An impossibly photogenic city–and the world’s most popular tourist destination–Paris makes a perfect scene for a movie shoot. Writers and directors are in love with the city, immortalizing it in numerous films and books. Some play up its romantic cliché, adding a kitschy “French soundtrack” to their scripts. But Paris is for more than “romantic comedy”. Others choose the Haussmann city for thrillers and fast paced action flicks. These films show off monumental churches, scenic plazas, and elegant bridges. This walk takes us through Paris sites, immortalized in popular movie scenes.
Pont de Grenelle Bridge
The Pont de Grenelle bridge was built during the mid-1960’s. With plain steel design, it’s characteristically unromantic. Midway on the bridge you find a replica of the Statue of Liberty, with the Eiffel Tower towering behind. It creates a nice photo opportunity with two iconic monuments. A major action finale scene from Roman Polanski’s Frantic 1988 film starring Harrison Ford was shot under the bridge. Ford plays an American doctor visiting Paris with his wife who later disappears from their hotel room after picking up the wrong suitcase at the airport. His search for his wife takes him through a dark side of Paris fueled with drugs and crime. The thriller finale takes place just under the Statue of Liberty replica with a shootout between Arab and Israeli agents.
Pont de Bir-Hakeim Bridge
Movies: Last Tango in Paris, Inception
Another bridge, the Pont de Bir Hakeim has been featured in many films. This beautiful two level steel bridge was constructed between 1903 and 1905. It’s named after the battle of Bir-Hakeim (1942) fought in Libya between Free French Forces and German Africa Corps. The bridge crosses the river Seine’s île aux Cygnes, a narrow artificial island. On the lookout midway along the bridge you can find the famous statue “La France Renaissante” displaying a triumphant female warrior riding a horse representing France.
This charming and romantic bridge with it’s beautiful archers and street lanterns was chosen as the opening scene of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1972 Last Tango in Paris. You can see Maria Schneider’s character walking past Marlon Brando across the ground level of the bridge. In Christopher Nolan’s 2010 science fiction movie Inception, the bridge is featured in the center of a stunning surreal scene. In the scene Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page characters walk through the bridge while Page’s character creates two mirror walls and moves them, giving the illusion that the bridge contains infinite reflections.
Place de la Concorde
Movie: The Devil Wears Prada
Place de la Concorde is the city’s largest square, situated between Tuileries Garden, Musée de l’Orangerie, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Champs-Élysées, the River Seine and opposite the Invalids. A place of French history and power, Place de la Concorde was an execution site during the French Revolution. Placed at the heart of the square is the Luxor Obelisk, a 3,300 year old Egyptian obelisk gifted to France by Egypt. The obelisk is bordered by two monumental fountains: the Fontaine des Mers is located at the south of the square and the Fontaine des Fleuves at the north. In the film “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) Anne Hathaway arrives in France for Paris fashion week. Disillusioned with her boss and her job, she throws her phone into the fountains at Place de la Concorde.
Pont d’Arcole Bridge
Movie: Something’s Gotta Give
It’s no wonder such a beautifully located bridge as the Pont d’Arcole was chosen as backdrop for a scene in the 2003 American romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give, starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. In the film Jack Nicholson plays Harry, a music mogul who dates young women, while Diane Keaton plays Erica, a renowned playwright. At first they hate each other, but later they have an affair. Then they separate, due to their different philosophies on relationships. After Harry realizes that he is in love with Erica, he flies to Paris where she is celebrating her birthday with her young boyfriend. Heartbroken, he walks across the Pont d’Arcole. With la vie en rose playing in the background, Erica shows up proclaiming her love for him on the bridge. If you want to eat “the best roast chicken in the world”, as mentioned in the film, head out to Le Grand Colbert at 2 Rue Vivienne.
Movies: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Amelie
Victor Hugo’s famous 1883 classic, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame–with Quasimodo the hunchback ringing the Notre-Dame Cathedral bells–was made into many films. Another movie featuring the imposing cathedral is the 2001 Amelie, starring Audrey Tautou. Young Amelie goes to Notre Dame with her mother, but then—in a twist–her mother is killed by a tourist who commits suicide by jumping from the top of the cathedral, 69 meters high.
Place de Furstenberg
Movie: The Age of Innocence
Just a short walk off Boulevard Saint Michelle and its famous café, you will find Place de Furstenberg. Four trees surround a beautiful street light, creating one of Paris’ most picturesque squares. Place de Furstenberg can be seen in the finale of Martin Scorsese’s 1993 The Age of Innocence, based on the Edith Wharton book. The movie, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, as Newland Archer and Michelle Pfeiffer as Ellen Olenska, is set in 19th century New York. Newland falls in love with Olenska, his wife’s cousin. They have an affair, ending when Olenska leaves New York for Europe. Later in life, as a widower, Newland arrives in Paris with his son who takes him to Olenska’s house, the building housing the museum Eugène Delacroix. The final scene shows him sitting in Place de Furstenberg, where he makes a fateful decision not to meet her again.
Movie: The Da Vinci Code
Paris’ second largest church after Notre Dame, the Church of Saint-Sulpice was featured in The Da Vinci Code book and 2006 film, starring Tom Hanks. The film’s popularity renewed an interest at the church, which contains one of the world’s largest organs. However, crews were not actually allowed to film inside, and church scenes were created at an LA movie studio. Da Vinci code fans can find the brass meridian line, the “Rose line” and the Gnomon of Saint-Sulpice inside the Church. On the windows look for the letters “P” and “S” which stands for the “Priory of Sion” in the book, and the ‘SFX” on the marble floor.