You may not know that Paris has the highest density of movie theaters in the world per inhabitant, but it’s no secret that the French have always had a love affair with cinema. Paris itself is the star of some of the greatest films of the past century, many of which were shot amid the avenues and arrondissements of the City of Light.
The next time you’re in Paris, keep an eye out for these famous spots you might’ve seen on the big screen.
Still the highest-grossing French-language film in the U.S., Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 hit Amélie (or Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) tells the whimsical tale of an introverted waitress (Audrey Tautou) who discreetly directs the lives of the people around her. Filmed in more than 80 locations around the city, the movie offers an excellent view into modern-day Parisian life.
Most of Amélie’s exterior shots were filmed in the streets around Montmartre, a former artists’ colony located in the 18th Arrondissement.
The film opens on Rue Saint Vincent behind the stunning Sacré-Cœur Basilica. From this central point, you can explore all of the movie’s major locations. For example, the café where Amélie works (Café des Deux Moulins) is just around the corner at 15 Rue Lepic.
Find the entrance to Amélie’s apartment at 56 Rue des Trois Freres, and the grocery store where she hangs out is just up the street near the intersection with Rue Androuet.
Film: Breathless (À Bout de Souffle)
Location: Left Bank and Champs-Élysées
Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 masterpiece of New Wave cinema was famously shot guerrilla-style on the streets of the French capital. Believing himself to be a debonair thief à la Humphrey Bogart, Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) gets in over his head when he accidentally kills a police officer while driving a stolen car. He spends the majority of the film hiding out in his American girlfriend Patricia’s (Jean Seberg) Paris apartment as she slowly discovers he’s wanted for murder.
Patricia’s small flat, which serves as the setting for almost all the interior shots of the film, is actually an inexpensive hotel on the Left Bank overlooking the Seine, now called Les Rives de Notre Dame. You’ll find it at 15 Quai Saint-Michel.
You might also recognize the Champs-Élysées, where Seberg’s character hawks the New York Herald Tribune on the sidewalk.
The photographer’s apartment where Michel hides out at the end of the film can be found at 11 Rue Campagne Première, and the spot where he is gunned down at the end of movie is just outside, at the junction of Campagne Première and Boulevard Raspail.
Film: Brazil and Hunger Games
About 11 miles outside the city center, you’ll find the suburb of Noisy-le-Grand’s brutalist housing project, which was the backdrop of two dystopian imaginings of the future — Brazil and Hunger Games: Mockingjay.
The buildings, designed by Ricardo Bofill and Manuel Nunez-Yanowsky, were constructed between 1978 and 1983 to be an antidote to Le Corbusier’s whitewashed modernist projects of the 1950s.
The futuristic structures are anything but bland — disk-shaped buildings that reach into the sky flanked by cascading rows of pink apartment blocks. Today, they are slightly run down, which only adds to their air of austere menace and otherworldliness.
Location: Pont de Bir-Hakeim
In Christopher Nolan’s 2010 mind-bending dream fantasy Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb teaches his young charge Ariadne (Ellen Page) how to create landscapes within dreams.
Most of this happens in Paris, with one of the most visually stunning sequences taking place on Rue César Franck in the 15th Arrondissement. As Ariadne learns to control her dreams, she folds the entire street in half before making her way to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, a famous bridge spanning the Seine. While on the lower pedestrian level of the overpass, she creates a walkway by turning two vast mirrors to face each other — you might recognize the colonnade flanking the walkway.
Catch a glimpse of the café that explodes in this same dream sequence — it’s Il Russo at 6 Rue César Franck, about a mile from the bridge.
Film: Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen makes fantastic use of the city in his 2011 comic fantasy. Writer and daydreamer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is on vacation with his fiancée’s (Rachel McAdams) family when he begins wandering around Paris alone after nightfall and is swept back in time to spend an evening with the city’s Jazz Age cultural icons.
If you want to time travel with Gil, head to the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont on Place Sainte-Geneviève. It’s here that he is first escorted back to the 1920s in the back of a Peugeot Type 184.
The café where he dines with Ernest Hemingway is Le Crêmerie-Restaurant Polidor, at 41 Rue Monsieur le Prince on the Left Bank. It’s been serving locals and visitors alike since 1845 and claims to have fed James Joyce, André Gide, Paul Verlaine and Hemingway himself, when he lived in the city. The restaurant is noisy, beautiful and certainly worth a visit.