6 Best Movies to Watch by Adèle Exarchopoulos

Staff & contributors

More simply called La Vie d'Adèle in its native language, this French coming-of-age movie was hugely successful when it came out and was probably one of the most talked-about films of the time. On the one hand, the usual puritans came to the fore, criticizing the lengthy and graphic sex scenes. On the other hand, Julie Maroh, who wrote the source material that inspired the script, denounced Franco-Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche for directing with his d*ck, if you don't mind me saying so, while also being an on-set tyrant. Whatever you make of this in hindsight, the only way to know is to watch this powerfully acted drama about the titular Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and her infatuation with Emma, a free-spirited girl with blue hair, played by Léa Seydoux. The film beautifully and realistically portrays Adele's evolution from a teenage high-school girl to a grown, confident woman. As their relationship matures, so does Adèle, and she slowly begins to outgrow her sexual and philosophical mentor. Whatever your final verdict on the controversial sex scene, Blue Is the Warmest Color is without doubt an outstanding film as are the performances from Exarchopoulos and Séydoux.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Alain Duclos, Alika Del Sol, Alma Jodorowsky, Anne Loiret, Aurélien Recoing, Aurelie Lemanceau, Aurélien Recoing, Baya Rehaz, Benjamin Siksou, Benoît Pilot, Benoît Pilot, Bouraouïa Marzouk, Camille Rutherford, Catherine Salée, Catherine Salée, Éric Paul, Fanny Maurin, Halima Slimani, Jérémie Laheurte, Jérémie Laheurte, Judith Hoersch, Justine Nissart, Karim Saidi, Klaim Nivaux, Léa Seydoux, Maelys Cabezon, Maud Wyler, Mona Walravens, Quentin Médrinal, Salim Kechiouche, Samir Bella, Sandor Funtek

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

Rating: NC-17

An all-female action comedy that doesn’t get self-serious about the way it’s subverting the genre — Wingwomen feels like a breath of fresh air. It wisely grasps that plot isn’t paramount for a movie like this, and so it joyously dunks on cerebral scenarios with its unabashedly silly story convolutions, like when its professional thieves take a brief pause from their momentous One Last Job™️ to sail to Italy and exact bloody, flamenco-delivered revenge on the gangsters who killed their beloved rabbit. Exotic Mediterranean location-hopping isn’t the only way Wingwomen milks Netflix’s finance department for all it can get, either: director-star Mélanie Laurent also packs in all manner of stunts, from spectacular base-jumping sequences to dramatic drone shootouts. 

For all its breezy style, though, there is real heart here, and not the kind that feels crafted by an algorithm. It’s true that a late twist unwisely uses the movie’s embrace of implausibility for emotional ends, but otherwise, the relationship between its professional thieves — ostensibly platonic but very much coded otherwise (a la Bend It Like Beckham) — has surprisingly sincere warmth. Thanks to the cast’s natural chemistry and characters that feel human despite the ridiculous plot, Wingwomen is much more moving than you might believe possible for a Netflix action-comedy.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Annick Roux, Aurélien Gabrielli, Camille Verschuere, Felix Moati, Foued Nabba, Isabelle Adjani, Jean-François Perrone, Jean-Philippe Ricci, Leona D'Huy, Manon Bresch, Mélanie Laurent, Meriem Serbah, Myriam Azencot, Philippe Katerine

Director: Mélanie Laurent

Rating: R

The curious link between smell and memory forms the basis of this intriguing — albeit uneven — exploration of the supernatural ties between mother and child. Eight-year-old Vicky (Sally Dramé), daughter of the unhappily married Joanne (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Jimmy (Moustapha Mbengue), has a sense of smell so fine-tuned she can identify a catalog of notes in any scent. Smells are so evocative for Vicky that they can also send her hurtling into someone’s past, like her mother’s thorny teenage history with Jimmy’s sister Julia (Swala Emati).

The film makes mostly effective use of its fascinating premise and brilliant (partly non-professional) cast. Set in the glacial Alps, the film dives under icy exteriors to find the tension smoldering between the family and their tight-knit community. Like Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman, it uses time-bending magical realism to articulate the elemental force of maternal bonds and a child’s shock at realizing their parents led a full life before them. It’s less illuminating about its central conceit, though, and some of the less fantastical elements are also underdone, coming off melodramatic in a way that clashes with its overall understatedness. Despite this, The Five Devils is a bewitching watch, particularly in its goosebump-inducing final shot.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Antonia Buresi, Daphne Patakia, Hugo Dillon, Moustapha Mbengue, Noée Abita, Patrick Bouchitey, Sally Dramé, Stéphanie Lhorset, Swala Emati

Director: Léa Mysius

At 80 minutes, Smoking Causes Coughing is another slice of perfectly paced absurdist fun from Quentin Dupieux, the zany mind behind Rubber (in which a car tire turns serial killer) and Deerskin, the tale of a motorcycle jacket that wants to rule the world. This time around, the protagonists aren’t inanimate objects: they’re Tobacco Force, a Power Rangers-style band of lightly idiotic superheroes who harness the toxic power of cigarettes to defeat Earth’s enemies, and are each named after one of their harmful components (Benzene, Nicotine, Mercury, Ammonia, and Methanol). They’re led by Chief Didier, a rat who inexplicably dribbles green goo — and, even more inexplicably, casts an intense erotic spell over Tobacco Force’s female members.

Smoking Causes Coughing leans deliriously, hilariously far into its absurdist premise. Citing a lack of “group cohesion,” Chief Didier sends the Force to the woods on a team-building retreat. While they swap “scary” stories over a campfire, however, a reptilian galactic supervillain plots to put Earth “out of its misery” because it’s a “sick planet” (can’t really argue with that). Full of insane plot twists and without a tired trope in sight, Smoking Causes Coughing never approaches the realm of predictability — no small achievement in this era of superhero fatigue.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Alain Chabat, Anaïs Demoustier, Anthony Sonigo, Benoît Poelvoorde, Blanche Gardin, Charlotte Laemmel, David Marsais, Doria Tillier, Elodie Mareau, Frédéric Bonpart, Gilles Lellouche, Grégoire Ludig, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Jérôme Niel, José Da Silva, Jules Dhios Francisco, Julia Faure, Marie Bunel, Olivier Afonso, Oulaya Amamra, Raphaël Quenard, Sava Lolov, Vincent Lacoste

Director: Quentin Dupieux

A great example of frank, emotionally honest filmmaking with three totally vulnerable lead performances, Passages takes a subject that can so easily be reduced into clichés—infidelity—and approaches it with a genuine sense of melancholy. It can still be frustrating to watch fully developed adults refuse to communicate more clearly about their feelings, but director and co-writer Ira Sachs also understands the nuanced gender dynamic that informs some of these bad decisions. Tomas understands that his commitment to Martin may not give him the "easy" satisfaction of a traditional romance, but there is also a sense that his attraction to Agathe (supposedly the first time he's truly fallen for a woman) might be more of an impulsive attempt to settle for something safer, something that he has more control over.

Ben Whishaw is reliably sympathetic as Martin, and Adèle Exarchopoulos carries herself with the unembellished authenticity that many of the best French actors do. And Franz Rogowski makes Tomas both entirely pathetic and still so very heartbreaking in the predicament he's put himself into. There are no cheap histrionics or outbursts of emotion here—just performers living fully within each moment and selling us on the situation they're in.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Arcadi Radeff, Ben Whishaw, Caroline Chaniolleau, Erwan Kepoa Falé, Franz Rogowski, Olivier Rabourdin, Radostina Rogliano, Théo Cholbi, William Nadylam

Director: Ira Sachs

Rating: NR

With every chaotic fight scene, ridiculous stunts, and crazy scheme, All-Time High is a wild ride where two scammers lie to each other and fall in love. It’s fun to see these irresponsible people reap the consequences, and it’s fun to see the way Youssef and Stéphanie recognize that they’ve met their match, made all the more fun with the natural chemistry between Nassim Lyes and Zoé Marchal. That being said, the film’s irreverent humor depends a bit too much on stereotypes and gags, and can be a bit too specific for viewers outside of France.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Adrien Essamir, Alexandre Kominek, Ciryl Gane, Guillaume Canet, Gustave Kervern, Hakim Jemili, Hedi Bouchenafa, Ichem Bougheraba, Kenza Fortas, Nassim Lyes, Panayotis Pascot, Yassine Stein, Yousef Ramal, Yovel Lewkowski, Zoé Marchal

Director: Julien Royal