Want to learn more about French actresses who are household names both locally and internationally? This post will give you a list of the most famous French actresses to look out for!
French cinema has a long history dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. In fact, it is believed that France was the first country to put up a motion-picture production through the Lumière brothers.
With a long history in cinema, France has produced some of the best and most accomplished artists — be it actors, actresses, writers, or directors.
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Earlier on, we looked at some of the most famous French actors that are making waves, but today, I’ll be focusing on the most famous French actresses.
These French famous actresses are not only known for their beauty but also for their immense talent.
They have won numerous accolades and made a name for themselves worldwide. So, it seems fitting to dedicate a guide to recognizing their worth.
17 Famous French Actresses
You might recognize some of these famous French actresses due to their roles in Hollywood films or TV shows.
They have acted in different genres like drama, comedy, tragedy, thriller, etc. Some of them come from a family of actors but have navigated their own path in the industry, others have transitioned from theatre, while some had a different career altogether before joining the film industry.
They have worked with some of the best names in the industry and are recognized as some of the best and most beautiful French actresses to rule French and international cinema.
Ready to discover who they are? Read on to find out!
Former singer, model, and actress, Brigitte Bardot (commonly known as B.B.) was one of the most beautiful French actresses and a pop culture icon in the 1950s and 60s. She was known to be a sex symbol and popularized the bikini.
While Brigitte wanted to become a ballerina, fate had other plans. At 18, she got into acting, and in 4 years, she gained international acclaim when she starred in And God Created Woman (1956).
She was awarded the David di Donatello Best Foreign Actress Award for her role in The Truth (1960). Her film Viva Maria! (1965) earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Actress.
She was also honored with the Ordre de la Légion d’honneur in 1985 but refused to accept it.
One of the most popular French actresses who has wowed the French and international audiences alike is Marion Cotillard.
She tasted initial success for her movie, Taxi (1998), for which she got a César nomination. She went on to win her first César Award for her role in A Very Long Engagement (2004).
However, it was her Academy Award-winning performance as the iconic French singer Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose (2007) that got her international acclaim.
Her portrayal in this movie won her a Golden Globe, BAFTA, Lumières, and her second César Award for it. She became the first and only actress (as of the time of writing this article) to win the Academy Award for a French-language film.
She has worked with celebrated directors such as Christopher Nolan in the films Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Woody Allen in Midnight in Paris (2011).
Cotillard has also acted alongside Matt Damon and Jude Law in Contagion (2011), Joaquim Phoenix in The Immigrant (2013), and Brad Pitt in Allied (2016).
And if you know something about French perfumes, you probably already know her as the face of Chanel’s iconic perfume, Chanel No. 5.
With big awards under her belt and co-starring in movies with big names in Hollywood, it’s no surprise that Marion Cotillard is one of the most famous French actresses.
3. Isabelle Adjani
Isabelle Adjani is one of the most renowned trailblazing French movie actresses who started her acting career in theatre at 12 years of age.
A 5-time César Awards winner, she is the only person to have achieved this milestone for her films — Possession (1981), One Deadly Summer (1983), Camille Claudel (1988), La Reine Margot (1994), and Skirt Day (2009). This is one of many records that Isabelle holds.
In 1975, her portrayal of Adèle Hugo in The Story of Adèle H. earned Isabelle her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role, the youngest nominee in that category.
In 1981 she won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for Possession. In 1988, she became the first French actress with two nominations under the foreign-language film category after her second nomination at the Academy Awards for Camille Claudel.
For her contributions, she was awarded the Chevalier (Knight) de la Légion d’honneur in 2010 and Commandeur of Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2014.
4. Audrey Tautou
Audrey Tautou is one of the most beautiful French actresses in recent times. She was named after Audrey Hepburn hence comparisons have been drawn between the two.
Tatou was only 18 when she won a César Award for the movie Venus Beauty Institute (1999) for the most promising actress.
But the film that got her critical acclaim and fame was the multi-award-winning Amélie (2001).
She received a Lumières Award for Best Actress for it and was nominated for the César and BAFTA awards.
She also made a name for herself as a Hollywood actress courtesy of The Da Vinci Code (2006), in which she starred alongside Tom Hanks.
Audrey is also a fashion icon and Chanel muse hence it seemed fitting when she portrayed the role of Coco Chanel in the biopic Coco Avant Chanel (2009).
Catherine Deneuve is considered one of the greatest French female film stars of all time.
She began her career at the young age of 12 but shot to fame and caught everyone’s attention in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964). She then went on to bag a role in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965).
She is a recipient of a David di Donatello Best Foreign Actress award and a César Award for Best Actress for her film Le Dernier Metro (1980).
She won her second César Award and first Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her film Indochine (1993).
Apart from her 2 wins, she was nominated another dozen times. She was also nominated thrice for the Lumières Award (for Potiche, Beloved, and On My Way) and once for a BAFTA award (for Belle de Jour).
With all her accomplishments, it’s safe to say that she is one of the most famous French women in the film industry.
6. Eva Green
Among the popular French actresses who started their careers in theatre before transitioning into mainstream cinema is Eva Green.
Her debut film was The Dreamers (2003), but she gained fame and recognition for her film Kingdom of Heaven (2005).
She has acted in films of various genres and earned multiple nominations such as the César and Lumières for Best Actress for Proxima (2019), Teen Choice for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016), and a Golden Globe Best Actress in a Television Series for Penny Dreadful (2014-2016).
She won a BAFTA Rising Star Award for her portrayal of a Bond girl in Casino Royale (2006).
She has also received the honorary award of Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
7. Sophie Marceau
When listing famous French female actresses, Sophie Marceau definitely makes the cut.
Her debut film La Boum (1980) and its sequel La Boum 2 (1982) got her fame. Sophie even won a César Award for Most Promising Actress for the latter film. A trained cellist, she showcases her skills in the movie, Lost and Found (1999).
A few of her other notable films include L’Étudiante (1988), Revenge of the Musketeers (1994), and Anna Karenina (1997).
Her Hollywood repertoire includes Braveheart (1995) with Mel Gibson and the Bond film, The World Is Not Enough (1999) opposite Pierce Brosnan.
In 2003, for her contributions, she was made Officer (Officier) in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. She was even offered the Legion of Honour but refused.
8. Jeanne Moreau
Jeanne Moreau is one of the finest French movie actresses who has been a part of the French film industry for nearly 7 decades and acted up until 2 years before she passed.
She worked extensively in theatre for years while doing small-time roles in mainstream cinema.
In the late 1950s and early 60s, Jeanne started making her mark with films like Elevator to the Gallows (1958) and Jules et Jim (1962), the latter gaining her international recognition and a BAFTA nomination.
She ultimately went on to win a BAFTA award, along with Brigitte Bardot, for Best Foreign Actress for Viva Maria! (1967).
Her movie Moderato cantabile (1960) got her a Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Jeanne earned a César Award for her film The Old Lady Who Walked in the Sea (1992). She has also won several lifetime achievement’s awards.
9. Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche is from a different class of French female actresses altogether. She is a highly distinguished and accomplished actress and dancer with numerous accolades to her name.
She earned a César Award for her performance as Julie in Three Colours: Blue (1993). Her portrayal of Hana in The English Patient (1996) won her an Academy Award and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress.
She got nominated for another Academy Award and a BAFTA, this time as Best Actress, for her film Chocolat (2000) opposite Johnny Depp, but sadly didn’t win. All three films also earned her Golden Globe nominations.
Another critically acclaimed movie she acted in was an art film titled Certified Copy (2010), for which she won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.
She has also been cast in a Godzilla movie, apart from acting alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Gere, Jude Law, Catherine Deneuve, and Ethan Hawke in various films.
10. Isabelle Huppert
Isabelle Huppert is regarded as one of the best French actresses in the world currently.
She is the most nominated actress in the history of César and Lumières Awards with a record of 16 and 6 nominations, out of which she won 2 and 5, respectively.
Her film Aloïse (1975) earned Isabelle her first César nomination, while La Dentelliere (1977) won her a BAFTA award for Most Promising Newcomer.
She also won the Best Actress award at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival for La Pianiste (2001), with the movie winning a Grand Prix.
Her film Amour (2012) won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2016, she starred in Elle, for which she got several accolades, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination.
Isabelle was made Officier (Officer) of the Ordre national du Mérite and of the Légion d’honneur in 2005 and 2009, respectively.
11. Mélanie Laurent
Mélanie Laurent got her break when French actor Gerard Depardieu cast her in The Bridge (1999) when she was just 16 years of age.
She won an Étoiles d’Or for her role in Dikkenek (2006) and a César Award and Lumières Award for her film, Don’t Worry, I’m Fine (2006).
She made her mark in Hollywood when she bagged a role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) with Brad Pitt and fellow French actress Léa Seydoux.
She then went on to star in Now You See Me (2013) alongside Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, and Morgan Freeman, and Michael Bay’s 6 Underground (2019) opposite Ryan Reynolds.
12. Emma Mackey
Among the current French actresses ruling TV shows and cinema, Emma Mackey is a name that stands out.
Best known for her role as Maeve Wiley in Netflix’s Sex Education, Emma, a French-British actress has made a name for herself in a short period.
Her outstanding performance in the Netflix dramedy series not only earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Female Comedy Performance and an Outstanding Comedy Actress award at the National Comedy Awards but also gained her roles in Death on the Nile (2022) alongside Tom Bateman and Gal Gadot, and the yet-to-be-released Barbie (2023) starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.
Léa Seydoux started her career as a model and bagged many prestigious ad assignments, but soon switched to acting and focused on it.
She was nominated several times for the César Award but unfortunately, never won any. However, Léa is a recipient of the Palme d’Or for her film Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013).
Her Hollywood portfolio includes Inglorious Basterds (2009) with Brad Pitt, Robin Hood (2010) with Russell Crowe, Midnight in Paris (2011) alongside fellow French actress Marion Cotillard, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise (2011).
She also has the distinction of portraying a Bond Girl twice — first in Spectre (2015) and then in No Time to Die (2021), both opposite Daniel Craig.
She has worked with acclaimed directors like Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Woody Allen, and Wes Anderson.
14. Emmanuelle Béart
Emmanuelle’s birth name is Emmanuelle Béhart-Hasson, and she is the second most César Award-nominated among the most French famous actresses on this list.
She has been nominated 8 times in the categories of Most Promising Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Actress, and won the César Award for Best Supporting Actress in the acclaimed period film Manon des Sources (1986).
She has also won the David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress for her role in A Heart in Winter (1993).
Her acting capability earned her a role in Mission: Impossible (1996) alongside Tom Cruise.
In 2012, she was honored as the Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 2015.
15. Leslie Caron
Leslie Caron is one of the best French actresses in Hollywood and one of the last surviving celebrities from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.
She is 90 years old but still contributes to the film industry with her latest being a voiceover in the British dance movie, A Christmas Carol (2020).
Before she became an actress, Leslie was a ballerina, and her debut film was a musical titled An American in Paris (1951).
She has won the BAFTA Award twice for her films, Lili (1953) and The L-Shaped Room (1962), both also earning her Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. The latter got her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress too.
She is also the recipient of an EMMY for Outstanding Guest Actress for her role in the American crime drama TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
16. Élodie Yung
Of the current crop of popular French female celebrities, Élodie Yung is another actress known for her roles in French TV shows.
Élodie had a recurring role in the TV shows La vie Devant nous and Les Bleus and caught people’s attention as the Asian leader, Tao, in District 13: Ultimatum (2009).
But, her performance as Elektra Natchios in Daredevil (2006) and The Defenders (2007) is what made her famous.
She then went on to act in smaller roles in big-ticket films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2012), and the TV show Love, Death & Robots.
17. Adèle Exarchopoulos
When mentioning famous current French actresses, Adèle Exarchopoulos cannot be left behind.
Although born and brought up in France, her name gives away her dual family genes. She gets her Greek roots from her father’s side and French genes from her mother.
Adèle started her career when she had just turned into a teen with an episode on R.I.S, police scientifique, a French police series, and a role in Jane Birkin’s Boxes (2007).
However, she tasted international fame and stardom because of her role in the critically acclaimed movie Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013).
Along with a César Award for Most Promising Actress, this movie made her the youngest person to win the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and only one of three women to win it.
She won it with her co-star in the film, Léa Seydoux, making Léa the 2nd of the three women.
Final Thoughts on the Famous Actresses from France
Wondering which movie to watch over the weekend? I hope this list of famous French actresses helps you out with that decision.
Did you know about the French actresses in Hollywood before reading this guide? How many of their films have you watched? Let me know in the comments below.
And if I’ve missed out on any of your favorites, you can still let me know in the comments section.
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