5 Unforgettable Films That Took Cannes by Storm

To celebrate The Beguiled’s premiere, we take a look at Focus Features’ history at the prestigious fest.

On May 24, Sofia Coppola and her stars will climb the celebrated red carpet stairs to the Grand Théâtre Lumière for the Cannes Film Festival premiere of her new atmospheric thriller The Beguiled. Founded in 1946, Cannes is the glittering jewel of the festival circuit, a glamorous beachside event where the world’s finest filmmakers show off their latest works. Since its inception, Focus Features has made Cannes an essential destination, often taking home one of the festival’s coveted awards. Celebrating Focus’ 15th anniversary, we look back on five films that captured the hearts and minds of the audiences of Cannes.  Above, writer/director Jeff Nichols with actors Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton at the premiere of Loving in Cannes, via The New York Times

See what Cannes will enjoy by taking a peek at The Beguiled's official trailer. 

Focus launched itself with The Pianist at Cannes in 2002.

The history of Focus Features in many ways begins with the Cannes Film Festival. Founders James Schamus and David Linde flew to France in 2002 soon after the company formed to acquire Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. "Every distributor who could hold a drink was after it," says Schamus. "The one thing we knew we needed...to define the company was to get that movie." After sealing the deal for the powerful real-life story about a musician surviving the Nazi occupation, Focus got an extra bonus. The Pianist won the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest honor. 

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The Pianist's powerful tale awed audiences in 2002.

Broken Flowers blossoms during spring showers in 2005. 

The rainy weather that greeted the normally sunny French beach town couldn’t dampen the spirits of Bill Murray when Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers premiered at Cannes in 2005. Murray darted about the Promenade de la Croisette on a moped, occasionally picking up lucky festival-goers. He later connected to his character, a middle-aged lothario who goes on a mission to look up his old girlfriends, by confessing to reporters his own failed attempts: "I usually decide to try in the middle of the night in a strange town, and I don't recommend it." Storm clouds outside were countered by thunderous applause inside the theater as the audience warmly embraced the poignant comedy. The jury awarded it the coveted Grand Prix.

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Broken Flowers' Bill Murray found real love at the Cannes Film Festival.

Thirst fills the festival’s desire for smart horror in 2009.

In 2009, Park Chan-wook’s delicious take on the vampire film, Thirst, premiered at Cannes to critical raves and standing ovations before winning the Jury Prize. Park became a two-time Cannes winner––having being awarded the Grand Prix in 2004 for Oldboy––and his status as one of our great filmmakers was now assured. This world-class director, however, was not one to rest on his laurels. “Standing on the stage at Cannes was a brief moment," explained Park soon afterwards. "As a director, most of the time I'm pretty occupied with writing scripts, planning with crews, talking with actors and so on."

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Audiences savored Thirst at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

Moonrise Kingdom spread its special magic at Cannes in 2012.

When Wes Anderson was told that Moonrise Kingdom would open the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, the director, who’d never been to the festival before, greeted the honor with his signature dry humor. “As far as I’m told I have to walk up the staircase and then sit and watch the movie,” Anderson told The Hollywood Reporter. “So it’s not like we’re putting on a play.” But on the day of the premiere, the director and his cast brought the film’s giddy enthusiasm to the red carpet, with Tilda Swinton in a stunning bronze Haider Ackermann gown and Anderson sporting a pink shirt with his tux.

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Moonrise Kingdom put a spell on Cannes audiences in 2012. 

Loving brings a quiet dignity to a raucous festival in 2016.

Attending the film’s world premiere with his stars, Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, Loving's writer/director Jeff Nichols was overwhelmed with the applause and enthusiasm at the Lumière theater. “Loving stirs a festival,” read a Los Angeles Times headline the next morning, highlighting the emotions Nichols’ true-life drama about an interracial couple’s fight for marriage evoked. At his Cannes press conference, Nichols spoke about the film's impact: “I hope it makes people think about what's at the heart of these issues." 

Get Loving on iTunes or at Amazon.

Loving moved Cannes in 2016. 

The 2017 Cannes Film Festival kicks off on May 17. Follow @focusfeatures on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for all festival news and more!