Jean-Luc Godard was born on 3 December 1930 in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, the son of Odile (née Monod) and Paul Godard, a Swiss physician. His parents came from Protestant families of Franco–Swiss descent, and his mother was the daughter of Julien Monod, a founder of the Banque Paribas. She was the great-granddaughter of theologian Adolphe Monod. Relatives on his mother's side include also composer Jacques-Louis Monod, naturalist Théodore Monod and pastor Frédéric Monod. Four years after Jean-Luc's birth, his father moved the family to Switzerland.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Godard was in France and returned to Switzerland with difficulty. He spent most of the war in Switzerland, although his family made clandestine trips to his grandfather's estate on the French side of Lake Geneva. Godard attended school in Nyon, Switzerland.
Not a frequent cinema-goer, he attributed his introduction to cinema to a reading of Malraux's essay Outline of a Psychology of Cinema, and his reading of La Revue du cinéma, which was relaunched in 1946. In 1946, he went to study at the Lycée Buffon in Paris and, through family connections, mixed with members of its cultural elite. He lodged with the writer Jean Schlumberger. Having failed his baccalaureate exam in 1948 he returned to Switzerland. He studied in Lausanne and lived with his parents, whose marriage was breaking up.
He spent time in Geneva also with a group that included another film fanatic, Roland Tolmatchoff, and the extreme rightist philosopher Jean Parvulesco. His older sister Rachel encouraged him to paint, which he did, in an abstract style. After time spent at a boarding school in Thonon to prepare for the retest, which he passed, he returned to Paris in 1949.
He registered for a certificate in anthropology at the University of Paris (Sorbonne), but did not attend class. He got involved with the young group of film critics at the ciné-clubs that started the New Wave. Godard originally held only French citizenship, then in 1953, he became a citizen of Gland, canton of Vaud, Switzerland, possibly through simplified naturalisation through his Swiss father.