10 Things the Movies Get Wrong About Paris
Paris is the birthplace of cinema, but that doesn’t mean Hollywood always pays its respects to this complex city. In fact, if anything, it tends to not respect it for what it is. It’s time to call out the industry for a few exaggerations, unwarranted stereotypes, and outright lies that bug every Parisian who watches a movie set in their town...
1. Love is not permanently in the air
Sure, many people fall in love in Paris... but the movies would have you believe that Paris is an all-out pheromone factory. To set it straight, no, not every person in Paris is in love, nor are we always fornicating. In fact, there are just as many bitter and hopeless people in Paris as anywhere else. We just have better wine here to compensate.
Notable offenders: Amélie, Before Sunset, Something’s Gotta Give, Moulin Rouge, Paris, Je T’Aime
2. Not everyone is dressed to appear in Vogue
Hepburn would also have you believe that Paris is just one big, winding, concrete catwalk. Now granted, people do dress well here, but for every Chanel suit, there’s a pair of baggy sweatpants and a dirty tee shirt to follow. Maybe tourists turn a blind eye to it, but if you look, you’ll find poorly dressed Parisians. Everywhere.
Notable offenders: Funny Face, The Devil Wears Prada, Passport to Paris, Le Divorce
3. Not everyone is drinking wine all the time
Actually... we kind of are.
Notable offenders: None, everyone kind of hits the nail on the head here
4. Classy waiters
Movies always show waiters in near-tuxedo attire. Plus, they’re always men, white, slightly snooty, and stunningly professional. This is not entirely accurate. Women actually do work in restaurants, and in most local places the servers mainly wear normal clothing, jeans, and tee shirts.
Notable offenders: Almost any movie with a restaurant scene
5. The streets are not filled with accordion music
What movie set in Paris doesn’t include some sweeping vista of the city with gentle accordion music playing in the background? It’s just so Paris... right? Well, while several noble accordions do probably exist in Paris, they are hardly the soundtrack of the locals’ lives. The real sounds are more of a mix between ambulances, car horns, scooters with broken mufflers, monthly air-raid siren tests, and the neighbors upstairs who just will not be quiet, like ever. Seriously, are they dropping bowling balls up there?
Notable offenders: Something’s Gotta Give, Anastasia, Amélie
6. Parisians, rude?
Sometimes Parisians are rude, but it’s not like it’s the default setting. Like New Yorkers, the vast majority of the population gets stuck with an undeserved label because of Meg Ryan (and a few others).
Notable offenders: French Kiss, National Lampoon’s European Vacation
7. The Eiffel Tower is not visible from every part of Paris
Oh God, every movie. Even ones not set in Paris.
Notable offenders: All movies past, present, and future set in Paris
8. Some Americans can, in fact, speak French without a horrible accent
Sure, it’s used for comic effect, but Hollywood makes it seem like there’s not a foreigner alive who can at least pass for French Canadian. Many can actually speak passable French.
Notable offenders: Paris, Je T’Aime, Midnight in Paris, An American in Paris, National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Two Days in Paris, Julie and Julia
9. ... and Parisians can speak English without a horrible accent
If you’ve watched a movie in the last 50 years, then you’ll know that Parisians either speak with terrible English accents, or impeccable British accents. Neither is really ever the case. From the court of Versailles to France’s former first lady, the treatment of Parisians speaking English is all over the place.
Notable offenders:Marie Antoinette, Pink Panther
10. Basic geography still applies here
Any local can point out when a film just got the location wrong. Like in The Bourne Identity car chase that took Matt Damon from Belleville to the 16th arrondissement in a matter of seconds? More incredulous is Funny Face when Kay Thompson goes from the center of Paris to Versailles (about an hour’s journey in all) within seconds. During the same sequence, Fred Astaire descends the steps of Montmartre and ends up along the Seine before heading back up to Montmartre.
Notable offenders:The Bourne Identity, Funny Face
Sign up here for our daily Paris email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the City of Light.