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5 Surprisingly Badass Things Invented By The French

Robert De Niro’s new France-set action comedy The Family is out today – let’s see what other cool stuff came from the land of striped jerseys.

France is known for many weedy things – soft cheese, surrendering, certain parts of Canada – but did you know that the French actually invented a lot of stuff that was actually pretty badass? It’s true! Stuff like…


The Tank

Photo by Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group

While it’s true that the British actually developed, and then fielded the first tanks in 1916, during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (that’s WW1, history fans!), they were really little more than huge metal boxes with a gun thrown on top. The French – who were developing the concept at the same time, but took longer because of the extra time required in France for napping and cigarette breaks – created something much more useful: The Renault FT, which was first produced in 1917. A lighter tank than Britain’s Mark 1, its design was nevertheless revolutionary, and has influenced the design of pretty much every tank ever since, with its engine at the back, crew compartment at the front, and its guns set into a revolving turret on top. Later tanks ditched the built-in baguette rack on the dashboard, but hey, c’est la vie.


The Bayonet

Via Wikipedia

You’ve got to hand it to the French with this one – it’s basically a gun that stabs you. Managed to avoid that heavy musket ball? Thinking about charging in and strangling the guy while he reloads? You’ve already spent too long thinking about it, buddy - he’s just sliced your intestines out with that long knife strapped to the barrel. A handy weapon accessory that first appeared in France in the 17th Century, it’s probably fair to say its inventor never pictured the gibberish it might one day inspire.


The Air Force

Photo by Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group

In an age of smart missiles, drones, and stealth bombers, it’s hard to imagine a time when air superiority wasn’t considered a crucial factor in a war. The French, however – due to years of exercising their fertile imaginations by spending every second of the day thinking about sex, new variations on the sandwich, or both – had the foresight to make the new-fangled “airplane” a part of their army way back in 1910, eventually forming the Armée de l’Air. When the First World War came along, the age of the aerial dogfight began, and the skies above France saw some of the most vicious, terrifying battles ever fought in the clouds. Outside of this one, obviously.


The Ramjet

Via Wikipedia

Now, we’re not qualified engineers here – we’re a bunch of guys who could, at absolute best, describe their calling as “writing so-so dick jokes.” But our best shot at describing the ramjet is this: It’s a jet engine with very few moving parts, that you strap to another engine, and it makes your plane/missile/wildly souped-up toboggan go like a greased weasel on roller-skates (and a rocket up its butt). Here, just read this. It was conceived by Frenchman René Lorin in 1913, but it wasn’t successfully built until the '30s, later becoming a fixture on various supersonic aircraft and missiles. As well as being a badass feat of engineering, it also has the coolest name of anything ever invented. Well, apart from the Sonic De-Fragmenting Flatulizer, but that’s still in the prototype stage.



Sure, jumping off things in a fancy way isn’t exactly as badass as stabbing people in the balls with your rifle, or driving a three-ton cannon on caterpillar tracks over a horse. But come on, it does look pretty awesome.



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