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Top 15 French Animated Movies to Watch Absolutely

Top 15 French Animated Movies to Watch Absolutely

Better known for its French comic books and French film industry, France remains one of the most renowned countries in the field of animation. Whether for children or for a more mature audience, the French-speaking industry is full of French animated movies with an international reputation. 

French animated movies have gained worldwide recognition for their unique storytelling, beautiful animation, and artistic style. The history of French animation dates back to the early 1900s, with the works of Emile Cohl, who is considered the father of French animation.

Since then, French animation has evolved and produced some of the most acclaimed animated films, such as The Triplets of Belleville (not mentioned here but will be added later) or Persepolis. French animated movies often tackle serious themes and explore complex characters, making them popular among both children and adults.

The use of traditional animation techniques combined with new technologies and innovative storytelling has made French animated movies stand out in the international animation scene.

Through this list, let’s discover some of the best French animations ever made.

List of Popular French Animated Movies

Let’s start this selection of the best French animated movies!

  1. Asterix & Cleopatra (1968)

French title: Astérix et Cléopâtre 

Directors: René Goscinny, Albert Uderzo 

Countries : France/Belgium

One of my favorite French animated movies! Released in 1968, the French animated film Asterix and Cleopatra is a direct adaptation of the homonymous comic book published 3 years earlier. The animated film extends the original story of the comic book thanks to the scriptwriting talents of Jos Marissen, Eddie Lateste and Pierre Tchernia. This episode takes Asterix, Obelix, and Getafix to ancient Egypt to help the architect Edifis, who has promised Cleopatra to build a sumptuous palace in record time.

A true classic of the French animated film, Asterix and Cleopatra has notably given rise to two cult songs, “Quand l’appétit va tout va” and “Le Pudding à l’Arsenic“, which are still known today by the youngest. The success of the comic book and the animated film was such that the work was also adapted to the cinema more than 30 years later with the film Asterix and Obelix – Mission Cleopatra, which instantly became a classic of French cinema.

  1. Fantastic Planet (1973)

French title: La Planète Sauvage

Directors: René Laloux 

Countries: France/Czechoslovakia

La Planète Sauvage is a French animated science fiction film released in 1973. The story is based on the scenario and the world of the novel Oms en série by Stefan Wul, although it differs in many points. It tells the stories of the Oms, tiny human beings exploited by giant androids, and of their revolt which will start the day Terr, a particularly intelligent Oms, decides to escape from the wrath of his masters.

Both suitable for a young and mature audience, The Fantastic Planet highlights serious issues such as slavery, peace, and ecology. The animated film was awarded the Special Jury Award at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival and the Saint-Michel Award in 1974. It was also remastered in 2016 to give itself a second youth and to be discovered by a new audience.

  1. The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976)

French title: Les Douzes Travaux d’Astérix 

Directors: René Goscinny, Albert Uderzo 

Countries: France/United-Kingdom

The second French animated movie from the Asterix comic strip on our list, The Twelve Labors of Asterix is actually the third animated film adapted from the adventures of the very famous Gaul. Unlike the two previous installments, this animated film is based on an original story, largely inspired by the Greek legend of the twelve labors of Hercules. 

The premise of the film is simple: no longer able to bear the fact that this small village of die-hard Gauls is still resisting the Roman invaders, Julius Caesar then launches a challenge to the Gauls. If they succeeded in a series of twelve Dantean tests, he made them a promise not to attack them again. Even today, The Twelve Labors of Asterix is one of the most successful French cartoons at the box office, with more than 2 million tickets sold in France at its release.

  1. Lucky Luke: Ballad of the Daltons (1978)

French title: La Ballade des Dalton 

Directors: René Goscinny, Morris 

Country: France

The second animated film from Dogmatix studio (which also produced the Twelve Labors of Asterix), The Ballad of the Daltons is a French animated film based on an original story from the universe of the comic strip Lucky Luke. Released in 1978, the film is the work of the association of Goscinny (scriptwriter of Asterix), Morris (author of Lucky Luke), and Pierre Tchernia (scriptwriter of many French animated movies at the time).

During this one, we follow the adventures of the Dalton brothers who have a mission to assassinate the judge and the jurors who made condemn their uncle just died. If the work is well done, they will receive in exchange all his fortune, otherwise, it will go to good works. Lucky Luke oversees the whole operation to make sure that everything is done according to Henry Dalton’s wishes.

  1. The King and the Mockingbird (1980)

French title: Le Roi et l’Oiseau

Directors: Paul Grimault

Country: France

Produced in 1980 by the studio Les Gémeaux (the first animation studio in Europe), The King and the Bird is the result of the collaboration of the director Paul Grimault and the poet Jacques Prévert. This film tells the story of a megalomaniac king reigning as a tyrant over his kingdom and of a jovial and talkative bird who is the only one who dares to tickle him. The king falls in love with a shepherdess, herself in love with a chimney sweep, with whom she will run away to escape the forced marriage that is destined for her.

The French animated film was first released in 1953 under the name of La Bergère et Le Ramoneur (= The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep), but it was disowned by Prévert and Grimault because of artistic and financial differences with the production. The 1980 version of the feature film remains a classic of French animation, standing out at the time from what was being done in the United States (Walt Disney) and Japan (Studio Ghibli) through an original style and philosophical themes that were rarely treated until then. 

  1. Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998)

French title: Kirikou et la Sorcière

Directors: Michel Ocelot

Countries : France/Belgium/Luxembourg

Released in 1998, Kirikou and the Sorceress is a French-Belgian-Luxembourg animation film directed by Michel Ocelot and produced by Odec Kid Cartoons. Inspired by an African children’s tale, the film depicts the struggle of Kirikou, a little boy with remarkable intelligence, against Karaba, an evil sorceress who tyrannizes an entire village with her demonic powers.

To this day, Kirikou and the Witch is one of the most critically acclaimed French animated movies. Upon its release, the film was an instant success with over a million tickets sold in movie theaters and dozens of awards, including the Grand Prize for Feature Film at the Annecy International Animation Festival in 1999. Following its success, the license will give rise to two other films, but also to books, a video game, and documentaries.

  1. Arthur and the Invisibles (2006)

French title: Arthur et les Minimoys

Directors: Luc Besson

Country: France

Released in 2006, Arthur and the Invisibles, the story begins when Arthur, a little boy of about ten years old, follows the clues left by his grandfather to enter a world he thought was imaginary: the world of the Invisibles.

A real phenomenon when it was released (with more than 6 million tickets sold in France), the film made the book series better known and gave rise to two sequels, Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard (2009) and Arthur 3: War of the Two Worlds (2010), which unfortunately did not meet with the success of the first film. The license was also declined under other original formats such as video games or roller coaster.

  1. Persepolis (2007)

French title: Persepolis 

Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

Country: France

Released in 2007 in France, Persepolis is a French animated movie based on the autobiographical comic book of the same name, written by Marjane Satrapi. Produced by the TF1 group, the film follows the life of Marjane, then eight years old, who lives in Tehran during the Iranian revolution of 1978. In the aftermath of the revolution, the Islamic Republic is established in the country, leading to war with Iraq, which transforms the area into a real battlefield. To protect her, Marjane is then sent by her parents to Austria where she will have to grow up alone, far from her culture and everything she knows until then.

@Persepolis / Diaphana Distribution

Like the comic book, Persepolis is a committed French animated movie that has been the subject of several controversies and bans, especially in countries like Lebanon. It has been acclaimed in many other countries and was even nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2008.

  1. Ernest & Celestine (2012)

French title: Ernest et Célestine 

Directors: Benjamin Renner, Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar

Countries : France/Belgium/Luxembourg

Released in 2012, Ernest and Celestine is a French-Belgian-Luxembourg animated film based on the children’s book series of the same name, drawn and written by Belgian author Gabrielle Vincent. This children’s film tells the story of the unconventional friendship between Ernest, a lonely brown bear, and Celestine, a little orphaned mouse who has fled the rodent world.

Ernest and Celestine manages to communicate a political message of inclusiveness and good living together while perfectly respecting the codes of children’s cartoons. Critically acclaimed, the animated feature won numerous awards, including the César for Best Animated film in 2013. The success of the film is such that it gives rise to a television series on France 5 (Public French TV Channel) in 2017.

  1. Astérix – The Mansion of the Gods (2014)

French title: Astérix : Le Domaine des dieux

Directors: Louis Clichy, Alexandre Astier

Countries : France/Belgium

Released in theaters in November 2014, Asterix: The Domain of the Gods is a loose adaptation of the seventeenth volume of the Asterix comic book, entitled The Domain of the Gods. In this opus, Julius Caesar decides to build a luxurious Roman quarter, The Domain of the Gods, in the forest surrounding the Gallic village in order to push them to conform to Roman lifestyle and traditions. 

Unlike the other Asterix feature films on this list, this part of the saga of the irreducible Gaul is not a simple cartoon but a 3D animated film. Written and produced in part by Alexandre Astier (best known for the comedy series Kaamelott), this French animated film differs from the previous installments in that it is well-written, has more sophisticated dialogue, and makes numerous references to classic French and international films.

  1. Long Way North (2015)

French title: Tout en haut du monde 

Directors: Rémi Chayé

Countries: France/Danemark

Released in 2015, Long Way North is a French-Danish animated feature film from an original idea by screenwriter Claire Paoletti. The film follows the adventures of Sacha, the granddaughter of a renowned Russian explorer who never returned from his last expedition to the North Pole. After discovering a manuscript indicating the route the ship would have taken, the heroine decides to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps, in search of his stranded ship.

@Long Way North / Diaphana Distribution

Despite a weak start at the box office, Long Way North has exported very well internationally and is now recognized as one of the best French animated films. On the other hand, it was immediately praised by critics, winning numerous awards such as the Audience Award at the Annecy Festival in 2015 or the Grand Prize of the Tokyo Anime Award in 2016.

  1. Dofus: Book 1 – Julith (2015)

French title: Dofus – Livre 1 : Julith 

Directors: Anthony Roux, Jean-Jacques Denis 

Country: France

The first French animated movie from the studio Ankama Animations, Dofus, book 1: Julith is a 2D feature film inspired by the successful French isometric MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), Dofus. The story of this first opus takes place in the city of Bonta (the equivalent of paradise in the world of the Twelve) and follows the adventures of Joris, a mischievous and mysterious mage, who will have to save the city, with the help of his friends, from the wrath of Judith, a witch who has set herself the goal of destroying Bonta.

This first episode of the Dofus saga builds on the success of the French animated series Wakfu, released a few years earlier – itself inspired by the video game Wakfu by Ankama Productions. Despite mixed reviews at the time of its release, the film gave rise to a number of derivative products including a card game, a comic book, and even novels.

  1. White Fang (2018)

French title: Croc-Blanc

Directors: Alexandre Espigares

Countries: France/Luxembourg

Adapted from the book by American writer Jack London, the French animated film White Fang follows the unique story of the best-selling novel. It follows the life of White Fang, a wolf cub who, after growing up in the hostile forest of the Great North with his mother, is given up to a devious and malevolent man. Later taken in by a couple of benevolent humans, White Fang must learn to adapt to his new environment.

With its very accomplished cinematography, its captivating soundtrack, and its unique graphic style (closer to painting than to classic cartoons), White Fang offers the possibility of seeing Jack London’s classic in a new light, despite the many film adaptations that the work has seen in the past.

  1. The Summit of the Gods (2021)

French title: Le Sommet des dieux 

Directors: Patrick Imbert

Countries: France/Luxembourg

Adapted from the homonymous manga by Jirô Taniguchi, itself illustrated from the novel by Baku Yumemakura, The Summit of the Gods is a French-Luxembourg animated film directed by Patrick Imbert. It follows the adventures of Fukamachi, a Japanese reporter passionate about mountaineering, who stumbles upon a famous mountaineer that everyone thought had disappeared many years ago after the death of his partner. A quasi-police investigation follows to put back together the pieces of the puzzle explaining the events that occurred during this tragic ascent of Everest.

Acclaimed by critics and viewers alike, the work is rightly considered one of the best French animated films ever made. The Summit of the Gods even won two of the biggest awards in the industry the following year, the César for the Best Animated Film of 2022 and the Lumière Award for the Best Animated Film.

  1. Little Nicholas (2022)

French title: Le Petit Nicolas : Qu’est-ce qu’on attend pour être heureux ? 

Directors: Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre

Countries: France/Luxembourg

Released in theaters in 2022, Little Nicholas is a French-Luxembourg animation film written by Anne Goscinny, daughter of René Goscinny, based on the best-selling children’s book series Le Petit Nicolas. 

The animated film is a tribute to the character of Little Nicholas but also to its two creators, Jean-Jacques Sempé and René Goscinny. Through the story, we learn more about the career of the two authors and their relationship with the character of Little Nicholas. Very well received by the spectators, the animated film received the Cristal of the feature film of the international festival of the animated film of Annecy in 2022, and it is also in a contest for the Caméra d’or of the Cannes Festival.

We hope you enjoyed discovering French animated movies. Are there any films that deserve to be on this list? If yes, don’t hesitate to tell us in the comment part of the article.

To continue reading, we suggest you read our articles about the best French movies of 2022 or the best French horror movies

Photo Credits:

Tout en haut du monde / Diaphana Distribution

Persepolis / Diaphana Distribution

Translated into English by Sacha