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Which Cannes Film Will Win the Palme d’Or? Let’s Rank Their Chances

On May 14, the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival gets underway. That means the annual tradition of glamorous red carpets and starry premieres is nearly upon us—not to mention the unveiling of the winner of the Palme d’Or, the prestigious top prize given out by a hand-selected jury to the best film in the Official Competition at the festival’s end. Classics like “M*A*S*H,” “Taxi Driver,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Parasite” have won the Palme, and now, after today's schedule announcement, we know which movies will be battling it out this year. (However, the festival has said a few latecomers will soon be added to the Competition slate.) Is it ridiculous to predict a month out what film will emerge victorious? Of course, but let’s have a little fun.

It’s worth keeping in mind that critics haven’t seen any of these films, and in some cases, we don’t even have a really strong sense of what a particular movie is about. Also important: Handicappers will sometimes base their predictions on who the jury president is, assuming that the kind of film that he or she makes is the one that will be the front-runner. That logic rarely works out, though: Steven Spielberg presided over the jury that gave the Palme d’Or to “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” while Joel and Ethan Coen’s jury awarded “Dheepan,” which is nothing like a Coen brothers film. At this point, the only thing certain about the jury is that the president will be Greta Gerwig—the rest of the committee will be announced shortly—but, seriously, if you’re trying to figure out which Competition film is most like “Lady Bird” or “Barbie,” you’re probably going about this all wrong.

With that in mind, here are my way-too-early Palme d’Or rankings, including info about each film. Remember: I’m not judging these films on their potential quality, just by what I think has the best chance of winning. If nothing else, consider this a handy guide to some of the most anticipated movies at this year’s Cannes. It’ll be like you’re there—and you don’t even need to speak French.

19. “Motel Destino”

Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz is no stranger to Cannes: His 2019 film “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão” screened in Un Certain Regard, and his 2023 costume drama “Firebrand,” which starred Alicia Vikander and Jude Law, played in Competition. His latest is described as an erotic thriller that, according to a press release, is set at “a roadside sex hotel under the burning blue skies of the coast of Northern Brazil, run by the boorish Elias and his frustrated, beautiful wife Dayana. When 21-year-old Heraldo finds himself at the motel, after messing up a hit and going on the run from both the police and the gang he let down, Dayana finds herself intrigued and lets him stay.” “Motel Destino” doesn’t have the star power of “Firebrand,” which doesn’t usually have much bearing on what ends up with the Palme d’Or, but the movie’s genre trappings may keep it from being a serious contender. 

18. “Marcello Mio”

The world may have recently started obsessing over nepo babies, but hallowed cinematic bloodlines are nothing new. French filmmaker Christophe Honoré investigates the phenomenon in a fascinating way with “Marcello Mio,” which stars Chiara Mastroianni as a fictional version of herself. Although an accomplished actress in her own right, she’s struggling with the burden of being the daughter of Marcello Mastroianni, the Italian icon who starred in films like “La Dolce Vita” and “8 1/2.” So she decides to do something radical, remaking herself as her late father, which includes dressing up as him and insisting everyone call her Marcello. Adding to the movie’s meta quality, Chiara Mastroianni’s own mother, the equally iconic Catherine Deneuve, plays her mom. Will “Marcello Mio” be little more than a cheeky gimmick or a thoughtful, poignant exploration of family, loss, destiny and art? Once we know the answer to that question, we’ll better know its Palme odds.

17. “Beating Hearts”

If memory serves, the last musical to screen in Competition was Leos Carax’s “Annette.” Well, this year’s Cannes will have two. The first is this romantic drama, helmed by actor-turned-director Gilles Lellouche. According to Variety, “Beating Hearts” is about “an impossible love between two people from different social classes. It opens in a blue-collar region in northeastern France, as a girl from an upper-middle-class family and a boy from a modest background fall madly in love but drift apart; he eventually becomes a criminal and spends 12 years in prison.” The producers have described the film as a “love rollercoaster, mixing love, violence and dance,” which stars François Civil and Adèle Exarchopoulos. And the movie is said to incorporate modern dance and ballet, not to mention a slew of 1980s and ‘90s hits: The Cure, New Order, Nas, Madonna and Jay-Z are all on the soundtrack. “Beating Hearts” could be ecstatic or a complete disaster—I love when festivals program wild rolls of the dice.

16. “Wild Diamond”

First-time filmmakers often screen in Critics’ Week—a parallel program for emerging voices—but every once in a while, they can land in the Competition. Agathe Riedinger is this year’s rookie sensation, presenting “Wild Diamond,” her first feature after helming a few shorts. There isn’t much known about the movie, but using Google Translate with a French plot description, I gather that the film is about a young woman who decides to audition for a reality show called “Miracle Island.” Winning the Palme would merely be icing on the cake for a director who couldn’t have asked for better news for her debut. (And if you’d like to see behind-the-scenes shots from “Wild Diamond,” check out Riedinger’s Instagram page.)

15. “Oh, Canada”

Writer-director Paul Schrader has battled health issues in recent years, which might add extra weight to “Oh, Canada.” This character study, based on a novel by the late Russell Banks, stars Richard Gere as Leonard, a documentary filmmaker who’s dying. (Jacob Elordi plays the younger version of the character.) Schrader, whose films “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters” and “Patty Hearst” were selected for Competition, spoke with Banks near the end of his life while finishing the screenplay, their friendship forged decades ago after Schrader adapted another Banks novel, Affliction, for his Oscar-winning 1997 film. “We were all dealing with mortality issues as Leonard does in the film,” Schrader said earlier this year. “You get to the point where you wonder how many bullets you have left in the gun.” Costarring Uma Thurman and Michael Imperioli, “Oh, Canada” will hopefully demonstrate that Schrader still has plenty of ammo.

14. “Kinds of Kindness”

When Searchlight announced that Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film was going to open in the U.S. in June, everyone knew what that meant: The decorated Greek director was heading back to Cannes. “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” both premiered in Competition, and after winning the Golden Lion at Venice for “Poor Things,” he’s back on the Croisette for “Kinds of Kindness.” Here’s the official synopsis: “‘Kinds of Kindness’ is a triptych fable with segments following a man without choice who tries to take control of his life; a policeman who is alarmed that his wife who was missing at sea has returned and seems to be a different person; and a woman who is determined to find a specific someone destined to become a prodigious spiritual leader.” A few familiar faces are reuniting with Lanthimos, like Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley, and they’re joined by Jesse Plemons, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie and Hunter Schafer. Having directed Best Actress Oscar wins in back-to-back films, Lanthimos is on a roll. But will “Kinds of Kindness” be so starry and commercial that the jury decides to go another direction for the Palme? I think that’s fairly likely.

13. “Anora”

A friend joked that if you want to safely predict what film is going to take home the Palme d’Or, just pick whatever movie Neon is releasing. Indeed, the hip indie distributor has backed the festival’s last four Palme-winners: “Parasite,” “Titane,” “Triangle of Sadness” and “Anatomy of a Fall.” By that logic, Sean Baker’s second Competition entry might be a lock: Late last year, the studio announced it would be releasing his follow-up to “Red Rocket” in North America. “Anora” is only being described as a “romantic dramedy”—no other plot details have come out yet—but it will star Mikey Madison, a revelation as the oldest daughter in Pamela Adlon’s FX series “Better Things” who has since gone on to play a member of the Manson family in “Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.” I hope this is her film breakthrough like Baker’s “Red Rocket” was for Simon Rex.

12. “The Substance”

Film festivals love a good comeback story, celebrating a movie featuring a forgotten star returning to the limelight. Cannes has had several such stories—think John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction” or Bruce Dern in “Nebraska” (or Simon Rex in “Red Rocket”)—and perhaps this year’s edition will add another with Demi Moore, who’s front and center in “The Substance.” The plot is being kept under wraps, but the film is supposedly a body horror, and what’s especially exciting is that it’s the long-awaited follow-up from French filmmaker Coralie Fargeat, whose 2017 debut “Revenge” was a riveting action-thriller about an abused woman who gets bloody vengeance on her abusers. Co-starring Margaret Qualley, Dennis Quaid and the late Ray Liotta, “The Substance” could be one of the pulpier, more darkly pleasurable Competition entries—and, remember, another French body-horror film, “Titane,” won the Palme not long ago.

11. “Parthenope”

It’s been nearly a decade since Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino has been part of the Cannes Competition, but “Parthenope” represents his seventh attempt at the Palme. (His 2008 drama “Il Divo” won the Jury Prize, which is the festival’s third-place prize.) According to Deadline, “The film captures Partenope’s trajectory from her birth in 1950 to the current day, accompanied by a host of other characters, against the backdrop of Sorrentino’s native city of Naples, with its ability to both charm and cause harm.” Starring Gary Oldman, Celeste Dalla Porta, Silvia Degrandi and Isabella Ferrari, “Parthenope” appears to be shot in lustrous black-and-white, which should only amplify the dream-like quality that is often a speciality of Sorrentino’s work. 

10. “All We Imagine as Light”

Cannes does its best to pick a Competition slate that is diverse, not just in terms of gender but also in regards to the various nations represented. One of the biggest stories from this year’s announcement was that, for the first time in 30 years, an Indian film will be competing—and it’s from a director making her feature debut. Payal Kapadia’s 2021 documentary “A Night of Knowing Nothing” screened in Directors’ Fortnight, and according to a press release, “All We Imagine as Light” takes place in Mumbai and “traces the lives of two migrant Malayali nurses as they navigate their life beyond the shackles of a collective consciousness that binds the women of this country.” Veteran Cannes handicapper, film critic Neil Young, has slotted “All We Imagine as Light” as his early favorite to win the Palme, which is a bold pick considering that Kapadia is a newcomer. (Not always, but Cannes juries tend to honor more established auteurs.) Still, the chance to celebrate a fresh voice is a meaningful development for Cannes, which has been criticized for too readily inviting the same filmmakers over and over again to compete.

9. “Emilia Perez”

Remember how I mentioned it’s been a while since Cannes had a musical in Competition? Well, here’s the other one in this year’s program: “Emilia Perez,” which has been described as a musical crime comedy. Directed by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard, who won the Palme d’Or for his immigrant saga “Dheepan,” the Spanish-language film is about the head of a Mexican cartel who undergoes sex reassignment surgery to evade authorities and be her true self. “Emilia Perez” stars Argentinian trans actor Karla Sofia Gascón, who will be joined by Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña and Édgar Ramírez. Beyond his Palme win, Audiard also earned the screenplay prize for 1996’s “A Self-Made Hero” and the Grand Prix (second place) for 2009’s “A Prophet.” This ambitious-sounding project could see him collecting another Cannes trophy. 

8. “Limonov: The Ballad”

There’s little surprise that Kirill Serebrennikov would want to make a movie about Russian dissident writer Eduard Limonov. A veteran of Cannes—“Leto,” “Petrov’s Flu” and “Tchaikovsky’s Wife” all screened in Competition—the Russian filmmaker endured house arrest for two years, eventually leaving the country in 2022 and moving to Germany. This vocal critic of the Russian government surely feels a kinship with Limonov, who died in 2020 at the age of 77 and was himself jailed by the government. Ben Whishaw will be starring as the author from a script originally developed by “Cold War” director Paweł Pawlikowski. And at a time when there remains widespread anger at Russia for its ongoing war with Ukraine, “Limonov: The Ballad” could strike a chord with the Cannes jury.

7. “Grand Tour”

Portuguese director Miguel Gomes is beloved among hardcore cinephiles but less well-known among arthouse crowds. Could “Grand Tour” help change that? Praised for his languid, hypnotic dramas, Gomes sets his new film in Burma in 1917. According to a press release, “Edward, a civil servant for the British Empire, runs away from his fiancée Molly the day she arrives to get married. During his travels, however, panic gives way to melancholy. Contemplating the emptiness of his existence, the cowardly Edward wonders what has become of Molly.” Gomes has never had a film in Competition—his six-hour-plus 2015 epic “Arabian Nights” played in Directors Fortnight—so it’s great to see the “Tabu” auteur finally get a platform on the festival’s biggest stage.

6. “The Girl With the Needle”

Swedish filmmaker Magnus von Horn hasn’t had much of a presence in the U.S. outside of a few festival appearances, but perhaps “The Girl With the Needle” will raise his profile on these shores. The plot synopsis promises another somber drama from the man behind 2020’s “Sweat”: “Karoline, a young factory worker, is struggling to survive in post-World War I Copenhagen. When she finds herself unemployed, abandoned and pregnant, she meets Dagmar, a charismatic woman running an underground adoption agency, helping mothers to find foster homes for their unwanted children. With nowhere else to turn, Karoline takes on the role of a wet-nurse.” Apparently, Karoline will uncover a “shocking truth behind her work,” which gives this film the potential to be an emotional powerhouse—and a possible Palme winner.

5. “The Apprentice” 

For American journalists hoping to escape the presidential election for a couple weeks by going to Cannes, I’ve got some bad news: Donald Trump will be at the Croisette. Well, kind of: Filmmaker Ali Abbasi will be unveiling “The Apprentice,” which is described in an official press release as a film that “charts a young Donald Trump’s ascent to power through a Faustian deal with the influential right-wing lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn.” Sebastian Stan, terrific in the upcoming “A Different Man,” will play Trump, while Jeremy Strong is Trump’s right-hand man Cohn. With Oscar-nominee Maria Bakalova as Ivana Trump—what inspired casting—“The Apprentice” (which sounds like a drama and not a dark comedy) could be the most-talked-about film in Competition. You could imagine a scenario in which the jury wants to honor a movie about such a reviled, dangerous political figure. And Abbasi was at Cannes two years ago for another true story, “Holy Spider,” about an Iranian serial killer. (Zar Amir Ebrahimi, who played the journalist on the killer’s trail, won Best Actress.) 

4. “Bird

Andrea Arnold has had three films premiere in Competition—each time, the film won the Jury Prize, which is essentially the bronze medal. Will “Bird” finally be the movie that gets her the Palme? This is her first fiction feature since “American Honey”—one of her three Jury Prize-winners—and it stars arthouse royalty Barry Keoghan (“Saltburn”) and Franz Rogowski (“Passages”). Here’s the official plot description: “12-year-old Bailey lives with her single dad Bug and brother Hunter in a squat in North Kent. Bug doesn’t have much time for his kids and Bailey who is approaching puberty seeks attention and adventure elsewhere.” Arnold has a knack for spotting electric newcomers—she discovered Sasha Lane for “American Honey”—and first-timer Nykiya Adams will play Bailey. Both “American Honey” and “Fish Tank”—another of her Jury Prize-winners—focused on young women finding themselves, and “Bird” feels of a piece with those earlier excellent films. 

3. “Caught by the Tides”

This will be Chinese director Jia Zhang-Ke’s sixth film to screen in Competition, and although his movies, like “Still Life” and “Ash Is Purest White,” are highly regarded, his track record in terms of prizes has been shockingly poor. (His 2013 entry, “A Touch of Sin,” won Best Screenplay.) No surprise that “Caught by the Tides” will star Zhao Tao, Jia’s wife and frequent collaborator, but what’s very intriguing about this love story is how Jia made it. Variety spoke to the filmmaker earlier this year, and he told the trade publication, “This is a work of fiction, but I have applied many documentary methods. In assembling the different incidents that we’d filmed, I began to discover the storyline and have subsequently gone back and added the necessary structure.” Variety reports that “While ostensibly about the evolving relationships of a handful of couples, ‘We Shall Be All’”—which was the title at that time—“consists of an assembly of footage that Jia and a minimalist crew have stopped, started and picked up again on multiple occasions since 2001.” A revered auteur who’s been under-awarded at Cannes doing something narratively audacious? That could be the perfect formula for a Palme victory.

2. “Megalopolis”

You’ve probably already heard a little about this movie, the first film from Francis Ford Coppola in 13 years. Coppola first conceived the idea of “Megalopolis” in the late 1970s—around the same time that “Apocalypse Now” won him his second Palme d’Or (his first was for “The Conversation”)—and the director reportedly spent $120 million of his own money to finally bring his vision to the screen. The film concerns the destruction of a major metropolis in the wake of a cataclysmic accident. How should the city be rebuilt? According to Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr., who’s seen the film, “On one side is an ambitious architectural idealist Cesar (Adam Driver). On the other is his sworn enemy, city Mayor Frank Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito). The debate becomes whether to embrace the future and build a utopia with renewable materials, or take a business-as-usual rebuild strategy, replete with concrete, corruption and power brokering at the expense of a restless underclass.” Coppola has screened the film for buyers, with some reacting wildly to the supposed overt sex and drug use and others being baffled by the story. (According to The Hollywood Reporter, two of the attendees reported “it’s hard to figure out who is the good guy and who is the bad guy,” which sounds like a them problem and not a Coppola problem.) With a cast that also includes Nathalie Emmanuel, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Schwartzman, Talia Shire and Dustin Hoffman, “Megalopolis” is the sort of big swing that Cannes is made for—and the kind of film that a jury loves to recognize. 

1. “The Shrouds”

As revered a filmmaker as he is, David Cronenberg doesn’t have nearly as many honors as his peers: no Oscar nominations, only a single BAFTA nomination. And although his latest, “The Shrouds,” will be his seventh to screen in Competition at Cannes, all he’s received is a Special Jury Prize in 1996 for “Crash.” If there’s someone who’s “due” for the Palme, it’s him, especially because “The Shrouds” sounds like his most personal and emotional film. According to Deadline, the movie will star Vincent Cassel as “Karsh, an innovative businessman and grieving widower, who builds a novel device to connect with the dead inside a burial shroud … [which] allows him and his clients to watch their specific departed loved one decompose in real time.” Cronenberg’s own wife, editor Carolyn Zeifman, died in 2019, and so the real-world thematic parallels are undeniable and heartbreaking. The jury may be so moved by those parallels that they award Cronenberg the festival’s top prize, a fitting honor, at 81, for one of cinema’s singular voices.

Tim Grierson

Tim Grierson is the Senior U.S. Critic for Screen International

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