What to Stream: Forty-four Standout Movies from Cannes Film Festivals Past

Bette Davis and Gary Merrill in All About Eve.
Bette Davis and Gary Merrill in “All About Eve.”Courtesy Everett Collection

The Cannes Film Festival, which would have been taking place now, is like the Oscars for art-house films: it usually gets things wrong, runs more according to dollars than sense, but nonetheless brings welcome attention to many great films—albeit only a small sliver of those they should be paying attention to. Last year’s main slate had an extraordinarily rich bunch of movies, including “Atlantics,” “Bacurau,” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” This year’s edition was supposed to feature the première of Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch”; now this year’s festival has been cancelled (though a list of films that have been selected and would have screened ). In lieu of the real thing, here is a list of some of the best from the festival since its establishment, in 1946. These selections, like Cannes’s programming over all, give only a partial and skewed picture of what’s best in world cinema, but they offer many delights that are worthy of inclusion in that pantheon. (I’ve added a few titles from the festival’s sidebar sections, such as the Director’s Fortnight and Un Certain Regard, for a fuller view of the art.)

1. Alexandra”: Alexander Sokurov’s drama, about an elderly woman who endures an arduous journey to visit her grandson at an army base, daringly confronts the cruelties of Russia’s war in Chechnya. (.)

2. All About Eve”: Joseph Mankiewicz relies on the passions of the theatre to reveal the powers of the cinema and delights in the pretenses of actors to reveal their authentic art. (.)

3. L’Argent”: Robert Bresson’s last film, an adaptation of a story by Tolstoy, connects one young man’s wrongful prosecution to the deep-rooted corruption of the social order. ( .)

4. L’Avventura”:日本一本一道经典视频 This drama by Michelangelo Antonioni is the one in which he expanded his distinctive aesthetic philosophy into a new mode of cinematic storytelling. ( .)

5. Behind the Candelabra”:日本一本一道经典视频 Steven Soderbergh’s bio-pic about Liberace, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, is one of his best movies but fell by the wayside of film history when it was released on HBO rather than in theatres. (.)

6. Black God, White Devil”:日本一本一道经典视频 The Brazilian director Glauber Rocha’s ferocious drama of a revolutionary bandit and a religious pilgrimage fuses political confrontation with the majesty of legend. (.)

7. Cléo from 5 to 7”:日本一本一道经典视频 Agnès Varda’s second feature, about a singer awaiting the results of a medical test, maps her private torments onto the street life and the artistic energy of Paris. ( .)

8. The Connection”:日本一本一道经典视频 For her first feature, Shirley Clarke expanded Jack Gelber’s play about jazz musicians waiting for a drug dealer by adding a documentary filmmaker into the mix and turning it into a metafiction. Though not originally part of the Cannes selection, it was ; owing to its acclaim, the festival established, the following year, a critics’-week section, which still exists. (.)

Adam Driver in “The Dead Don’t Die.”Photograph from Focus Features / Alamy

9. The Dead Don’t Die”: Jim Jarmusch’s zombie film, starring Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, and Tilda Swinton, is a giddy, gory, furious and playfully self-referential comedy about ecological apocalypse. (.)

10. Detective Story”:日本一本一道经典视频 Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix, and Lee Grant star in William Wyler’s police drama, which is centered on the illegality and the stigma of abortion. (.)

11. The Fiancés”: In Ermanno Olmi’s drama about a young Italian laborer whose promising new job takes him far from his fiancée, the stresses of social life are fused with intimate tensions through audacious narrative fragmentation. (.)

12. The 400 Blows”: For his first feature, François Truffaut won the award for Best Director at the 1959 festival the year after he’d been banned for his sharp criticism of the event’s programming. ( .)

13. Frankie”: Isabelle Huppert’s aura of command is at its most radiant in this graceful and exquisitely composed drama of an ailing actress during a final family vacation. (.)

14. Good Time”: Robert Pattinson stars in Josh and Benny Safdie’s crime drama from the streets of Queens, about a heist gone wrong amid the biggest scam of all, a political one. (.)

15. Le Grand Amour”: Pierre Étaix is one of the great physical comedians—and social critics—of the French cinema; this comedy takes a scathing look at bourgeois marital mores in a provincial town. (.)

16. Grigris”: The night life and underworld of N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, is the setting for this turbulent drama, by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, about political corruption and the broken medical system. (.)

17. Heaven’s Gate”: Michael Cimino’s vast historical and political Western, a drama about anti-immigrant hatred, is an unjustly maligned masterwork; it was , in 1980, only to be met with rabidly negative reviews when it opened in the United States later that year. (.)

18. Holy Motors”: Leos Carax’s visionary drama, about an actor’s impassioned impersonations, is both a fervent collaboration with the actor Denis Lavant and an exaltation of the transformative power of the cinema. ( .)

19. Home from the Hill”: This Texas melodrama by Vincente Minnelli is both a seething view of the economic and racial tensions that prevailed there and a high point in his exploration of the inner lives of lost boys. (.)

Ami Diakhate in “Hyenas.”Photograph from Alamy

20. Hyenas”:日本一本一道经典视频 Djibril Diop Mambéty adapted a play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt for this drama of a now-wealthy woman’s return to her home town in Senegal in search of revenge. (.)

21. The Immigrant”: James Gray developed this pugnacious and meticulously nuanced drama, about a Polish immigrant (Marion Cotillard) on the Lower East Side in the nineteen-twenties, from stories of his own family’s past. (.)

22. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”: The “Citizen Kane” of cinematic modernism, which Chantal Akerman made at the age of twenty-four. ( .)

23. Lorna’s Silence”: The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, intensify their symbolic realism with theatrical devices in this drama of an Albanian immigrant’s trouble with gangsters in Belgium. (.)

24. Modesty Blaise”:日本一本一道经典视频 Joseph Losey’s wildly ornamental adaptation of a famous comic strip is both a bold 007 parody starring Monica Vitti and one of the most gleefully cartoon-like live-action movies ever. (.)


25. Mon Oncle”:日本一本一道经典视频 Jacques Tati’s comedy about the influx of technological modernism into domestic life looks longingly at the waning days of small-town pleasures. (.)

26. Moonrise Kingdom”: Wes Anderson’s lyrical confection of young love in the mid-sixties is also a grand vision of historic changes in mores. (.)

27. The Neon Bible”:日本一本一道经典视频 Terence Davies’s adaptation of a novel by John Kennedy Toole stars Gena Rowlands in a tale of a young man’s artistic apprenticeship. (.)

28. Night Across the Street”:日本一本一道经典视频 The last film that Raúl Ruiz completed is a warmly nostalgic reminiscence of childhood and an extravagantly imaginative vision of death. (.)

29. Rome, Open City”: Roberto Rossellini’s drama of the Italian Resistance in the waning days of the Second World War inaugurated a new era of politically engaged and locally rooted cinema. ( .)

30. “The Roof”: Vittorio De Sica’s drama about a poor family’s effort to build their own home turns their struggle inside out with a closely analytical look at the legal and administrative obstacles that they confront. (.)

A scene from Bruno Dumont’s “Slack Bay.”Photograph from Alamy

31. Slack Bay”:日本一本一道经典视频 More comedy, more horror: Bruno Dumont fuses the drawing-room comedy of high-society fops and a tale of cannibalism among local fishermen for an ingenious cross-section of class and gender conflicts in turn-of-the-twentieth-century France. (.)

32. A Story from Chikamatsu”:日本一本一道经典视频 Kenji Mizoguchi’s passionate drama about lovers separated by unjust legal and familial authority holds Japanese culture and tradition to sharp scrutiny while exalting the transcendent power of love. ( .)

33. Stranger by the Lake”: The deadly combination of languid flirtations, erotic encounters, and suspicious gazes gives Alain Guiraudie’s drama a Hitchcockian kick. ( .)

34. The Sun Shines Bright”: John Ford’s near-remake of his own 1934 film “Judge Priest” is centered on a Southern judge’s effort to protect a black man from a lynch mob. (.)

35. Through the Olive Trees”: Abbas Kiarostami directed this warmly comedic and romantic metafiction, about the relationship that develops between a pair of nonprofessional actors while working on one of his films. (.)

36. Tilaï (The Law)”: Idrissa Ouedraogo’s drama of a prodigal son’s return to a village in Burkina Faso is a masterwork of confrontation with patriarchal rule as well as a twist on the myth of Oedipus. (.)

37. Toni Erdmann”: The German director Maren Ade creates one of the great metaphors and memes of recent movies in this comedic drama of a female executive in conflict with her musician father—who turns her life into a sort of guerrilla theatre. (.)

38. A Touch of Sin”: Jia Zhangke’s drama, based on true-crime stories, reveals the violence of the state and the social order reflected in the ills of daily life. (.)

39. Under the Sun of Satan”: Maurice Pialat’s fierce adaptation of a novel by Georges Bernanos, starring Gérard Depardieu as a self-flagellating priest in a state of spiritual torment, was one of the festival’s most contested prize-winners: when it won the Grand Prize, in 1987, the audience booed, and Pialat, in his speech, offered an appropriately sharp retort. ( .)

40. Vidas Secas”: This drama by the Brazilian director Nelson Pereira dos Santos, about a family migrating to a distant farm in search of work, puts the country’s inequities and social tensions into sharp focus. (.)

Barbara Loden in “Wanda.”Photograph from Shutterstock

41. Wanda”:日本一本一道经典视频 Barbara Loden’s only feature, which she directed and in which she stars, is both a heist drama and a vision of a lost woman’s paradoxical freedom. (.)

42. Yeelen”:日本一本一道经典视频 This historical drama, by Souleymane Cissé, based on a legend and set in the thirteenth century, challenges the politics of traditional family order by way of supernatural powers. (.)

43. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!”: At the age of ninety, Alain Resnais made this labyrinthine mystery of theatrical life, featuring a fictitious actor’s posthumous appearance to a gathering of leading French actors—playing themselves. (.)

44. The Young One”: Luis Buñuel’s American-set drama, set in the rural South (though filmed in Mexico), is a tale of deadly racism and misogynistic violence. (.)