France has always been one of the most important cultural centers in the world; from art and fashion to music and food, they’ve got it all. Trying to come up with the best French songs of all time is challenging because of how long and wealthy the country’s cultural history is.
For our article, we won’t be looking back into the classical eras of music. We’ll focus on some of the best songs to come out of France in the (relatively) modern age. So here’s our list of some of the biggest, best, and most popular French songs of all time.
1. Non, je ne regrette rien – Edith Piaf
I’m starting this list with a song you’ve probably heard. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien is perhaps the most widespread song to ever come out of France, becoming and remaining exceptionally popular for decades and appearing in all kinds of media, from movies to TV commercials and everything in between.
It’s a timeless classic about regretting absolutely nothing and a song for the ages.
2. Ne Me Quitte Pas – Jacques Brel
Ne Me Quitte Pas is a famous French love song describing the breakup of Jacques Brel from his mistress Suzanne Gabriello. It would later be voted as one of, if not the best French songs of the 20th century in a poll conducted by Le Parisien and La Cinquieme.
3. La Vie En Rose – Edith Piaf
Another amazing classic entry from Edith Piaf, La Vie En Rose, has been covered by numerous artists, from Lady Gaga to Dean Martin, over the years. It wistfully describes the search for true love from a time when Europe was devastated by WWII and is one of the most famous French songs of all time.
4. La Bohème – Charles Aznavour
Charles Aznavour’s signature song and the most popular French chanson of all time, La Bohème has to rank near the top of our list. It was an international hit back in 1965, becoming a French hit and breaking onto the charts of numerous other countries.
Several different versions in multiple other languages have been recorded over the years, paying tribute to this song that should live on forever.
5. La Mer – Charles Trenet
Charles Trenet composed La Mer, but the first person to record the song would be Roland Gerbeau in 1954. After releasing the following year as a single, it was an instant international hit and would be recorded in several different languages. It would become a standard in the chanson and jazz genres.
6. Les Champs-Elysées – Joe Dassin
Joe Dassin first recorded this song in 1969 as an adaptation of the British song Waterloo Road. It replaced the English locations with French ones, namely turning the Waterloo Road in London into the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. It would enter the charts of several European nations, becoming a top-five hit in Belgium.
7. Amsterdam – Jacques Brel
Amsterdam was a story of sailors spending time ashore in Amsterdam, and while the song remains one of the best French songs ever recorded, it was never put onto an album by Jacques Brel. One live performance made its way onto the live album Enregistrement Public À L’Olympia 1962, and it has endured as his most popular work.
8. Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles – Francoise Hardy
Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles emerged during the yé-yé era of pop music in southern Europe. A story of a young person who never knew love and the envy she feels for young couples, it would become a massive hit in France and spend 15 total weeks on top of the French chart, reaching the spot on four separate occasions in 1962 and 1963.
9. Sacré Charlemagne – France Gall
Sacrè Charlemagne was France Gall’s first and biggest hit. After being released as a single in 1964, it sold over 2 million copies and was an international chart success. In addition to taking the top spot of the French chart, it rose to number four in Belgium and was a modest hit in Japan. It’s still used in French schools today to help teach young students.
10. Alexandrie Alexandra – Claude François
Claude François and Jean-Baptiste Bourayre composed this French disco classic back in 1977, selling over 800,000 copies in France, making it Francois’s biggest hit to date, and it remains one of the most commonly played songs in French nightclubs to this day.
11. Cette année la – Claude Francois
Look, Claude Francois is one of the most prominent artists in the history of French music. He’s done tons of hits over the years, with this one adding yet another notch to his belt. A remake of the song, Oh What A Night by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, stood up to the original in every way.
12. Sous le Ciel de Paris – Yves Montand
Edith Piaf originally recorded this song, but Yves Montand’s version would eventually become more popular. It sounds like the typical crooning of a French singer, something you’d hear in a movie and instantly recognizable as French. It’s another one of the most popular French songs of all time.
13. Paroles, paroles – Dalida feat. alain delon
Alain Delon was one of the biggest French actors of his time, and his teaming up with Dalida was sure to set tongues wagging and give the pair an instant hit song. It started as an Italian hit that saw a woman complaining about all the lies her lover told her, and the French version by these two was a huge hit in France.
14. Comme D’Habitude – Claude François
Frank Sinatra would eventually release one of his best-known songs of all time, My Way, but Comme D’Habitude was the origin of it. It was translated and reworked into the Sinatra classic we all know and love today. This version is essentially a reminder that being stuck in a routine will eventually make you stop enjoying the things you once loved.
15. Je t’aime…moi non plus – Serge Gainsbourg feat. Jane Birkin
Serge Gainsbourg is one of the biggest names in French pop and always throws a few provocative lyrics into his songs. Alongside Jane Birkin, he put out this instant hit that gained quite a reputation. It was denounced by the Vatican and banned in the US, officially becoming one of the most erotic songs of all time.
16. Chanson Populaire – Claude François
Chanson Populaire was a massive hit back in 1973, adding another achievement to the legendary Claude François’s career. It literally translates to “popular song,” and it was, becoming one of the biggest hits in French music history and one of the most well-known songs to ever come out of the country.
17. Résiste – France Gall
France Gall was a major teen pop idol in France, but all of that is in her past. Today, she puts out much more mature music, evidenced by this song about resisting fashion and improving the world around us. A big hit in France and a very relatable song.
18. La ballade des gens heureux – Gerard Lenorman
La Ballade des Gens Heureux means “the ballad of the happy people,” It is one of the most popular karaoke songs ever produced in France. A crazy popular song that was pretty catchy and one you should try out next time you’re up on the mic.
19. L’aventurier – Indochine
L’aventurier is a classic rock entry featured on best French song lists decades after being released. It’s a tribute song to a fictional character named Bob Marine, seeing him fight in WWII and thinking to himself that he could totally be James Bond.
20. Le sud – Nino Ferrer
Do you know how pop songs get dubbed “song of the summer” these days? Le Sud was one of those in France, referring to the country’s southern region and containing a beautiful melody that was perfect for relaxing in the summer breeze. It would end up being one of Nino Ferrer’s biggest hits as well, beautifully describing his memories growing up in the region.
21. Dès que le vent soufflera – Renaud
De Que Le Vent Soufflera was never released as a single by Renaud, but it did end up being one of the artist’s most-streamed songs ever. The sign recounts his experiences on the sea as a boater and sailor, full of his signature humor and self-deprecation.
22. Les Lacs Du Connemara – Michel Sardou
Les Lacs Du Connemara remains one of Michel Sardou’s biggest hits and one of the best pop songs to come out of France. Written about the Irish conflict between Catholics and Protestants, the ballad is an impressive musical and lyrical composition—one of those stories that flow off the tongue and find a way into the public’s hearts.
23. Elle Me Dit – Mika
Elle Me Dit came out in 2011 and took the French dance world by storm. In the years since it came out, it’s become synonymous with the country and one of Mika’s biggest party hits. It’s a song everyone loves and one of the best recent French pop hits.
24. Elle a les yeux revolver – Marc Lavoine
With a song title like “She has the eyes of a revolver,” you know the song had to be interesting. The title, fortunately, tells most of the story in the song, with Marc Lavoine singing about a beautiful but deadly woman of his fantasies.
25. Femme Libérée – Cookie Dingler
As you may have guessed from the name Femme Libérée is a celebration of the women’s liberation movement that would become absolutely beloved in France. A catchy tune that makes for a great karaoke track, it’s surprisingly simple enough for non-French speakers to follow along and sing with too!
26. Joe le Taxi – Vanessa Paradis
Vanessa Paradis released Joe Le Taxi when she was only 14 years old, but it would become one of the best-known French songs of all time. It tells the story of Maria José Leão dos Santos and her escape from Portugal during the country’s strict authoritarian government, moving to France, and becoming a taxi driver. It’s really a catchy jazz ballad and a mainstay in Paradis’ catalog.
27. Foule Sentimentale – Alain Souchon
Foule Sentimentale became famous not for being a love story or glorifying the French experience and luxury but for going after the latter. It was basically an anti-consumerism song aimed at waking people up to how materialistic the world has become and trying to correct those thoughts.
28. Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore – Céline Dion
Is it cheating to do a song from a French-Canadian? I don’t think so, at least not if it’s Céline Dion. Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore essentially translates to “For you to love me again.” The song immediately succeeded in France, becoming one of history’s most popular French songs and owning the top spot on the French charts for 12 consecutive weeks.
Recommended: Top Celine Dion songs
29. Cendrillon – Telephone
Cendrillon is basically a spin-off version of the classic Cinderella story, but instead of the normal ending we know about, it discusses a single mother struggling to take care of herself and her children. Telephone released the song in 2017, and it wound up finding one of the most beloved songs in French history.
30. J’te l’dis quand même – Patrick Bruel
This one was a pretty sizeable hit song for Patrick Brunel, released in 1989 as part of his So Look album. It would make it to number 12 on the French charts and number five in the Netherlands, creating an international hit single.
31. Nuit de folie – Début de Soiree
Translating to “Night of Craziness,” Nuit De Folie was a popular dance track from the 80s that’s still a great weekend party song today. Insanely popular in France, it was the biggest hit of Début du Soiree’s career and a great tool to use as you begin learning the French language.
32. Je danse le mia – Iam
Iam is a hip hop band from Marseille and this song wound up being the anthem of the Olympique de Marseille football club after it was released shortly after their Champions League title win. A whole new generation of kids from Marseille took up the song because of how well it represented them.
33. Casser la voix – Patrick Bruel
Casser La Voix is another Patrick Bruel hit from his 1989 album. This one did even better on the charts, peaking at number three in France and finding a spot on the French Year-End charts at number 57.
34. Allumer le feu – Johnny Hallyday
Allumer Le Feu was the third single to come from johnny Halladay’s Ce Que Je Sais album back in 1998. It did pretty well when it was initially released, making it number 39 on the French chart. After the artist died in 2017, it was rereleased and peaked at number 10 on the same chart.
35. Quelqu’un m’a dit – Carla Bruni
Carla Bruni would eventually become the First Lady of France after marrying French president Nicolas Sarkozy, but before that, she was a respected model and singer. Quelqu’un M’a Dit was one of her bigger hits, a song about lost love that remained near the top of the chart for a few months and became a modern classic in France.
36. Manhattan Kaboul – Renaud feat. Axelle Red
Axelle Red and Renaud teamed up for this song, an emotional ballad that was written after the events of 9/11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan. It illustrated the pitfalls of war by showing both sides of the conflict from the perspective of a person in Manhattan and a lost Afghan child.
37. Le vent nous portera – Noir Désir
Noir Désir was one of the best French rock bands in history. The band themselves formed in Bordeaux, and their 2001 single Le Vent Nous Portera would become one of the most beloved songs in France. It describes two characters who are inseparable and became an amazing song of friendship.
38. J’ai demandé à la lune – Indochine
Indochine has been on this list already. They were huge in France, but at one point, they didn’t release any music for ten years. J’ai Demandé à La Lune was their comeback single, immediately bringing widespread attention back to the band and becoming a massive hit for them in France.
39. Le dîner – Bénabar
As an American, it’ll seem weird to you that Europeans eat dinner so late at night and spend so long around the table. France, in particular, is fond of this tradition, and it becomes the subject of a silly song from Benabar that makes fun of it. I can relate to making up tons of excuses to avoid an event too, especially one that’ll take up my entire evening.
40. Tout le bonheur du monde – Sinsemilia
Reggae is another genre with a fairly sizeable fanbase in France. Sinsemilia doesn’t have nearly as many big hit singles as some other artists on our list, but their massive Tou Le Bonheur Du Monde (All the happiness in the world) was a big favorite in France after it was released in 2004.
41. Belle Demoiselle – Christophe Maé
Belle Demoiselle was one of the most beloved songs from Christophe Maé’s debut album back in 2007. Alongside a few other hit singles from the album, it was propelled to sell over a million copies and was the first taste of major success for the artist in France.
42. Pour un infidèle – Julien Doré & Coeur de Pirate
Pour Un Infidele will trick you into thinking it’s a loving duet if you only listen to the first part of it. It starts with the pair of artists going back and forth with compliments and loving statements but quickly shifts when the other women enter the song, seeing the couple begin arguing and fighting almost immediately.
43. Ma Philosophie – Amel Bent
Amy Bent’s debut single was a pretty huge one, something she would never top throughout her career. Ma Philosophie came out in 2004 and rocketed straight to the top of the French charts, also finding a spot in the top five in Belgium, Poland, and the Eurochart Hot 100.
44. Dis-moi – BB Brunes
BB Brunes is a relative newcomer on the French rock scene, being active since 2006. Their song Dis-Moi was one of the most popular songs that came out in 2007 and was an instant hit. It’s easily the band’s best song and one deserving of a spot on this list.
45. Sympathique – Pink Martini
Sympathique was nominated for Song of the Year at the French Equivalent of the Grammy Awards and was a huge hit. It sold nearly a million copies worldwide and was popular as far away from France as Japan and Taiwan. It’s one of the most well-known and universal pop songs of the 20th century.
46. Alors on danse – Stromae
Stromae produced one of the biggest French hit dance songs of the last century when they released Alors On Danse. Literally translating to “And So We Dance,” the song has an infectious melody that almost hides the poignant tone of the song and turned into one of the biggest party anthems of the year and was their breakout hit.
47. Ego – Willy William
Ego is a great French song for a lot of reasons. It’s a great way for people to practice their French during their quest to master the language, as beginner words are repeated quite a lot throughout the song, and he speaks very slowly. It was also a massive hit song, earning over 952 million YouTube views as of 2023.
48. Tourner dans le vide – Indila
Indila made Tourner Dans Le Vide available online in 2014 as the second single to come from their Mini World album. It would become a viral sensation, winding up as one of the most famous French TikTok songs and inspiring a challenge with a simple choreography to accompany the song on the platform.
49. Tant Besoin De Toi – Marc Antoine
Tant Besoin De Toi was the breakthrough single of Marc Antoine’s career. Another Canadian artist on the list, this song is a heavy R&B-influenced love song that shows him professing his undying love for you, the listener. It emerged in 2008 and was a big hit in France and French-speaking Canada.
50. Help Myself – Gaëtan Roussel
Despite the English title, this is absolutely a French song. Gaëtan Roussel wrote the song, and the only part of it that isn’t French is the refrain. He was originally part of the band Louise Attaque, but this was a fun single that came from his first solo album and proved he could strike out on his own and pull off a hit.
51. Toi et moi – Guillaume Grand
Toi Et Moi translates to “you and me” and was one of the best love songs to come out of France in recent memory. It’s got a lovely and catchy tune that plays as the background for lyrics that describe the feelings of falling in love and the person you’re falling in love with. It also has quite a bit of alcohol being drunk in the romance.
52. Oui mais… non – Mylène Farmer
Mylène Farmer has always produced great music and is one of the bigger stars in France thanks to her soft and understated songs. This song was a complete u-turn for her, as it was a pop dance hit that took the country by storm in 2010 and was one of the most-played songs in nightclubs.
53. Il y a – Vanessa Paradis
Here’s another great song from Vanessa Paradis, though this one was more of a comeback. Already wildly popular in France, Paradis released her Best of album in 2009 that featured this song as one of the new original singles. Of course, it became a big hit in France.
54. Je veux – Zaz
Look no further if you’re looking for a jazzy folk song on the list. Je Veux was Zaz’s debut single and became a major hit on the French charts. Rather than discuss how great material things and wealth are, it goes into detail about how the artist only needs love and happiness in her life.
55. J’aimerais trop – Keen’V
French songs are often some of the best pop dance numbers out there. Keen’V and SAP teamed up back in 2012 to produce this number, which was one of the catchiest songs of the year in France.
56. Bella – Maître Gims
Maître Gims has built himself up to be one of the biggest rappers in the world, accumulating well over 400 million views on YouTube and working with some of the biggest names in the music industry, like Lil Wayne and Sting. This song is a great mix of Latin, hip hop, and his own signature sound.
57. Mistral Gagnant – Coeur de Pirate feat. Alexandra Stréliski
Did you ever love something as a child and see it eventually discontinued? Renaud wrote this song about a type of candy he loved that is no longer made, and Coeur de Pirate did a cover version of it 20 years later that’s almost as good as the original.
58. Formidable – Stromae
Formidable was their song that saw Stromae prove just how great an artist he was. It was something well outside of his normal range but was nonetheless a massive hit that would go on to become a beloved song.
59. Papaoutai – Stromae
Stromae has been on here a few times, for good reason. After Alors On Danse became a massive hit for them, their follow-up single did almost just as well (though it was two years later). French slang for “Papa ou es-tu?” this song was based on the artist’s own father being lost during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, occurring before he moved to Belgium.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.