If you are looking for a little historical drama on the French Revolution, these are the best movies of all time, according to IMDb.
The French Revolution is one of the most popular eras in history when it comes to storytelling. Lasting from 1789 to the late 1790s, it was characterized by French citizens redesigning their nation’s politics and kicking out age-old institutions like absolute monarchies. The upheaval was mostly brought about by the poor policies of King Louis XVI.
The French Revolution also brought about the rise of legendary French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte. And while hundreds of films about the era have been made in the past, not all of them are worthy of investing two hours or so into. According to IMDb ratings, these are the best movies about the revolution.
10 Scaramouche (1952) – 7.5
The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Technicolor swashbuckler film was adapted from a similarly titled novel by Rafael Sabatini. It is also considered a remake of the 1923 film and critics viewed it as way superior in plot and acting performances.
The conflict in the film is brought about by love. During the French Revolution, two noblemen find themselves involved with the same woman. One has been ordered to marry her while the other is deeply in love with her. When the former kills the brother of the former, they become sworn enemies and do everything they can to kill each other.
9 Marat/Sade (1967) – 7.5
Marat/Sade was adapted from a similarly titled play by Peter Weiss. It was well-received by critics, with about 92% of the reviews being positive. It was also nominated for plenty of awards, including Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars.
The plot? While incarcerated at the Charenton Asylum, controversial writer Marquis de Sade stages a play and uses his fellow inmates as the cast. The hospital’s director Monsieur Coulmier believes the play will be instrumental in suppressing the French Revolution but the play influences the inmates to bring a form of chaos he never expected.
8 Danton (1983) – 7.5
Danton is based on the 1929 play The Danton Case by Stanisława Przybyszewska. Even though the film was made by Polish director Andrzej Wajda, all the cast members are French.
The events take place during the ‘Reign Of Terror” in the French revolution. During this period, many people were publicly executed for petty crimes. When the fast-rising leader Georges Danton returns from the countryside, he begins campaigning against the executions. This leads to him being targeted as well.
7 Les Misérables (2012) – 7.6
Les Misérables was a hit with both audiences and critics. It grossed $441 million globally and went on to be nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture. It ended up winning three.
The story follows a prisoner named Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who gets released by a law enforcement officer named Javert (Russell Crowe) but he is unable to find work so he becomes a thief. After a near-death experience, he changes and adopts a girl. But things become complicated when the girl falls in love with a revolutionary named Marius. This musical is iconic for a reason.
6 The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) – 7.7
It’s not common to find a single film that’s based on two novels but here’s an exception. The Scarlet Pimpernel was adapted from The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) as well as Eldorado (1913). Both books were written by Baroness Emmuska Orczy.
The plot? An English nobleman takes up a secret identity and decides to save French aristocrats from public execution during the revolution. But when he meets and falls in love with a French actress, his efforts become complicated because the actress is involved with some very dangerous people.
5 A Tale Of Two Cities (1935) – 7.8
A Tale of Two Cities was adapted from Charles Dickens’ 1859 historical novel. The plot which is set in England and France touches on the evils that happened during the revolution. The story takes place over several years (before and during the revolution).
The movie received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It is also widely regarded as the best ever adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel. A Tale of Two Cities also performed well at the box office, grossing $2.3 million. At the time, this was considered a very impressive figure.
4 Saint-Just And The Force of Things (1975) – 7.8
Saint-Just And The Things Of The Force, also known as Saint-Just Ou La Force Des Choses is a French TV film that was directed by Pierre Cardinal. It is based on a similarly-titled book by Albert Ollivier.
It tells the story of Jacobian leader Louis Antoine de Saint-Just during the French revolution. Saint-Just moves to Paris during the war and his talents as an orator are quickly noticed. He goes on to work for the government where he leads the arrest of many revolutionary leaders.
3 Horatio Hornblower: The Wrong War (1999) – 8.0
The TV film follows Lt. Hornblower who is tasked with leading a company of British troops and French nationalists to fight in the revolution. But when a French commander begins committing crimes against humanity, Hornblower is forced to take action.
Horatio Hornblower: The Wrong War was based on a chapter from the novel Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester. The major difference between the film and the book is the introduction of the French schoolteacher named Mariette who eventually falls in love with Hornblower.
2 Napoleon (1927) – 8.1
The silent-era French film was considered a game-changer at the time of its release due to its fluid and adaptive camera motion at a time when camera shots were normally static. Many techniques were popularized by the film including close-ups, superimpositions, and split screens.
Even though the film covers most of Napoleon’s life, most of the plot touches on his days as a young army lieutenant during the French revolution. The director Abel Gance initially wanted to make six continuous films about Napoleon but decided to make just one due to budgetary constraints.
1 The French Revolution (1989) – 8.4
The film alternatively known as La Révolution Française focusses on telling an unbiased story about the revolution. Running for almost 360 minutes, it touches on everything from the Estates-General to the death of French lawyer and revolutionary leader Maximilien de Robespierre.
With a budget of around 300 million francs, it became one of the most expensive foreign films ever made at the time of its release. The French Revolution was made available in French, English, and German languages.
NEXT: 10 Best New French Extremity Films For The Curious (Ranked by IMDb)
5 Ways Lois Lane Is Better In Man of Steel (& 5 She’s Better In Superman Returns)
About The Author