She was inducted into the country's Legion of Honor on Monday.
It is the highest tribute France's culture minister can give. He pinned a red-ribboned medal on Minnelli's lapel in an emotional ceremony in Paris.
Minnelli called the distinction a dream come true.
"This moment, this minute and each second in it for me will leave a glow upon the sky and as time goes by, it will never, never die," said Minnelli.
The daughter of Hollywood star Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli, the entertainer won an Oscar for her role in the hit 1972 film "Cabaret." Minnelli also has won an Emmy and several Golden Globe and Tony awards.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.