Almost six decades later, the clash between Macron and Le Pen - one seeking to become the nation's youngest-ever head of state at 39, the other to become its first female leader - symbolized the shock waves that have rocked the political foundations of other major countries in addition to France itself.
The campaign was short but intense, packed with twists and turns.
In June 2014, they brought Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's leader Petro Poroshenko together for talks on the sidelines of 70th anniversary commemorations for Operation Overlord, the massive World War II amphibious assault against Nazi-occupied France.
When he walked out to deliver his victory speech, it was not to France's national anthem but to the European Union anthem, based on the "Ode to Joy" movement from Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
The high-stakes challenge now for the victors, including France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, will be to concretely address the anxieties that propelled their risky rivals uncomfortably close to power, and thus ensure they never get any closer. The movement is to be renamed La Republique en Marche ("The Republic on the Move"). This was the fruits of his time as a partner at Rothschild investment bank, where among other things he helped close a deal in which Nestle paid $11.8 billion for Pfizer's baby food business.
Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini took up the refrain "Vive la France, Vive l'Europe" with a picture of her beaming side by side with Macron at the World Economic Forum.
The clear bias in favour of Macron in the markets over the far-right candidate Le Pen rests on a number of factors, above all related to his views on Europe.
"Let's not fool ourselves: The score shows that. there is a real desire for far-right extremism in the population", French historian Nicolas Lebourg told left-leaning newspaper Liberation. Gauthier is one of the founders of Princeton's French, a citizen group that encouraged French citizens to vote in this election. Germany's general election in September is a race between Chancellor Angela Merkel and center-left challenger Martin Schulz, both pro-EU. Macron's win marks a welcome check to the forces of economic protectionism, xenophobia and Islamophobia unleashed last June by the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump's win later that year.
Macron can not revitalize a wounded European Union by himself. Chirac won with a historic score of more than 82% of the votes, because supporters of rival parties rallied behind him to stop France from having an extreme-right head of state.
France is a nuclear power with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Macron's biggest challenge is instead likely to come from the conservative Republicans, still smarting from defeat in a presidential election that looked theirs for the taking before their candidate Francois Fillon became embroiled in an expenses scandal.
Cohabitation has the potential to lead to a weak presidency and frustrating Macron's reform efforts, which could undermine his popularity and stoke support for politicians with a more populist bent.