Well, before I walk out of the door for our trip to Paris, France, I thought it would be cool to make my final pre-trip post tie in to our vacation. So how about we look at 5 phenomenal movie scenes set in Paris this week. Now there are some really great scenes that I left out but for good reason. I really wanted there to be variety in this list and I certainly think there is. I almost cheated simply because there are some scenes I HATE to leave out. But after much deliberating, here they are. Of course, as always this isn’t the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 movie scenes set in Paris are absolutely phenomenal.
#5 – THE RUDE WAITER (“National Lampoon’s European Vacation”)
Ok, I freely admit that this isn’t a great film. In fact, a good argument could be made that the ending derails the entire picture. But I have to admit that I laughed a lot as the Griswold’s stumble their way through England, France, and Germany. But for me, the funniest moment is at a cafe near the Eiffel Tower where they encounter a rude but hilarious waiter. Clark’s horrible French mixed with the waiter’s condescending mockery is laugh out loud funny. This will never be considered a classic movie, but I do love this goofy scene.
#4 – CLOUSEAU’S STREET PATROL (“The Return of the Pink Panther”)
Sticking with comedies, how can you not love Peter Sellers as Jacques Clouseau in Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movies. I swear these are the rare comedies that I can watch anytime and still laugh even though I know the gags by heart. In this particular scene, Clouseau’s incompetence has resulted in his demotion to a beat cop. But always dedicated (and always the buffoon) he comes up on a blind accordion player playing on the street as his monkey collects money from pedestrians. A hilarious conversation follows as Clouseau pesters the man for not having the proper license. Meanwhile a real crime happens right behind him which, of course, he’s oblivious to. It’s vintage Sellers and a truly funny scene.
#3 – THE CAFE DREAM SCENE (“Inception”)
One of my favorite movies of the last several years is Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”. This particular scene is set in a quite neighborhood in Paris at a small corner cafe. Actually, to be perfectly honest, it’s not. It’s all a dream as Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) gives Ariadne (Ellen Page) her first lesson in shared dreaming. The scene starts as a cozy conversation set in an even cozier corner of Paris. But Ariadne begins to panic giving us one of the coolest special effects sequences of the entire movie. Shot on location in south Paris, the scene is visually stunning and beautifully crafted. It’s definitely not your traditional pick for a Paris movie scene but I love it.
#2 – THE OPENING MONTAGE (“Midnight in Paris”)
Many of my movie friends know that I LOVE “Midnight in Paris”. Originally I had several scenes from the film that could have made this list. It was incredibly hard to narrow it down to one scene from such a fantastic movie about a fantastic city. But after thinking about the film and thinking about Paris, how could I not choose the opening 4 minute montage? The opening introduces Paris as a major character by showing it’s history, charm, and beauty. We see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the cafes, and more. It starts in the morning, takes us through an afternoon rain shower, before showing us the city of lights at night all as “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” plays in the background. Could you find a better introduction to such a magnificent city.
#1 – WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS (“Casablanca”)
It’s fitting that the best Paris movie scene is also the most romantic movie scene of all time from my favorite movie of all time. Throughout the early parts of “Casablanca” it’s clear that Bogart’s Rick is a tough cookie. But his tough guy persona takes a big hit when he crosses paths with his old love Ilsa played by the gorgeous Ingrid Bergman. After the encounter, Rick drowns his sorrows while reflecting on memories of their romantic getaway to Paris. In the flashback we see the couple taking a drive down the Champs-Élysées. We see them enjoying a cruise on the Seine River. Then there’s the romantic night on the town topped by dancing and a kiss. It’s the perfect scene that not only gives us a look at their past relationship, but it also presents Paris as the link that will always connect them. I have no reservations about calling this the best movie scene set in Paris. “Here’s looking at you kid”.
And there they are? What are your thoughts on my picks. I know there are other great scenes that take place in the City of Lights. As my wife and I travel down the Seine River, please leave your comments and share your top 5 Paris movie scenes!
Looking forward to seeing Midnight in Paris even more after reading this. Might also have to give those Pink Panther’s a re-watch too. Brilliant stuff!
Thanks Pete. I LOVE Sellers in those absurd Pink Panther films. Soooo funny.
Love that you included the “cafe dream scene” from Inception. Such a visual spectacle to watch. And Midnight in Paris too! Love. Hope you’re having a great time in Paris! Everyone is incredibly jealous of you, including me of course!! 🙂
I do love Midnight in Paris (as you will see in a post I am about to make) and Inception. Had to include them both. 🙂
You sure do love the word ‘phenomenal’ 😀 I have only 3 from your list but agree with ALL of them. I LOVE the opening scene of Midnight in Paris! I’d add some scenes from the Sabrina remake and also some from Paris Je t’aime.
Good choices! There were several I hated to omit! I almost cheated! 🙂
I’m going to Paris next week and I also have been watching Midnight In Paris. Oddly I forgot all about Peter Sellers and Pink Panther. I personally would have included some scene from the great Jacques Tati classic Mon Oncle. I couldn’t decide which scene, but there should be one – it’s such a brilliant movie. Of course, when you go into French films, there’ll be an endless list of ‘phenomenal’ choices. I watched Casablanca as well, but only because I’m taking a sidestep to Morocco before going to Paris.
You’ve picked nice movies though. Apart from European Vacation 🙂
LOL! I know, I know! European Vacation is far from great. But the first half of that movie is pretty funny. Oh, and thanks for mentioning Mon Oncle. Haven’t seen it but it’s certainly on the top of my list now!
I can’t believe I almost forgot this Leos Carax’s visually stunning film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58cf8YG94Pw
Filming the scene in Paris was actually so expensive they found it cheaper to build a replica somewhere way outside Paris.
Be warned, if you watch one Tati film you’ll want to see them all. I think of him as the French Chaplin. Critics favourite would be Playtime, but I’ve always preferred Mon Uncle because of the general atmosphere of it.
But they’re all great apart from his last movie that is set in a circus. There is a box of “all” Tati movies sold in Europe but they have left out the circus film – which I think is a smart move. His style of filmmaking was so time and money consuming that at his later days he had difficulties getting money for making his films. I think the last one was made in Sweden and it’s usually not even mentioned when talking about his films. I’ve seen it once and sadly I think, that’s enough. The rest of them though are movie history at it’s best.
Just a little while ago BTW, there was an animation that was made by a script unfinished by Tati. I’ve seen it and it was pretty good. Same people have also made the excellent Triplets of Belleville: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fwM4hnsdSA
While on the subject of phenomenal films set in Paris we should not forget La Haine. It’s not set in an environment a tourist would be likely to find himself at but it is a really damn good movie that shows a dramatized version of what life in the suburbs might be like. The whole movie with English subs is to be found in Youtube. The picture quality is obviously not the same as in a bluray disc – which is also available at least here in Europe. Surely a film that has to be seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOJVtdph5Uc
Great stuff! I’ve just added Mon Uncle to my Netflix. Should be able to check it out really soon.
Hi, I have looked for Pink Panther locations myself, but haven’t really been succesful. Nor does it seem other have been. The example you mention in your article was as far as I can see filmed in Nice, not Paris. On the corner of Rue de Paris and Rue de Lepante.
On Google street view you can see that it looks virtually unchanged.
That’s really cool. Paris has been featured in so many films. You could spend an entire trip hunting some of them down!