The 15 Best Palme d’Or Winners From The Cannes Film Festival

The 15 Best Palme d'Or Winners From The Cannes Film Festival

Right about now, taking the time difference into consideration, a bevy of beautiful celebrities will be spritzing and primping their last in preparation to walk the red carpet at the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Cannes Film Festival. But while the festival is a byword for glamour in the wider media, underneath the glossy surface is where its real heart beats, in the long queues in pouring rain, in the panic of swimming against the tide in the mercurially mutable traffic flow system on the Croisette, in the flocks of deskless journos sitting cross-legged on the floor riding out caffeine highs and blood sugar crashes in an effort to file on time. This side of Cannes may not be its prettiest but it is where the action is at, and it is all made worthwhile by the quality of the films we’re privileged to enjoy, across all the sections of the festival for the ten days of its duration before the Palme d’Or is announced and we all pack up and go home.

Who the Jane Campion-headed Jury will choose for that particular accolade in 2014 is anyone’s guess (though there are many sites running odds if you fancy a flutter), but to get us all in the mood for a fortnight of news and reviews from the South of France, we thought we’d take a look back through the festival’s archives and choose our favorite recipients of its highest prize through the years. It’s important to note, for two periods in the festival’s history that highest prize was not the Palme d’Or but the Grand Prix (confusingly that’s now the runner-up prize) but where that was the case, we’ve simply counted the Grand Prix winner as the de facto Palme and moved on with our lives. Here, then, are our much-wrangled-over 15 picks for the Best Palme d’Or winners of all time; fingers crossed 2014 yields a movie that belongs in this pantheon too.

“Rome Open City” (1945)
A pregnant woman runs desperately toward the truck carrying off her lover, hand outstretched. She is screaming; he is clawing at the guards who hold him back and bellowing her name. And then the shots come. We can still remember the gut-punch effect of the first time we saw Roberto Rossellini’s seminal film and watched Anna Magnani fall in its most famous scene. Watched—or rather, witnessed, because this film feels like one you bear witness to an astonishingly involving tale of crumbling personal and political morality in the riven, exploded Rome of the latter stages of the Second World War. Now a cornerstone of the Neorealist movement, in fact the grittiness of the style was due to the lack of available resources for Rossellini and his crew, but the calloused roughness of its technique only enhances its power, and adds to the legend of the film as a near-miraculous triumph of humanist storytelling over lack of wherewithal. Because what’s most amazing about “Rome: Open City” is, even divorced from its historical context, just how gripping it is as a drama—there’s not an ounce to spare in this cleanly told yet sprawling, multi-character narrative. Really, it’s a peerless example of the peculiar alchemy that can transmute grainy, scratchy images on celluloid (and odds and ends cuttings at that) into something so powerful that it practically winds you. While it may have been awarded the festival’s highest prize (then called the Grand Prix) along with ten other films (this was the first proper ceremony and the rules were weird), “Rome: Open City” is not only the greatest of them, it’s undoubtedly one of the greatest Cannes winners of all time.

“The Third Man” (1949)
During its inaugural year, the roof of the Palais (the aptly-named theatrical palace where all main competition films are shown) is said to have blown off during a storm. But that roof was doomed, storm or no storm, because the year was 1949 and “The Third Man” screened in Competition. As directed by Carol Reed, written by Graham Greene, performed by Orson Welles, scored by Anton Karas‘ zither, and photographed by Robert Krasker, the movie changed the landscape of the film noir genre in just about every major cinematic department. Here we have a picture impervious to age, unless you’re talking about its shadowy richness growing all the more sweet with each passing year, like the aroma of a good vintage. Whether it’s Harry Lime’s cynical smile after an alley cat blows his cover, the setting of worn-out post-war Viennese decadence, or the infamous Ferris wheel ride where Lime tells his friend Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton, brilliant yet still outshone) about dots and cuckoo clocks; the film injects class into its rich tapestry at every turn. We can only imagine what it was like seeing it for the first time at Cannes, with the aftershocks of the Second World War still reverberating in hearts and minds. The festival was an infant in the film world (the title of “Palme d’Or” not even in its fetal stage) so the mouthful of 30 films competing wasn’t all that odd, but it makes this winner all the more special. Regardless of year, though, when the right people find the right material at the right time, magic is undeniable and mustn’t be allowed to go unrewarded. As one of the greatest Cannes winners, “The Third Man” is an example for the ages.

“Paris, Texas” (1984)
With old vets John Huston (“Under The Volcano”) and Satyajit Ray (“The Home And The World”) going up against Europe’s unhinged Werner Herzog (“Where The Green Ants Dream”) and an admittedly, still tenderfoot Lars Von Trier (“The Element Of Crime”) it may have looked somewhat surprising on paper when Wim Wenders came up on top in 1984 with his “Paris, Texas.” But that’s a paper we’d never take seriously. “Paris, Texas” didn’t just win, it pulverized; picking up the FIPRESCI prize from the critics and the Ecumenical Jury Prize from the independent wing, along with the Palme. Themes of family, loss, and desertion intermingle in brilliant fashion as they reflect off Roby Muller‘s vibrant cinematography (the desert hasn’t been this pretty since “Lawrence Of Arabia”) and refract from Harry Dean Stanton‘s vapid gaze towards that place "without language or streets." Wenders directs the story with a kind of clarity and control that makes the pull toward the cinematic sublime near hypnotic, the depth of the multi-layered plot feeling more and more like a feathered bed the closer we get to the finale. And what a finale it is. The scene between Stanton (who is in career-defining mode here), and Nastassja Kinski in the strip-club, two worlds divided by plexiglass, is the kind of golden stuff that only the greatest Palme d’Or winners are made of. This story of how a wandering vagabond reconnects with his estranged family left no tear dry 30 years ago, and will no doubt remind people again why it’s such essential canon among deserving Palme d’Or winners when it screens as part of this year’s Cannes Classics selection.

The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg” (1964)
Jacques Demy‘s "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is a masterpiece of sincerity and melodrama. Gorgeously rendered, it looks like an eye-popping pastry tart and yet its style never unravels its genuinely poignant and heart wrenching tale of star-crossed lovers. Did we mention the romantic tragedy is also a musical? Which in many respects should make its affectations distance itself from pure emotion, but Demy’s brilliant, heart-on-sleeve romantic musical is a triumph of story, character, music, songs and genuine pathos–it’s the equivalent of a cinematic opera and a gorgeous pop-art one at that. With a dazzling musical score written by the great Michel Legrand (who worked with everyone from Jean-Luc Godard and all the French New Wave to Clint Eastwood to Robert Altman) , ‘Cherbourg’ stars Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo. as two Romeo and Juliet-esque lovers separated by class lines. Their love is discouraged, but relents nonetheless until the two are fatefully separated when he has to go off to war. A crucial moral dilemma (which we won’t spoil here, in case you haven’t seen it) presents itself just as he leaves and it is heart crushingly painful. The first musical to win the Palme d’Or, and not the last, ‘Cherbourg’ nails the beautiful formalism of musicals without the visual razzle-dazzle of dancing and fully realizes the crestfallen and bittersweet ache of unrequited love and dolorous fate. Demy would make other musicals in his career, and many other films too, but none would act like a shot to the heart like ‘Cherbourg,’ now cemented as all all-time classic, musical or otherwise. Demy beat out François Truffaut‘s "The Soft Skin" and films by Pietro Germi, Kon Ichikawa and Hiroshi Teshigahara to win the big prize on the Croisette that year.

Underground” (1995)
Palme d’Or winners both fade and rise in esteem. Some are cemented in cinematic history and others become paler. Emir Kusturica’s “Underground” certainly falls in the latter camp, to the point that many modern-day cinephiles haven’t seen it (the fact that its only available on import as DVD doesn’t help). In fact, Kusturica, a Serbian filmmaker and two-time Palme d’Or winner has been all but forgotten as a modern day auteur. Perhaps it’s because his outrageous and farcical whirling dervish-like films were never really in step with American audiences or critics. And many might say “Underground” and its thinly-veiled critique of the ethnic Yugoslavian wars in the early 90s was nothing more than a not-so-allegoric propaganda piece. But really, that would not be giving this ambitious and riotous movie a fair shake. A black comedy with a sprawling, epic and near exhausting scope (164 minutes long), encapsulates 50 years of Yugoslavian history in three chapters by charting the absurd misadventures of two friends over several decades. About the inherently foolish nature of war, the movie is essentially about a man, and his accomplice, who deceives an entire community into living underground, convincing them that WWII rages on for more than 15 years. What’s perhaps so beautiful and awe-inspiring about “Underground” is how it’s as bizarre and as hilarious as any of Kusturica’s films, but as it moves up in the years, it slowly coils into something so tragic, sad and breathtakingly moving–an incredible build and evolution of tone, mood and emotion that is masterful. 1995 was a particularly good year and Kusturica’s film bested the likes of Mathieu Kassovitz ("La Haine"), Tim Burton ("Ed Wood"), Larry Clark ("Kids"), Jim Jarmusch ("Dead Man") and Theo Angelopoulos ("Ulysses’ Gaze") for the top prize. Kusturica has been making movies less these days, having moved on to music, novels, autobiographies, political activism and more (and his last film, the 2008 documentary "Maradona" couldn’t even find U.S. distribution; to be fair, there’s a new drama in the can), but he’ll always be known as a two-time Palme winner. Perhaps someone like Criterion can restore his good name one of these days.

Apocalypse Now” (1979)
And you thought Terrence Malick took a long time to make a movie. Just imagine the narrative on this one: You begin shooting your film in 1976, and this turns into a sprawling 238-day shooting schedule, spread over 16 months. Your “nightmare” production is so notoriously troubled and prolonged it becomes the butt of late night punchlines and comic-strip jokes in magazines. And then, almost three years later, you win the coveted Palme d’Or prize to much applause and fanfare (in a 3-hour work-in-progress cut no less). Francis Ford Coppola was surely at the height of the hubris that would later take down his impeccable ‘70s career, but arguably he was also at the zenith of his genius. A hallucinogenic and nightmarish decent into the heart of darkness, Coppola’s 1970s adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s famed novella used Vietnam as an allegory for the pandemonium and sheer madness that ensues during war. One of the greatest anti-war films ever—though its concerns are far deeper than just political statements—“Apocalypse Now” is a masterful look at the fallacy of order and the ever-enveloping psychosis of chaos. The haunting dread the movie emits as it snakes down the river towards a fateful doom is still chilling to this day. At its simplest, behind the barebones mission, it’s an examination of the psychology of two men at odds, on a collision course, and much more similar than they’d like to admit. Of course, it features terrific performances by Martin Sheen (arguably his career best), Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall, many others and the movie is so bloody committed, it almost killed everyone in the making. Only seven filmmakers in the world have won more than one Palme d’Or and Coppola is rightfully among that elite group (though his ‘Apocalypse’ prize would be shared with Volker Schlöndorff’s “The Tin Drum”). Coppola famously said the movie wasn’t about Vietnam, it was Vietnam. “We had access to too much money, too much equipment; and little by little we went insane." Thankfully for us that psychedelic and poetic anarchy is forever etched on screen for all time.

“Secrets & Lies” (1996)
When it comes to painting working class toils with intricate shades of family values on an urban canvas, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who does it better than Mike Leigh. And Cannes knows it, too. As a freshman at the festival in 1993, he received the Best Director Award for “Naked,” with his troubled protagonist Johnny getting David Thewlis the Best Actor award. Leigh’s next film rolled its sleeves up even further to dive even deeper into the dirty dishes of kitchen sink realism, and came up with the indelible “Secrets & Lies.” Off to the French Riviera he went again, because why not? This time, as a sophomore, Leigh walked away with the Palme d’Or, and Brenda Blethyn picked up Best Actress. It’s also worth mentioning that Jury President Francis Ford Coppola and his nine jurors picked Leigh’s societal juggernaut over Lars Von Trier‘s “Breaking The Waves” and The Coen Bros‘ “Fargo." That’s how good “Secrets & Lies” is, and how important the statement of awarding it the highest honour in 1996 was. As with most of Leigh’s greatest outputs, plot and narrative are invisible to character, relationships, and an incredible dexterity at handling human pathos. What makes “Secrets & Lies” among his very best work is the added milieu teetering on the edge, and silently pulling emotional strings both off and on screen; in this case, when the black middle-class Hortence (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) finds out that her biological mother is white working-class Cynthia (Blethyn), the themes of race and family blood are introduced but never hammered down too hard. Watching a Leigh film is like taking a crash course in life, the experience always leaving us with heaps of food for thought. This year, Leigh is back at Cannes with “Mr. Turner” and our excitement is only kept in check by our appetite.

“4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” (2007)
Here’s proof of the thin line dividing the subjective from the objective in the definition of “greatness.” “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” is an experience as bleak and barren as the humdrum rhythm of its title suggests, but it would be foolish of us to deny the cinematic weight the film manages to support with all the fragility of a burnt matchstick. The story of two university friends transacting their way toward illegal abortion in late ’80s Romania would have completely misfired with audiences at Cannes if it weren’t for the blistering minimalist performances from Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu, the perfect poster children for the entire movement the film heralds. What has become known as the Romanian New Wave, weaving the socio-political texture with dilapidated aesthetics dried up by communist rule, originated with the Short Film Palme d’Or winner “Trafic” in 2004, and continued to pry the film industry’s doors open with Un Certain Regard winner “The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu” in 2005 and 2008’s Camera d’Or winner “12:08 East Of Bucharest.” But it was Cristian Mungiu‘s Palme d’Or winner in 2007 that validated a new, however harsh, cinematic language, shining high society light on a cracked corner of Eastern Europe. The competition was overflowing with mainstream and arthouse filmmakers; Bela Tarr (“The Man From London”) and Wong Kar Wai (“Blueberry Nights”) mingling with The Coen Brothers (“No Country For Old Men”) and David Fincher (“Zodiac”) but Jury President Stephen Frears announced ‘4 Months’ the winner. The fact that it was Frears is all the more remarkable, but proves our point with this one even further. While we’re not going to run and have our emotions drained again through a 1980s Romanian sieve, this Palme d’Or winner was too important to dismiss, and as such, rightly deserves its spot among the greatest of them all.

"All That Jazz" (1979)
Fragmentary, hallucinatory, grandly spectacular and deeply personal, Bob Fosse‘s "All That Jazz" is a film that constantly operates on several levels. A largely autobiographical reconstruction of Fosse’s own psychological struggles when wrestling to complete his Lenny Bruce biopic "Lenny" (itself a portrait of a man bedeviled by his talent and compulsions to the point of breakdown) while mounting a Broadway production of "Chicago" (a song from which provides the title), really it’s an exploration of his unraveling psychology, as the hedonism of his lifestyle starts to catch up with him. Roy Scheider is terrific as the promiscuous Fosse surrogate Joe Gideon who alternates flashes of inspiration as a movie/theatre director, choreographer, father and lover with a series of dexy-induced imagined encounters with a mysterious white-clad woman (Jessica Lange) who seems at first to be his muse, but turns out to be the Angel of Death. Perhaps she’s both. Fosse’s incredible flair for dance (and for dance on film especially) is highlighted in the many dazzling show sequences that become more prevalent as the third act more or less devolves into one all-singing, all-dancing fever dream, but it’s the fearlessness with which he lays bare his demons which is most impressive, with the director proving himself a master of ironic counterpoint as a means to show Gideon’s increasing dislocation from reality. Part dance film, part musical, part confessional and part beautiful bad trip, "All That Jazz" is a unique hybrid that saw Fosse, who also earned three directing Oscar nominations (and one win, for "Cabaret") in a filmography of just five titles, deservedly share the Palme podium that year with no less a master than Akira Kurosawa for "Kagemusha."

The Conversation” (1974)
“He’d kill us if he got the chance.” If you didn’t get chills just now, stop everything and immediately watch “The Conversation.” For everyone else, those eight little words are made all the more ominous the more they rewind in memory, thanks to Francis Ford Coppola’s edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller, effectively re-aligning the edge forever after. Coppola must have felt like King Midas back in the 70s; whether he was just writing, merely producing, or doing the triple threat of writing-directing-producing, everything he touched turned to gold. He entered the Cannes competition twice in this decade, and walked away with the Palme d’Or on both occasions; for films that have become so intricately stitched into the fabric of American cinema, our list would have been impossible without them. “The Conversation” usually gets second or third billing when Coppola’s greatest films are placed in order but the suspenseful fear so masterfully distilled by paranoia and invasion of privacy is arguably more compelling than epic Mafia family struggles or dehumanized journeys into the Vietnam War. Gene Hackman gives the greatest performance of his career (yes, better than his Popeye Doyle) as Harry Caul; wire tapper, hermit, saxophone player, and a man whose conscience is dictated by every one of those idiosyncrasies. Suspense is elevated into the realms of art by way of the actor’s performances, use of sound editing that’s never been matched since, and a direction that slowly curls its fingers around your throat and chokes you with its claustrophobic cinematography and soundtrack. It was inspired by another Palme d’Or winner (1966’s “Blowup”) but for our money this intimate masterpiece is a more intoxicating, fear-inducing experience, and as such rightly deserves its spot.

The Cranes Are Flying” (1957)
In the history of sublime director/cinematographer partnerships, there may be no pairing more consistently undersung and more deserving of a place in that pantheon than director Mikhail Kalatozov and his frequent collaborator Sergey Urusevskiy. Indeed, prior to a resurgence of interest following the restoration of “I Am Cuba,” Kalatozov’s work in general has tended to be overlooked in the role call of the all-time greats, no doubt due to the stigma he held for being a “Soviet” filmmaker (despite the fact that earlier in his career he had in fact been banned by Stalinist authorities in the ‘30s for “Nail in the Boot,” ironically a work of pretty virulent propaganda). Those politics take a back seat, however in “The Cranes Are Flying”—probably his masterpiece—a work of compelling humanism about the cost of war that runs counter to the grain of soviet filmmaking of the time by focusing on the interior lives of its protagonists. And in its female lead, it features an absolutely astonishing, indelible performance from Tatiana Samoilova (who died just last week) as the vibrant, vivacious Veronika, her light gradually dimmed through years of hardship and separation from her soldier lover, Boris. Astonishingly moving (Samoilova’s is one of the most fascinatingly alive screen presences ever) and couched in cinematography so fluid and expressive (as in “I am Cuba” there are times when we simply don’t understand how Urusevskiy achieved a shot given the technology he was using) that from the very first shot of the lovers meeting by a curving wall banking a river, it takes your breath away, time and again. Elsewhere in his filmography Kalatozov was undoubtedly more heavy-handed, but there is a purity here, in image, feeling and performance, that simply transcends politics.

Barton Fink” (1991)
It’s become such an almost-cliché that aspirant writers experiencing creative difficulties have a tendency to write about aspirant writers experiencing creative difficulties, that often the first thing a screenwriting teacher will beg of their students is that they avoid this most obvious of tropes. Nothing good has ever come of it, right? But the exception that doesn’t so much prove the rule as burn it to the goddamn ground, bellowing, is the brilliant, gonzo and deeply creepy fourth feature from the Coen Brothers. The film starts as a piquant period Hollywood satire as John Turturro’s Barton heads to Hollywood on the back of a successful, if painfully sincere stage play about the Working Man and is immediately tasked with writing a Wallace Beery wrestling picture. The nature of creative compromise is then explored in his interactions with a Faulkner-esque fallen idol (John Mahoney) and his girlfriend (Judy Davis) but most especially with the crumbling, sweating hotel he stays in (definitely a character of itself) and his salesman neighbor there (John Goodman) a decent, jolly type who can nonetheless be heard sobbing at night through the thin walls. But thereafter it’s a descent into hell for Barton—possibly the hell of self-awareness— and how the Coens and their note-perfect cast (especially Turturro and Goodman) smoothly manage the gear shift from quirky comedy to downward spiral of horror in the second half (after a certain unforgettable mosquito-swatting) is nothing short of a masterclass. So the Coens take a screenwriting no-no and turn in a film that could be (and is) taught in screenwriting seminars—ever get the feeling they’re just showing off? Beating out Lars Von Trier’s “Europa,” Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever” and Kieslowski’s “The Double Life of Veronique” among others for the top prize, ‘Fink’ also picked up Best Actor for Turturro and Best Director for the Coens, and while they’ve gone on to even bigger successes since, it feels totally right that their Palme win came for this film—so early in their careers, so unmistakably auteurist and so deeply in love with the movies.

La Dolce Vita” (1960)
Choosing the winner in 1960 couldn’t have been more difficult. How do you watch Michelangelo Antonioni‘s “L’avventura,” Mikhail Kalatazov‘s “Letter Never Sent” or Ingmar Bergman‘s “The Virgin Spring” and not think of bending the rules to award all three at once? Answer: by having Federico Fellini‘s “La Dolce Vita” in the same competition. This masterpiece must have screened to the relief of the jury because we can imagine the collective wipe of the sweaty brow after its closing credits; regardless of what else comes before or after, the only thing that remains when the dust settles is “La Dolce Vita.” The Palme d’Or couldn’t have gone to any Bergmans, Bunuels or Antonionis that year (maybe it wasn’t so hard after all). An episodic look into the transcendental and flirtatious adventures of Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni, showing why he’s one of the brightest stars to ever shoot into the silver screen) the film transports itself above any cinematic conventions, like the monumental opening aerial sequence, and does what every truly great film does; whisks you away to another world. In this case, it’s a decadent Rome full of razor sharp wit and sarcasm, empty promises, misunderstood declarations, and more erratic energy than all the energizer bunnies in the world. One cannot merely watch “La Dolce Vita,” as it’s a near-sensual experience that can only be inhaled, devoured, gazed upon, and allowed to attack all of one’s senses. Mastroianni’s iconic pose from another Fellini gem “8 1/2” was chosen as the Cannes poster for this year’s edition, citing the celebration of a cinema “free and open to the world.” This kind of spirit was magically captured in “La Dolce Vita” and has never been sweeter.

"Kagemusha" (1980)
Every major director needs a Palme d’Or somewhere in their career to really put the cap on their mountain of achievements, and Akira Kurosawa had to wait until he was 70 for his (1955’s "I Live In Fear" was the only one of his films to compete at the festival otherwise). And while "Kagemusha" might not quite rank with the very best of the Japanese master’s output, second-tier Kurosawa is superior to first-tier stuff from just about anyone else, and the film is, as such, one of the worthier winners in the history of the festival, even if it had to split the award with the as-good-if-not-better “All That Jazz.” Made after a decade-long battle of depression that brought the helmer to the brink of suicide, the film’s Shakespearean plot sees a thief (Tatsuya Nakadai, a last minute replacement for Shintaro Katsu, who fell out with Kurosawa on the first day of filming) press-ganged into replacing the dead warlord that he bears an uncanny resemblance to, in an attempt to hold the clan together. It’s a simple, almost fable-like tale, but told on a scale and with a scope that dwarves anything that the director had ever done in the samurai genre before, not least thanks to the stunning photography (the director had been quietly planning it for years, with acres of storyboards and paintings). One might suspect that the jury gave the prize to Kurosawa as much to welcome his return as for the virtues of the movie itself, and even better was to come with “Ran” a few years later, but it’s still an absolutely remarkable piece of work that dwarves most that took the same prize over the years.

“Taste Of Cherry” (1997)
Arguably the most important cinematic movement to emerge at the end of the 20th century (sit down, vulgar auteurists) was the one that came out of Iran, the second generation of the nation’s New Wave, including filmmakers like Samira and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Mohsen Amiryoussefi and, more recently Asghar Farhadi, producing some of the most vital filmmaking in the world. First and foremost among them was the great Abbas Kiarostami, whose “Taste Of Cherry” in 1997 became the first (and so far only) Iranian picture to win the Palme. It’s a story that’s simple to the point of minimalist, as a man, Mr. Badii (Homayon Ershadi) travels through Tehran seeking someone to bury him after he commits suicide. It’s slow, meticulous fare, much to the aggravation of some (Roger Ebert loathed the film, calling it “a lifeless drone”), but we’d respectfully disagree: the film serves beautifully as a portrait of a man, a nation and, thanks to its bold, fourth-wall breaking conclusion, a medium, feeling quietly profound about big questions about life and death without ever losing touch with the humanism, and humanity, that’s always been so prevalent in the director’s work. It’s a film with a richness and complexity that a capsule review like this one could hardly hope to do justice to it, one that looks both outwards and within, and even in a remarkably strong year (which also included “L.A. Confidential,” “Happy Together,” “Funny Games,” “The Ice Storm,” “Nil By Mouth” and “The Sweet Hereafter”), there was surely no other choice for Isabelle Adjani’s jury. The only puzzle is why they chose to split the prize with Shohei Imamura’s inferior “The Eel."

A list of favorite Cannes winners is subject more than most to the vagaries of subjectivity—even more so than with our recent Ranked Best Picture Winners, when you’re talking about Palme d’Or/Grand Prix winners, you’re working off a very high base level. Very few Palme d’Or-awarded movies are actually bad. And so there was quite a lot of going round the houses before we settled on the above picks, and there were more than a few heartbreakers—seriously, painful, strife-laden decisions—along the way. But if you’d like to make yourself feel a little bit better (and we do), you could see this list as an extended 16-25 which would look a little like Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” Jane Campion’s “The Piano,” Luchino Visconti’s “The Leopard,” “Lindsay Anderson’s ”If…Luis Bunuel’s “Viridiana,”  and Henri-Georges Clouzot’s ”The Wages of Fear” while “The Tin Drum,” “Pulp Fiction” and The Dardennes’ “Rosetta” also had some passionate advocates. As a result we just know there’s not a hope in hell that any of you agree 100% with our picks (hell, probably no one writer among us is 100% on them either), so feel free to give full vent to your feelings on our most egregious exclusions in the comments section below. — Jessica Kiang, Nikola Grozdanovic and Rodrigo Perez

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Mr. McAllistan

I am glad to see La Dolce Vita in your list, also the paragraph you wrote on it perfectly depicts the breath-taking sensation this masterpieces conveys. As other people I am surprised you have not picked the celebrated Taxi Driver and Leopard, which are among the best. I’d suggest you’d mention hte magnificent Farewell my concubine by Chen Kaige, that won the palme d’or in 1993.

Ronnie D.

Take out '4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days', and put in 'The White Ribbon'.


Barton Fink is a fascinating movie, but I'll be darned if you think it's better than Taxi Driver and Blue is the Warmest Color.


BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR is the best of the lot and it's not even on your list. Ridiculous.

Stan Theorux

Tree of Life



This is that rare thing on the Internet: a solid list. Its only sin is in omission, but with there being only room for 15, it's forgivable. I'm not going to scoff at leaving out Tree of Life or Taxi Driver if you've got Underground and All That Jazz on the list.

Jorge Clooneigh

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is probably one of the most unforgettable cinematic experiences I will ever experience. Truly one of the greats.


Tree of Life?

Sanker from India

"Sit down, vulgar auteurists"

Hahaha! 😂


no blue is the warmest colour?


What a tough job it must have been to assemble this list! You're right, very few Palme d’Or-awarded movies are actually bad. I'm not a fan of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Friendly Persuasion.


No Taxi Driver? This list is instantly null and void.


Oh and Tase of Cherry probably has the single greatest ending in the history of cinema.


Where is Taxi Driver????????

Mr. Lipnik

It was a Wallace Beery WRESTLING picture!

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