Few famous landmarks have had a more impressive film career than the Eiffel Tower. As a film about its construction hits theaters, Peter de Villiers reviews the big-screen appearances of the iconic structure.
Tall, bright and beautiful from every angle, the Eiffel Tower is the perfect movie star. It’s no wonder, then, that France’s most recognizable structure has been featured in movies for decades. And what a journey it’s been: from acting as a jungle gym for the world’s most famous spy and being rescued by a superhero, to inspiring both a French New Wave founding father and a rodent with rare culinary skills. During that time, the Eiffel Tower has been an excellent co-star, doing its job without ever hogging the limelight.
Next month, everything is set to change. In the new film from director Martin Bourboulon, Eiffel, the monument takes center stage. Set in 1880’s Belle Époque Paris, we follow Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) as he embarks on the mammoth task of building what would become one of the world’s most beloved monuments. The film also explores the role of Adrienne Bourges (Emma Mackey), whose relationship with Eiffel shaped the Paris skyline. As we delve into the Tower’s history, it’s the perfect time to look back at the monument’s cinematic past. Whether demolished, acting as a platform for musical numbers, or offering a porthole to another world, La Tour Eiffel remains a commanding presence on screen.
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
So, here is the plan. Hijack a shipment of gold bullion in London, melt it down and turn it into tiny Eiffel Tower paperweights so you can smuggle it into Paris. The only catch for the mob in this Ealing comedy starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway is that when they reach for their loot at a kiosk at the Eiffel Tower, six of the memorabilia have accidentally been sold to British schoolgirls. And there’s more bad news: one of the girls plans to give her mini Eiffel Tower to her friend, who happens to be a police officer. While the Eiffel Tower stands its ground (both miniature and full-size) in the film, an up-and-coming actress steals some of the limelight from it and would have a pretty decent career. Look out for a blink-and-you-miss Audrey Hepburn cameo in this classic crime adventure. Tower Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Funny Face (1957)
Few movies salivate as much about Paris as Stanley Donen’s 1957 musical, whose cast literally sings the praises of the City of Light. Audrey Hepburn stars as Jo Stockton, a New York bookstore assistant who has the perfect looks to be the new face of Quality fashion magazine. The problem is that she won’t be playing ball with editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) and photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire). She then finds out that the next shoot will be in Paris. The trio’s excitement at being in the French capital is summed up by the upbeat number Bonjour Paris, where the characters recount their plans for the trip in a sequence that unites more must-sees than a video from the tourist office. After a full day, all three agree that “something’s missing, there’s one more place to go”… Shows a gorgeous shot of the Eiffel Tower with fountains in front as the trio take an elevator to the top of the monument and enjoy panoramic views from the observation deck. Tower rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Great Race (1965)
Whether it’s aliens in Mars Attacks!, puppets in Team America, or an asteroid in Armageddon, Hollywood loves blowing the Eiffel Tower to bits. Perhaps the most unexpected destruction, and certainly the most comical, comes at the end of The Great Race, Blake Edwards’ sweeping action-adventure in which handsome Big Leslie (Tony Curtis) challenges cowardly Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) to a car race. from New York to Paris. After a hectic ride that includes parlor fights, polar bears and sinking ships, Leslie leads as the competitors traverse Paris, but to show gorgeous photojournalist Maggie DuBois (Natalie Wood) that she cares more about her than winning, our hero stops in his tracks. from the finish line at the Eiffel Tower and let Fate win. Outraged by this, Fate insists that they race back to New York, all as part of a plot to blow up Leslie’s car with a cannon. He misses and hits the Eiffel Tower, which bends and collapses in parts in a comical fall that would have made Jacques Tati proud. Tower Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The 400 Blows (1959)
François Truffaut’s first feature film has perhaps the most famous title sequence in French cinema history, one in which the Eiffel Tower plays a crucial role. The story of abandoned young man Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), who has to deal with self-absorbed parents and brutal policemen, begins with a tracking shot through the streets of Paris. The Eiffel Tower looms over the rooftops at an angle, suggesting it is the point of view of a child sitting in the back seat of a car. Street by street, the camera gets closer and closer to the structure, keeping its gaze fixed on the tower. Finally, we are right under La Tour Eiffel, briefly taking in its majesty before the car speeds away with France’s most comforting symbol disappearing into the distance. It’s the most perfect of openings for a harrowing coming-of-age story of a boy for whom a normal, happy life is out of reach. Tower rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Superman II (1980)
You really can’t take Lois Lane anywhere. In what is a common theme in the first two Superman movies, the Daily Planet’s top reporter, played by Margot Kidder, continually gets into trouble and is rescued by Superman (Christopher Reeve). And it doesn’t take long for Lois to do something stupidly dangerous after arriving in Paris in Richard Lester’s cheesy sequel. As terrorists take over the Eiffel Tower and threaten to detonate a nuclear bomb, the journalist covers the story by hanging from the bottom of an elevator containing the device. He soon plummets to her death, with Superman arriving just in time, flying over Paris and taking the elevator into free fall. With the residents of Paris still in mortal danger, the Man of Steel flies the elevator straight through the top of the Eiffel Tower and into outer space where it explodes, leaving Lois standing in the Iron Tower contemplating his next move. damsel in distress. . Tower Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
A View to a Kill (1987)
While the 14th Bond film received a lot of criticism when it was released in the late 1980s, not least because Roger Moore was 57 at the time of filming and needed a stunt double to get upstairs. A sight to kill it has a lot going for it: a great villain played by Christopher Walken; a memorable sidekick in Grace Jones’ May Day and a fabulous chase scene in and around the Eiffel Tower. After killing a local private eye at the Jules Verne restaurant in the tower, May Day rushes up to the monument with Bond in a quick (well, quick) chase. As 007 approaches, the assassin jumps from the top of the tower and parachutes to the bottom. Not to be outdone, Bond jumps into one of the elevators and hijacks a taxi to continue the chase. Tower rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
The focus of Baz Luhrmann’s jukebox romantic drama might be the cabaret hall at the foot of Montmartre that gave us the can-can, but the Eiffel Tower, a Belle Époque-like structure, appears in a pivotal scene. As love between young writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) and Moulin Rouge star Satine (Nicole Kidman) begins to blossom, their romance is conveyed in a lavish reworking of the Elton John classic “Your Song.” In what is an increasingly fantastical sequence, Christian’s voice lights up the Eiffel Tower before the pair turn into the clouds and huddle under a pink umbrella as the glow falls on them. With the moon smiling down from above, Christian hangs from the monument as he sings to Satine. It’s something magical, all right. Tower Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pixar’s love letter to Paris and its gastronomy has so many magical scenes that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. A strong contender, however, is the moment when Rémy (Patton Oswalt), a rat with a highly developed sense of taste and smell, realizes that the sewer he’s been hiding in belongs to the best culinary destination on Earth. the earth. After the ghost of his hero, chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), tells him to leave his gloomy surroundings and look around him, Rémy sneaks into an apartment building and ends up on the roof. There, stretching out before him is the City of Light with the Eiffel Tower shimmering in the distance. “All this time have I been under Paris?” says Rémy, with the euphoria that every food lover feels as he prepares to eat in the French capital. Tower Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Lost in Paris (2016)
Belgian filmmaking duo Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon use the French capital as their playground in the weirdo lost in paris, their expertly crafted physical comedy routines climax at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Gordon plays Fiona, a Canadian in Paris searching for her long-lost aunt Martha (Emmanuelle Riva). During a failed search, she crosses paths with homeless Dom (Abel), who agrees to help her locate the missing pensioner. They eventually land at the Eiffel Tower, where the accident-prone Fiona nearly falls to her death when the ladder she is climbing comes loose. Martha is found sleeping on a satellite dish and the trio enjoy spectacular views of Paris in the heartwarming end of a crazy adventure. Tower Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Men in Black: International (2019)
The Eiffel Tower may seem harmless but, in the latest Men in Black movie, it is home to a wormhole that could lead to the planet’s destruction. Agents Hight T (Liam Neeson) and H (Chris Hemsworth) step in to stop the parasitic race The Hive from swarming Paris, who, after interrupting a marriage proposal in the tower, battle bad guys as the city glows below. . Just when you think things are safe, Agents H and M (Tessa Thompson) need to travel back to the Eiffel Tower to stop another hive and make sure the only googly-eyed creatures in the monument are tourists who decided to use the stairs. . and not the elevator. Tower Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Eiffel star Romain Duris on playing Gustave Eiffel
As a proud Parisian, Romain Duris jumped at the chance to play Gustave Eiffel, the man who created the city’s most famous monument. “Ever since I was a child and even today, when I walk in front of the Eiffel Tower, I am fascinated,” he explains. “For me, the monument has always been magical. And I was very attracted to the theme of the engineer-artist who finds refuge in his work and carries it out as if it were a declaration of love”.
What made it easier for Duris to get under the skin of Eiffel (who also built the framework for the Statue of Liberty) was the scale of the production, from the lush period costumes to the construction of a life-size reproduction of the statue. Eiffel Tower. “Eiffel is unbelievably spectacular,” he promises. “I realized this while wandering around the set where the foundations of the tower had been rebuilt on a large scale. And everything is enhanced exponentially on the screen. It gives your performance even more strength.”
Eiffel is now in theaters and available to stream online.
From France Today magazine