10 Best Agnès Varda Movies, Ranked According to Letterboxd

Movies



French director and photographer Agnès Varda may not be around anymore, but her work will endlessly remain some of the best, most visually alluring, and touching pieces of art that have ever graced the big screen. An extremely gifted precursor of the French New Wave style during the 1960s, Varda successfully made a name for herself by boldly carving her filmmaking legacy throughout the years, enduring as one of the most iconic and groundbreaking movie directors today.


Among many of her achievements is her New York Film Festival opening; in 1977, she became the first female director to open the acclaimed festival with her beloved film, One Sings, the Other Doesn’t. To this day, Varda’s realistic-toned films are known for depicting the challenges faced by women and their vulnerabilities, in addition to other themes. From La Pointe-Courte to The Beaches of Agnès, these are the best Agnès Varda films that everyone should watch at least once, based on their Letterboxd scores.


10 ‘La Pointe Courte’ (1955)

Letterboxd Rating: 3.7/5

This beautifully captured 1955 feature follows a couple whose marriage is slowly deteriorating. In hopes of solving their marital issues, Lui (Philippe Noiret) and Elle (Silvia Monfort) head to a small French fishing village. La Pointe Courte alternates between two stories; apart from centering around the couple, it also follows a few fishermen who are fighting the health board and the fisheries department about the ban to fish.

A gorgeous and uniquely stylized documentary-like movie, La Pointe Courte is, similar to many others directed by the undeniably talented Agnès Varda, undoubtedly a French New Wave essential for anyone who is trying to familiarize themselves with the film movement. Of course, it had to take a place among the filmmaker’s essential films, as it is quite an impressive directorial debut and an incredibly accomplished film.

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9 ‘Mur Murs’ (1981)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.0/5

Mur Murs is a 1981 documentary by Varda that intriguingly depicts the stunning murals of Los Angeles, California through the unique and magical eyes of the acclaimed director. Exploring the city’s many cultures, the film features different styles of art, including graffiti and photorealism.

It is hard to remain indifferent to Varda’s art, and Mur Murs highlights that once more, as it transpires the filmmaker’s genuine compassion for the subjects she enjoys through the screen. Overall, the 1981 film is a culturally rich documentary that everyone should check at least once; it truly beams with meaning while reflecting on the importance of art, shining with the filmmaker’s characteristic personality throughout.

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8 ‘One Sings, the Other Doesn’t’ (1977)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.0/5

Set in 1970s France, One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (originally titled L’une chante l’autre pas) follows the intertwined lives of two women during the groovy era, where the country was set against the progress of the women’s movement in which Agnès Varda herself was involved. Pomme (Valérie Mairesse) helps Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard) get an abortion, and even after the two characters lose contact, they meet again several years later.

Exploring the enduring friendship between the two characters, this wonderfully crafted 1977 feminist tale invites viewers to take a look inside the lives of two amazing female protagonists while reflecting on womanhood, motherhood, self-discovery, and female empowerment. Despite all the poignant universal themes that it tackles, One Sings, the Other Doesn’t is still a somewhat lighthearted watch that keeps audiences’ interest throughout without ever feeling boring or monotonous.

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7 ‘Le bonheur’ (1965)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.1/5

This enthralling film follows François (Jean-Claude Drouot), a young carpenter who is married to beautiful Thérèse (Claire Drouot), with whom he shares two small children and lives an uncomplicated life. Still, one day François meets Émilie (Marie-France Boyer), an attractive clerk in the local post office, and the two fall head over heels for each other, slowly turning into lovers.

Featuring a stunning palette, this delightful little film is assuredly one of the most gorgeous pieces of cinema to date (though the same could be said about a lot of Varda’s works). With a cheerful atmosphere and dazzling frames in composition and color, Le bonheur, which is often regarded as one of the filmmaker’s masterpieces, is a wonderful piece of artsy filmmaking with a provocative plot.

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6 ‘Vagabond’ (1985)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.1/5

Vagabond (original title: Sans toit ni loi) depicts the events that lead to the death of a young vagabond woman during the winter months in the south of France. At the start of the film, Mona Bergeron (Sandrine Bonnaire) is found frozen in a ditch in the French countryside. Throughout the movie, viewers get flashes back to the weeks leading up to her tragic death, which overlapped with her ever-lasting desire to be free.

There’s no doubt that the 1985 film is a moving one. Centering around a devastating tale, Varda’s highly-rated, beautifully sharp masterpiece is thought-provoking and will likely touch viewers on deep, emotional levels. In the end, Vagabond says a lot about Varda as a filmmaker, as she masterfully turns such a tragic tale into an incredibly bewitching watch.

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5 ‘Black Panthers’ (1968)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.1/5

Varda’s incredible short film of interviews, Black Panthers, is set during the summer of 1968 in Oakland, California. It follows the meetings and protests at a rally planned by the Black Panthers in order to catch America’s attention — which they did — and free Huey Newton by turning his trial into a political debate.

One of Varda’s greatest talents is to capture moments without intervening, letting people be unapologetically themselves and speak their truth; this 1968 short is one of Varda’s documentaries in which she does that best. Overall, the powerful Black Panthers is among the most poignant movies by Agnès Varda, offering viewers a genuine look at an important moment in history, and sending out many messages that are still relevant today.

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4 ‘Faces Places’ (2017)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.1/5

Varda and photographer/muralist JR partake in an extremely heartwarming art project titled Faces Places (Visages villages); a feel-good documentary that prioritizes empathy as it depicts their journey through rural France in a box truck turned into a portable photobooth. The two form an unlikely bond by taking photographs of people around the country and creating mural pictures of communities and places they want to celebrate.

Deservedly earning Varda a nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 2018, Faces Places led the filmmaker to become the oldest person nominated for an Oscar at the graceful age of 89. With an impressively high rating on many movie platforms — also including a near-flawless, impressive score of 99% on the Tomatometer — this 2017 must-watch is easily one of the most beloved pieces of cinema by the director.

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3 ‘Cléo from 5 to 7’ (1962)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.2/5

Set in ’60s Paris, Cléo from 5 to 7 (originally titled Cléo de 5 à 7) is an astonishing, realistic portrait of a singer and hypochondriac. In almost two long hours, Cléo Victoire (Corinne Marchand) navigates through the city as she anxiously awaits her test results for a biopsy — one that may or may not reveal that she has cancer. In the meantime, the popular singer carefully observes the world around her and the strangers that inhabit it, which leads her to meet a French soldier named Antoine (Antoine Bourseiller), someone who defies and changes Cléo’s perspective on life.

When it comes to Agnès Varda movies, it is impossible not to mention this brilliantly directed piece of cinema. Considered by many her finest feature, this film explores life in the shadow of death and focuses on the bright side of existing. A stylish movie that certainly doesn’t lack substance, Cléo from 5 to 7 is the perfect pick for those who want to get into the director’s work and a tremendously well-executed character study from start to finish.

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2 ‘The Gleaners and I’ (2000)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.2/5

The Gleaners and I is a 2000 documentary feature, also known as Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, that serves as an outlook into the lives of many gleaners who scour reaped fields for potatoes or turnips. As always providing viewers with a good time throughout, Varda explores ordinary day-to-day activities and highlights how wasteful modern society is.

This unique, captivating documentary reflects on gleaning and the world of self-production — and it does it so flawlessly that it ranks incredibly high among Varda’s work, even if it doesn’t feature the high-quality resolution of a modern digital camera. Thought-provoking and humanistic are two words to describe this essentially fascinating movie that pays homage to those who think outside the box.

Watch on Criterion

1 ‘The Beaches of Agnès’ (2008)

Letterboxd Rating: 4.3/5

The highest-rated movie on Letterboxd by the renowned director is 2008’s The Beaches of Agnès (Les plages d’Agnès). This utterly beautiful autobiographical documentary wonderfully depicts the life of the filmmaking icon, offering the audience a unique self-portrait that meditates on Varda’s career and friendships.

The Beaches of Agnès is an enchanting celebration of the artist’s life that fearlessly offers audiences a full and unambiguous look inside, and there certainly aren’t many iconic directors who decide to share such an intimate self-portrait. Apart from being an exceptional autobiography, the 2008 film is a brilliant analysis of time and the world, highlighting how people change and our surroundings stay the same. It’s impossible not to love the incredible Agnès Varda, and The Beaches of Agnès kindly reminds us of that.Watch on Criterion

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