The Eiffel Tower turns 125: the tower on film

It’s 125 years since the Eiffel Tower was unveiled at the 1889 World’s Fair. To celebrate the birthday of Paris’s most famous landmark, we count down 15 memorable appearances of the tower on film.

Lunch on the Eiffel Tower (1914)

In this 1914 newsreel, a lavishly decked out dining room atop France’s most iconic monument is the scene of a formal luncheon for foreign dignitaries. The cameraman rides the elevator for a spectacular view of the city glimpsed beyond iron fretwork.

Paris qui dort (1923)

Paris qui dort (1924)

Paris qui dort (1924)

In René Clair’s delightful 1923 short, the caretaker of the Eiffel Tower awakens to find the citizens of Paris all frozen in unexpected positions – the work of a mad scientist with a magic ray gun.

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

Alec Guinness heads a gang of British bank robbers who smuggle gold to Paris in the shape of souvenir Eiffel Towers in this classic Ealing comedy.

Funny Face (1957)

Funny Face (1956)

Funny Face (1956)

The tower serves as the backdrop to the climax of the ‘Bonjour Paris’ number in this 1957 musical teaming Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn as a fashion photographer and his latest muse.

Zazie dans le métro (1960)

Zazie dans le métro (1960)

Zazie dans le métro (1960)

Adapted from the novel by Raymond Queneau, Louis Malle’s zany French New Wave film features a 10-year-old girl visiting Paris from the countryside who escapes the clutches of her uncle to explore the city under her own energetic steam.

The Great Race (1965)

The Great Race (1965)

The Great Race (1965)

Among the many films to have simulated the destruction of Gustave Eiffel’s monument, this star-studded chase film ends with daredevil driver Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) misfiring a cannon that leads to the tower’s collapse.

King Kong Escapes (1967)

King Kong Escapes (1967)

King Kong Escapes (1967)

The Eiffel Tower provides the backdrop for a fight between King Kong and Mechani-Kong – the robot ape created by evil mastermind Dr Who (no relation) in this action-packed entry in the Toho studio’s Kaiju monster-movie franchise.

The Conformist (1970)

The Conformist (1970)

The Conformist (1970)

Fascist operative Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) comes to Paris to assassinate his old college professor in Bernardo Bertolucci’s ultra-stylish 1930s-set thriller.

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)

 Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)

Herbie does indeed go to Monte Carlo in this third entry in Disney’s series about the loveable 1963 Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own. But it all starts off in Paris (with a token cameo for the Eiffel Tower), as Herbie and its driver Jim Douglas (Dean Jones) set off on the fictional Trans-France Race.

A View to a Kill (1985)

A View to a Kill (1985)

A View to a Kill (1985)

The views to die for in this 1985 Bond film (the last appearance from Roger Moore as 007) come courtesy of a climactic fight atop San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge and – earlier on – an assassination scene and chase amid the soaring wrought iron of Paris’s famous landmark.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Moulin Rouge (2001)

Moulin Rouge (2001)

The tower is an ever-present backdrop in Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 musical mashup, an idealised if gleefully anachronistic vision of life in the Parisian belle epoque.

Sicko (2007)

Sicko (2007)

Sicko (2007)

Michael Moore gazes at the Eiffel Tower and muses on the state of free universal healthcare in France, the UK and Canada, in his impassioned 2007 plea for a comparable system in the US.

Ratatouille (2007)

Ratatouille (2007)

Ratatouille (2007)

Another idealised vision of the City of Light, this joyous animation from the Pixar stable features a culinary whizz rodent taking a job at a top Paris restaurant.

The Flight of the Red Balloon (2007)

Flight of the Red Balloon (2008)

Flight of the Red Balloon (2008)

For Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s first French film, he pays tribute to the city and one of its film classics (Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 The Red Balloon) with this tale of a puppeteer (Juliette Binoche) who takes on a new nanny for her young son. 

Hugo (2011)

Hugo (2011)

Hugo (2011)

One more love letter to cinema and Paris, this time from Martin Scorsese. The eponymous Hugo is a 12-year-old boy whose view from Gare Montparnasse railway station (where he mends the clocks) takes in the majestic sight of Gustave Eiffel’s famous creation, towering over the city.

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