The 25 Cannes movies you actually want to see

The unexpected gems of Cannes

From its modest beginnings in the '40s, the Cannes Film Festival has become synonymous with granting movies global recognition. Each year juries assembled from the industry elite award a handful of prestigious prizes to the very best films entered into their coveted array of categories.  

But we're not here to talk about the prestige. We're on about the movies that anyone would queue up to see at your local multiplex. Films that are a cut above, most definitely, but not so far above that you haven't got a cat in hell's chance of understanding them. Cannes has witnessed tons of these cinematic triumphs play its screens, from small unknown indies to explosive studio blockbusters. 

So here's our rundown of the best movies that premiered at Cannes. Not all left with prizes, not all left with universal acclaim, but that's not stopped this bunch from becoming films that you'd actually want to watch.  

25. Barton Fink (1991)

The movie: A hard-boiled Coen brothers classic starring John Turturro as an East coast screenwriter who relocates to Hollywood to pursue his dreams. He strikes out with writer's block while holed up at the Hotel Earle, a dismal abode that's made all the more creepy by his neighbor, played to perfection by John Goodman. 

Why you want to see it: This is one of the sibling duo's darkest comedies. There's tons of literary and cinematic references woven into the plot, so you can give yourself points for each one you spot.  

24. L.A. Confidential (1997)

The movie: Based on James Ellroy's hard-boiled noir, Curtis Hanson takes an old school thriller story and turns it on its head. The movie examines the political climate in Hollywood in the early '50s through the investigations of a potentially-crooked LAPD.  

Why you want to see it: If you're not bowled over by the superb performances of Kevin Spacey, Danny De Vito and Kim Basinger - or the compelling story - then you might get a kick out of its two leads. Complete unknowns at the time Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe totally steal the show. 

23. Desperado (1995)

The movie: A guy, a guitar and a buttload of guns. That's the short version. This follow-up to El Mariachi is Robert Rodriguez's first Big Movie, putting him and his leading man on the Hollywood radar. Antonio Banderas stars as a desperado with oodles of musical talent and a guitar case that doubles as a weapons locker. 

Why you want to see it: Didja not see the picture above? Banderas and Salma Hayek walking away from an explosion. Big 'effing guns. Need I say more? 

22. Maniac (2012)

The movie: Want to be inside the mind of a vicious murderer? Look no further! A loose remake of the '80s horror of the same name, Franck Khalfoun's 2012 movie stars Elijah Wood as Frank Zito, a killer who stalks women in New York City and scalps them. It's one of the best horrors to come out in the last decade.

Why you want to see it: As serial killer movies go, this one's out there. The style of shooting mostly favors the killer's viewpoint, which, if you've ever watched Peep Show you'll know is creepy as hell. When you've got Wood on top form as a psychopath - that you barely see - it's even creepier.  

21. WarGames (1983)

 The movie: Before he became Ferris, Matthew Broderick nearly started a nuclear war playing a teen hacker who accesses a military supercomputer. It can't be, though can it? Yes, somehow the super-smart lad doesn't quite realise until it's too late that the machine he's been playing games with believes World War III is imminent...   

Why you want to see it: Old school '80s computers that are boxier than your first car; Broderick with a superb hairdo... nah, this one's worth seeing because it's just a damn good thriller.  

20. Willow (1988)

The movie: Ron Howard's family-friendly '80s fantasy. Yeah, it premiered at Cannes! Even though the movie was a modest hit at the box office and received middling reviews at the time, it's become something of a cult classic. Warwick Davis plays a young man whose fate is entangled with that of an orphan he discovers floating down the river. This baby could rid the kingdom of the evil sorcerer...   

Why you want to see it: Nearly thirty years before Game of Thrones hoisted up the fantasy genre by its geek culture lapels and hoisted it into the mainstream, Willow did that same thing on the big screen. With less tits and violence. Doesn't make it any less fun though. 

19. The Neon Demon (2016)

The movie: Announced a few years back as Refn's first horror movie, The Neon Demon has a terrific cast. Christina Hendricks, Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves appear alongside Elle Fanning, who stars as an eager actress-model who hits up L.A. to make her dreams come true. It's not long before she comes to learn that the women who want to help her are hiding a secret.  

Why you want to see it: It's Nicolas Winding Refn doing a proper horror movie. It's like imagining David Lynch doing a romantic comedy. 

18. Sicario (2015)

The movie: Sicario completely knocks you for six right off the bat with a stunning opening sequence. Of the back of the brilliant Prisoners and Enemy, Denis Villeneuve directs this hard-hitting thriller about the US-Mexico drug trade that stars Emily Blunt as an FBI agent given a shady-as-hell assignment. She joins a task force aiming to bring down the kingpin of Mexican cartel.

Why you want to see it: Dark, compelling, and boasting one hell of a performance from Blunt, there's no reason not to. Prepare yourself for a lot of 'No they didn't!' moments. 

17. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

The movie: Part murder-mystery, flat-out comedy and thriller, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of the best flicks to ever spoof the film noir genre. Harry Lockhart, a petty crook, accidentally winds up in an audition and blows away the casting directors who send him to Hollywood. This Christmastime whodunit crackles along with some of the best dialogue ever to emerge from Robert Downey Jr.'s mouth.   

Why you want to see it: Remember all that great snappy dialogue from '80s Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight? All the handiwork of Shane Black, who also wrote and directed this corker. 


Gem is GR+'s west coast entertainment news reporter. She’s a bit obsessed with all things Aliens and Terminator.
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