5 Iconic French Actresses from the Past

The long history of French cinema has produced a fair amount of iconic French actresses who’ve starred in the dozens of magnificent French films out there. Here are the French actresses who’ve participated in the best French movies and gained star status in their own right. These iconic French film actresses are beloved across the country, and even around the world, too! 

French Film Actresses

These are the most iconic French film actresses to know if you love classic French cinema. Each of these actresses has made her mark on the silver screen in France and abroad. If you love old French movies, you’ll probably recognize a name or two!

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot is one of the most iconic French actresses. Bardot is an unmistakable blonde often known as the Marilyn Monroe of France. Born on September 28, 1934, she was mostly referred to by her initials, B.B. She was born and raised in Paris, and before starting her acting career, she was an aspiring ballerina.

Bardot started acting in 1952, and she is famous for portraying sexually charged personae. She became a sex symbol in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to her portrayal of femme fatale characters in popular French movies. Her characters often lived upper-class hedonistic lifestyles.

She is best known for her role in And God Created Woman (1956), a film by Roger Vadim, and Contempt (1963), by Jean-Luc Godard. Bardot left the entertainment industry in 1973, but her image remains iconic.

Catherine Deneuve

Catherine Fabienne Dorleac, professionally known as Catherine Deneuve is also among the iconic French actresses. She was born on October 22, 1943, to some actor parents. Catherine made her debut in the film industry in 1957 at a young age.

Besides acting, Deneuve is an occasional singer, model, and producer. Catherine’s breakthrough in the movie industry was through The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a musical, in 1964. She’s also known for her roles in Belle de Jour (1967), The Last Metro (1980) and Indochine (1992). Her acting skills have earned several awards.

Anna Karina

Anna Karina, whose original name was Hanne Karin Bayer, was born on September 22, 1940. Karina was a Danish-French actress, writer, director, and singer. Her outstanding roles in the French entertainment industry made her one of the most iconic French actresses.

After high school, Karina worked as a model for European fashion magazines and appeared in a couple of industrial and independent films. Her debut in the French cinema industry came when she moved to Paris and met French new wave director, Jean-Luc Godard. He cast her as a woman who wishes to become pregnant in A Woman is a Woman (1961).

After a stellar performance, Godard continued working with Karina on French new wave movies like Vivre Sa Vie (1962), The Little Soldier (1963), Band of Outsiders (1964), Pierrot le Fou (1965) and Made in U.S.A. (1966). Karina died on December 14, 2019.

Jeanne Moreau

Jeanne Moreau was a French actress, director, screenwriter, singer, and socialite. Moreau was born on January 23, 1928, and she made her theatrical debut in 1947. She started with small film roles in 1949 but eventually became one of the most sought-after actresses.

Jeanne Moreau is best known for her roles in Elevator to the Gallows (1958), La Notte (1961), and Jules et Jim (1962). Apart from being a star during this era, Moreau continued her career in the 21st century, which has seen her win several awards. Moreau died on July 31, 2017.

Isabelle Adjani

Isabelle Adjani is a beloved French actress from Paris. Her career has been extraordinary and she is the only person to have won five César Awards (the French version of the Oscars) in their lifetime. 

Adjani was born on June 27, 1955 in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, France. She’s also a talented singer. Adjani started acting in amateur theater at the age of 12, and by 14, she starred in Le Petit Bougnat (1970), her first motion picture. Since then, she has appeared in 30 films. Isabelle Adjani is best known for her roles in Possession (1981) and One Deadly Summer (1983).


Not only have these iconic French actresses shaped French cinema, but they’ve also had a huge influence on French fashion and style. Many of their outfits in these movies have been replicated by French girls for decades. These iconic film stars have certainly made an indelible mark on French culture forever.

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