Top 5 Films with Alain Delon

Top 5 Films with Alain Delon

Once dubbed “the male Brigitte Bardot”, the handsome actor rose to stardom in the 1960s, starring in such famous international films as Michelangelo Antonioni’s Eclipse and Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard and Rocco and His Brothers. But although he never shed his image as a French sex symbol, he also portrayed some strong and compelling characters.


Plein Soleil (Purple Noon), René Clément, 1960

Plein Soleil, 1960

Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, this Machiavellian movie was Delon’s first major film. Aged 25, he portrays an impoverished boy sent to Italy to persuade rich heir Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) to return to the United States. Once arrived, he discovers the charms of la dolce vita and falls in love with Philippe’s girlfriend, Marge Duval (Marie Laforêt). It’s not long before he plans to steal Philippe’s identity too. Lauded by the critics, the movie made Delon an overnight sensation as well as a modern day matinee idol. But aside from his physique, the actor also displays great skill as the young villain, combining seduction and brutal amorality. A star was born.


Le Samouraï Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967

The first collaboration between Delon and master filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, Le Samouraï tells the story of Jef Costello, a contract killer who lives by his own version of the strict code of the Bushido, the Japanese “way of the warrior”. Taciturn, meticulous, Costello is pursued by police and enemies alike after a hit, until he is finally driven into a deadly corner. The dark tale established a new epitome of cool, thanks to Delon’s chain-smoking, hat-wearing, ice-cold character. But the true impact of the movie, which influenced such young directors as John Woo and Jim Jarmusch, lies in the character’s existential outlook on life, and the fascinating interplay of solitude, fate and mental breakdown.


La Piscine (The Swimming Pool), Jacques Deray, 1969

There is a love story behind the story in this hit movie. For five years, Alain Delon and Romy Schneider formed one of the most mythic and appealing couples of French cinema, but their romance had long ended when they were reunited in La Piscine as Jean-Paul and Marianne, a couple spending their vacation in a villa near Saint-Tropez. But the sudden intrusion of Harry (Maurice Ronet), Marianne’s ex-lover, and his pretty young daughter Penelope (Jane Birkin), turns the banal twosome into a bizarre foursome. As the (sexual) tension grows, Jean-Paul seduces Penelope and the situation descends toward an inexorable conclusion. The film is set almost exclusively around the villa’s swimming pool, which becomes a splendid metaphor of desire kept just below the surface.


Le Cercle Rouge Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970

Another brilliant work by Delon and Melville, this memorable film has it all: a compelling story, stylish cinematography and a fabulous cast. Corey (Delon), an aristocratic thief just released from prison, teams up with Jansen (Yves Montand), an ex-policeman who has turned into an alcoholic sharpshooter, and Vogel (Gian Maria Volonté), a recently escaped murderer, to plan a jewel heist. They’re pursued by Mattei (Bourvil), a cat-loving police superintendent. But who’s really innocent in this underworld red circle? Every man (there are no women) has his demons in this slow-paced and eerie crime movie, which seems inspired by both John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle and Jules Dassin’s Rififi. Once again, Delon gives an impressive performance with his suave and silent portrayal of a man with no history.


Monsieur Klein (Mr. Klein) Joseph Losey, 1976

After the mid-1970s, great movies with Alain Delon become harder to find. But Joseph Losey’s Monsieur Klein is clearly one of them. Delon plays the title role, an art dealer who makes a nice profit during the second World War when Jews are forced to sell their possessions in a hurry (and Jeanne Moreau appears in a brief cameo role). But the indifferent man is mistaken for another Robert Klein, a Jew being hunted by the authorities. Entangled in a quest to prove his own identity, the once-content collaborator has to face the suspicion of the Vichy police. With a nod towards Kafka, this dramatic film explores life in Paris under the Nazi Occupation. It was Delon’s last great movie role, and it offered him his first nomination for a César. Monsieur Klein won Césars for Best Film, Director and Production Design, but Delon lost the Best Actor award to Michel Galabru for The Judge and the Assassin.

Tied for Sixth

Mélodie en Sous-Sol (Any Number Can Win), Henri Verneuil, 1963

Les Aventuriers (The Last Adventure), Robert Enrico, 1967

Le Clan des Siciliens (The Sicilian Clan), Henri Verneuil, 1969

Borsalino, Jacques Deray, 1970

Un Flic (A Cop), Jean-Pierre Melville, 1972

Deux Hommes dans la Ville (Two Men in Town), José Giovanni, 1973

Nouvelle Vague, Jean-Luc Godard, 1990

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Originally published in the November 2012 issue of France Today

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