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Atomic force microscopy (A.F.M.) was first described as a powerful technique for studying insulating, hard surfaces. Since then, it has also been considered as an appropriate technique for investigating, at a submicromic scale, elastic and viscoelastic properties of soft materials as polymer films. An attempt is made to show how macroscopic models can be fruitfully employed in order to interpret the force curves obtained in AFM on polymer films. Through an analysis of the slope variation and the way the instability occurs at the tip‐sample contact, it is shown that a macroscopic approach is a useful way to explain most of the features of the force curves. Furthermore the importance is underlined of the initial conditions. It is shown that for polymer samples which have a stiffness within the range of the probe one, drastic changes of the force curve shape can occur when the initial conditions vary. Finally, this approach should allow one to clarify the conditions for which the macroscopic approach fails.