by Fiona McMurrey

Looking to add some classical films to your personal repertoire or want to travel back in time? Stream any of these four films (listed arbitrarily in no particular order) and discover four gems of French cinema that could permanently change your outlook on cinema forever and for better.

1. “The Passion of Joan Of Arc” (1928) by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Courtesy of France Channel

Starring acclaimed French theater actress, Jeanne Falconnetti and fellow actor of the stage, screen and inventor of the “Theatre of Cruelty,” Antonin Artaud as a monk, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” was an international success on account of its striking, poignant cinematography that created a radical focus on the faces of the actors, enunciating every emotion through close-up shots and emphasis on the misery in the fluttering and solemnity of Falconneti’s eyes, and the soft, dark line of her mouth as though she is about to whisper a prayer. The director Carl Theodor Dreyer said of his masterpiece, “I wanted to interpret a hymn to the triumph of the soul over life.” This film stands firm testament to his statement by espousing a rare poetic quality that has helped propel it to cult status and has since influenced a myriad other films as well as artists in other domains such as the late singer-songwriter and activist Sinéad O’Connor whose shaved head paid homage to Falconneti’s. Even if you do not consider yourself religious, this film should be required viewing for all for the potency of its visual legacy and the emotive portraits it sears onto the silver screen.

2. “L’amour en fuite” (1979) by François Truffaut

Courtesy of France Channel

Antoine Doinel, portrayed by Jean-Pierre Léaud, is no longer an anguished teen fixing a disenchanted gaze onto the camera at the end of “Les 400 Coups,” (1958), now he is more than thirty, divorced from Christine who he courted and married in the previous films depicting his uneven life. Now, in the final installment of François Truffaut’s semi-autobiographical series of films, we find Antoine Doinel as a bored proofreader who cannot seem to manage his love life as he reunites with his teenage sweetheart and falls for Sabine, a record seller. Will he get it together and win over Sabine or will his reckless indecisiveness ruin him? Find out on France Channel!

3. “Les bas-fonds” (1936) by Jean Renoir

Courtesy of France Channel

“Les bas-fonds,” or in English, “The lower-depths,” was adapted from a play of the same name from the illustrious political activist and writer Maxim Gorky. Jean Gabin stars as a charismatic thief that wins over a bankrupt baron who resides in squalor alongside the thief in a decrepit slum presided over by a heartless landlord who takes every opportunity to torment, punish, and police the citizens of the slum. But not all is despair and hardship, the thief vies to win the affections of a young woman who is under the horrid patronage of the wicked landlord and is held captive by debt. What happens next you’ll have to discover for yourself!

4. “And God Created Woman” (1956) by Roger Vadim

Courtesy of France Channel

We all know the name, the sultry pout, and the woman who has become, if not synonymous with French style, but with the country itself. Discover Brigette Bardot in the provocative role that shot her to international stardom and infamy in “And God Created Woman,” directed by the man who would become her husband, Roger Vadim. The story takes place on the idyllic beaches and balmy weather of Saint Tropez where a young woman explores her sexual freedom while still becoming an emotional-hostage of the various men desperately seeking her affection and who will stop at nothing to reign in her voracious appetite for life and freedom.

If you still need some inspiration for what to watch tonight, check out the rest of our vast cinematic collection on France Channel!