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Jane Birkin Movies: A Look at the Actress Who Defined ’60s French Girl Chic

See how she went from controversial '60s muse to sophisticated European film veteran


When Jane Birkin passed away at at 76 in 2023, the fashion world went into mourning. For over half a century, the actress and singer defined French girl chic with her perfect bangs and easygoing yet undeniably sexy fashion sense.

While Birkin will forever be associated with French style, thanks to her many appearances in French films, her relationship with the controversial French musician Serge Gainsbourg and her being the namesake and inspiration for the coveted Hermès Birkin bag, it may surprise you to learn that she was actually British.

Born in London in 1946, Jane Birkin first rose to prominence as an it girl in the swinging ’60s scene that also spawned icons like Twiggy and Pattie Boyd, and relocated to France, where she’d spend the rest of her life, in the late ’60s.

Related: Get Your Retro Fashion Inspiration on With These Rare Photos of Twiggy, the Model Who Defined ’60s Chic

Jane Birkin in 1964
Jane Birkin in 1964McKeown/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty

’60s Jane Birkin movies

Birkin debuted as an actress with uncredited bit parts in The Knack… and How to Get It and The Idol. In 1966, she had a small part in the arty thriller Blowup, and received much attention thanks to a nude scene. Blowup would go on to become one of the most iconic movies of the ’60s, and from there Birkin took on more and more roles in European arthouse films.

Left to right: David Hemmings, Gillian Hills and Jane Birkin in 'Blowup' 1966
Left to right: David Hemmings, Gillian Hills and Jane Birkin in Blowup (1966)Silver Screen Collection/Getty

Following Blowup, Birkin was in high demand, and appeared in groovy ’60s movies like Kaleidoscope and Wonderwall. In Wonderwall, Birkin played a model named Penny Lane, and the movie featured psychedelic visuals and music from George Harrison. It doesn’t get more ’60s than that! (And yes, it inspired the popular ’90s Oasis song of the same name!)

Related: 60 Years of Beatlemania: 10 Fab Beatles Moments From 1964

A poster for Joe Massot's 1968 drama 'Wonderwall' starring Jane Birkin
Jane Birkin in the poster for Wonderwall (1968)Movie Poster Image Art/Getty

1969 would be a pivotal year for Birkin, as she met Serge Gainsbourg, who would become her partner, when they starred together in the French film Slogan. Surprisingly, when Birkin was first cast in the role of the young woman with whom Gainsbourg has an affair, she didn’t speak any French, but she soon learned the language and audiences were endeared by the way she spoke French with an English accent.

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg in Slogan (1969)Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

That same year, Birkin permanently relocated to France and released a provocative duet with Gainsbourg, “Je t’aime… moi non plus.” She also costarred in the hit French thriller The Swimming Pool, playing a sullen yet stylish teen who gets caught up in some very adult drama.

Alain Delon and Jane Birkin in 'The Swimming Pool' 1969
Alain Delon and Jane Birkin in The Swimming Pool (1969)FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty

Singing in the ’70s

In the ’70s, Birkin released three albums, all with songs written by Gainsbourg. In 1971, she and Gainsbourg had a daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg, who would go on to become an accomplished singer and actress herself. Birkin continued acting, and notably had a role as Brigitte Bardot‘s lover in Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman in 1973.

Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin in 'Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman' 1973
Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin in Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman (1973)Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Birkin then branched out into horror movies like Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes and Dark Places and comedies like I’m Losing My Temper and Catherine & Co. She also appeared in Gainsbourg’s directorial debut, titled (what else?) Je t’aime moi non plus, in 1976. Like much of Gainsbourg’s work, the film proved controversial due to its risqué nature.

Jane Birkin rehearses a scene during the set of the movie "Je t'aime moi non plus" directed by her husband, French film director Serge Gainsbourg on October 5, 1975
Jane Birkin during the filming of Je t’aime moi non plus in 1975GERARD FOUET/AFP via Getty

In 1978, Birkin appeared in one of her most high-profile roles, in the ensemble cast of the 1978 Agatha Christie adaptation Death on the Nile. She would appear in another Christie adaptation, Evil Under the Sun, in 1982.

Jane Birkin in 1978
Jane Birkin in 1978Jean-Louis Atlan/Sygma via Getty

Jane Birkin the mature actress

Birkin will forever be known for her devil-may-care style in the ’60s and ’70s, and with some exceptions, many French Jane Birkin movies aren’t well-known to mainstream American audiences. Being known as an ingenue can be a trap as an actress matures, but Birkin kept acting into the ’80s and beyond.

In 1980, Birkin and Gainsbourg broke up, and the actress began a relationship with French director Jacques Doillon. She starred in two of his films in the early ’80s, The Prodigal Daughter and La Pirate. In The Prodigal Daughter, she played a troubled woman who leaves her husband and returns home — only to discover her father is having an affair. Reflecting on the 1981 film, Birkin said, “[It was] the first time that I had received such reviews when the critics thought I was good on screen. It touched me deeply to be taken seriously.”

Jane Birkin in 1984
Jane Birkin in 1984Jean-François Rault/Sygma via Getty

Birkin worked steadily throughout the ’80s, with roles in Love on the Ground, Beethoven’s Nephew, Leave All Fair and La femme de ma vie. In 1988, she starred in two films by the trailblazing director Agnès Varda, Kung Fu Master (a drama in which she plays a woman who has an affair with a teenager) and Jane B. par Agnès V. (a documentary about Birkin’s life that weaves in elements of fiction).

Jane Birkin in 1997
Jane Birkin in 1997Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

Some Jane Birkin movies in the ’90s included La Belle Noiseuse, Daddy Nostalgia, Same Old Song and A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries. By the ’00s, Birkin was still acting, and she stepped behind the camera for the first time in 2007, writing, directing and starring in Boxes, a film based on her life and loves. After so many years of being a muse, Birkin finally got a chance to tell her own story.

Jane Birkin and her daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg, in 2021
Jane Birkin and her daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg, in 2021Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty

In 2021, Birkin was the subject of a documentary directed by her daughter, Jane by Charlotte. In recent years, some of the more famous Jane Birkin movies have won over a new generation of fans, as she’s a constant subject of fashion inspiration on social media. Birkin’s singular charisma is undeniable, whether we’re watching her in one of the seductive ’60s thrillers of her early years or an acclaimed arthouse film from later on.

Read on for more ’60s icons!

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