16 Famous French Actors you may already know

Meet the famous French actors who have taken the film and movie industry by storm, both in France and internationally.
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French cinema has a long and distinguished history dating back to the very early days of film. The first cinema was invented in La Ciotat in Provence by the famous Frères Lumières, so you know that the country is going to have rich tradition and culture of the filmmaking.

With the famed Cannes film festival taking place less than 150km away from that first movie theatre in La Ciotat, there have been many famous french actors and actresses who have come to the attention of international audiences.

And with a second film festival in Deauville, Normandy on the west coast of France, there have been plenty of international stars who visit France on a regular basis and are exposed to the local talent.

Deauville boardwalk

And what a talent it is. France has produced some of the most famous and talented actors, actresses, directors, and entertainers who have made an impact both home and overseas.

So with that, here are hottest French actors and actresses of today, who have transitioned from French films and tv shows, to anglophone audiences. Allons-y!

1. Gérard Depardieu

Born in the small town of Châteauroux in the centre of France, Gérard Depardieu did not have a privileged start in life. He left school at 13, falling in with a rough crowd.

Gerard Depardieu
Gerard Depardieu (Credit: Georges Biard)

He would move to Paris at 16, where he fell into acting. He would then go on to find much success, many awards and international acclaim.

His most famous films include:

  • 1900 (1976), with Robert De Niro
  • The Last Metro (1980), for which he won the César Award for Best Actor,
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), for which he earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor
  • Green Card (1991), with Andie MacDowell winning a Golden Globe Award,
  • 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) with Ridley Scott
  • Hamlet (1996) with Kenneth Branagh
  • The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) with Leonardo Di Caprio
  • Life of Pi (2012) with Ang Lee

He is a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur and Chevalier of the Ordre national du Mérite.

2. Omar Sy

Already well known on the French screen for roles like The Intouchables, his Netflix hit Arsene Lupin has made him even more famous.

Omar Sy French actor
Omar Sy (credit: Wikipedia)

The 4th of 8 children, Sy is the son of West African immigrants, growing up in the Parisian suburb of Yvelines. His other English roles include:

  •  X-Men: Days of Future Past  
  • Jurassic World
  • Transformers: The Last Knight  

With plenty of charm and smooth acting, it is clear that Omar Sy is just getting started.

3. Sophie Marceau

Born in Paris, Sophie Marceau began acting as a teenager, finding fame in France at a young age.

Sophie Marceau
Sophie Marceau (credit Georges Biard)

A classically trained cellist, she is also an author and director, and has won several awards. Her most famous movies include:

  • L’Étudiante (1988)
  • Revenge of the Musketeers (1994)
  • Braveheart (1995) with Mel Gibson
  • The World Is Not Enough (1999), a James Bond film
  • Don’t Look Back (2010) with Monica Bellucci

4. Marion Cotillard

Having played characters like Edith Piaf and Joan of Arc, Cotillard has more than proved her acting chops.

Marion Cotillard french actress
Marion Cotillard (credit: Wikipedia)

She has one several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actress, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, two César Awards, and many more.

Her biggest films in English include:

  • The Dark Knight Rises with Christopher Nolan
  • The Immigrant with Joaquim Phoenix
  • Allied with Brad Pitt

She is married to Guillaume Canet who is also a famous French actor, with whom she has 2 children.

5. Jean Reno

Jean Reno was actually born Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez to Spanish parents who moved to Casablanca, Morocco to escape the Spanish Franco dictatorship.

Jean Reno
Jean Reno (courtesy: Julienmorvan)

And it was here that Reno was born, moving to France at 17. (Morocco was a French protectorate at the time.) He would go on to take up acting, finding much fame and acclaim as an actor.

His most famous films include:

  • Godzilla with Matthew Brodrick
  • The Da Vinci Code with Tom Hanks
  • Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise
  • The Pink Panther as Inspector Jacques Clouseau
  • The Big Blue with Luc Besson
  • Léon: The Professional with Luc Besson

6. Jean Dujardin

Originally a standup comic, Jean Dujardin surprised everyone including himself when he won an Academy award for the Artist (2011).

Jean Dujardin
Jean Dujardin (credit: George Biard)

Prior to the Artist, he was most familiar to French audiences for a short comedic tv series called Un gars, une fille (A guy, a girl) which he was filming with his then partner, French actress Alexandra Lamy.

Since then, his most famous movies have included:

  • The Artist
  • The Wolf of Wall Street with Martin Scorsese
  • The Monuments Men with George Clooney
  • An Officer and a Spy with Roman Polanski

7. Catherine Deneuve

At one time, Catherine Deneuve was the face of Marianne, one of the official symbols of France. Making her film debut at 13, she would go on to win many nominations and awards for her acting abilities.

Catherine Deneuve
Catherine Deneuve (credit: George Biard)

Her most famous films include:

  • Repulsion (1965) with Roman Polanski
  • Belle de Jour (1967) with Luis Buñuel 
  • The April Fools (1969) with Jack Lemmon
  • Hustle (1975) with Burt Reynolds
  • A Slightly Pregnant Man (1973) with Marcello Mastroianni
  • Indochine (1993) for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best actress.

Deneuve continues to be a force in the movie industry these days, with recent films like Potiche (2011), On My Way (2014), In the Courtyard (2015), and La Tête haute (2016), all of which she received César nominations for.

8. Guillaume Canet

Guillaume Canet has worked in many films as an actor, film director and screenwriter. He had initially however hoped to be an equestrian.

Guillaume Canet
Guillaume Canet (credit: George Biard)

Born into an equestrian family in Boulogne-Billancourt in the suburbs of Paris, he was good enough to be member of the junior French National Equestrian Team.

He was previously married to German actress Diane Kruger, and is currently married to French actress Marion Cotillard, with whom he has 2 children. While he mostly works in French, his most famous English language films include:

  • Love Me If You Dare with Marion Cotillard
  • The Beach with Leonardo Di Caprio and Danny Boyle

9. Audrey Tautou

Audrey Tautou captured hearts in the international box office smash Amélie (2001), but she had actually already won a César (the French Oscars) in 1999 at the tender age of 18.

Audrey Tautou
Audrey Tautou (credit: George Biard)

With several Oscar, Bafta and César nominations and awards, she has also worked as a model for French fashion brands Chanel and L’Oreal.

Bearing a striking resemblance to Belgian-British actress Audrey Hepburn, Tautou’s most famous films include:

  • Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain
  • A Very Long Engagement
  • Da Vinci Code with Tom Hanks
  • Coco avant Chanel

10. Juliette Binoche

Born in Paris to French director and actor Jean-Marie Binoche, Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche was sure to have acting in her blood.

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche (credit Wikipedia)

Her maternal grandparents were Polish and also actors, who were imprisoned as “intellectuals” at Auschwitz during the war.

Not being particularly academically inclined, she started acting in amateur stage productions as a teenager, working her way up the ladder. Her most famous films include:

  • The English Patient with Anthony Minghella’s, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
  • Chocolat with Johnny Depp
  • Breaking and entering with Jude Law
  • High Life with Robert Pattinson

11. Brigitte Bardot

For a certain generation, the iconic French actress of all time remains Brigitte Bardot. With her long mane of blond hair and dazzling smile, she was a pop culture icon who made many a moviegoer swoon.

Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Bardot in Venice in 1958 (credit: Wikipedia)

Her most famous works include:

  • And God Created Woman (1956)
  • Le Mépris (1963) with Jean-Luc Godard
  • Viva Maria! (1965) with Louis Malle

Today she is retired from the film industry, turning her attention animals’ rights as an activist. She was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1985 but refused to accept it.

These days however, a darker image has emerged. She remains in the news as a far-right advocate (for Marine le Pen) criticising French immigration policies. She has been fined several times for inciting hatred.

12. Eva Green

Starting as a model, Eva Green has transitioned to being one of the French actresses du jour. The daughter of French actress Marlène Jobert, she also has a fraternal twin.

Eva Green
Eva Green (credit: Dan Shao)

She has been in several international films, including a turn as a Bond girl. Her most recognized films have been:

  • Kingdom of Heaven with Ridley Scott
  • Casino Royale with Daniel Craig
  • Dark Shadows with Tim Burton
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

For her work, she has received Golden Globe nominations, as well as Bafta and César awards and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

13. Vincent Cassel

Vincent Cassel usually plays the bad guy in front of English-speaking audiences.

Vincent Cassel Actor
Vincent Cassel (credit: George Biard)

His most famous movies include:

  • Ocean’s Twelve with George Clooney and Brad Pitt
  • Ocean’s Thirteen with Clooney and Pitt
  • Black Swan with Natalie Portman
  • Jason Bourne with Matt Damon

Born in Paris to a dad who was an actor and mom as journalist, his sister is also an actress, while his brother is a rapper. Oh, and he used to be married to Italian actress Monica Bellucci, with whom he has 2 children.

14. Léa Seydoux

Léa Seydoux may only be in her mid-30s, but she has been a part of French cinema for a long time.

Léa Seydoux
Léa Seydoux (credit: Wikipedia)

One of seven children, her mother was an actress and the Séydoux family is considered cinematic royalty as movie and film company producers.

However, she proved her talent on her own, winning several awards including the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for her role as a lesbian art student in the critically acclaimed film Blue Is the Warmest Colour.

Seydoux has appeared in major Hollywood films including:

  • Inglorious Bastards with Brad Pitt
  • Robin Hood with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchette
  • Midnight in Paris directed by Woody Allen
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise

15. Melanie Laurent

Melanie Laurent was introduced to acting at the age of sixteen by legendary French actor Gérard Depardieu, who cast her in a small role in the romantic drama The Bridge (1999).

Melanie Laurent actress
Melanie Laurent (credit: George Biard)

She went to star in many more films, picking up several Césars (the French version of the Oscars) along the way.

Her most famous English films include:

  • Inglorious Bastards with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard
  • Beginners with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer
  • Night Train to Lisbon with Jeremy Irons
  • Now You See Me with Mark Ruffalo

16. Romain Duris

Married to French actress Olivia Bonamy, Romain Duris has been in the film industry for a long time. He started however, as a drummer in an acid-jazz band.

Roman Duris
Roman Duris (courtesy: Nicolas Genin)

His most popular internationally recognized films include:

  • L’Auberge Espagnole – the Cédric Klapisch’s Spanish Apartment trilogy, including Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle
  • All the Money in the World with Ridley Scott
  • Isle of Dogs with Wes Anderson

If you enjoyed that article, you may like reading more about other French celebrities (with quiz!), as well as other famous French people throughout history. A bientôt!

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