After a year of being stuck inside and devouring content on Netflix, you may be starting to feel like you’ve watched everything decent that the English-speaking world has to offer. But, as you've probably noticed, Netflix is a global streaming service, with a host of original content tailored for local audiences – if you're familiar with international shows like Spanish crime series Money Heist or German sci-fi drama Dark, you'll know there's a lot more stuff to binge if you expand your horizons.
In particular, Netflix has dozens of outstanding French-language shows that can open up a whole world of viewing, if you know where to look. Below, we’ve collated the top 10 series, to give you a flavor of what's out there – all you need to decide is which one you'll be curling in front of la télévision with tonight.
With the second season dropping earlier this month, the hype around this much-vaunted French crime show only seems to grow, and for good reason. An engaging blend of action, storytelling and drama, this iteration of Lupin uses the much-loved French detective as inspiration for a gentleman-thief revenge story. Omar Sy plays Assane Diop, the show's charismatic lead. If you've only watched English-language shows on Netflix, this massively popular series is as suitable a jumping-off point as any for the other shows on this list.
Call My Agent!/Dix Pour Cent
This hilarious satire is another great introduction to modern French cinematic and television culture. Based around the fictional ASK Talent Agency, Call My Agent is full of cameos from famous French faces, often playing somewhat fictionalized, unreasonable versions of themselves as their haggard agents run around putting out fires – in the process, it introduces you to some of the biggest music and screen stars in the Francophone world. Led by Camille Cottin, the phenomenal ensemble cast is what transforms this show from a piece with smart writing and great sets into unmissable television.
The standout cast in this comedy turn a witty script into something that’s exceptionally funny. Jonathan Cohen plays Joseph, an unsuccessful entrepreneur who discovers that the newly elected French government is about to legalize cannabis, and seeks to turn his father’s failing kosher butcher shop into Paris’s first cannabis cafe – without telling the rest of his family. A series of comically unfortunate events mean things don’t go quite as Cohen had planned, and as the plot unfurls, you'll be crying with laughter at the twists deployed along the way.
This speculative sci-fi show follows the creators of a fictionalized dating app called Osmosis, which delves deep into the brains of its users to find perfect romantic matches. While there’s a huge focus on the tech and how it impacts users, Osmosis is more than just your run-of-the-mill sci-fi show; the programme delves into the societal impacts of such an invasive-yet-useful technology, and how the success of the app affects its creators, financially, socially and morally. This is a thoughtful series that asks the big questions we’re only just starting to come up with around subjects like biotech and computer ethics.
A Very Secret Service/Au Service de la France
This hilarious spy-comedy is set in 1960s France, a country on the edge thanks to massive cultural shifts like second-wave Feminism, the escalating Cold War, and the looming decolonization of its North African territories. While these momentous societal shifts are an important backdrop to the show and provide many of the plot points, the real value of A Very Secret Service is in its comedic performances, and its excellent handling of what could be an insensitive premise. Hugo Becker is especially good as the hapless Agent Merlaux, playing the character with a fine balance of humanity and hilarity.
Black Spot/Zone Blanche
Despite the confusingly contradictory translation of the title, this supernatural series is well written, tense, and bingeable. Set in the fictional small town of Villefranche, the story begins with the arrival of prosecutor Franck Siriani (Laurent Capelluto), who has been tasked with discovering why the town’s murder rate is six times the French average. There are plenty of twists, turns, and tense moments in this intriguing mystery, as well as a few genuinely laugh-out-loud moments to bring you back from the brink. If you've seen the aforementioned German series Dark, it's got a similar vibe. If you haven't, think a grittier, less cliched Stranger Things.
The Hook Up Plan/Plan Coeur
The Hook Up Plan follows Elsa (Cesar winner Zita Hanrot) as she meets and falls in love with seemingly perfect schoolteacher Jules (Marc Ruchmann). Unbeknownst to Elsa, however, Jules is a male escort hired by her friends to help her get over her ex-boyfriend, who’s still very much in all their lives. Strong performances turn this from a sappy romantic comedy into a real heart-warmer, with some truly standout comedic moments.
If you’re looking to shut the curtains and sprint from the light switch to your bed, then Marianne is the scary treat for you. The plot revolves around young horror novelist Emma (Victoire Du Bois from Call Me By Your Name), who discovers her characters are coming to life. The show is a great combination of jump-scares, gore, and skin-crawling moments. A creepy hit, with an interesting premise and a winding plot.
This political drama has all the intrigue of shows like House of Cards, serving up similarly deep, relevant political critique and some unbelievably powerful performances. French screen legend Gérard Depardieu plays Robert Taro, the incumbent mayor of the titular city, and gives a star turn as the power-hungry political operator. It's heart-thumping stuff from the get-go, which is rare for a series in this genre.
The Chalet/Le Chalet
The Chalet is set across two timelines 20 years apart (1997 and 2017), and you’ll start off wondering if these two seemingly disparate storylines have anything connecting them other than the titular location and a few shared faces. However, as the plot unfolds, you’ll start to pick up on the little intricacies and through-lines that link them, until all is revealed in a horrifying yet signposted conclusion. A slow burner for sure, but one that’s worth your indulgence.
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