10 best films to see Paris on the silver screen

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

If springtime in Paris isn’t going to work for you this year, rent a movie and pretend -- until you can book a flight and go. Here are my Top 10 picks for films that best show off the French capital.

For scenes from these memorable films, go to

1. “Ratatouille”: Last year’s animated hit about a rat named Remy who has a talent for cooking; directed by Brad Bird of “The Incredibles.” The Paris backdrop is almost as good as the real thing, all air brushed and rose colored.

2. “An American in Paris”: The 1951 classic starring Gene Kelly as a struggling American artist and Leslie Caron as a pretty young parisienne; their “American in Paris Ballet,” set to the music of George Gershwin, makes you want to go to Paris and fall in love, even if the scenery is right off the back lot.

3. “Love in the Afternoon”: Director Billy Wilder’s 1957 bittersweet romantic comedy about an American playboy (Gary Cooper) and the mischievous Paris gamin (Audrey Hepburn) who attempts to entrap him; lots of the action takes place at the Ritz, with views of the Place Vendôme out the window.

4. “Le Divorce”: A 2003 movie based on a sly comedy of manners, by novelist Diane Johnson, about the fundamental incompatibility of a French family and an American family; scenes of contemporary Paris, plus French actor Thierry Lhermitte as sexy Uncle Edgar.

5. “Funny Face”: Released the same year as “Love in the Afternoon,” with Hepburn again, this time opposite Fred Astaire, dancing their way through 1950s Paris from beatnik cafes in Montmartre to the couture ateliers on the Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré.

6. “Gigi”: From a 1944 novel by Colette and 1951 musical comedy, this 1958 Leslie Caron vehicle won nine Oscars, with songs by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe; set in a glorious Belle Époque Paris, with costumes right out of Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

7. “Breathless”: The landmark 1960 French New Wave film with a too-cool-to-be-real Jean-Paul Belmondo and heartbreakingly young Jean Seberg running from the cops on the mean streets of Paris.

8. “The Day of the Jackal”: 1973 thriller based on a Frederick Forsyth novel about a hired assassin gunning for French President Charles de Gaulle.

9. “Is Paris Burning?”: A 1966 psuedo-documentary-style re-creation of the liberation of Paris during World War II with a platoon of stars, including Belmondo, Kirk Douglas, Orson Welles and Simone Signoret.

10. “Amélie”: From 2001, an eccentric romantic comedy about a shy young waitress looking for love, chiefly in Montmartre; a popular debut for Audrey Tautou, who went on to star with Tom Hanks and Paris in 2006’s “The Da Vinci Code.”