You may know the Cannes Film Festival as one of the most prestigious and respected institutions in the industry, the festival that introduced the world to art house classics like
The Third Man, Black Orpheus, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Barton Fink and . But although those films may be amazing, they cater to a specific breed of filmlover, the ones who respect the art form and want to be challenged, and who may or may not be the life of any given party.
Blue is the Warmest Color
But Cannes has never shied away from the edgiest motion pictures, the violent, sexy, hallucinatory, genre delights that came over the course of the past few decades to define cinematic coolness. Don’t pigeonhole the Cannes Film Festival as the refuge for art house visionaries – although it’s certainly that too – but instead remember that these renegades also challenged our collective understanding of what movies could be, what style could accomplish, and what boundaries the dominant art form of the last hundred years could push.
In other words, we here at
CraveOnline ask you to remember the coolest damned films to ever premiere at the festvial. These are our picks for The 15 Coolest Cannes Movies.
William Bibbiani is the editor of
and co-host of CraveOnline’s Film Channel . Follow him on Twitter at The B-Movies Podcast . @WilliamBibbiani
The 15 Coolest Cannes Movies
Car Wash (1976)
Michael Schultz's iconic working class comedy, written by future
Batman & Robin director Joel Schumacher, stars a multicultural cast of characters over the course of their bizarre, music-filled work day at a car wash. Fantastic cameos from Richard Pryor, The Pointer Sisters and George Carlin about in this cult classic comedy, which still has one of the coolest soundtracks ever. Car Wash won the Best Music Award and Technical Grand Prize at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Martin Scorsese was a respected director before
Taxi Driver, but this psychological horror story about a Vietnam vet losing his mind in the moral wasteland of 1970s New York City shot him and the film's star, Robert De Niro, into the stratosphere. Taxi Driver still feels like the work of a renegade, and remains one of the most dangerous movies ever filmed. It won the Palm d'Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
One of the most chaotic productions in movie history led to one of the most chaotic films in movie history... and one of the best. Martin Sheen ventures into the heart of darkness to assassinate the traitorous Col. Kurtz, and takes the audience with him as he loses his mind. Director Francis Ford Coppola said that "
Apocalypse Now is not about Vietnam, it IS Vietnam." Apocalypse Now tied The Tin Drum to win the Palme d'Or in 1979, a decision that was met with boos from the audience, who apparently didn't get it yet.
John Boorman's adaptation of the King Arthur legend remains one of the high watermarks in the genre, partly because it's a beautifully filmed and involving interpretation, and partly because it's full of extreme violence and kinky sex.
Excalibur isn't just a great King Arthur movie, it's a dangerous one, and puts Hollywood interpretations like King Arthur and First Knight to shame. It won the prize for Best Artistic Contribution at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival.
Michae Mann helped define the cinematic style of the 1980s with
Thief, a cynical, beautifully filmed and impeccably acted crime thriller starring James Caan as a career criminal whose urge to start a family gets in the way of his good judgment. The slick cinematography in Thief and ethereal electronic score are still aped by hipster films today, most prominently Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive.
Wild at Heart (1990)
Surrealist filmmaker David Lynch has been a mainstay at the Cannes Film Festival for decades, and he won the coveted Palme d'Or for
Wild at Heart, one of his most hallucinatory, violent and passionate movies. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern are oversexed lovers on the lam who are desperate to stay one step ahead of Dern's real-life mother, Diane Ladd, who slowly turns into the Wicked Witch of the West. Kinda literally. A crooning, rebellious, gory thrill that still feels just as crazy today.
Basic Instinct (1992)
Paul Verhoeven's touchstone erotic thriller
Basic Instinct was entered into the Cannes Film Festival in 1992. It didn't win a damned thing, but kudos to Cannes for recognizing in this lurid tale of murder and corruption more than a sleazy potboiler, but a smartly written noir for a modern, sexually experimental age. Basic Instinct spawned countless inferior imitators, but the original is more risque than Hollywood would ever allow in the 21st Century.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Quentin Tarantino's second film won the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, and with good cause. His marriage of sly character work, unexpected plotting, disjointed timelines and gangster cool was one of the seminal artistic expressions of the 1990s, spawning legions of imitators and rocketing him into the Hollywood limelight. And it remains just as groovy today.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Terry Gilliam's whirligig adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas opened to decidedly mixed reactions at Cannes, but in the years that followed it's become of his most beloved films. Johnny Depp plays the author and Benicio del Toro plays his nightmarish lawyer as they explore the effects of drug-induced excess in 1970s Las Vegas. Hallucinatory, hilarious, thoughtful and still just as daring as ever.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
Indie icon Jim Jarmusch directed one of his most mainstream films to date in
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, a modern crime drama starring Forest Whitaker as a reclusive assassin whose code of honor gets him into trouble with a gang of aging mafiosos. It's a funky, funny, somewhat subdued action thriller, but it's got a great soundtrack and remains of of Jarmusch's and Whitaker's best, coolest films.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
David Lynch returned to Cannes in 2001 - and took home the Best Director prize - for
Mulholland Dr., an abandoned TV pilot he re-edited and reshot into a frightening vision of Hollywood obsession and unrequited love. Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are sexy, uncertain protagonists who probe Los Angeles's mysteries and are understandably terrified and altered forever by what they find. One of Lynch's most inscrutable, but most daring films.
Park Chan-wook won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for
Oldboy, easily one of the craziest, most violent and disturbing thrillers ever made. A live-squid eating kidnap victim is set free after 15 years imprisonment and has just a few days to learn why the hell he was confined in the first place. The answer is one of the most shocking, brutal reveals in the history of cinema.
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Guillermo Del Toro's most celebrated fantasy, about a young girl escaping to magical realms only slightly less harrowing than the Civil War she's running from, contains some of the most eerie movie imagery of the last few decades. It went home empty handed at Cannes, but it's gone on to become a modern classic for dreamers and horror enthusiasts everywhere.
Nicolas Winding Refn earned a standing ovation and a Best Director prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for this sleek, hypnotic ode to 1980s crime chic, with a practically catatonically cool antihero played by Ryan Gosling, an unexpectedly vile villain turn by Albert Brooks, and some of the more stylish car chases on record.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Jim Jarmusch returned to Cannes with yet another exercise in thoughtful coolness, this time a vampire movie starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as centuries old lovers who kvetch about celebrities they met, listen to awesome rock music and debate the mysteries of the universe. Romantic, elegant, and the epitome of hip.