Top 5 Famous Black French Actors
If you’re a movie buff, you’ve likely watched a few French movies already. And, if you’re not, you’ve probably heard of some of the more famous films like The Intouchables, Blue is the Warmest Color or La Haine.
If you’re looking for a French movie that stars a Black actor, a good place to start is to learn a little bit more about the most famous Black actors in France. Keep reading for my list of the top 5, and, don’t worry, I’ll also include some of my favorite move recommendations!
1. Omar Sy
First up on my list is one of my personal favorite actors, Omar Sy. Sy began his career almost immediately after he finished high school, and he got his start in stand-up comedy. Early on, he met another comedy named Fred Testot, and the pair would go on to work together for years. If you speak French and are looking for a laugh, I definitely recommend their show, Service après-vente des émissions!
Sy eventually moved onto movies. In 2011, he starred in Intouchables (The Intouchables in English), which tells the story of a quadriplegic who hires an unlikely man (played by Sy) to be his caregiver. Sy’s character has no experience in caregiving and in fact, only applies for the job so that he can continue to collect unemployment. It’s a beautiful film and a must-watch if you want to get to know Sy’s more serious side!
Movie to watch: Intouchables
2. Lucien Jean-Baptiste
Lucien Jean-Baptiste is a French actor, director, and writer. He is most well-known for his voice: he often plays the French voice for English speaking actors like Will Smith, Chris Rock, and Ice Cube in French-dubbed versions of American movies. French fans of the hospital series Scrubs will recognize his voice as the character Christopher Turk!
Jean-Baptiste also starred and directed several French movies. His most famous is perhaps La Première Étoile (Let it Snow in English), which is a comedy about a family who goes skiing for the first time. The film was written and directed by Jean-Baptiste and it is semi-autobiographical. He also plays the main character in the film!
Movie to watch: La Première Étoile
3. Eriq Ebouaney
Have you ever seen the movie about the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba appropriately called Lumumba? If you have, you definitely recognize French actor Eric Ebouaney for his role as the Prime Minister! He excelled in the role and received several accolades for his portrayal of Lumumba in the months leading up to Congo’s independence from Belgium in 1960.
Ebouaney never really showed an interest in acting until he was 30 years old. He decided to leave his job in business and joined a theatre company. Ebouaney has since gone on to star in several French movies as well as English ones. If you’ve seen Kingdom of Heaven with Liam Neeson, Orlando Bloom, and Michael Sheen, you probably recognize him from his role as Firuz as well!
Movie to watch: Lumumba
4. Hubert Koundé
I mentioned the French film La Haine above. It’s sometimes difficult to watch, but I definitely recommend that you do. It tells the story of a group of three friends living in the suburbs of Paris in the 1990s and their struggles. Hubert Koundé, number 4 on my list of famous Black French actors, plays one of the friends (his character is also named Hubert). The film also stars another famous French actor, Vincent Cassel as one of the main characters.
Koundé is also a writer and has written two plays and directed several short films. And, if you have seen the movie The Constant Gardener, which stars Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, you may recognize Koundé from his role as Arnold Bluhm!
Movie to watch: La Haine
5. Thomas Ngijol
The last famous Black French actor on my list is more of a comedian than an actor, but he has also starred in both movies and television. And, don’t we all need a little bit of humor in our lives anyway?!
Thomas Ngijol translates jokes, does stand-up, acts, and directs. Like Omar Sy, Ngijol got his start in stand-up. He went on to help found the Jamel Comedy Club, a famous French comedy show that actually featured Sy at one point!
In 2010 he moved onto cinema and starred in the movie Case départ, a controversial comedy about slavery in The Antilles in the 18th century. Despite the sensitive subject matter, the film was a hit amongst viewers and critics. Ngijol co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in the movie, alongside his partner in comedy another French actor Fabrice Éboué. After the success of Case départ, Ngijol went on to star in other comedies such as Vilaine. He tried his hand at writing and directing on his own with the film Fastlife, but it wasn’t as well-received as his other projects.
Movie to watch: Case départ
This list is a great starting point if you’re looking to watch more movies that feature Black French actors! As mentioned, my personal favorite is Omar Sy but any of the actors on this list are a pleasure to watch. Pop your popcorn, cue up one of the movies on this list, and get comfortable.
If you’re in Paris and want some more movie advice, why not join one of our walking tours to get some tips from our local guides? Click here to see all of our tour options and to make your booking.