The English title is a literal translation of the French but misses its meaning, as the French title refers to the idiom "faire les quatre cents coups", which means "to raise hell". On the first prints in the United States, subtitler and dubber Noelle Gilmore gave the film the title Wild Oats, but the distributor did not like that and reverted it to The 400 Blows. Before seeing it, some people thought the film covered the topic of corporal punishment.
The semi-autobiographical film reflects events of Truffaut's and his friends' lives. In style, it expresses Truffaut's personal history of French film, with references to other works—most notably a scene borrowed wholesale from Jean Vigo's Zéro de conduite. Truffaut dedicated the film to the man who became his spiritual father, André Bazin, who died just as the film was about to be shot.
Besides being a character study, the film is an exposé of the injustices of the treatment of juvenile offenders in France at the time.
- Avenue Frochot, Paris 9, Paris, France
- Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Paris 7, Paris, France
- Honfleur, Calvados, France
- Montmartre, Paris 18, Paris, France
- Palais de Chaillot, Trocadéro, Paris 16, Paris, France
- Pigalle, Paris 9, Paris, France
- Rue Fontaine, Paris, France
- Sacré Cœur, Paris 18, Paris, France