France’s Best Actresses – in honor of the 76th Cannes Film Festival

by olivia hoffman

The 76th Cannes Film Festival is officially underway! One of the most prestigious events in the film industry – held annually in the French Riviera – showcases and celebrates the best in international cinema. From highly anticipated premiers to glamorous gowns on the red carpet, the creative world’s eyes turn to the Côte d’Azur to see what the influential movie industry will impress us with next.


Scores of directors and actors have made their mark and established a name for themselves – or enhanced their already impressive repertoires – with this very event. The official poster of this year’s festival features none other than the iconic Catherine Deneuve, who opened the ceremony this week, symbolizing the great contributions that France has made to the film industry.

The 76th Cannes Film Festival – Opening ceremony and screening of the film “Jeanne du Barry” Out of competition – Cannes, France, May 16, 2023. Catherine Deneuve and her daughter Chiara Mastroianni on stage. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

As the 2023 Cannes Film Festival kicks off, we are taking this opportunity to honor the history of French cinema by paying homage to some of the best French actresses who have graced the silver screen. From the iconic faces of the early days of cinema to the modern-day stars, here are some of the most notable French actresses who have made an indelible mark on the world of cinema.

Catherine Deneuve

Starting, of course, with the woman of the hour, Catherine Deneuve is one of the most iconic and prolific French actresses in cinema history. Known for her ethereal beauty and enigmatic screen presence, Deneuve has been a fixture in French cinema for over six decades, appearing in her first movie when she was only 13. She has starred in over 100 films, including classics like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Belle de Jour, and Indochine, and she claims that her most recent release in 2021, Peaceful, “changed her outlook on life.” Deneuve’s performances as well as her timeless beauty and effortless elegance continue to captivate audiences around the world.

Brigitte Bardot

Another legendary French actress is blonde bombshell Brigitte Bardot. A former model and dancer, Bardot became one of the most popular actors of the 1950s and 1960s. Her sultry looks and bold personality made her an international icon, and her performances in films like And God Created Woman, Contempt, and Viva Maria! cemented her status as a French cinema legend. Bardot’s career may have been short-lived, as she quit acting in the 1970s to focus on animal activism, but her impact on French cinema has endured.

Marion Cotillard

Getting her start in cinema around the end of the 1990s, Marion Cotillard has become one of the most talented actresses of her generation. Her performances have earned her many awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. Cotillard is known for her ability to disappear into her roles, becoming the characters she portrays onscreen. She has also starred in international blockbusters like Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Midnight in Paris. Her captivating screen presence and versatile acting abilities have made her a favorite of audiences and critics alike.

Isabelle Huppert

One of the most respected actresses in French cinema, Isabelle Huppert is known for her fearlessness and willingness to take on challenging roles, often portraying cold and disdainful characters. Appearing in over 120 films, she has won numerous awards for her performances, including the two Best Actress awards at the Cannes Film Festival for The Piano Teacher in 2001 and for Violette Nozière in 1978. Huppert’s ability to convey complex emotions through her characters has made her a highly revered figure in the industry.

Audrey Tautou

A darling of modern French cinema, Audrey Tautou first gained international recognition for her performance as the titular character in the iconic Parisian film Amélie. Her charming screen presence and whimsical performance captivated audiences and earned her critical acclaim. Tautou has also starred in Hollywood films like The Da Vinci Code, Priceless, and Coco Before Chanel. Her ability to infuse her performances with both humor and heart has made her a favorite of audiences worldwide.

As the 76th Cannes Film Festival unfolds, watch for these iconic actresses on and off the screen!

Read next: 8 Influential French Women

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