Here are some of the most talented French actors you need to know.
Since the birth of the French film industry by the Lumière Brothers, France has produced many outstanding and highly successful actors locally and internationally.
With the widely-covered Cannes Festival happening yearly, it is always a good idea to know who may be mentioned or appearing on the red carpet.
From this post, you will discover all you need to know about the well-known current and past French actors – their emergence into acting, their most popular movies, and awards.
Take the time to learn all you can about these important figures in the movie industry so that the next time you watch the Cannes Festival or read about the latest awards, you will know who is who!
11 of The Best French Actors
Here’s a list of incredibly talented actors from France.
1. Omar Sy
Omar Sy is one of the best-known French Hollywood actors. He is a black African male who was born in Trappes, France.
Sy began his acting career in 1996 by creating funny skits on a French radio station.
His career on the screen started with minor roles in television series, with his most well-known role in the series called Omar and Fred (2001).
He then moved on to film and rose to stardom with his role in the famous and loved movie set in Paris, Les Intouchables (The Untouchables).
Sy has acted in many international and French movies and series since his rise to fame.
However, his most famous movies are Les Intouchables (2011), Jurassic World (2015), and X-men Days of the Future Past (2014).
More recently, his role in the hit Netflix series called Lupin, playing the main character of Assane Diop, brought him international acclaim, with Lupin being the most-watched non-English show on Netflix.
Given his outstanding performance in Les Intouchables, he received many awards for the movie, the most notable being the 2012 Cèsar Award for Best Actor – this is the French equivalent of an Oscar and is highly valued.
He also received a Globe de Cristel for Best Actor in the same role. Lastly, he won the Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Series for his role in Lupin, which made him one of the most famous French people in recent years.
2. Guillaume Canet
French Hollywood actor Guillaume Canet is an actor, director, and screenwriter. He was born in 1973 in Boulogne-Billancourt – a wealthy commune in Paris.
He attended acting school and, in 1994, began his acting career in a theatre production called La Ville Dont le Prince est un Enfant.
Canet’s career successes were seen in his outstanding performance in Barracuda (1997), En Plein cœur (1998), and a 2006 French thriller called Ne Le Dis à Personne (Tell No One).
However, he also had major roles in a few American films, such as The Beach (2000) with Leonardo DiCaprio and The Day the Ponies Come Back (2000).
For his performance in Next Time, I’ll Aim for the Heart (2014), Canet received a Globe de Cristel nomination for Best Actor.
The film Ne Le Dis à Personne won a Lumiere Award for Best Film and was a César nominee for Best Film.
Canet is married to Marion Cotillard, one of the best French actresses to date.
3. Gérard Depardieu
Born in 1948 in Châteauroux, France, Gérard Depardieu is a world-famous French actor.
At 16 years old, Gérard left home and began his acting career in a traveling comedy theatre.
From here, his career skyrocketed, and today he is known as the second highest paid, below Louis de Funès, a French actor.
He was highly popular in the 80s and 90s, but his popularity recently decreased after some allegations emerged.
The first major role that made him one of the most famous actors in France was in 1974 in Les Valseuses.
However, the film role that received the most recognition was in Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) and Oh, Woe Is Me (1993), directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
Another popular film of his was The Last Metro (1980). He also starred in a film with Robert De Nero called 1900, which was made in 1976.
Given his extensive work, Gérard has received several awards. Amongst many, he received the Cèsar award for Best Actor for his films in The Last Metro and Cyrano de Bergerac.
Additionally, he won an Oscar for his role in Cyrano. Lastly, by the president of France, he has bestowed the highest honorary title called the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
4. Vincent Cassel
Born in Paris in 1966, Vincent Cassel is a well-known French actor. He began his film career in 1994 in adverts.
After his outstanding performance in La Haine (1995), he became a recognizable figure in the acting world.
In the early 1990s, he mainly worked on European cinema and French films, including L’Appartement, which he played with his soon-to-be wife, Monica Bellucci. Currently, he is married to Tina Kunakey, one of the most famous French models.
Still, from the early 2000s, he shifted focus and began staring at well-known Hollywood films.
Cassel’s career took off after his performance in La Haine, which became one of the greatest movies of his career in cinema.
From then onwards, he was well-recognized in the acting community.
For English speakers, he also starred in popular and loved movies such as Oceans Twelve (alongside George Clooney), Oceans Thirteen (alongside Brad Pitt), Black Swan (alongside Natalie Portman), and Jason Bourne (alongside Matt Damon).
He also voiced a character in Shrek called Monsieur Hood!
For his role in La Haine, Cassel received two César nominations: one for Best Actor and the other for Most Promising Actor.
Vincent won two Cèsar Awards for Best Actor for his role in Mesrine Part 1 and Mesrine Part 2. For his role in Mesrine Part 1, he also won a Globe de Cristel for Best Actor.
5. Jean Reno
The well-known Jean Reno is a famously identified French Hollywood actor who has appeared in French and English films.
He was born in 1948 in Casablanca, Morocco. He began his career at 17 by studying acting at a drama school and started with small acting roles before collaborating with director Luc Besson which was the beginning of Reno’s success story.
Reno’s acting career began in French films, with two of his greatest performances in Les Visiteurs (1993) and L’Enquète Corse (2004), for which he received great recognition.
However, he also starred in highly successful American films such as French Kiss (1995), Jet Lag (2002) alongside Juliette Binoche, Mission: Impossible (1996), and Godzilla (1998). A role that many know and love is Ponton in the Pink Panther.
He also voiced Mufasa in the French version of The Lion King.
For his roles in The Big Blue, Les Visiteurs, and Léon: The Professional, he received a César Award nomination for Best Actor for each of these films.
More recently, in 2020, the movie Da 5 Bloods, in which he played a prominent role, received a Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
6. Jean Dujardin
Actor and comedian Jean Dujardin is a French actor, born in 1972 in a commune in Paris.
He began his acting career through the creation of a one-man show in which he performed in bars all over Paris.
In 1996, he became a recognizable figure when he formed part of a comedy group called Nous Ç Nous, which competed in a French talent show by the name of Graines de Star.
Dujardin’s career did not take off until 2006, when he performed in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies.
Another massive career success that led to many nominations and awards was in The Artist (2011) – a silent film.
Although, his roles did not only remain in French cinema as he ventured into English films and took on roles in movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street and The Monuments Men.
For his role in The Artist, Dujardin received an insurmountable amount of nominations and awards, the most notable being the Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.
For his role in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, he was awarded an Étoile d’Or Award for Best Actor.
7. François Cluzet
Born in 1955, François Cluzet is a famous actor in France and worldwide.
He was born in Paris and began his acting career performing on stage in 1976. His first major role was in 1980 in a movie called Cocktail Molotov.
Most of Cluzet’s career successes have been in French films, but one we all know him from is the outstanding film Les Intouchables, played alongside Omar Sy, which remains his biggest success to date.
He also played a role in the American comedy-drama Ready To Wear (1994). Another massive success for Cluzet was forming part of Ne Le Dis à Personne, co-starring with Guillaume Canet.
For Cluzet’s role in Les Intouchables, he was nominated for both a César Award for Best Actor, a European Film Award (shared with Omar Sy), and a Globe de Cristel nominee for Best Actor.
He won the 2007 Globe de Cristel Award and César Award for Best Actor in Ne Le Dis à Personne.
8. Olivier Martinez
Olivier Martinez is a French Hollywood actor born in 1966 in Paris.
He came from a working-class family and rose to the ranks as an actor after an outstanding performance in his breakthrough film Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil (1993).
Given his obvious good looks, Martinez was dubbed the “French Brad Pit.”
After Matinez’s role in Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil, he began working on larger projects and rose to the ranks as a famous actor and gained international recognition in 1995 for his film The Horseman on the Roof.
He has also worked with the talented Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem in a movie called Before Night Falls (2000).
His most recent role in a Hollywood production was in Paul, Apostle of Christ (2017).
For his performance in Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil, Martinez won the César Award for Most Promising Actor.
9. Gaspard Ulliel
Born in 1984 in Paris, Gaspard Ulliel was a famous French Hollywood actor. He began acting in school and had his first breakthrough in 2003 with the movie Strayed.
This movie skyrocketed his career, and he became famously known both in France and also internationally.
Tragically, in January 2022, at the age of 37, Ulliel passed away due to a skiing accident.
Some of Ulliel’s outstanding performances and ones for which he has received great recognition are Strayed (2003), A Very Long Engagement (2004), It’s Only The End of The World (2016), Summer Things (2002), and Saint Laurent (2014).
His first major role in an English film was in Hannibal Rising (2007), where he played the young serial killer Hannibal Lecter.
He also played in the television miniseries Moon Knight alongside Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke, but it was released only after Ulliel’s passing.
For his earlier films, he won an Étoile d’Or Award for Best Male Newcomer in Strayed (2003), and a Lumiere award for Most Promising Actor in Summer things (2002), as well as a César Award for Most Promising Actor in A Very Long Engagement (2004).
Later in his career, Ulliel’s performance in Xavier Dolan’s film It’s Only The End of The World (2016) won him a César Award for Best Actor.
Many say Gaspard Ulliel was part of a new generation of actors essential for French cinema.
10. Jean-Paul Belmondo
Born in 1933, Jean-Paul Belmondo was one of the most famous French actors and producers.
Born in Paris, he began his acting career in 1953 by performing in theatres in Paris.
Eventually, after some theatre acting and short films, Belmondo scored his first major role in Breathless (1960), which gave him his breakthrough moment. Belmondo refused to transition into Hollywood movies.
While acting and producing many movies, there were a few which he is well known for.
Breathless (1960) gained international attention and attracted a large American audience. His outstanding performance in an Italian film called Two Women (1961) gained great popularity in the US and UK.
Other famous movies of his are Itinerary of a Spoiled Child (1988) and Pierrot le Fou (1965).
For his performance in Pierrot le Fou (1965), Belmondo was nominated for a BAFTA award for Best Foreign Actor.
For his role in Itinerary of a Spoiled Child, he won a César Award for Best Actor.
His career highlight was in 2017 when he was awarded the highest honor for the French film, the Lifetime Achievement César Award.
11. Mathieu Amalric
French Hollywood Actor and filmmaker Mathieu Amalric was born in 1965 in Paris. His first breakthrough role was for Ma Vie Sexuelle (1996).
He has taken on roles in English and French films, bringing him great international recognition and success.
His first major film was Ma Vie Sexuelle (1996). Other impressive performances were seen in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), James Bond: Quantum of Solace (2008), and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).
He also directed successful films such as On Tour (2010) and The Blue Room (2014).
Amalric has been nominated for and won many César and Lumière awards in his career. To name a few, for his role in Ma Vie Sexuelle, he won the César Award for Most Promising Actor.
He has won the César Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and also for his performance in Kings and Queens.
A Few More French Actors Worth Knowing
- Lambert Wilson – known for Five Days One Summer (1981)
- Yves Montand – known for Jean de Florette (1986), and Z (1969)
- Alain Delon – known for Zorro (1975)
- Tahar Rahim – known for A Prophet (2009) and The Serpent (2021)
- Louis de Funès – known for The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (1973) and Le Gendarme et les extra-terrestres (1979)
- Romain Duris – known for Heartbreaker (2010) and Mood Indigo (2013)
- Jean Rochefort – known for Tell No One (2006) and Man on the Train (2002)
- Fabrice Luchini – known for In the House (2012), Beaumarchais the Scoundrel (1996), and Molière (2007)
- Jean-Claude Brialy – known for Le Fantôme de la liberté (1974) and Robert et Robert (1978)
Did you enjoy learning more about the famous actors from France? Then share this post with your friends!
11 of The Best French Actors
- Omar Sy
- Guillaume Canet
- Gérard Depardieu
- Vincent Cassel
- Jean Reno
- Jean Dujardin
- François Cluzet
- Olivier Martinez
- Gaspard Ulliel
- Jean-Paul Belmondo
- Mathieu Amalric
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