning your next trip to the South of France.
A Good Year (2006)
Hollywood actor Russell Crowe teams up with director Ridley Scott once more, post – ‘Gladiator’, to act in a very different role. ‘A Good Year’ is a romantic comedy that sees Crowe star alongside Marion Cotillard, Albert Finney and Tom Hollander. And it makes the list as it’s set in the French countryside of beautiful Provence, France.
This entertaining movie set in the south of France was filmed mostly in the Luberon region. It follows the journey of Max Skinner, an arrogant, workaholic British investment broker who inherits his uncle’s vineyard and chateau and ultimately, after a rocky start and fracas with a bicycle, finds love with Fanny Chenal (Marion Cotillard), that is, after much back and forth to London and plenty of dodgy dealings!
The movie showcases Provence at its finest. The vineyard and estate that Max inherits from his uncle (Albert Finney) is still a working winery known as Chateau La Canorgue in Bonnieux. The wine shop and vineyard can be visited, but they make it clear on their website that they want people to come for the wine, and not just for the opportunity to snap a selfie at this iconic spot.
Viewers of ‘A Good Year’ by Peter Mayle will also be treated to scenes in Gordes and Place de l’Etang in Cucuron, surrounded by twinkling lights, plane trees and the iconic Cucuron bassin.
My Summer in Provence / Avis de Mistral (2014)
While there are arguably better ways to spend an hour and forty-five minutes of your time, My Summer in Provence (Avis de Mistral in French), does allow you to escape into the rustic scenery of Provençal landscapes – if you can withstand the cliché plotline.
Rose Bosch directs this French drama/comedy in which two Paris siblings, and their deaf-mute younger brother, get sent to the Provence countryside to stay with their grandparents. What ensues is a predictable tale of teenagers coming around from their phone addictions and eventually taking to their surroundings – helped by their respective love interests of course..
This Provence film takes place primarily in Les Alpilles and the Camargue area, which is an interesting change from the usual Luberon or Cote d’Azur locations. Expect plenty of olive groves, charming small villages, local fetes, and seaside scenes.
Related Reading: Best French Films on Netflix
Love Actually (2003)
Box Office smash ‘Love Actually’ is a festive-themed romantic comedy set primarily in London, UK and directed by Richard Curtis. It was mostly filmed in and around the iconic landmarks of the English capital and showcases the complex lives of several characters played by big-name actors such as Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightly and Laura Linney.
In the movie, Colin Firth’s character, a writer called Jamie, finds his girlfriend in bed with his brother, and subsequently, he flees to the South of France to write. While staying at a house in the Var, he meets a Portuguese woman named Aurelia. Many scenes were also filmed in and around Marseille, including the proposal scene which is supposedly taking place in Portugal but is actually also filmed in the French city.
Fans of ‘Love Actually’ who are visiting can pop into Bar de la Marine on Quai de Rive Neuve and relive the moment whilst on holiday in Provence. The bar boasts a typical 1930s setting, delicious food and views of the Old Port.
Swimming Pool (2003)
Taking a break from romantic comedies, Swimming Pool is a Thriller/Drama from director François Ozon. Starring Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier, the fictional story follows British Crime Novelist Sarah Morton (Rampling) as she takes up at her publisher’s holiday house in the South of France. But her plans to write in solitude become unhinged when the publisher’s daughter Julie (Sagnier), turns up unannounced.
A series of romantic trysts and mysterious encounters ensue as the two women cohabitate, all the while feeding material for Sarah’s new novel.
The film is set in the Luberon, and while it largely takes place at the country home in Ménerbes, various scenes show off a little more of the surrounding area of Oppede Le Vieux, including Le Petit Cafe which features in the film.
Mr Bean’s Holiday (2007)
In a nod to the days of silent movies, haphazard Mr Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson, returns with more fun and awkward escapades, this time on holiday in the south of France.
The basic plot line begins with Mr Bean winning a trip to Cannes in a raffle, and on his journey south via train from Gare de Lyon in Paris, chaos ensues after a series of chance encounters.
Viewers and visitors to Provence will recognize Gare TGV d’Avignon where he disembarks the train, the region of Vaucluse, where the 1940’s war scenes were set, and Boulevard de la Croisette in Cannes, where the annual film festival takes place. Other locations to look out for on Mr Bean’s Holiday include Avenue Olivula & Chemin de Saint Michel, home to Plateau Saint-Michel, a panoramic observation point with coastal views in upscale Villefranche-sur-Mer.
French Kiss (1995)
The 90’s romantic comedy movie ‘French Kiss’ starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Cline was filmed on location in Paris and along the glittering Cote d’Azur in the south of France.
This modern-day love story is about Kate (Meg Ryan), an American history teacher who flies to France to confront her cheating husband-to-be. On the flight, she meets a charming, yet annoying thief Luc (Kline) who uses her to smuggle diamond jewellery into Europe. Unbeknownst to Kate, Luc’s plan is to use money from selling the necklace to purchase a vineyard in the region. The problem is that Luc’s movements are also being monitored by the French gendarmerie.
The charming village of Valbonne, 15 minutes inland is also used to film several scenes and fans can head for Chateau Val Joanis in Pertuis, Vaucluse where the movie’s grape harvest scenes were filmed. It is one of the movies with the best scenery on our list and fun to watch too.
‘French Kiss’ also stars talented French actor Jean Reno as Inspector Jean-Paul Cardon.
Taxi is a French film encompassing the action/crime/comedy genres written by Luc Besson and directed by Gerard Pires. It is said that Besson wrote the movie script in just 30 days while awaiting the green light for The Fifth Element to go ahead.
Daniel (Samy Naceri) is a pizza delivery guy living in Marseille, who consistently defies traffic laws and the local gendarmerie. While in a relationship with Lilly, played by Marion Cotillard, he leaves his job to become a taxi driver in his modified Peugeot 406. What ensues is a thrilling cat and mouse game between Daniel, a police inspector and a group of German robbers.
Relatively unknown actors and the city of Marseille were originally chosen due to budgetary constraints, however, as the movie progresses, we begin to see that the city becomes a focal point and scenic star of the show.
Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
Woody Allen directs this romantic comedy starring the dashing Colin Firth, and the brilliant Emma Stone. Set in the French Riviera, you’ll be delighted to recognize many popular towns, such as Nice, Menton, and Antibes.
The film, which is set in the 1920’s, follows an English Magician (Firth) who travels to the South of France in an effort to denounce an American so called spiritualist (Stone). But things don’t always go to plan, and the former rationalist finds himself wondering if magical powers really do exist.
During the movie, you’ll be treated to sights of grand French villas (in their heyday), the Nice observatory, sultry beaches in Saint-Raphaël, and the Casino Barrière in Menton.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
The 1955 movie ‘To Catch a Thief’ is a romantic, jewel heist mystery starring Hollywood royalty Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.
In this, one of the centuries’ timeless films set in Provence, John Robie, (Grant) is a retired jewel thief who attempts to prove his innocence after being suspected of a new crime following a series of thefts in the area. At the same time, he attempts to romance heiress Frances Stevens played by Grace Kelly. Alfred Hitchcock directs this early cinematic masterpiece which takes place in the resplendent South of France.
In the film, Cary Grant’s villa is located in Saint-Jeannet, one of the aptly named ‘perched villages’ a couple of miles northwest of Nice. Crime capers ensue on the roads around the pretty villages of Le Bar sur Loup and Tourettes sur Loup, before continuing into the principality of Monte Carlo, home to one of the world’s most iconic casinos.
Nice flower market where Grant’s character meets the insurance man from Lloyds played by John Williams was not filmed in the real Cours Saleya in the Old Town which still exists today, but in a recreated area a few blocks north on Boulevard Jean Jaures. The reason for the location switch? Practicality. The road was wider to film on.
Fans of old movies and cinematic greats will adore this classic while gaining a rare glimpse of French culture and fashion in the Cote d’Azur in the 1950’s.
Transporter 3 (2008)
In the third and final instalment of this action thriller genre, British actor Jason Statham continues his role of professional ‘transporter’ Frank Martin, who in this movie, returns to France to deliver ‘packages’ with no questions asked.
Frank is on a fishing trip with Inspector Tarconi when his companion receives a call about a car evading a police chase. That evening, the same vehicle crashes into Frank’s home containing a wounded transporter named Malcolm who is wearing a metal device around his wrist. Without giving too much of the plot away, Frank is tasked with returning the young woman in the back of the car, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), a kidnapped daughter of a government official from Marseille to Odessa, Ukraine.
Frank’s house in the movie was built on a set in Cassis in Provence and it also serves as a terrace for La Presqu’ile Restaurant in Port Miou. Visit the area to marvel at crystalline jade-coloured waters and hike the coastline within the Calanques National Park.
The Horseman on the Roof (1995)
One of the finest movies set in south of France, based on the novel by Jean Giono is ‘The Horseman on the Roof’ starring renowned French actors Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez.
This French-language movie is set in the early 1830s, when the countries of France, Italy and Austria were at war, plus, unfortunately, there was also a cholera epidemic going on.
In 1832, Angelo (Martinez) meets Pauline (Binoche), and both begin to search for Pauline’s husband in a country ravaged by war and disease. For the movie, Olivier Martinez learned to ride a horse, fence and speak the Italian language. It is also noted that Keanu Reeves was interested in the script and met with director, Jean-Paul Rappeneau for the role, but a French actor was preferred for the part.
Francophiles will recognize the opening party scenes were filmed in historic Aix-en-Provence and that many pieces of exterior footage were taken in Avignon. In fact, the movie travels to over 50 locations in Provence to film including Chateauneuf-Miravail in Correns (the first organic village in France), beautiful Sisteron with its citadel and mountainous backdrop and Gorges de la Meouge awash with abundant flora and fauna.
For those wishing to learn more about this region of France and be entertained via the silver screen for a short while, this is one of the best movies in Provence to watch.
With a stellar cast including Robert de Niro, Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgard, Sean Bean and Natascha McElhone, Ronin tells the story of a team of special operatives hired to steal a briefcase containing mysterious contents.
After a thrilling start to the movie in Montmartre, Paris, filming makes its way to southern France where one of the most elaborate car chase scenes in movie history takes place on the streets of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
A total of 80 cars were destroyed during the making of the movie, such was the director’s vision to get each scene exactly right. Although De Niro and McElhone didn’t drive the vehicles themselves, the cast did commandeer former Formula 1 racing driver Jean-Pierre Jarier to do the honours! One of the most memorable movies made in France, primarily for the car scene.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
I loved watching this fantastical movie as a kid, and while it’s a bit of a stretch to include it in a list of Provence films – one of my favourite scenes was shot right here in the South of France.
Most of the film follows the family of inventor Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) as they travel in their magical family car, named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, throughout stunning locations in England and Germany. But the iconic beach scene – where the Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes) character is introduced – is filmed on Cap Taillat near St. Tropez.
The remote beach makes for an idyllic backdrop to this scene. Want to visit it yourself? Follow this guide.