When the daring, revolutionary French director Jean-Luc Godard died on Tuesday, he left behind a body of work that helped change the very way that movies are thought of and talked about.
After a successful career as a film critic at the influential magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, Godard entered the world of filmmaking already a rebel. Pioneering the film movement known as La Nouvelle Vague, or the French New Wave, Godard displayed the axiom that in order to break the rules, one must understand them, per NPR.
He broke down the language of cinema in order to demonstrate how arbitrary many of those rules are, and expanded the potential of movies. With his stylistic experimentation, disregard for convention and radical politics, Godard inspired generations of filmmakers to come, such as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar-Wai.
Here are five of Godard’s most influential films and where you can currently find them to stream.
5 Jean-Luc Godard films
- Breathless (à bout de souffle) — 1960 (not rated)
Godard once said, “All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl” and he proved it with his debut film “Breathless.” A play on the film noirs and crime thrillers of the era, “Breathless” is about a cool, disaffected, Humphrey Bogart-fanboy named Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who, after killing a policeman hides out in Paris with his maybe-girlfriend, the American Patricia (Jean Seberg).
“Breathless” isn’t as interested in watching the character shoot guns and commit crimes as it is in creating an attitude and energy. It is a movie that feels alive. Whenever Godard and his editor became bored with a scene they jump-cut to something more interesting, regardless of whether the action matches or this breaks a cinematic rule.
Even if the innovative jump cuts and references to other movies don’t look as innovative in 2022 as they were in 1960, there’s still an energy flowing through “Breathless” that tells you that rules are being broken. It is a movie that is sophisticated and juvenile, audacious and casual, aggressive, playful, exciting and extremely cool. The pieces of media that would not exist with “Breathless” are too numerous to list.
This movie is not rated. Nothing too explicit.
2. A Woman is a Woman (Une Femme est une femme) — 1961 (not rated)
A satire of MGM Musicals, “A Woman is a Woman” follows a dancer (the effervescent Anna Karina, Godard’s first wife) trying to decide which of two men to rope into giving her a child. In Godard’s second film, he plays around with tropes and expectations even more than in “Breathless,” cutting the sound in the middle of musical numbers, having characters directly address the camera and break the fourth wall in other forms.
With “A Woman is a Woman” Godard breaks down the movie musical, all while asking, why shouldn’t life be like a musical? It’s playful, warm and charming; a sugary bon-bon of a movie. “A Woman is a Woman” also features an incredibly funny sound design.
This movie is not rated, but features brief nudity.
3. Band of Outsiders (Bande à part) — 1964 (not rated)
“Band of Outsiders” is all charm. It’s light and effortless, with a hipster indie record store energy flowing through it.
In “Band of Outsiders” two bored young men become friends with a young woman (Anna Karina) in their English Language class.
Together the three come up with a plot to steal a large pile of money from the young woman’s home. “Band of Outsiders” is almost a hang-out movie, as most of it is watching as the three friends goof around, such as doing the Madison and racing through the Louvre in two iconic scenes.
This movie is not rated. Nothing too explicit.
Not available to rent or stream anywhere.
4. Alphaville — 1965 (not rated)
A significant influence on “Blade Runner,” “Alphaville” follows the private detective Lemy Caution through a cyberpunk dystopian world where emotions have been outlawed.
Caution has been sent to find the missing Professor von Braun who invented the computer Alpha 60, which controls Alphaville. Made without any special props or futuristic sets, “Alphaville” was filmed in the streets and office buildings of Paris, finding eerie, uncanny touches of unreality in our own world.
The mixture of detective noir and comic book pulp is vaporous and nightmarish. There is no other movie that looks or feels like “Alphaville,” though many have tried.
This movie is not rated, but features brief nudity and brief strong language.
Available to stream: Kanopy.
5. Masculin Féminin — 1966 (not rated)
“The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola.” With a cynical, almost journalistic eye, Godard captures the anxieties, preoccupations and interests of Parisian youth, observing the tensions that will lead to the May 1968 revolt.
“Masculin Féminin” has no plot. It’s made up of vignettes and talking head interviews, but it adds up to something powerful and revealing. As it follows around youthful wannabe anarchist Robert (a Timothee Chalamet-like Jean-Pierre Leaud), the movies listens as the young people discuss music, movies, fashion, politics and love.
It’s challenging, heady and violent, but leads you in with a melancholy tenderness and wild sense of humor.
This movie is not rated, but features frank sexual discussions.