hotel chev 1

One of the most important parts of travel is finding the inspiration to actually get out and do it. Inspiration comes in many forms: stories told among friends, travel writing, photos, etc. But at least for us, film in particular has proven a powerful source of inspiration.

I could write dozens of blog posts on films that inspired us to travel, but here are some of our favorites that are set in Paris:

1. Amelie

Amelie is set in modern times, but nevertheless captures Paris’ romance so well that including in a list like this is almost a cliche. Almost. The truth is that it’s a nearly perfect argument that Paris is still a place of wonder, beauty, and love.

2. Hotel Chevalier

Just before Wes Anderson released The Darjeeling Limited, he put out the short film “Hotel Chevalier.” (Which is embedded in its entirety above.) The film stars Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman, who rendezvous in a fancy Parisian hotel. Like much of Anderson’s work, the film feels simultaneously old and new, which is just about perfect for a film set in Paris.

3. The Red Balloon

Another short film (that is also entirely embedded above), The Red Balloon is probably the first movie I ever saw that was set in Paris. This multi-award winner uses almost no dialogue to tell the story of a little boy and an apparently sentient balloon. As a product of the 1950s, The Red Balloon also offers a markedly different view of Paris that more modern, nostalgia-drenched films.

4. Paris, Je T’Aime

This 2006 movie is actually a collection 18 short films from directions including the Coen brothers, Gus Van Sant, and Alfonso Cuarón. Not every short film in the collection is a masterpiece, but together they offer a generally optimistic-but-complex take on a city that often gets swallowed up by stereotypes. And if nothing else, it’s a pleasure to watch Steve Buscemi sitting in a Metro station with dozens of Mona Lisa postcards. (Sadly the trailer, embedded above, really doesn’t do this film justice.)

5. Before Sunset

Before Sunset is the second film in Richard Linklater astonishingly good and decades-spanning trilogy about two lovers, played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. The story is simple: nine years after their first meeting they wander around Paris talking. That makes it a great showcase for both Linklater’s deeply personal filmmaking, as well as Paris itself.

6. Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris is good, though it’s not Woody Allen’s best, nor is it the best film about Paris on this list. It is, however, a fantastic travel movie because it captures how a new location forces people to reevaluate what’s important. It also does a wonderful job of delving into two historical periods — the 1920s and the Belle Epoch — that gave Paris its reputation for romance and glamour.

Honorable mentions (great Paris movies, but not necessarily ones that specifically inspire travel): Alphaville, Jules and Jim, Elevator to the Gallows, Inglorious BasterdsThe Triplets of Belleville, Moulin Rouge, and so on.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.


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