France has a long-standing reputation for being a center of culture. As such, it should come as no surprise to learn that it is home to numerous individuals of note who have earned their reputation for art, for science, and for other fields of human achievement. This was true in the past; this remains true in the present; and this will remain true in the future. There are many notable celebrities who hail from France.
20. Rene Descartes
Rene Descartes is from quite some time ago. After all, he was born towards the end of the 16th century and lived until the mid 17th century. Despite this, Descartes remains one of the best-known philosophers because of his immense influence on a number of fields. For example, his Meditations on First Philosophy is a standard text for university-level philosophy. Similarly, chances are very good that interested individuals are familiar with the idea of a Cartesian coordinate system, which was published by him in 1637.
19. Lea Seydoux
Lea Seydoux started acting in the mid 2000s. However, she rose to prominence for the first time when she won the Trophée Chopard for playing the main character in The Beautiful Person. Since then, Seydoux has become more and more famous in the English-speaking world as well because of a succession of notable roles in a succession of notable movies. In particular, there are a lot of people out there who will recognize her because of her role as Madeleine Swann in 2015’s Spectre and then 2021’s No Time to Die.
Alizee is the professional name of Alizee Jacotey. She is a French singer from Corsica who was discovered by Mylène Farmer, a French singer from the Canadian province of Quebec. However, Alizée went on to become one of the best-selling French singers of the 21st century. Something that has been supplemented by her considerable success in other countries as well.
17. Andre the Giant
Andre the Giant is the ring name of Andre Rene Roussimoff, a professional wrestler who was very prominent in the 1980s. He received said ring name because he stood at more than seven feet, a consequence of gigantism caused by excess growth hormone. Other than being a professional wrestler, Andre the Giant was an actor as well. There are a lot of people out there who might recognize him because of his role as Fezzik in The Princess Bride. Sadly, the man died at the age of just 46 because of congestive heart failure.
16. Eva Green
Eva Green is an actress who started out on the theatre stage before making her way to both the movie screen and the TV screen. Over the course of her career, she has been in both big-budget projects and independent projects. For example, Green was in both Kingdom of Heaven and Casino Royale. Similarly, she has been in Cracks, Womb, and Perfect Sense. Besides those, Green was in Penny Dreadful as well, which resulted in considerable praise from the critics.
15. Marion Cotillard
Marion Cotillard is both an actress and a singer. It seems safe to say that she has been very successful in these pursuits, seeing as how she has won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and numerous other awards. Cotillard was particularly honored for her role as Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en rose, which was particularly notable because she was just the second actress to have claimed an Oscar for Best Actress for a foreign language performance.
14. David Guetta
David Guetta is a DJ who broke into the mainstream with the release of One Love in 2009. Since then, he has moved from success to success. For proof, look no further than the fact that Guetta has more than 50 million record sales. On top of that, he has claimed a couple of Grammy Awards as well as a number of other music awards. It is interesting to note that Warner Music bought his catalog of recorded music from the last couple of decades in June of 2021. The exact price is unknown but there is a report that he received more than $100 million but less than $150 million for it.
13. Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre was one of the most famous philosophers of the 20th century. Still, he wasn’t limited to philosophizing, as shown by how he was also a critic, a novelist, a playwright, a screenwriter, a biographer, and a political activist. Generally speaking, Sartre is famous for being a very influential figure in existentialism, which is focused on human existence. It is amusing to note that he tried to reject the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964 on the basis that he always declined official honors.
12. Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was born in 1869. Even so, he is remembered for his role in the huge transformations in the visual arts in the early 20th century. There are a lot of people who will have heard of Matisse because of his paintings. However, it should be mentioned that he was very influential in sculpting as well, which isn’t even mentioning his involvement in other visual arts. For instance, Matisse started working with paper cut-outs (https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2014/matisse/the-cut-outs.html) in the last years of his life because he was too ill to continue painting.
11. Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker is someone who has received a new surge of interest in recent times. In part, this is because her career as a performer was an iconic symbol of the Roaring Twenties. Other than that, Baker has a couple of other major claims to fame. One, she was a French Resistance agent during the Second World War, as shown by how she was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Two, she was very much involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, as shown by her refusal to perform for segregated audiences in the country of her birth, her involvement with the Save Willie McGee rally, and her involvement with the March on Washington.
10. Claude Monet
Claude Monet is another French artist who was active from the latter part of the 19th century to the early 20th century. He made his reputation through his paintings. Monet was one of the artists who founded impressionism, which met with considerable opposition in its time because of how it violated the conventional rules for what paintings were supposed to be. In fact, the movement is named for his painting called Impression, soleil levant. Thanks to this, Monet is considered to be an important precursor to modernism.
9. Edith Piaf
Edith Piaf is a name that came up earlier on this list. Those who are unfamiliar should know that she was one of the most famous singers to ever emerge from France. The exact details of Piaf’s life are unclear even though she has been much written about. However, Piaf was someone who started out singing in public before being discovered by a night club owner. Her career wasn’t exactly smooth afterwards. For example, she was accused but acquitted of being an accessory in the murder of that same night club owner. Likewise, her career during the German occupation of France is seen in a rather ambiguous light. On the one hand, she was very popular with the Nazis, so much so that she was accused of being a collaborator after the war. On the other hand, she did help out a couple of Jewish musicians, which was in addition to the fact that she looked the other way when the French Resistance sometimes made use of her performances for its efforts. In fact, Piaf’s secretary in this time was a member of the French Resistance. Said individual’s testimony helped her out a great deal after the war.
8. Zinedine Zidane
Just because someone is good at playing a sport doesn’t mean that same individual will be good at coaching for that same sport. However, Zinedine Zidane has proven himself to be one of the people who are capable in both regards. After all, he scored twice at the final of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, which was the first time that France had won the title. Furthermore, Zidane has coached Real Madrid to enormous success, as shown by the team’s not one but two La Liga wins under him.
7. Albert Camus
Albert Camus was a contemporary of Jean-Paul Sartre. In fact, he is also famous for being an existentialist, though he was less than enthused about being labeled as such during his lifetime. Besides this, Camus’s philosophical views contributed to the rise of absurdism, which is shaped by the human tendency to look for meaning as well as the human inability to find meaning with absolute certainty. This is unsurprising because absurdism can be considered an outgrowth of existentialism to a considerable extent. In any case, Camus was also a celebrated author, as shown by how he was the second-youngest individual to ever win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
6. Louis Pasteur
Chances are good that interested individuals have heard of pasteurized milk, which is milk that has been heated for the purpose of killing harmful microorganisms that can be found in its raw form. The name can seem rather strange but everything makes more sense when one realizes that it was invented by the French scientist Louis Pasteur. Said individual is one of the founders of both bacteriology and microbiology, not least because he played a major role in providing proof for the germ theory of disease.
Voltaire was the nom de plume of Francois-Marie Arouet. It is no exaggeration to say that he was one of the greatest names of the French Enlightenment. After all, Voltaire was one of the first authors to become renowned on an international level, as shown by his good relationship with more than one European monarch. The man advocated for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the separation of church and state, which were things that put him at constant risk of being censored by the Catholic French monarchy of his time.
4. Alexandre Dumas
Both Alexandre Dumas and his father are quite well-known, though for very different reasons. He earned his fame by writing historical novels, with examples including both The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. Meanwhile, his father was the first person of color to become the general-in-chief of a French army. Remarkably, Dumas had a son who became a famous author as well, which is why he is sometimes called Alexandre Dumas pere meaning “father” while his son is sometimes called Alexandre Dumas fils meaning “son.”
3. Marie Curie
A good argument can be made that Marie Curie should be considered Polish as well as French. After all, she was born Maria Salomea Sklodowska in what was still Congress Poland under the Russian Empire. Furthermore, while she became a naturalized French citizen, she retained a strong sense of connection to her homeland. Something that can be seen in how she named polonium for Poland. Regardless, Curie’s scientific contributions mean that she is much honored by both countries. To name an example, she wasn’t the first woman to be entombed at the Pantheon but she was the first woman to be entombed at the Pantheon on her own merit.
2. Victor Hugo
Speaking of which, Victor Hugo is another individual entombed at the Pantheon. In his case, he earned for being one of the leading lights of the Romantic movement in France. Most people will recognize him because of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, he also wrote plays, poems, and essays. Politically, Hugo apparently started out with royalist sympathies before eventually becoming a passionate supporter of republicanism as well as opponent of absolutism.
1. Jacques Cousteau
The ocean remains a very mysterious place because of its inaccessibility. Still, this is much less true in the present than in the not so distant past because of ongoing scientific study. Jacques Cousteau did a great deal to bring this about. For example, he was a co-developer of the Aqua-Lung, which made it easier to explore underwater than ever before. Similarly, his books and documentaries did much to popularize marine science, serving to inspire entire generations of like-minded individuals.