6 Iconic Jean-Luc Godard Films Everyone Should Watch At Least Once

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Everyone should see these cult films at least once.

Breathless (1960)

Godard's first feature film starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg literally turned the world of cinema on its head, making 1960 a reference point in the history of the French New Wave.

After seeing the film for the first time, French film historian Henri Langlois famously wrote that cinema had been divided into "before" and "after" Godard. Breathless tells the story of Michel — a young criminal who tries to imitate Humphrey Bogart's famous film characters. Penniless and pursued by the police, he returns to his American girlfriend Patricia, a journalism student. Although she constantly doubts the reasonableness of her actions, love eventually proves stronger than common sense.

Vivre Sa Vie (1962)

In Vivre Sa Vie, Godard masterfully dissects contemporary bourgeois society, exposing their vices and ills.

It is the first time the director used the cinéma vérité techniques in his film, combining some features of fiction and documentary filmmaking. Anna Karina, who was the director's muse and wife at that time, played the title role. The film consists of 12 novellas, in which Nana, a Parisian saleswoman who wants to be an actress, becomes a prostitute.

Contempt (1963)

The 1963 film, which is very reminiscent of Fellini's comedy-drama 8½, is based on Alberto Moravia's novel of the same name.

Godard criticizes the film industry and explores complex human relationships in Contempt. A film is being made in Capri: the director is at odds with the producer, and the screenwriter is jealous of the producer's wife. The characters' emotions are put to the test, and each of them has to answer the question of what cinema is all about. Incidentally, this is Godard's first film with a million-dollar budget, and Brigitte Bardot's casting in the lead role ensured the film's worldwide success.

Band of Outsiders (1964)

A noir drama that Godard himself described as "Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka."

The main character, Odile, meets two young men, Arthur and Franz, in an English class and gets involved in a robbery with them. As one of the most iconic films in the director's career, Band of Outsiders became a source of inspiration for many films that followed. For example, the scene in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers where the characters run through the Louvre holding hands references a scene from Godard's film.

Alphaville (1965)

Alphaville is perhaps the greatest French dystopia of the last century.

The sci-fi neo-noir film depicts a grim metropolis controlled by the Alpha 60 computer. The residents of Alphaville are not allowed to show their emotions or manifest their individuality in any other way. To heighten the dramatic effect of the image, Godard shot at night on highly sensitive film and with virtually no artificial lighting.

Masculin Féminin (1966)

Paul meets Madeleine in a café, and they have a conversation — a strange and seemingly abstract one, as you would expect in a Godard film.

Paul is an intellectual and a hero of his time — he writes poetry and is fond of leftist ideas — so he looks upon Madeleine with a bit of scorn. For him, she lives a comfortable and conformist "feminine" life, building a career as a pop singer, going shopping, and trying to look like girls in the ads. On the contrary, the "masculine" life is full of protest, revolution, and resentful irritation against social harmony — and that is the life chosen by Paul and Godard himself.