The radiant South of France has enchanted viewers for decades by serving as an iconic movie backdrop, immortalising its grandeur through cinema’s lens. From thriller classics to elegantly escapist romances, some of the most beloved movies in the South of France have imprinted the effortless glamour of the Côte d’Azur onto the silver screen.
The mesmerising locales of Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez in particular have become cinematic shorthand for the lavish allure this coastal region exudes at every turn. Over the years, countless films have used the sun-drenched beaches, glittering resorts, and picturesque sites of the French Riviera to transport audiences into realms of beauty, intimacy and adventure.
I’ve compiled a refreshed list for 2024 of the most glamorous movies set in the South of France, spanning iconic images of Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief to the hilarious antics of Eddie and Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. Join me on a cinematic escape along this spectacular shoreline with my picks for the top 10 films embracing all the charm and vibrancy this destination has to offer.
The 10 most iconic movies in the South of France
1. To Catch a Thief (1955)
Possibly the most famous movie set in the South of France and the first of two mentions for Grace Kelly.
Cary Grant leads as the reformed cat burglar that needs to catch a new thief in order to convince people he has retired; all whilst falling in love with Kelly.
The 1955 Hitchcock Classic was set along the Cote D’Azur with plenty of action in Vieux Nice, shots of the Negresco and across to Cannes. Grant’s ‘pad’ is a beautiful farmhouse set high up in the Provence hillsides.
2. 2. Priceless / Hors De Prix (2006) Priceless (Hors de Prix) (2006)
This is our go-to film for a dose of South of France glamour. The original French title, Hors De Prix means “overpriced, outrageously expensive” or “out of one’s leagues, something one cannot afford or reach” for this is the story of glamour and riches so far out of reach they need to be stolen.
Starring Audrey Tautou and French heartthrob Gad Elmaleh, “Priceless” weaves a captivating tale of love and deception along the glamorous French Riviera. We find this film both glamorous and highly entertaining that never fades on repeated views.
3. And God Created Woman (1956)
Famous for launching Brigitte Bardot, this South of France movie was set in and around St Tropez with most of the action taking place on the beautiful waterfront.
In “And God Created Woman” (1956), Brigitte Bardot stars as Juliette, a sensuous and free-spirited young woman whose uninhibited behaviour disrupts the lives of the men in a conservative French town, sparking desire and jealousy in a tale that intertwines love, freedom, and societal norms.
The now legendary movie is worth a watch just to see St. Tropez as it was back in the day, although much still remains of its charm if you visit today (and can get away from the crowds).
4. Under the Cherry Moon (1986)
It might seem unlikely that a black and white film could capture the glamour of the Côte d’Azur, yet “Under the Cherry Moon,” Prince’s follow-up to “Purple Rain,” does exactly that!
This is a wonderfully funny movie set and filmed almost entirely in the South of France with two playboys Christopher Tracey and Tricky (Prince & The Time’s Jerome Benton) seducing beautiful elderly ladies to fund their lifestyle.
Many of the locations aren’t officially stated but you can see the Villa Rothschild, Nice Ville, The Carlton in Cannes, The Hippodrome in Nice, as well as wonderful aerial shots of the Cote D’Azur coastline.
The soundtrack is pretty cool, too. You might have heard of Parade?
5. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Yet another film about con men (and women) – what is it about the South of France? In “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (1988), Michael Caine and Steve Martin star as two competing con men on the French Riviera, engaging in a hilarious battle of wits to swindle a wealthy heiress, leading to unexpected twists and a surprising partnership.
This film is an absolute hoot, one I have seen way too many times. The fictitious town of ‘Beaumont-sur-Mer’ is actually Beaulieu-sur-Mer, East of Nice.
6. Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
Starring Colin Firth this Woody Allen movie is set in the South of France, telling the story of an Englishman coming invited to his friends villa to uncover a potential con artist (in the South of France, Again!) with potentially romantic consequences.
This movie will take you to some beautiful South of France locations including L’Opèra in Nice, Villa Eilenroc Antibes and Villa La Renardière, Mouans-Sartoux.
7. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)
In “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,” Edina and Patsy, London’s most notorious duo, find themselves on the run to the glamorous South of France after accidentally knocking Kate Moss into the Thames, sparking a media frenzy and a series of outrageously funny escapades.
Like many British movies, the action very quickly moves from Great Britain to the South of France (I’m looking at you Downton Abbey) but this one actually carries it off – providing ever more classic moments from this fashionable duo!
Not only is this a great film, but you also get to see a lot of the Cote D’Azur including the Martinez in Cannes, Hotel du Cap in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Villefranche. Don’t forget to watch for Bubble’s South of France home – Palais Bulles known as the Bubble Palace!
8. French Kiss (1995)
“French Kiss” (1995) sees Meg Ryan’s character journeying to France, determined to win back her fiancé. Her plans take an unexpected turn when she meets a charming crook, played by Kevin Kline, leading to a romantic escapade on the sun-drenched beaches of Cannes in the South of France.
9. Year of the Jellyfish / L’année des méduses (1984)
The “Year of the Jellyfish” is a French drama set against the sultry backdrop of the French Riviera’s sun-soaked beaches. The film follows the story of Chris, a manipulative and seductive teenager, played by Valérie Kaprisky, who uses her sexuality to disrupt the lives around her during a summer vacation.
Mubi explains it as, “A young Valerie Kaprisky, along with many other beautiful people, prance around semi-nude on the French Riviera.”
10. Grace of Monaco (2014)
I think the late Grace Kelly was the perfect embodiment of the South of France Glamour. Not just as the Hollywood actress but later as the wife to Prince Rainier of Monaco.
“Grace of Monaco” (2014) portrays the story of Hollywood star Grace Kelly’s transition to Princess Grace of Monaco, focusing on her personal and political challenges during a dispute between Monaco and France. Set against the lavish backdrop of the 1960s Côte d’Azur, the film captures the elegance and turmoil of her new royal life.
Whilst this film was panned by critics, I think it is a great movie wih Nicole Kidman brining to life the identify crisis of Grace Kelly – was she a princess, an actress or both?
Other Movies that Feature the South Of France
Cutting the list down to just ten movies set in the South of France was a challenge. Over the years, I’ve researched to find more films that feature this glamorous location, but don’t necessarily capture the essence I was seeking for this list. For those looking to dig deeper, here is an additional selection of movies with the stunning French Riviera as a backdrop.
Ronin is a 1998 action thriller from director John Frankenheimer (French Connection II) with rip-roaring stunts filmed in Paris, Nice, and the winding roads of Villefranche-Sur-Mer
Never Say Never Again (1983)
The Sean Connery remake of Thunderball crisscrosses the globe from London to the Bahamas, with a key action sequence set in the narrow streets of Villefranche Sur Mer, just outside Nice. (It is also where the Stones recordedExile on Main Street, but you don’t see that!) Largo’s yacht is also filmed in the bay off Villefranche so you’ll see a good slice of the South of France.
If you want more action in the South of France check out the Transporter Trilogy with Jason Statham.
Rust and Bone (2012)
Rust and Bone tells the story of two broken individuals who find solace and strength in each other’s company. Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a struggling single father who moves to Antibes, a town on the French Riviera, with his young son to live with his sister.
He finds work as a bouncer and eventually becomes involved in underground street fighting to make ends meet.
Meeting up with Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), a beautiful killer whale trainer at a marine park (in Biot, also featured in the Big Blue.) The couple set out on a tumultuous relationship. Not the most relaxing of movies but worth watching for the acting and the locations.
Le Grand Bleu (1985)
One of my all time favourite films. This Luc Besson classic tells the tale of two friends competing to be the greatest free divers in the world. Though much of Le Grand Bleu was filmed elsewhere, a pivotal part of the story unfolds at the marine park in Biot, nestled between the glitzy cities of Cannes and Nice on the fabulous Côte d’Azur.
If this list still hasn’t satisfied your taste for glamour by the sea, head over to my article “South of France on the Small Screen” for a showcase of television magic filmed along the Riviera over the years. Wherever your next cinematic adventures take you, I hope these dazzling backdrops spark dreams of your own voyage to the stunning Côte d’Azur!