Watching popular French shows on Netflix and Amazon is an excellent way to gain cultural fluency while honing vocabulary and listening skills.
Here are some of the best French series on Netflix and Amazon Prime in the US as of June 9, 2020. If you’re not in the US, click the title to check if the show is available in your country.
Netflix originals will stick around, but watch the rest while you can, because content disappears as licensing agreements expire.
I’ll add to this list regularly as I watch more French TV shows on Netflix and Amazon as part of my project to relearn French.
If you’re an intermediate or advanced learner, try using French subtitles if available as studies show it boosts language learning.
If you can understand 70-80% of the dialogue with French subtitles, challenge yourself by guessing the rest from context. Try to free yourself from the need to comprehend every word. This allows you to learn in a more enjoyable, intuitive way.
If you can’t get 70-80%, watch a first time with English subtitles and then again with French.
This comedic gem has deservedly become a global Netflix hit. One of the best French shows for language learners.
At a top Paris talent firm, agents scramble to keep their star clients happy — and their business afloat — after an unexpected crisis. Each episode features at least one real-life French celebrity playing themselves.
Keep an ear out for colloquial expressions such as:
For more vocabulary explanations, watch innerFrench’s excellent video analysis of the beginning of the first episode (no spoilers).
No English subtitles available for YouTube trailer — click here to watch subtitled trailer on Netflix
In this unique social media popularity contest, online players try to flirt, bond, and catfish their way to a €100,000 prize.
It’s the perfect show to binge in 2020 because each contestant is isolated in their apartment, able to communicate only via social media.
While the show flashes gorgeous opening drone shots of France, players actually live in the same apartment building in Manchester, UK used for The Circle‘s American and British editions.
Contestants hail from a variety of locations. The culturally diverse cast included participants with Cameroonian, Moroccan, and Portuguese origins. My favorite player was Maxime/Valeria from Monaco!
The diversity of accents and slang make The Circle a great choice for French language learners.
Some argot (slang) you’ll hear on the show:
Super fun, addictive rom-com set in Paris.
Endearingly dorky Elsa is about to turn 30 and stuck in an boring job. Plus, she’s still hung up on her ex two years after their breakup. In a misguided attempt to renew Elsa’s faith in dating, her girlfriends secretly hire a male escort for her, with unexpected consequences.
The casting does a nice job representing the diversity of French society, with characters of Portuguese, Arab, African, and Spanish origin.
The first season has only six episodes of less than 30 minutes, making this an easy watch for language learners. Unfortunately, the second season is not nearly as good, and I didn’t finish it.
The French title’s a play on words on the expression plan cul, or plan q, a hookup or one-night stand.
Colloquial expressions to listen for:
This fun spy comedy satirizes France’s secret service as well as French bureaucracy and colonialism.
At the height of the Cold War in 1960, young André Merlaux is hired as a trainee at the French secret service. He soon becomes trapped in a web of global intrigue, absurd bureaucracy, and young love.
The language in this series is relatively simple. Some expressions you’ll hear:
Amazon Prime members can stream these French television series for free in the US. Not a Prime member yet? Click here to start your free 30-day trial.
Unfortunately, Amazon Prime is weak in subtitle options compared to Netflix and usually only offers English.
The compelling story of a small fictional village in Jura during the German occupation of France during World War II. This gripping drama features complex characters, a great script, and nuanced acting.
In June 1940, the village of Villeneuve awakes to the arrival of the German army. The next four years of occupation have a shattering effect on the lives of its inhabitants.
Each season corresponds to about one year of the Occupation. The third season covers the mass deportation of the Jews and is hard to watch. However, it provides important insight into the excruciating moral choices faced by the French in this painful period that left psychological scars still felt today.
Seasons 1 and 3-4 are available free on Prime. You can watch the remainder with a free MHz Choice channel trial.
Some colloquial expressions used on the show:
This addictive police drama won a cult following for its gritty realism, superb acting, and complex storylines. It was broadcast in more than 70 countries.
Warning for sensitive viewers like me: The first episode is excessively gruesome. Hang in there, though. Subsequent episodes, while intense, are less graphic.
The word engrenage literally translates as “cogs” or “gears.” Figuratively, it can also mean a complex mechanism or an inescapable series of events. The English title Spiral derives from the phrase l’engrenage de la violence, a downward spiral of violence.
Lots of French swearing and slang in this noir crime thriller. To keep this post family-friendly, I’ve omitted the most offensive.
Also available on Hulu.
Note: Available free on Amazon with an Sundance Now channel trial.
Intense French spy thriller based on real accounts and inspired by contemporary events.
This well-acted series follows the daily lives and missions of members of the country’s external security service — France’s equivalent of the CIA. It focuses on intelligence officer Guillaume Debailly, code-named “Malotru” (lout or brute in French), who is mysteriously recalled to Paris after six years undercover in Syria.
The French on this show is fairly straightforward. It doesn’t have as much slang as Spiral, for example. Some useful vocabulary:
Have you been paying attention to my slang definitions? If so, test your knowledge with this fun quick quiz. Try not to refer to the lists above! 🙂
How fluent is your French slang?
Have feedback on these French Netflix series or more suggestions? Some of my best French TV show recommendations come from readers!
Also, if you have any suggested additions or improvements for the vocab lists or the slang quiz, I would love to hear them. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
– Banner image: Cécile de France in Dix pour cent (2015)
– French slang quiz images from Plan Coeur © Netflix
Ingrid retired early from software engineering at 43 to devote herself to language learning and travel. Her goal is to learn a new language to fluency every two years. Currently, she speaks English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, and is learning French.