The 25 best Cannes Film Festival movies you actually want to watch

Cannes Film Festival – one of the most exclusive and long-standing movie events in the history of cinema – kicks off today. From May 8-19, high profile movie stars will be showing off their latest projects, critics will be furiously scribbling down every pensive thought, and audiences will be cheering and booing so loudly during showings that you’ll probably be able to hear their reactions from the across the English channel.

As Cannes continues to uneasily adapt to an evolving industry of cinema (movies with no theatrical release are now banned from receiving awards, which is why Netflix isn’t attending this year), it’s worth looking back on the annual event’s esteemed history to discover the best movies that a) the festival-goers enjoyed and b) are actually films that you’ll want to watch. Because let’s be honest, while some of the festival’s indie offerings are no doubt award-worthy films, they’re not all the sort of thing you want to kick back and watch come Sunday night…

Celebrate the start of this year’s festival with a marathon of the best Cannes movies and keep it here on GR over the next couple of weeks for coverage of everything worthwhile coming out of the festival, including our first reaction to the Solo: A Star Wars Story (opens in new tab) premiere. 

25. The Nice Guys (2006)

The movie: Iron Man 3 (opens in new tab) writer/director Shane Black returns with a crime comedy about a pair of private investigators who are anything but superheroes. Set in 1970s Los Angeles, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) reluctantly team up to find a missing girl who might have links to the death of a porn star.

Why you want to see it: Alongside Black’s usual trademark wit, Crowe and Gosling are an absolute dream team that you’ll want to spend more than two hours with, coupled with Angourie Rice’s spiky performance as Holland’s daughter that frequently threatens to steal the show. Oh, and you get to hear Gosling scream. A lot. 

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. Raw (2016)

The movie: Vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) follows her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) by enrolling in a veterinary school, unaware that one hazing ritual involves eating a piece of raw meat. Forced to do so, Justine starts to develop an insatiable taste for meat — and not the kind you’d find in a supermarket aisle.

Read more: Raw is a coming-of-age drama that just happens to be about cannibalism (opens in new tab)

Why you want to see it: A fearless feature debut from both director Julia Ducournau and her leading star Marillier, this is a defiantly feminine coming-of-age tale that, alongside its gorier elements, is unafraid to talk about sex. Like its bikini wax sequence, Raw is a film once seen, never forgotten.

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. 

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