7 Best Movies That Won Cannes Grand Prix

Staff & contributors
A Prophet, or Un Prophete, is an unconventional French film that combines prison drama with the Goodfellas-styled narrative of the rise to criminal power. Shot by the inimitable French director Jacques Audiard, A Prophet is a future classic from the get-go, taking age-old cliches and turning them on their heads. It's not often that a film leaves us giddy with enthusiasm and constantly thinking back to it, but A Prophet is so intense, you won't be able to let it go. Incredible acting, especially by then-newcomer Tahar Rahim, fantastic pacing, a great narrative arc with a brutal and uncompromising take on morality, self-realization, and life on the fringes of society. There are only two, quote unquote, action sequences in this movie and they are as brutal and realistic as they are unexpected. Look past the subtitles, do yourself a favor and watch this film.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adel Bencherif, Antoine Basler, Farid Larbi, Foued Nassah, Frédéric Graziani, Gilles Cohen, Guillaume Verdier, Hichem Yacoubi, Jean-Emmanuel Pagni, Jean-Philippe Ricci, Karim Leklou, Leila Bekhti, Mohamed Makhtoumi, Mourad Frarema, Nathanaël Maïni, Niels Arestrup, Pierre Leccia, Reda Kateb, Serge Onteniente, Slimane Dazi, Tahar Rahim

Director: Jacques Audiard

Rating: R

, 2003

From Korean director Park Chan-wook, who also brought you the far quieter The Handmaiden, comes a movie that is positively terrifying. Its premise alone is enough for any sentient human being to shudder. On his daughter's birthday, the good-for-nothing Oh Dae-su (played by Choic Min-sik) gets drunk and is arrested by the police. A friend eventually bails him out and, while he is making a phone call, Oh Dae-su disappears. Not knowing why, he is held in the same room for 15 years for no apparent reason. Until, one day, he is released. That's all that can be revealed about this winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2004 without giving away too much. All we can add here is the way we recommend Oldboy to people admitting to not having seen it yet: “Watch Oldboy. You're welcome. We're sorry.” A crazy, twisted film that goes to extremes. A cult classic and a statement.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Byeong-ok Kim, Cho Sang-kyung, Choi Jae-sup, Choi Min-sik, Dae-han Ji, Dae-yeon Lee, Han Jae-duk, Heo Myeong-haeng, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji Dae-han, Ji-tae Yu, Jin-Seo Yoon, Jin-seo Yun, Kang Hye-jeong, Kang Hye-jung, Kim Byeong-Ok, Kim Byung-ok, Kim Su-hyun, Kim Yeong-ae, Kwang-rok Oh, Lee Dae-yeon, Lee Seung-shin, Lee Young-hee, Min-sik Choi, Oh Dal-su, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Oh Tae-kyung, Oh Young-joo, Park Jae-Woong, Park Myung-shin, Seo Myeong-Seok, Seung-Shin Lee, Syd Lim, Yoo Il-han, Yoo Ji-tae, Yoo Yeon-seok, Yoon Jin-seo, Yoon Jin-yul, You Il-han

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: R

Autobiographical in nature, 120 BPM is French screenwriter Robin Campillo's first feature film. It revolves around the Parisian chapter of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP, which Campillo was a member of in the early 1990s, and the love between Nathan, the group's newest member, who is HIV negative, and Sean, one of its founding and more radical members, who is positive and suffers the consequences of contracting AIDS. Using fake blood and spectacular direct action, ACT UP advocated more and better research of treatment, prevention, and awareness. This was at a time when many, implicitly or explicitly, viewed AIDS as a gay disease, even as a punishment for the gay community's propensity to pleasure and partying. The latter is reflected by the film's title, 120 bpm being the average number of beats per minute of a house track. Arnaud Rebotini's original score echoes the ecstasy-driven house music hedonism of the time with some effective original cuts, albeit with a melancholic streak. Because, for all the love, friendship, and emotion of the ACT UP crew that BPM so passionately portrays, anger and sadness pervade the lives of these young people as the lack of effective treatment threatens to claim the lives of their loved ones.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adèle Haenel, Aloïse Sauvage, Antoine Reinartz, Arnaud Valois, Caroline Piette, Catherine Vinatier, Coralie Russier, Emmanuel Ménard, Félix Maritaud, François Rabette, Marco Horanieh, Naëlle Dariya, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Pascal Tantot, Saadia Bentaïeb, Sabrina Aliane, Samuel Churin, Simon Guélat, Théophile Ray, Yves Heck

Director: Robin Campillo

Rating: Not Rated

Inside Llewyn Davis tells the interesting and captivating story of a young, struggling singer navigating through the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961. The movie conveys all sorts of emotions, thanks to Coen brothers’ stroke of genius: it is strange, funny, dramatic and satisfying at the same time. Not to mention, the ensemble cast is superb, and the music is absolutely great. It is the kind of movie that will put an unfamiliar yet wondrous feeling into you as you live through Llewyn Davis' eyes and feel his pain.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, Benjamin Pike, Bonnie Rose, Bradley Mott, Carey Mulligan, Charlotte Booker, Declan Bennett, Diane Findlay, Ethan Phillips, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Ridley, Garrett Hedlund, Helen Hong, Ian Blackman, Ian Jarvis, Jack O'Connell, Jake Ryan, James Colby, Jeanine Serralles, Jerry Grayson, John Ahlin, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford, Max Casella, Mike Houston, Oscar Isaac, Ricardo Cordero, Roberto Lopez, Robin Bartlett, Sam Haft, Stark Sands, Stephen Payne, Steve Routman, Susan Blommaert, Sylvia Kauders

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Rating: R

In the crowded genre of Mafia movies, Gomorrah finds its originality in not romanticizing anything. It's authentically gripping, violent without being excessively violent, and something that can only be described as a masterpiece of Italian cinema.  It follows different protagonists' entry into organised crime in Naples, with the two main ones taking their inspiration from American gangster characters.  Just to give you a sense of how well-rooted this movie is, after it was done shooting, many of the characters (including the guy who plays the clan boss in the movie), were arrested. In his case, he was caught trying to collect  "pizzo", otherwise known as mafia tax.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alfonso Santagata, Carmine Paternoster, Ciro Petrone, Fortunato Cerlino, Gianfelice Imparato, Gigio Morra, Giovanni Venosa, Giuseppina Cervizzi, Marco Macor, Maria Nazionale, Riccardo Zinna, Salvatore Abbruzzese, Salvatore Abruzzese, Salvatore Cantalupo, Salvatore Ruocco, Salvatore Striano, Toni Servillo, Vincenzo Fabricino

Director: Matteo Garrone, Maurizio Braucci

Rating: Not Rated

A poetic and peculiar movie from Senegal about a girl who is forced to marry a wealthy businessman instead of her love interest. The latter, a poor construction worker, embarks on a risky journey across the sea to Europe. The story takes a supernatural turn thereafter, one that is unlike anything seen before in stories around immigration, but one which makes sense. Still, the excellent acting and the long takes that immerse you in what life is like in Senegal, both in and out of the margins of society, are the reasons to watch here. Atlantics' characters are believable and will capture your interest throughout the usual and unusual parts of the movie. They provide rare insight into narratives that most of us have never been exposed to.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Abdou Balde, Amadou Mbow, Amina Kane, Aminata Kane, Arame Fall Faye, Babacar Sylla, Coumba Dieng, Diankou Sembene, Ibrahima Mbaye, Ibrahima Traore, Mama Sane, Mame Bineta Sane, Mariama Gassama, Mati Diop, Nicole Sougou, Traore

Director: Mati Diop

Rating: TV-14

Based on a play and taking place in the span of one afternoon, It’s Only the End of the World is about a successful writer returning to his hometown in rural Canada baring life-altering news. But before he can share anything, he is faced with the remnants of his life prior to moving out and his family members’ eccentric, but relatable, personalities. This is a movie by one of the most interesting directors working today, Canadian Xavier Dolan. Contrary to his plot-heavy Mommy (which earned him the Cannes Jury Prize at 25 years old), in It’s Only the End of the World the story unfolds in a far more important way. It’s an exploration of dynamics: between brother and sister, between son and mother, between brothers, etc. Don’t go into it expecting things to happen, or waiting for what will happen in the end. Instead, the purpose of this film can be found in how Xavier Dolan handles his usual themes of family through big talent: Mario Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, and Léa Seydoux among many others.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Antoine Desrochers, Arthur Couillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Jenyane Provencher, Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard, Nathalie Baye, Patricia Tulasne, Sasha Samar, Stephan Dubeau, Théodore Pellerin, Vincent Cassel, William Boyce Blanchette

Director: Xavier Dolan

Rating: N/A, Not Rated