10 Films That Deserved To Win The Palme d'Or

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While Cannes is famed for rewarding the very best films in the world, it can sometimes hand out the big prize to films that vanish from view, while ignoring others that go on to become classics. With that in mind, we've reviewed the last 62-odd years of Cannes winners to identify the winners that have been eclipsed by their defeated competitors, and the great films that were scandalously overlooked...

What should have won: Volver

What actually own: The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Pedro Almodóvar has been turning up at Cannes for years, and generally getting at least compliments from the prize-givers. But this study of tough women living through trying times in La Mancha was one of his best, and deserved the big prize - which in fact went to Ken Loach's decent but largely forgotten (already) The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Still, Almodóvar took home Best Screenplay, and his leading lady Penelope Cruz took Best Actress, so it wasn't all bad.

What should have won: Oldboy

What actually won: Fahrenheit 9/11

Park Chan-wook's Oldboy was clearly something of a favourite with Jury President Quentin Tarantino this year, landing the Grand Prize of the Jury. But it didn't take the Palme d'Or, which went to Michael Moore's Bush-baiting Fahrenheit 9/11, and frankly we'd have reversed the two. Sure, Oldboy is pulpier than most Cannes winners, but it's also more vital and surprising than anything that year - including Moore's messy, scattershot polemic.

What should have won: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

What actually won: The Tree Of Life

When Terrence Malick won his first Palme d’Or for Tree Of Life, pipping Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s elliptical crime drama Once Upon A Time In Anatolia and other worthies in the process, there was virtually nothing contentious about it. With the benefit of hindsight, Anatolia looks like the more enduring of two languorous, beautifully photographed pieces. Was it the excitement of Malick’s Cannes return that tipped it in the Texan’s favourite? Was Anatolia too slow even for the cineastes on the Croisette? Not enough dinosaurs? Whatever the reason, you can make a strong case that they got this one wrong.

What should have won: Dogville

What actually won: Elephant

This was a pretty strong year at Cannes, but almost everyone was surprised when Gus Van Sant's Elephant beat more heavily favoured contenders like Mystic River and Dogville. Van Sant's Columbine massacre-inspired film might have started people talking, but it's low key to the point of stasis and an intensely frustrating watch. You'll find few people who have actively sought it out since - whereas Eastwood's Mystic River, for example, went on to Oscar glory.

What should have won: Festen

What actually won: Eternity And A Day

This was a pretty strong year for world cinema, but the winner at Cannes - Theo Angelopoulos' Eternity And A Day - has not achieved anything close to the staying power of Dogme films Festen and The Idiots, or even The Dream Life of Angels or Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (and we're not even making a case for the Oscar-winning Life Is Beautiful). With Dogme just taking off - and arguably at its most creative - surely one of the two Danish films was the worthy winner.

What should have won: La Haine

What actually won: Underground

This was a great year for French cinema, but Jeanne Moreau's jury preferred Kusturica's Underground when it came to handing out the prizes. That's a shame, because this was the year that saw Jean-Pierre Jeunet produce his trippy City of Lost Children as well as Matthieu Kassovitz's La Haine, probably the most deserving winner and one which mixes social realism with a cinematic flair for beauty in the most unexpected places. And heck, we're not even arguing for the best American film of that year, Tim Burton's Ed Wood - probably the director's most successful artistic endeavour to date.

What should have won: Fitzcarraldo

What actually won: Missing / The Way

There was a draw in 1982 - between Costa-Gavras' Missing and Serif Gonen and Yilmaz Guney's The Way - but neither has lingered in the popular imagination like Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, a film about madness that very nearly drove everyone involved in it insane as a bonus. For the story of Fitzcarraldo's determination to build an opera house in the jungles of Peru, Herzog forged through natural disasters, plane crashes, deaths, injuries, arson and illness to make it. Surely that deserved the Palme d'Or?

What should have won: La Grande Bouffe

What actually won: The Hireline / Scarecrow

La Grande Bouffe is something of a cult classic, the story of four men, three prostitutes and a schoolteacher who go away to a house in the country to eat themselves to death. Marco Ferreri's black comedy, however, lost out on the big prize at Cannes to Jerry Schatzberg's Scarecrow and Alan Bridges' The Hireling, neither of which ended up making much of a dent on the public consciousness, and neither of which featured nearly as much gluttony.

What should have won: Doctor Zhivago

What actually won: Un Homme Et Une Femme / Signore & Signori

Another year where two films shared the Palme d'Or, and neither of them was the most enduring or powerful of the Festival. Italian satire Signore & Signori and Claude Lelouch's romantic drama Un Homme Et Une Femme beat David Lean's Doctor Zhivago to the prize - and in fact Lean's film went home entirely empty-handed. We have to assume that the Cannes jury that year, led by Sophia Loren, got a giggle from giving the prize to two films with similar titles: in English, they translate literally to Ladies and Gentlemen and A Man and A Woman.

What should have won: All About Eve

What actually won: Miss Julie / Miracle In Milan

There was a tie in 1951 between Swedish film Froken Julie (Miss Julie) and Miracle In Milan. They're both exceptionally fine films - but also in the competition was the superb All About Eve, which had to make do with the Jury Prize and Best Actress for Bette Davis. With A Place In The Sun, Powell and Pressburger's The Tales of Hoffman and Luis Luis Buñuel's Los Olvidados also in competition, there's no doubt that it was a stellar year - but Mankiewicz's film should still have won.