The Eiffel Tower, a movie diva
Wednesday 3 February 2021
Modified the 15/04/22
From animated films to great American movie classics, from adventure to romance, the Eiffel Tower has been featured many times on the big screen!
Enjoy some of these must-see movies that will show you the Eiffel Tower from a new perspective, and delight audiences young and old.
Who filmed the Eiffel Tower for the first time?
It was the Lumière brothers who first featured the Eiffel Tower in a film in 1898, less than 10 years after the Exposition Universelle!
"Panorama during the ascent of the Eiffel Tower" is a short film shot from the elevator in which you can see the Trocadero Palace, built for the World's Fair, and its gardens with the Tower in the foreground. This was in the early days of cinema, so it was truly a technological feat that marked the beginning of a long series of productions at the Tower.
The Eiffel Tower at the heart of history and action
The Crazy Ray
Director: René Clair
Genre: Science fiction
Synopsis: As day breaks over Paris, Albert, a night watchman at the Eiffel Tower, wakes up and notices something strange: everyone is either asleep or paralyzed. He later realizes that he is one of only 6 people still present in the city who fell asleep during the night.
Viewers discover a quiet Tower, with a view over the Champ de Mars from the top floor, the spiral stairs that Gustave Eiffel used to access his office and superb plans of the structure from the summit to the esplanade.
In 1928, there was "La Tour” also from René Clair, a fascinating silent short movie and true declaration of love to the Eiffel Tower. In it, the captivated director depicts the imposing metal structure and the monument's mysteries. The ascent of the Tower is transformed into cinematographic poetry!
Watch it on the Cinémathèque website
Director: Stanley Donen
Country: United States
“Bonjour, Paris!” In this romantic musical starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, the French capital is in the spotlight, with an iconic musical number filmed at the Tower. Audrey Hepburn plays a young bookshop owner from New York who loves philosophy and is sent to Paris to be a model. But on the night of the fashion show, she runs off to meet a philosophy professor she admires. This classic musical, with music by George Gershwin, will put a smile on your face and make you want to go and dance on the Eiffel Tower!
The 400 Blows
Director: François Truffaut
In this classic film, which brought François Truffaut and his young actor Jean-Pierre Léaud to public attention, the film's credits are entirely filmed keeping the Eiffel Tower in sight. It's as if the eyes of the director (who loved the monument) couldn't be torn away from it, in a long tracking shot through Paris scored by Jean Constantin. A must-see!
Zazie in the Metro
Director: Louis Malle
Synopsis: Zazie arrives in Paris from the countryside to visit her uncle for a few days and dreams of riding on the metro. She discovers Paris and especially the Eiffel Tower as she takes the elevator and then the spiral stairs to the top.
The Great Race
Director: Blake Edwards
Country: United States
Synopsis: The greatest car race between New York and Paris is launched, and the competitors can use any means at their disposal to win! This contest pits Professor Fate against his enemy, the Great Leslie, and both encounter a series of adventures before reaching the finish line at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
A View to a Kill
Director: John Glen
Country: United States
Synopsis: In this 14th installment of the James Bond series, agent 007 must stop a manufacturer who plans to kill millions of innocent people in order to prevent the distribution of a microchip.
His inquiry takes him to Paris and on a dizzying chase to the Eiffel Tower in which James Bond is pursuing May Day. In a breathtaking scene, the two of them climb the stairs at breakneck speed, straddle the structure and launch themselves into the air.
The True Legend of the Eiffel Tower
Director: Simon Brook
Genre: Documentary fiction
Synopsis: In 1884, Gustave Eiffel and his collaborators plan to build the tallest tower in the world for the 1889 World's Fair in Paris. To offer viewers a glimpse of this very real but exceptional adventure, the film tells the story through the eyes of a fictional character, a reporter for Le Petit Journal named Barbier.
From the invention of the Eiffel Tower to its unveiling at the World's Fair, this documentary mixes fiction, fact and historical photos to plunge the audience into the 19th century, at the time of the Tower’s construction.
Director: Eric Summer, Eric Warin
Synopsis: The story takes place in France at the time of the World’s Fair in 1889. Félicie and Victor, two children, are going to Paris to realize their dreams. Félicie joins the Paris Opera to become a ballerina and Victor learns to be an inventor alongside Gustave Eiffel.
Immersed in the late 19th century, we see a half-built Tower in impressive detail with an unobstructed view of Trocadero Palace and its gardens.
Other films that show the Tower in a different light
These films highlight the unchanging beauty of the Eiffel Tower as it adapts to the wildest situations and brings a touch of French elegance to any setting.
Science fiction and disasters at the Tower
A symbol of Paris, of our times, and of technological prowess, the Eiffel Tower has appeared in many science fiction films since cinema began. It has also been at the center of Hollywood disaster movies.
Abel Gance's "The End of the World" from 1931 shows a meteorite destroying the Earth, and the Eiffel Tower.
- Roland Emmerich's "Independence Day: Resurgence" in 2016 also depicts the Tower’s destruction following an alien invasion.
- "In Pursuit of Tomorrow", a 2015 American science fiction film features 3 adventurers teleported to the top of the Eiffel Tower to accomplish a perilous mission.
- "Men in Black 4", an American film from 2019, shows us that Gustave Eiffel was in fact a member of the famous Men in Black and that one of the elevators in the Tower hides an incredible secret.
Could there be a more romantic backdrop than the Eiffel Tower for the most tender love scenes or wedding proposals?
- Ernst Lubitsch's "Ninotchka" from 1940 recounts the astonishing meeting between an American aristocrat and Ninotchka, an emissary sent to Paris by the Russian Ministry.
- "Befikre" by Aditya Chopra from 2016, features Dharam and Shyra, two lovers who challenge each other not to say I love you, but the charms of Paris prove too much for them.
- “Under the Eiffel Tower " by Archie Borders in 2018. Stuart decides to ask for his lover’s hand during a visit to the Eiffel Tower, but the answer doesn’t live up to the Tower's romantic ideals.
Here are some other film or television productions, some well-known and others less so!
- The classic "Fantômas" by Louis Feuillade in 1914 was one of the first films with scenes at the Eiffel Tower. It shows Commissioner Juve valiantly climbing the monument in pursuit of Fantômas.
- The now iconic "Ratatouille", Brad Bird's 2007 animated film set in Paris, narrates the beginnings of an unusual friendship.
- "The Eiffel Tower Mystery", a French TV detective movie from 2016, shows several of Gustave Eiffel’s engineers murdered in 1889, on the eve of the Tower's completion.
- "The Hostage Tower" an American detective film from 1980, chronicles a spectacular and highly improbable hostage situation!
To find out more about the Tower and the arts, click here.