As every foreign language learner knows, traditional books are not the only way to study and improve your skills. Learn French through song, comics, and films are just some of the additional tools available. The good news is that these are also tools that are particularly highly recommended for learning French, and there has been a boom in streaming, with modern platforms offering series that meet students’ needs.
The advantage of a series is that it is made up of individual episodes that are shorter than a film, aiding comprehension and encouraging viewers to watch the next installment. But those who like to share the ending of a show or reveal important information should beware – anyone who dares divulgâcher – to give away spoilers – risks provoking the anger of devoted TV fans! The series available on Netflix can be watched in lots of countries. Their many eventful moments help to keep viewers’ attention and stop them from switching off after a while. Moreover, there’s a huge selection on offer, with something for everyone. The platform features just as many series for true crime fans as for those who will only watch comedies. Finally, Netflix is very practical in the way it allows users to customize subtitle settings while watching in French.
Spain has given us La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), Britain took us by surprise with Black Mirror, and Germany has excelled itself with Dark. Do the French series measure up? Here’s our top ten (where appropriate, the English titles used by Netflix are given in brackets):
is a dramedy depicting the little-known world of the talent agents who provide advice to and negotiate contracts for musicians and actors. It features famous French actors playing themselves, always with a degree of self-deprecation. Not to be missed!
is a fast-paced romantic comedy set in Paris. There are eight episodes, each 25 minutes long. Watch out for a great performance from Zita Hanrot – the actress won Best Female Newcomer at the César awards in 2016 – who plays Elsa. Two young women decide to hire a male escort to help their friend forget her former boyfriend. Funny and touching at the same time, this realistic series immerses viewers in the everyday lives of young adults. There’s even an episode devoted to the lockdown, further anchoring the series in the real world.
For history fans, a new series was released on 16 October 2020: La Révolution (The Revolution), which draws us into in late eighteenth-century Paris. The main character is none other than Joseph Guillotin, the inventor of the tragically famous guillotine, played by Amir El Kacem. Guillotin uncovers a mysterious illness, the ‘blue blood’ disease, which drives aristocrats to kill commoners... It’s certainly a creative premise!
is another leading historical series. The starting point for the drama is an enormous fire that hit Paris in 1897 during a charity sale. This tragedy, responsible for taking the lives of nearly 120 aristocratic women, provides the backdrop against which the series’ creators examine the status of women through three heroines whose lives are upended by it.
is a series by Darren Star which features a young American woman who works in marketing and finds herself in Paris without knowing a word of French. Although there are lots of stereotypes about France’s capital city, it’s easy to fall in love with the naivety and spontaneity of the main character, played by Lily Collins.
Elvira, played by Marina Hands, is a mother who spends her time looking after her three children, but her husband is no longer really interested in her and is having an affair. To draw attention to herself and be heard at last, she decides to create a huge lie, pretending that she has a cancerous tumour. This is the starting point for Mytho (Mythomaniac), a series written by Anne Berest. Featuring a talented cast, it asks to what extent it’s okay to lie in order to be loved, and plunges us into a world where dark humour reigns supreme.
Released in 2019, this series is the comically told tale of the Hazan family, who want to turn their kosher butcher’s into a coffee shop after cannabis is legalised. The cast of this decidedly quirky French comedy includes Jonathan Cohen and Gérard Darmon.
in which Carole Bouquet plays the main role, is set in a dark, oppressive world. Former hired killer Jeanne Deber is contacted by the police, who are looking for her help with arresting a criminal, since the murderer uses the same modus operandi as Deber herself once employed.
another one for crime drama fans, focuses on Virginie Musso, a police officer who is investigating the disappearance of local teenager Jennifer. Everything becomes more complicated when Virginie’s own daughter then goes missing. Keeping us on the edge of our seats from start to finish, the series immerses viewers in rural France, specifically a small village in the Ardennes, which is unusual for this type of production.
is a French science fiction series about the downsides of technological progress. It invites us to reflect, from a philosophical perspective, on the impact that science has on our lives. Once again, the synopsis shows that the imagination of the series creators knows no bounds! The discovery of a chemical substance makes it possible to transfer the soul of one individual to another, allowing humans to achieve immortality. And this is how Florian, a man who has fallen into a deep coma, one day wakes up to find himself in the body of Sylvain, a police captain.
So there’s no shortage of high-quality French series. Now it’s just up to you to pick one that fits your needs and personal tastes!