New Wave cinema is arguably the biggest film movement to come out of France and changed the way we look at cinema. Beginning with a bunch of pioneering French filmmakers in the 1950s and ‘60s, New Wave cinema was preoccupied with social and political issues of the time. Many of these films were shot minimalistically and were experimental with regards to editing and visual style. Some of the biggest names in the New Wave movement include Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Andre Bazin. Intrigued? Here is a list of some of the most influential New Wave movies ever to get started with.
Les Bonnes Femmes (1960)
Claude Chabrol was among the most prolific of the New Wave directors, and this is arguably his best film. Chabrol was more interested in traditional themes than many of his contemporaries, but this, his fourth feature, was a departure from the spy genre he loved so much. This black comedy in Paris follows four single women through the murky world of dating, with plenty of comedy and irony thrown in. An underrated gem in a sometimes saturated market.
Considered the breakout film of French New Wave cinema, Breathless is regularly cited among the most accomplished films of all time. There’s no doubting that this and Weekend made Godard the poster child for the New Wave movement. Often credited as the film that changed cinema, Breathless tells the story of a French criminal and his American girlfriend hiding out in Paris. There are classic Godard hallmarks here, such as the nonchalant storytelling, breaking the rules, and use of handheld cameras. Love it or loathe it, you can’t dispute its influence – a seminal film.
Lola is one of the most iconic offerings from the French New Wave movement. The tale of a cabaret dancer, and the men she crosses paths with is one of the more interesting films from this time. The naturalism on display here is one of the key components in making this a wonderfully New Wave movie. This dreamy, romantic calling-card movie is a standout in the era and sets director Jacques Demy aside as one of the great dreamers of this era.
Elevator to the Gallows (1958)
This might be a more unusual choice, but this is one of the best movies to come out of the New Wave era. While its director never classed it as a New Wave movie, Elevator to the Gallows is important because it bridged the gap and helped transition French cinema from the classic period into the New Wave era, and for that, it makes the list. This Hitchcockian crime-thriller is actually a really tight, well put together flick that flies by in style. With some excellent talent (Jeanne Moreau), and a score by Miles Davis, this is a real treat for movie buffs.
New wave cinema is one of the most important movements in film and showed alternative ways of making movies. With a focus on lower budgets and more naturalistic filming styles, New Wave film broke a lot of new ground. In fact, we can still feel the influence and impact of French New Wave cinema today.