The English title is a straight translation of the French but misses its meaning, as the French title refers to the expression "faire les quatre cents coups", which means "to raise hell". On the first American prints, subtitler and dubber Noelle Gilmore gave the film the title "Wild Oats", but the distributor did not like that title and reverted it to The 400 Blows, which led some to think the film covered the topic of corporal punishment.
A semi-autobiographical film, reflecting events of Truffaut's and his friend's lives, its style amounts to Truffaut's personal history of French film—most notably a scene borrowed wholesale from Jean Vigo's Zéro de conduite. It is dedicated 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.
The film was widely acclaimed, winning numerous awards, including the Best Director Award at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, the Critics Award of the 1959 New York Film Critics' Circle and the Best European Film Award at 1960's Bodil Awards. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 32nd Academy Awards. The film currently holds a very rare 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 48 reviews.
The film is among the top ten of the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.
Truffaut made four other films with Léaud depicting Antoine at later stages of his life. He meets his first love, Colette, in Antoine and Colette, which was Truffaut's contribution to the 1962 anthology Love at Twenty. He falls in love with Christine Darbon (Claude Jade) in Stolen Kisses. He marries Christine in Bed and Board, but the couple have separated in Love on the Run.
Filmmakers Akira Kurosawa, Luis Buñuel, Satyajit Ray, Jean Cocteau, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Richard Lester and Norman Jewison have cited The 400 Blows as one of their favorite movies. Kurosawa called it "one of the most beautiful films that I have ever seen".
The film was ranked #29 in Empire magazine's list of "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.
Source : Wikipedia