As the weather cools and the faces become ever more haggard, it’s clear that we’re past the midpoint of the Cannes Film Festival. The reviews are in for about half of the selected ‘In Competition’ films at Cannes and speculation is rife about who will win the coveted Palme d’Or.
To mark this moment, I have looked back at what film audiences and critics made of past nominees and winners. In summary;
- Pulp Fiction is the highest scoring film with audiences to ever have played in Cannes
- Pan’s Labyrinth is the best reviewed Cannes-nominated film ever.
- The worst Cannes nominated film, according to audiences, was Utomlyonnye solntsem 2: Predstoyanie
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me received an average Metascore of just 28 out of 100
- The film with the lowest critics’ rating to win a Palme d’Or was Wild At Heart (dir. David Lynch)
- Mr Turner has the biggest difference between the views of film critics and audiences
The audience’s favorite films at Cannes
I have used the IMDb user scores as a proxy for audience opinion (see here for a breakdown of IMDb voters). Pulp Fiction is the highest scoring film to ever have played ‘In competition’ in Cannes.
Six of the top 20 Cannes-nominated films won a Palme d’Or. As some films at Cannes on this list were shortlisted in the same year, the maximum number that could have won is 16.
Cannes nominated films with the highest IMDb user ratings (out of 10)
|Film||Cannes result||IMDb rating|
|1||Pulp Fiction||1994 Won Palme d'Or||8.9|
|4||The Man Who Planted Trees||1987 Nominated||8.6|
|5||Life Is Beautiful||1998 Nominated||8.6|
|6||Le Trou||1960 Nominated||8.5|
|7||Forest of the Hanged||1965 Nominated||8.5|
|8||Apocalypse Now||1979 Won Palme d'Or||8.5|
|9||Cinema Paradiso||1989 Nominated||8.5|
|10||The Pianist||2002 Won Palme d'Or||8.5|
|11||All About Eve||1951 Nominated||8.4|
|13||Pour la suite du monde||1963 Nominated||8.4|
|14||To Kill a Mockingbird||1963 Nominated||8.4|
|15||Woman in the Dunes||1964 Nominated||8.4|
|16||Taxi Driver||1976 Won Palme d'Or||8.4|
|19||Winter Sleep||2014 Won Palme d'Or||8.4|
|20||The Third Man||1949 Won Palme d'Or||8.3|
Film critics’ favorite films at Cannes
95% of film critics gave Pan’s Labyrinth a positive write-up (a Metascore of 98), making it the best reviewed Cannes-nominated film ever.
However, it was beaten to the 1996 Palme d’Or by The Wind That Shakes The Barley, which received a Metascore of 82.
Cannes nominated films with the highest Metascore (out of 100)
|1||Pan's Labyrinth||2006 Nominated||98|
|2||4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days||2007 Won Palme d'Or||97|
|4||Mr. Turner||2014 Nominated||94|
|5||Amour||2012 Won Palme d'Or||94|
|6||Pulp Fiction||1994 Won Palme d'Or||94|
|7||Days of Heaven||1979 Nominated||93|
|8||La Dolce Vita||1960 Won Palme d'Or||93|
|9||Taxi Driver||1976 Won Palme d'Or||93|
|10||The Class||2008 Won Palme d'Or||92|
|11||Inside Llewyn Davis||2013 Nominated||92|
|13||Beauty and the Beast||1946 Nominated||92|
|14||Yi Yi||2000 Nominated||92|
|15||The Diving Bell and the Butterfly||2007 Nominated||92|
|16||Umberto D.||1952 Nominated||92|
|18||Do the Right Thing||1989 Nominated||91|
|19||Secrets & Lies||1996 Won Palme d'Or||91|
|20||Waltz with Bashir||2008 Nominated||91|
IMDb users really dislike Utomlyonnye solntsem 2: Predstoyanie (aka “Burnt By The Sun 2”), awarding it just 4.1 out of 10. It’s impossible to know for sure why it was shortlisted in Cannes at all, but it may have something to do with the fact that it was the sequel to the 1994 Cannes Grand Prize winner, Utomlyonnye solntsem. The Grand Prize is often seen as the second place award in Cannes, after the Palme d’Or, and was only one of a number of awards the original film won, including Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
The sequel was hugely anticipated and had the largest production budget ever for a Russian film ($55 million). Despite this, it became Russia’s biggest box office flop, receiving negative reviews from critics both in Russia and abroad.
Cannes nominated films with the lowest IMDb user ratings (out of 10)
Film Cannes result IMDb rating 1 Utomlyonnye solntsem 2: Predstoyanie 2010 Nominated 4.1 2 Les côtelettes 2003 Nominated 4.9 3 The Brown Bunny 2003 Nominated 5.0 4 Cosmopolis 2012 Nominated 5.0 5 Modesty Blaise 1966 Nominated 5.2 6 Charlie Says 2006 Nominated 5.2 7 Sleeping Beauty 2011 Nominated 5.3 8 The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat 1974 Nominated 5.4 9 The Flesh 1991 Nominated 5.5 10 Splitting Heirs 1993 Nominated 5.5 11 Southland Tales 2006 Nominated 5.5 12 Miles from Home 1988 Nominated 5.6 13 The End of Violence 1997 Nominated 5.6 14 A Castle in Italy 2013 Nominated 5.6 15 Beneath the 12-Mile Reef 1954 Nominated 5.7 16 The Appointment 1969 Nominated 5.7 17 A Stranger Among Us 1992 Nominated 5.7 18 Jefferson in Paris 1995 Nominated 5.7 19 Battle in Heaven 2005 Nominated 5.7 20 Last Days 2005 Nominated 5.7
The films the critics hated
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me received an average Metascore of just 28 out of 100 and only 62% of critics gave it a positive review (for context, last year’s derided Cannes flop Lost River (dir. Ryan Gosling) received a score of 42). Of Twin Peaks film the New York Times said “The film appears to be an undifferentiated mess of story lines and hallucinations. There’s no reason to care which is which. Even Mr. Lynch’s eccentric touches become boring. The jokes are stillborn”.
The film with the lowest critics’ rating to win a Palme d’Or was the 1990 Nicolas Cage classic Wild At Heart (dir. David Lynch), which received 52 out of 100 from critics.
Cannes nominated films with the lowest Metascore (out of 100)
Film Cannes result Metascore 1 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me Nominated 1992 28 2 8 ½ Women Nominated 1999 36 3 The Captive Nominated 2014 36 4 Kedma Nominated 2002 36 5 Fast Food Fast Women Nominated 2000 36 6 Only God Forgives Nominated 2013 37 7 The Search Nominated 2014 37 8 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Nominated 1998 41 9 Southland Tales Nominated 2006 44 10 Kikujiro Nominated 1999 44 11 Jefferson in Paris Nominated 1995 45 12 The Paperboy Nominated 2012 45 13 Blindness Nominated 2008 45 14 Esther Kahn Nominated 2000 46 15 Manderlay Nominated 2005 46 16 Spring Fever Nominated 2009 47 17 Crash Nominated 1996 47 18 Where the Truth Lies Nominated 2005 47 19 The Idiots Nominated 1998 47 20 Incantato Nominated 2003 48
When critics and audiences disagree
In the past, I’ve measured the similarities and differences between how film audiences and critics judge the films at Cannes (stephenfollows.com/do-film-critics-and-audiences-agree). The average IMDb user score was 7.07 and the Metascore average was 72.9 out of 100.
The Cannes films audiences loved but critics loathed
|Film||Cannes result||Metascore||IMDb Users||Difference|
|1||Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me||1992 Nominated||28||7.2||44|
|2||Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas||1998 Nominated||41||7.7||36|
|4||The Search||2014 Nominated||37||6.8||31|
|5||Fast Food Fast Women||2000 Nominated||36||6.5||29|
|7||Life Is Beautiful||1998 Nominated||59||8.6||27|
|9||The Captive||2014 Nominated||36||5.9||23|
|11||8 ½ Women||1999 Nominated||36||5.8||22|
|12||The Idiots||1998 Nominated||47||6.9||22|
|14||Esther Kahn||2000 Nominated||46||6.7||21|
|16||Wild at Heart||1990 Won Palme d'Or||52||7.3||21|
|17||Only God Forgives||2013 Nominated||37||5.7||20|
|19||The Hudsucker Proxy||1994 Nominated||53||7.3||20|
|20||Falling Down||1993 Nominated||56||7.6||20|
The Cannes films critics loved but audiences loathed
|Film||Cannes result||Metascore||IMDb Users||Difference|
|1||Mr. Turner||2014 Nominated||94||7.0||24|
|2||Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives||2010 Won Palme d'Or||87||6.6||21|
|4||4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days||2007 Won Palme d'Or||97||7.9||18|
|5||The Tree of Life||2011 Won Palme d'Or||85||6.7||18|
|8||Inside Llewyn Davis||2013 Nominated||92||7.5||17|
|9||The Class||2008 Won Palme d'Or||92||7.5||17|
|10||The Headless Woman||2008 Nominated||81||6.5||16|
|11||Paranoid Park||2007 Nominated||83||6.7||16|
|13||I'm Going Home||2001 Nominated||86||7.0||16|
|14||Amour||2012 Won Palme d'Or||94||7.8||16|
|15||Goodbye to Language||2014 Nominated||75||6.0||15|
|16||Two Days One Night||2014 Nominated||89||7.4||15|
|18||Pan's Labyrinth||2006 Nominated||98||8.3||15|
|20||The Last Mistress||2007 Nominated||78||6.4||14|
Data for today’s research came from the official Cannes festival site, IMDb and Metascore.
When reading today’s research, please consider the following notes…
- Cannes changes – In this article I have used the shorthand of referring to all films winning the main prize at Cannes Film Festival as having won the Palme d’Or. In fact, the official name of the top prize in Cannes has changed over the years…
- 1939 to 1954 – Grand Prix du Festival International du Film
- 1995 to 1963 – Palme d’Or
- 1964 to 1973 – Grand Prix du Festival
- 1974 to date – Palme d’Or
- Coping with few user ratings – For the research referencing IMDb user ratings, I excluded films at Cannes with fewer than 300 user ratings so that a small number of votes wouldn’t skew the results. This number is somewhat arbitrary as there is no objective measure of ‘enough’ votes. This criteria did not affect any films on the ‘highest scoring’ films table, but did exclude a number of films on the ‘lowest scoring’ table. All of these excluded films were released before the year 2000.
- Missing Metascores – Not all films at Cannes have been reviewed by modern critics and therefore included in the Metascore. Looking back to all Cannes-nominated films since 1939, only 23% have a Metascore, however that number rises to 78% for films in Cannes between 2000-15 and 100% for films in Cannes in 2014.
The more I look into the films that have been nominated in Cannes, the more it brings home how political major film awards are. My research earlier this year into the Oscars showed just how much time, effort and (most importantly) money hollywood ploughs into award season. Cannes may have a more sophisticated air than the Oscars, but behind the scenes it’s all just politics.
Politics and PR. Since you are using IMDB ratings as being valid for audience opinion, I would like to see you do a study of these ratings. Particularly the normal shape of the distribution curve for ratings from 1 to 10. I would like to see your analysis of the possible reason(s) when the curves take a completely different shape for certain films. I have noticed a strong trend in the pattern of the ratings for percent of each number from 1-10, the “distribution curve for ratings”. A curved shape that is closely replicated time after time for almost all films, even Les côtelettes which you found to have the second lowest IMDB ratings of all Cannes films you considered. One of this year’s important and controversial Cannes films, The Lobster, with an average “weighted” rating of 8.7 and an arithmetic mean of 8.2, breaks that pattern more than any film I have looked at, and to the larges degree. IMDB says “IMDb publishes weighted vote averages rather than raw data averages. Various filters are applied to the raw data in order to eliminate and reduce attempts at ‘vote stuffing’ by individuals more interested in changing the current rating of a movie than giving their true opinion of it. The exact methods we use will not be disclosed. This should ensure that the policy remains effective. The result is a more accurate vote average.” Let’s hope it is more effective at weeding out vote stuffing than Yelp’s algorithm is. At least with Yelp you can see how many votes are not counted. With IMDB I am not sure how they get the total number of IMDB user vote count as the numbers do not come close to adding up. Is the difference the votes that were deemed to be phony?
With over 250 ratings so far, it is unlikely that the shape of this curve will change dramatically when 300 people have voted. The Lobster has 55% of the raters giving it a perfect 10 rating, an unheard of percentage. Pulp Fiction only has a 40% perfect 10 rating percentage. The 2 IMDB staff that rated it gave it a 5. The 15 “Top 1000” voters that rated it gave it an average 8.5. The 18 aged 30-44 female voters gave it an average 6.6. The metascore from critics is 83/100 with two critics giving it a 60/100. The discrepancy in these numbers are very suspicious for even the best regarded of films. The shape of its distribution curve for ratings is completely different from any other film I know of. It is an unusual film to have four times as many ratings from men as from women, unless it is a very violent film like Pulp Fiction, and an average of almost 1 point higher rating from men as from women. Is this tampered voting or did the Cannes award skew the results with so few people “mainstream” people seeing it do far? I don’t know. It would be nice to see a study of how Cannes awards affect the ratings votes early on for art-house films as well as root out the possibility that some PR firm hired people in some low wage countries, the vast majority of the raters were not in the USA, to skew the ratings.
I would like to see you write an article about the ethics of the conflict of interest inherent in Public Relations firms failing to disclose that they are hiring newspaper film critics to write reviews for their filmmaker/distributor clients and hiring the same people to write articles about the same film festivals these clients are in competition at, while also having those same film festivals as PR clients. I don’t feel a PR firm should represent a film festival and Sony Pictures Corp with a film screening at that festival at the same time much less that a film critic should write film reviews for hire for PR firms for the same publications that pay them for reviews, without full disclosure.