The 13 best films from Cannes Film Festival 2019

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood
(Image credit: Sony)

Another year, and with many a croissant consumed, another Cannes Film Festival has been and gone. Quentin Tarantino brought the star-wattage, and earned rave reviews for his ninth feature Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, while Snowpiercer’s Bong Joon-ho made a parable for these economically stratified times with his demented social satire Parasite.

They’re both guaranteed to place highly in the TF top 13. But how high? And what of Terrence Malick’s overdue return to form A Hidden Life? Céline Sciamma’s exquisite period romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire? Or Pedro Almodóvar’s achingly personal Pain and Glory? Scroll down to find out how they did, and be sure not to miss these films when they hit UK cinemas.

13. Young Ahmed

Idir Ben Addi in Young Ahmed

(Image credit: Les Films du Fleuve)

The movie: Cannes gods the Dardenne brothers go for a third Palme d’Or with a tale of a Muslim boy (Idir Ben Addi) who is radicalised by an extremist Iman (Othmane Moumen) while living in a small Belgian town.  

Our reaction: A typically intimate, urgent and moving film by the Dardennes, who, as ever, fashion a taut narrative that thrums with suspense while refusing to sacrifice verisimilitude. Not up there with the brothers’ best films (Rosetta, The Child, Two Days, One Night) but another quality addition to their impressive CV.  

12. Bucarau

Sonia Braga in Bacurau

(Image credit: SBS Productions)

The movie: Set a few years into the future, Teresa (Barbara Colen) returns to Bacarau for her grandmother’s funeral, only to find that her hometown no longer exists on Google Maps. Then things get really wild, as a group of American tourists arrive in town armed to the teeth...

Our reaction: Bacarau often occupies an odd middle ground between action-thriller and study of an impoverished, eccentric community. It doesn’t quite succeed as either, with the oddball locals too colourful to be taken entirely seriously, and the set-pieces delivering plenty of booming gunshots and impactful violence, but lacking anything like the movement and muscularity of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic Seven Samurai

Read our full review of Bucarau

11. Pain and Glory

Antonio Banderas in Pain And Glory

(Image credit: Pathe)

The movie: In Pedro Almodóvar's most personal feature to date Antonio Banderas plays a chronically ill filmmaker reflecting on his childhood in the run up to a retrospective screening of one of his early features.

Our reaction: Mining events previously presented through a warped mirror in 2004’s Bad Education and 1987’s Law Of Desire, Pain and Glory frequently feels like the summation of a life’s work. But it’s a film that covers too much familiar ground, in too comfortable a fashion, to trouble the very best of Almodovar’s celebrated CV.

Read our full review of Pain and Glory

10. Matthias and Maxime

Dolan and Freitas in Matthias & Maxime

(Image credit: Sons of Manuel)

The movie: Maxime (Xavier Dolan) hangs out with his raucous pals, drinking, bantering, but his relationship with best-pal-of-20-years Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) becomes strained after they’re asked to kiss each other in a short movie being made by Matthias’ younger sister.

Our reaction: Matthias And Maxime is Dolan’s most accessible work to date, cleaving to some of the standard tropes of the romantic-drama to give viewers plenty to hold on to as the incessant talk buffets them from all sides. It’s a tender-hearted, honest film from a filmmaker often branded an ‘enfant terrible’.

Read our full review of Matthias and Maxime

9. Rocketman

(Image credit: Paramount)

The movie: Taron Egerton stars as Elton John in a warts ‘n’ all “musical fantasy” covering the legendary singer/songwriter’s rise to fame, and his struggles with drugs, alcohol and all manner of addictions.

Our reaction: A far more honest-feeling depiction of the stratospheric highs and cavernous lows of one of our greatest musical minds, with a never-better Egerton wearing his heart on his sleeve throughout. But for all Fletcher's sincere efforts to distinguish Rocketman from the countless other musical biopics that have come before, it's a film that hits too many familiar beats to ever truly dazzle.

Read our full review of Rocketman

8. Deerskin

Jean Dujardin in Deerskin

(Image credit: Arte France Cinéma)

The movie: Obsessed with his extravagant deerskin jacket, George (Jean Dujardin) dreams of being the only person on the planet to own a coat. With the help of Denise (Adèle Haenel) he makes a film chronicling his increasingly extreme methods.

Our verdict: A deadpan delight from first frame to last, Deerskin is a wonderfully weird deconstruction of destructive materialistic desires and the futility of creative endeavours. But mainly it’s about a man killing people with a razor sharp fan blade because his jacket told him to.

7. Atlantique

A still from Atlantiques

(Image credit: Cinekap)

The movie: Ada (Mame Binets Sane) is engaged but in love with Souleiman (Traore), a struggling building site worker who decides to get on a boat to leave Senegal for Spain in search of a better life. Can he, and their love, survive?

Our reaction: Maty Diop’s assured feature debut is a heartfelt social-realist drama that dares to stray into supernatural territory. A haunting tale of oppression, patriarchy and undying love.

6. Sorry We Missed You

The family in Sorry We Missed You

(Image credit: Eone)

The movie: Three years after bagging the Palme d’Or with I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach returns to Cannes with another tale of working class strife in contemporary Britain. And this time, he has the zero hour contract economy in his sights.

Our reaction: Loach and Laverty pile small misery upon small misery to incrementally tighten the screw, but only once do they perhaps go too far, teetering towards their own brand of torture-porn as yet another mishap, this one sizeable, plunges the family into debts that demand more hours at work, more toxicity at home.

Read our full review of Sorry We Missed You

5. Parasite

Park So-dam and Choi Woo-sik in Parasite

(Image credit: Curzon)

The movie: Bong Joon-ho (Okja, Snowpiercer) directs this social satire about a destitute family who con their way into rich household. Think of it as the South Korean Us, complete with some equally bonkers surprises.

Our reaction: This first half of Parasite is a con movie made by a connoisseur, its moving parts elegantly fitted together until all of the players have gravitated to the Parks’ spacious, modernist home. The second half is about then tearing everyone apart again, though just how that happens should be discovered for yourself.

Read our full review of Parasite

4. A Hidden Life

August Diehl and Valerie Pachner in A Hidden Life

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight)

The movie: Terrence Malick returns with the based-on-true tale of an Austrian conscientious objector who’s imprisoned after refusing to fight for the Nazis in WW2. But this is far from your typical war movie.

Our reaction: Mercifully returning to the relative simplicity of a linear story told with clarity and purpose, A Hidden Life isn't just a return to form for one of American cinema’s most enigmatic auteurs, but a film to hold in the same regard as his finest work.

Read our full review of A Hidden Life

3. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood

(Image credit: Sony)

The movie: Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film follows a has-been actor, his stuntman and up-and-coming actress Sharon Tate around 1969 Hollywood, while the Manson Family lurk on the fringes.

Our reaction: All the Tarantino hallmarks are here – the jet-black humour, fine-tuned dialogue, jukebox soundtrack and, yes, bare feet. And Tarantino seems energized by the period setting... it's a flawless recreation of a long-gone tinsel town.

Read our full review of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

2. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Walking with fire in Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

(Image credit: Curzon)

The movie: Céline Sciamma’s long-awaited follow-up to 2014 Girlhood is a ravishing and restrained period piece about an artist assigned to paint her subject in secret in 18th-Century Brittany.

Our reaction: More interested in words, intellectual curiosity and social decorum than naked lust, Sciamma has here painted a stunning portrait of two ladies, and both of her actresses are indeed on fire.

Read our full review of Portrait of a Lady on Fire

1. The Lighthouse

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse

(Image credit: A24)

The movie: Robert Eggers, writer and director of The Witch, returns with this stunning black and white horror about two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) who lose the plot when a storm leaves them stranded on an island at sea.

Our reaction: Shot in exquisite, full-frame monochrome – an antiquated aspect ratio that adds to both the squirming claustrophobia and period aesthetics – with a custom orthochromatic filter bringing every pore, blemish and twitch of insanity on the faces of Pattinson and Dafoe to the fore, it’s a paradoxically beautiful film for one filled with such ugliness.

Read our full review of The Lighthouse

Jordan Farley
Deputy Editor, Total Film

I'm the Deputy Editor at Total Film magazine, overseeing the features section of every issue where you can read exclusive, in-depth interviews and see first-look images from the biggest films. I was previously the News Editor at sci-fi, fantasy and horror movie bible SFX. You'll find my name on news, reviews, and features covering every type of movie, from the latest French arthouse release to the biggest Hollywood blockbuster. My work has also featured in Official PlayStation Magazine and Edge.