It’s almost over. With the Palme d’Or ceremony taking place in Cannes at 7:30 p.m. local time, one of the more unpredictable races in recent years has reached an endpoint. The votes are in, the talent has been called back — and we’ve got some final guesses. Start your bets now.
Each year, the Cannes Film Festival is scrutinized in piecemeal, with every day of its 10-day program bringing new entries to an exclusive competition screened for thousands of people. While stars walk the red carpet and critics provide daily analysis, one perspective continues to take shape behind the scenes: The Cannes jury — a group of high profile filmmakers, actors, and other members of the industry — will hand out the Palme d’Or to one movie at the end of the festival, and as usual, any attempt to predict the outcome of their consensus is an exercise in futility.
Still, it’s fun to try, especially with this year’s judges. Headed by Cate Blanchett, the jury also includes actors Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux, as well as filmmakers Ava DuVernay, Denis Villeneuve, and Russia’s Andrey Zvyagintsev. Anyone familiar with their work can see a range of sensibilities on display, and while that alone may not indicate a potential Palme winner, it provides a starting point for some educated guesses.
The Palme winner is almost guaranteed to be a movie that gets people talking throughout the festival, leaving an emotional or intellectual impact that keeps it in the conversation until the very end. But the competition keeps unfurling across two weeks, so the possibilities expand each day.
In 2017, the prize went to Ruben Ostlund’s “The Square,” a sprawling, Kafkaesque satire of the art world that went on to score an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film. Ostlund had already made waves at Cannes with his Un Certain Regard entry “Force Majeure,” and the Palme solidified his stature as a major filmmaker; this year, there are several younger directors — including Eva Husson, Alice Rohrwacher, and A.B. Shawkey — for whom a Palme could mean instant global stature. However, there are also established auteurs like Lee Chang-dong, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and Pawel Pawlikowski, so the jury isn’t obligated to anoint a newcomer.
The jury adheres to its own specific logic, and there’s no exact science to anticipate how conversations about the competition will evolve in the room, but this list is an attempt to wade through the possibilities as they continue to evolve. Following our annual tradition, we’ve continued to update this list each day until the end of the festival. Our final predictions reflect recent reports about filmmakers and actors called back to the festival for the awards ceremony.
Most likely winners listed first:
1. “Shoplifters” (Review)
Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda has been in Cannes competition before, but his latest understated drama — about an impoverished family that resorts to robbery, among other things — has critics swooning more than ever. But that’s not all. Widely considered Kore-eda best film to date, it’s also the kind of movie that tends to catch juries by surprise: the work of a confident filmmaker unknown to most Western audiences working at peak form. Kore-eda makes talky, observational family dramas, and this one’s no exception … at first. The sensational twist of the second half transforms the movie into a whole new level of emotional resonance, one that opens up Kore-eda’s style. If the jury reaction is anywhere near the critical enthusiasm, the director has this competition in the bag.
2. “Capernaum” (Review)
Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s first time in competition follows her progression from Directors’ Fortnight with “Caramel” to Un Certain Regard with “Where Do We Go Now?” Her third feature follows a child who sues his family, spends time on the streets and bonds with an infant child. The movie received a rapturous response at its premiere late in the festival, where most reactions emphasized the blend of emotional storytelling and social realism. In that sense, it’s the ultimate festival phenomenon: a crowdpleaser and an issue movie, directed by a woman in a year when cries for inclusivity have never been louder, and an ambitious filmmaking feat already on track for an awards season campaign later this year. Critics are split on the sentimentalism of the film, but there’s no doubt that “Capernaum” is readymade for frontrunner status in the Palme d’Or race.
3. “Cold War” (Review)
Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning “Ida” is another evocative black-and-white period piece, this one depicting the bumpy romance of a couple across 20 years in post-war Europe. The movie generated raves and a standing ovation at its premiere, becoming the first big hit of the festival. The Amazon release is an early contender for the foreign language Oscar, and a definite Palme d’Or contender that will almost certainly win one of the main prizes — though it could be a best director or Grand Jury Prize considering how many other movies the jury has seen since the movie’s initial momentum started.
4. “Blackkklansman” (Review)
Spike Lee’s snazzy look at an African American police officer (John David Washington) who goes undercover with the Ku Klux Klan (getting a necessary assistance from partner Adam Driver) is the filmmaker’s best narrative feature in ages, and incredibly timely to boot. It won Lee some of his strongest reviews, and received a rapturous reception at the festival, where its timely approach to bigotry resonated across the Croisette and well beyond it. One of the more commercial movies in competition (Focus releases it in August), it may be more of a candidate for best director, given Lee’s stature and the conventional narrative. But the movie is undeniably one of the biggest hits of the festival and will figure into the jury’s awards, bringing Lee back to Cannes acclaim after he last played in competition in 1989 with “Do the Right Thing.”
5. “Happy as Lazzaro” (Review)
Alice Rohrwacher’s third feature and second in competition after she won a Grand Jury prize for “The Wonders” is the story of a remote village in Italy and the experiences of a young man who comes back to life long after the village has moved out, forcing him to contend with the alien nature of city life. As one of three women in competition, Rohrwacher is the only one returning to it, and the movie shows that she has boosted her storytelling talents with a complex, otherworldly narrative riddled with strange twists and symbolism. The style of the movie and its various signifiers aren’t for everyone, but nobody can deny the originality of Rohrwacher’s vision. The movie casts a unique spell that guarantees a good shot at remaining in the conversation throughout the festival while other titles fade from memory.
“Tulpan” director Sergey Dvortseykov’s latest social realist drama takes place on the streets of Moscow, and revolves around the experiences of a woman (Samal Yeslyamova) scrambling to find work and make ends meet. The drama finds her giving birth while coping with the deadline to pay her rent and find a job; it struck most critics as familiar territory carried along by Yeslyamova’s performance. Don’t expect this late-in-the-game competition entry to vault to the top of the Palme d’Or race, but it does seem like a likely contender for some kind of prize, perhaps for its lead performance.
7. “Girls of the Sun” (Review)
The only French woman director in competition, Eva Husson’s action-packed wartime drama finds an all-female battalion of Kurdish women making their way into a town overrun by Islamic extremists. While some of its cheesier moments made it divisive among critics, the movie does feature outstanding action sequences and an empowering narrative that make it one of the more accessible movies in competition, if not one of the stronger filmmaking achievements.
8. “Yommedine” (Review)
Egyptian director A.B. Shawkey’s heartwarming film is the only debut feature in competition. The movie follows the experiences of a man who lives in a leper colony and goes on a road trip to find his family. The bittersweet tone charmed many moviegoers, as did its unconventional leading man; it’s another crowdpleaser that could easily become a consensus choice.
9. “Burning” (Review)
Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s triumphant return to Cannes for the first time in eight years since his acclaimed “Poetry” did not disappoint. His adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story involves a young wannabe writer who becomes obsessed with a carefree young woman and the confident man she follows around; it’s been seen as a searing statement on Korean working class frustrations and an intimate look at the desire to break free of a reclusive state. The filmmaker is receiving some of his best reviews to date. The movie might be seen as too strange or bleak for some jurors.
10. “Three Faces” (Review)
Jafar Panahi’s latest defiance of the filmmaking ban placed on him by the Iranian government is a slow-burn road trip through the Turkish countryside, and finds the filmmaker once again co-starring in a self-reflexive story about his own circumstances. The movie carries particular weight at Cannes because Panahi was unable to leave the country and come to the festival, so a Palme d’Or would send a powerful message in much the same way that Berlin’s Gold Bear sent one for his last film, “Taxi.” It’s a smart and soulful look at the desire to escape one’s traditionalist roots. However, the new movie may strike some jurors as too slow or formless to be worthy of the top prize.
11. “Leto” (Review)
Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov was placed under house arrest before finishing this ode to music counterculture in the Soviet Union, but that didn’t stop his punk-inflected black-and-white story about the ins and outs of a hard-rocking band from pleasing Cannes audiences who tapped their feet to its melodies and enjoying its upbeat energy. It might not be the strongest film in competition by a long shot, and it suffers from an uneven tone and an unremarkable story, but a Palme would register as major support for a filmmaker working under oppressive conditions.
12. “Ash Is Purest White” (Review)
Chinese auteur Jia Jhangke is one of the few competition regulars this year (he won a screenplay prize for “A Touch of Sin,” and last played the festival with 2015’s “Mountains May Depart”). His latest look at violence and cultural identity across decades of changes follows a gangster and his devout partner, played by Zhao Tao as a confident woman with survival instincts to spare. The movie is as well-directed as one would expect from the country’s most acclaimed filmmaker, though he doesn’t trod much new ground, and the movie loses steam over its 140-minute running time. It might win something, but seems unlikely to win over an entire jury.
13. “Everybody Knows” (Review)
This year, Cannes chose to open the festival with a competition film, the first Spanish language feature from Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi. Though its suspenseful tale of a large family dealing with a kidnapping struck some audiences as overly melodramatic, it nevertheless won many over with strong turns from Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in addition to Farhadi’s complex storytelling. Nevertheless, it’s divisive enough as a whole to make it an unlikely Palme frontrunner; Bardem and Cruz stand better shots at acting prizes.
14. “Sorry Angel” (Review)
Christophe Honoré’s early ‘90s Paris-set story about the romance between a young filmmaker and a novelist dying of AIDS opened in France the same day it premiered at Cannes. Critics were divided on its merits, with some praising its gentle romantic atmosphere and intellectual concerns about gay culture and creativity, while others called it a scattershot portrait. It could win something — a screenplay nod seems most likely — but it’s not an obvious Palme contender.
15. “Asako I & II” (Review)
Japanese director Ryusuke Hamagachi’s first competition entry following his acclaimed “Happy Hour” focuses on the peculiar circumstances in which a woman mistakes a man for her old boyfriend and dates the new guy anyway, without telling him about the resemblance. Hamagachi was already a critical darling for “Happy Hour,” and fans of that five-hour, female-focused drama were generally impressed with this comparatively concise narrative and its inventive look at the nature of communication in relationships. However, its quiet, talky rhythms are an acquired taste that are likely to hurt its Palme odds, especially as more eye-catching films continue to screen for this year’s jury.
16. “Under the Silver Lake” (Review)
David Robert Mitchell (“It Follows,” “The Myth of the American Sleepover”) makes his Cannes competition debut with this Lynchian noir starring Andrew Garfield as a man wandering sun-soaked Los Angeles in search of a missing woman. The sprawling mystery is another inventive use of cinematic homage and misdirection from one of America’s most intriguing auteurs on the rise, though its questionable sexual politics and whimsical storytelling won’t work for everyone. It’s a tough one to imagine as a consensus choice.
17. “Dogman” (Review)
Italian director Matteo Garrone is one of the few competition regulars at the festival this year, and his gritty drama about a dog groomer swept up into a life of crime fell in line with expectations from the director of “Gomorrah,” who tends to scrutinize Italy’s criminal underbelly through a quirky intimate lens. However, “Dogman” is an unsettling and divisive work — well done by most people’s standards, but not for everyone, and pretty obvious in terms of its thematic concerns. It’s almost certainly not a serious Palme contender in a year of such fierce competition. However: the movie stands a good chance at scoring a best actor prize for Marcello Fonte.
18. “The Wild Pear Tree” (Review)
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest epic drama focuses on the plight of a young wannabe writer who must contend with his gambling-addicted father’s mounting debt. Critics were mostly kind to Ceylan’s slow-burn storytelling, which has gone over quite well at Cannes before: His last movie, 2014’s “Winter Sleep,” won the Palme d’or; he also won the Grand Jury Prize twice, for “Uzak” and “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.” Some juries love discovering Ceylan’s work; others find it needlessly long and self-indulgent. “Wild Pear Tree” almost certainly left some jurors impressed with the filmmaking and screenplay, but in a year with so many other crowdpleasers, this one’s not a likely frontrunner.
19. “The Image Book” (Review)
Jean-Luc Godard’s experimental look at cinema and wartime imagery didn’t leave the same shocking impression as his 3D “Goodbye to Language” a few years ago, when he scored a Grand Jury Prize. Though Godard is considered a national treasure, his late period works are an acquired taste, and this one is one of his more challenging recent efforts. It’s a strange choice for a competition slot given how unlikely it is to win the top prize.
20. “At War” (Review)
Stephane Brize’s talky account of French workers protesting when the company that employs them plans to shut down their factory stars Vincent Lindon in a commanding performance as the leader of the group. The movie received some supportive notices for its deep-dive into the nature of the dispute and the processes involved in fighting for fair treatment, but it’s too much of a pedestrian narrative to be a real Palme contender.
21. “Knife + Heart” (Review)
Yann Gonzalez’s arty slasher movie stars Vanessa Paradis as a gay porn producer in the ’70s, and revolves around the antics of murderer singling out porn actors. The movie’s more shocking moments includes an opening erotic murder that seems to have had the intended shock, but critics and audiences were less enthused with the B-movie qualities of the project as a whole. In such a competitive year, this wacky guilty pleasure is the least likely Palme contender.