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Top 10 Cannes Palmes d'Or Winners

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Radina Papukchieva After premiering at the world's most prestigious film festival, these films have become classics and inspired generations of directors. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 movies awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. For this list, we've assembled a list of the movies that received the highest honor at the Cannes Film Festival. Special thanks to our user drewbrown for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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After premiering at the world’s most prestigious film festival, these films have become classics and inspired generations of directors. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movies awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

For this list, we’ve assembled a list of the movies that received the highest honor at the Cannes Film Festival. Though the award has changed names several times, we’re looking at those films that won the highest prize since the festival was first held in 1946, and have chosen those that remain a part of popular culture and film textbooks to this day. So cinephiles, sit back and see if your favorites made our list.

#10: “The Tree of Life” (2011)
Focusing on a 1950s family in Texas as a way to address the meaning of life, this Terrence Malick film was the cinematic revelation of 2011. Roger Ebert praised its impressive scale and its modesty, applauding Malick’s grand vision of the universe through the eyes of one man reflecting on his childhood experience. The now famous sequence depicting the birth of the universe has drawn comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” A one-of-a-kind experience, “The Tree of Life” drew strong opinions at Cannes – both positive and negative – but there’s no denying this Palme d’Or-winning film is profound and thought-provoking.

#9: “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” (2007)
Although this film takes place in Communist Romania, the issue it tackles remains relevant in many places in the world. When two university students get together to organize an illegal abortion, they encounter numerous obstacles that challenge their friendship. Celebrated for its minimalism and natural dialogue, the film focuses solely on the day of the abortion alone. Part of a new wave in Romanian cinema, its open ending is especially provocative, forcing audiences to decide for themselves what happens between the two friends after this emotionally-straining experience.

#8: “The Piano” (1993)
This story of a mute piano player married to a cruel man who sells her precious piano was such a revelation that it forced Hollywood to make space for independent cinema. Directed by Jane Campion, the film was celebrated for telling a woman’s story through her own eyes and mind. Few films have been as haunting and evocative as “The Piano.” The movie garnered three Academy Awards for Best Actress Holly Hunter, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for then 11-year-old Anna Paquin, in addition to winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

#7: “The Third Man” (1949)
Directed by Carol Reed, this British film noir follows American pulp writer Holly Martins as he goes to Vienna to accept a job from his childhood friend. However, when he arrives in Austria, he discovers his friend has died in a terrible accident. Or has he? Suddenly Martins is thrust into a world in which nothing is as it seems. The film’s distinctive score, featuring extensive use of the zither, deservedly garners praise. But everything about the film – the great cast, haunting cinematography, and atmospheric direction – is exceptional and well deserving of the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film.

#6: “The Conversation” (1974)
Inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film “Blow-Up,” this Francis Ford Coppola thriller had a timely release, being released in the midst of the infamous Richard Nixon Watergate scandal. In the film, surveillance expert Harry Caul, played by Gene Hackman, has been assigned to record the conversation between a couple as they walk through San Francisco’s Union Square. Things get complex when Caul begins to worry about the couple’s safety once the recording is delivered to his client. In addition to winning the Palme d’Or, the film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar but lost that award to another Coppola classic: “The Godfather Part II.”

#5: “Barton Fink” (1991)
Leave it up to the Coen brothers to pen a movie about a playwright in the 1940s going through a mental nightmare after being hired by Hollywood to write scripts. Starring John Turturro as Barton Fink, the film initially finds Barton experiencing writer’s block when he’s assigned his first Hollywood project. Things get even worse when he’s suddenly and unknowingly involved in a murder investigation. Influenced by directing stalwarts like Stanley Kubrick and Roman Polanski, “Barton Fink” is still unmistakably a Coen brothers’ film. Defying all genre rules, it’s a devastating and unsettling critique of the entertainment business that swept Cannes by taking the Palme d’Or as well as the awards for Best Actor for Turturro and Best Director for the Coens.

#4: “Apocalypse Now” (1979)
Inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness,” this Francis Ford Coppola feature about the Vietnam War is one of the most epic war movies ever. The film had a difficult and lengthy production which involved changes in casting well into production. Marlon Brando’s towering performance is eerily fascinating, and the supporting roster includes then-newcomers Laurence Fishburne and Harrison Ford. However, the film’s strenuous production, which caused a heart attack for lead actor Martin Sheen, resulted in a true classic. “Apocalypse Now” was deemed a “culturally, aesthetically and historically” significant work by the National Film Registry and – although that decision was met by some with derision – it tied for the Palme d’Or .

#3: “Pulp Fiction” (1994)
Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein arranged a promotional tour for this film that was unprecedented for an independent feature by a second-time director. The entire cast of the black comedy/crime story showed up at the Cannes Film Festival for a midnight screening, creating a sensation. Did that help it win the Palme d’Or? Possibly, but there’s no denying it was worthy of the award on its own merits. “Pulp Fiction” made Tarantino an important and influential director, and the movie turned genre expectations on their heads. Going against the rules of traditional screenwriting and plot development, “Pulp Fiction” succeeded on its own specific terms.

#2: “Taxi Driver” (1976)
This Scorsese film is another example of a movie that played at Cannes and went down in history as a cult classic. A young and scrawny Robert De Niro plays a taxi driver who wants to clean the streets of New York of all the “scum.” He’s the prototype of many Scorsese protagonists struggling with their masculinity, religion and their place in society. The film also features 13-year-old Jodie Foster in one of the most memorable performances of her career. Although “Taxi Driver” was booed when it was first showed at the festival, it’s now considered by many as one of the best films ever to win the Palme d’Or.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “All That Jazz” (1979)

- “Paris, Texas” (1984)

- “Blow-Up” (1966)

- “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964)


#1: “La Dolce Vita” (1960)
Our top pick is a stunningly-directed classic that made waves with its fascinatingly stylized approach to moviemaking. Quite ahead of his time, director Federico Fellini tackled the topic of tabloid culture and shallow glitz. He follows Marcello, a gossip magazine reporter on a seven-night journey to experience the “sweet life” of Rome’s elite. The result is a series of cinematic moments devoid of a traditional plot structure. Fellini’s obsession with our futile search for love and happiness in places empty of such possibilities influenced the work of directors like David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, and many more. Decades later, this Palme d’Or winner is still undeniably thrilling.

Do you agree with our list? What is your personal favorite Palme d’Or winner? For more top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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