The red carpets are being rolled out, the rosé is being chilled, and the biggest names in international cinema are getting ready to converge on France for this year’s Cannes Film Festival. After a stellar return to form with last year’s event, which followed a delayed and truncated 2021 festival and a totally cancelled 2020 edition, the circuit’s starriest annual event seems ready to deliver another enviable selection of some of the year’s best (or, at least, destined to be) films.
This year’s festival includes new films from some of cinema’s biggest names, including Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Todd Haynes, Ken Loach, and even (well, sort of) Jean-Luc Godard. There are big studio efforts on offer (“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “Elemental”) and new features from some of our favorite auteurs (a staggering assortment, including Wim Wenders, Alice Rohrwacher, Jonathan Glazer, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Jessica Hausner, Aki Kaurismaki, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Catherine Breillat, and so many more).
There’s also already plenty of controversy afoot, from the programming of Maïwenn’s Johnny Depp-starring “Jeanne du Barry” as the fest’s opener to the inclusion of The Weeknd and Sam Levinson’s embattled new series “The Idol.” In better news, records have already been broken, with the fest’s competition slate including an all-time of seven films directed by women. And this thing hasn’t even started yet!
Digging through the Cannes lineup is always a treat, fueled by those initial big names and trundled along by the continued discovery of brand new films and filmmakers to get excited about. This year is no different, with a lineup that offers up new thrills with each subsequent perusal. To help make sense of such a rich lineup, we’ve selected 20 films we’re most excited about seeing on the Croisette and sharing with you post-haste.
This year’s festival run May 16 — 27, and you can check out all of our coverage of it right here, with much more to come.
Anne Thompson, Ryan Lattanzio, and Jude Dry also contributed to this article.
“About Dry Grasses”
Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan will challenge and hopefully enthrall audiences once again with another three-plus-hour epic, “About Dry Grasses,” at Cannes. Back in 2014, he won the Palme d’Or for his beautifully realized drama about a retired actor’s existential crisis, “Winter Sleep,” while remaining best acclaimed for his searching 2011 crime drama “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.”
This one has a timely hook that could set off great debate in France. Starring Deniz Celiloğlu, Merve Dizdar, and Musab Ekici, competition title “About Dry Grasses” centers on a young teacher eking out a living in rural Anatolia under compulsory service who eyes an assignment in Istanbul amid harassment accusations from two female students. Five of Ceylan’s features have been submitted for the International Oscar. Expect jury president Ruben Östlund to pay close attention to this film from a globally celebrated auteur who has yet to deliver a disappointment. —RL
“Anatomy of a Fall”
Justine Triet’s fourth feature has long seemed like a natural pick for this year’s Cannes: all of her features have shown at the festival and, in 2019, she leveled up to competition status with her prickly dramedy “Sibyl.” Her next film, “Anatomy of a Fall,” will also compete for the Palme d’Or amongst a starry assortment of new features.
The film continues Triet’s interest in following characters thrust into situations in which they must battle forces much bigger than themselves. This time, Triet’s star will go up against both the French legal system and her own moral code, as the film follows lauded “Toni Erdmann” star Sandra Hüller as a woman accused of murder after her husband dies in a strange fall. (The Cannes synopsis bills the trial itself as nothing less than “a veritable dissection of [the] relationship.”)
The only person who might save her? Her blind son, who starts to doubt her innocence as the trial unfolds. Hüller is always worth watching, and paired with the gimlet eye of Triet, “Anatomy of a Fall” isn’t just one of our most anticipated Cannes features, it’s one of the year’s most thrilling filmmaker and actor combinations. —KE
France may have an outsized influence on Wes Anderson, but his adopted home — where he’s spent much of his time since 2005 — has also given the filmmaker’s imagination easy access to the rest of Europe, which comes in handy even when he’s telling stories that take place in the United States.
Set in a fictional American desert town but shot against the sand-dusted expanses of Chinchón, Spain, “Asteroid City” transports us back to a Junior Stargazer convention in 1955, where students and parents from across the country gather together in the middle of nowhere to look up and see what they can find in the night sky (judging by the “Moonrise Kingdom” meets “Nope” vibe of the trailer, we’re guessing it’s probably aliens). The cast is immense even by the filmmaker’s usual standards, boasting a constellation of stars that finds first-timers like Tom Hanks and Margot Robbie joining Anderson regulars like Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman. —DE
“Banel and Adama”
This year’s Cannes competition is loaded with veteran filmmakers, but there’s one major exception. “Banel and Adama” stands out as the only directorial debut in the section, a major feat given how often first features wind up in Un Certain Regard or other areas of selection before filmmakers “graduate” to the competition ranks. (The last movie to debut to premiere in competition was in 2018.)
French-Senegelese director Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s intriguing drama holds a lot of potential to make some noise at the festival this year, as the movie focuses on a young Senegelese couple (Khady Mane and Mamadou Diallo) whose relationship runs into problems with the traditions of their provincial community. Shot in local language of Pulaar, the movie follows Sy’s award-winning short “Astel,” which centered on the experiences of a 13-year-old Senegelese girl. Her new work is poised to establish her as a major African talent as the continent aims to gain more traction around the world. —EK
For her fourth narrative feature, Italian auteur Alice Rohrwacher sets her latest narrative in the rich world of archeological looters, known in Italian as tomboroli, or tomb robbers. Filmed in Southern Tuscany and set in the 1980s, “La Chimera” stars Josh O’Connor as a British archaeologist who becomes embroiled in an international network of Etruscan artifact thieves. The film also stars Isabella Rossellini as a retired opera singer, the filmmaker’s sister Alba Rohrwacher, Brazilian actress Carol Duarte, and “Martin Eden” star Vincenzo Nemolato.
Rohrwacher has said that “La Chimera” is the final piece in a triptych about Italian identity and the country’s reckoning with the past, which began with her 2014 Grand Prix winner “The Wonders” and continued in “Happy as Lazzaro,” which took home best screenplay at Cannes in 2018. Neon scooped up international rights to the film ahead of its Cannes premiere, which should signal a measure of broad appeal. O’Connor’s popularity with Italians will also see him starring in Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated “Challengers,” which is set for a September release. —JD
Cannes regular Hausner seems like an obvious pick to return to Cannes — her previous feature, “Little Joe,” played in competition in 2019 and won star Emily Beecham the fest’s Best Actress award, and all of her previous films, save for Venice premiere “Lourdes,” have debuted on the Croissette. Her latest, which again returns her to the competition slate, is filled with intrigue. The film, Hausner’s second English-language effort, stars Mia Wasikowska as a young teacher who takes a gig at a tony prep school, where she forms a strong — and eventually dangerous — bond with five of her students.
In March 2021, Hausner told Screen that the film is “a lot about eating — eating disorders and eating behavior.” Its official Cannes synopsis lets on even more: Miss Novak arrives at the institution to teach a “conscious eating class. She instructs that eating less is healthy.” By the time the rest of the school’s adults catch wind of what’s happening, it may be too late, and her grip on the impressionable youngsters might be too far gone. Sounds eerily topical. —KE
Argentina is no stranger to great heist movies, but it’s been almost 25 years since “Nine Queens,” and about time another one delivered the goods. The potential breakout status is strong for Un Certain Regard entry “The Delinquents,” filmmaker Rodrigo Moreno’s pitch-black look at a man who robs the bank where he works with the intention of hiding the money until he’s released. In the process, he coerces a coworker into the scheme, and both men are forced to deal with the fallout as thrilling and comical twists unfold (including a most unexpected love triangle).
With the expert tonal shifts of a great Coen brothers crime odyssey and unnerving tension reminiscent of Claude Chabrol, the Un Certain Regard premiere is likely to deliver one of the buzzier crowdpleasers of the section. —EK
Six years have passed since the great Finnish deadpan filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki’s “The Other Side of Hope,” and his work is always a welcome addition to a festival showcase the greatest auteurs working today. Kaurismaki’s films are sad comedies with glimmers of unexpected uplift, as he tracks the experiences of lost souls and outcasts looking for some measure of meaing in their lives.
“Fallen Leaves” promises more of just that, as the Helsiki romance reportedly follows a young supermarket worker who falls in love with an alcoholic as they both struggle to find stability and happiness in their solitary world. There are elements of Kaurismaki career-highs “Match Factory Girl” and “Ariel” in this premise, but those movies came out decades ago, and Kaurismaki deserves another shot to remind audiences of his poignant and comical skills. Here’s hoping that he delivers exactly that. —EK
“The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed”
Filmmaker Joan Arnow’s first feature since 2015’s “I hate myself” is the kind of scrappy, no-frills American indie that almost plays like it was designed to prove scrappy, no-frills American indies still exist. The director stars as a wayward New Yorker in a hapless cycle of BDSM relationships in which playing the submissive gives her some measure of catharsis from the grind of her boring day job. A deadpan sex comedy designed both cringe-worthy and soulful in its vision of modern-day malaise, the movie promises to deliver some genuine DIY spirit to this year’s Directors Fortnight.
The movie also boasts Sean Baker as an executive producer, and like the “Red Rocket” filmmaker’s uncompromising ability to blend sexual discomfort and extreme self-loathing with unexpected pathos, “The Feeling That the Time For Doing Something Has Passed” should make the case that at least one other director can pull off that balance just as well. —EK
Brazilian filmmaker Karim Ainouz’s first English-language film stars Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”) as canny survivor Catherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of Henry VIII (Jude Law). Based on the 2013 novel “The Queen’s Gambit” by Elizabeth Fremantle, this feminist psychological thriller tracks the machinations of the English Court: Parr is romantically entangled with Thomas Seymour (Sam Riley) when she catches the eye of the king, still desperately seeking a male heir. But, after she marries him, Parr helps to make Princesses Mary and Elizabeth eligible to inherit the throne. This sales title could be Oscar bait for one of the top specialty distributors. —AT
“How to Have Sex”
Already snapped up by MUBI prior to its Un Certain Regard premiere, and boasting an attention-grabbing title that’s sure to make it one of the sidebar’s hottest tickets, Molly Manning Walker’s “How to Have Sex” definitely wants you to think you’re in for a fun romp about three teenage girls trying to get laid during a bacchanalian holiday on the Greek island of Malia — its horned up heroines sure do.
Unfortunately for this trio of long-time besties, they were born into a movie that takes place in the real world, and their whirlwind drinkathon will test their livers, their friendships, and even their protean self-identities by the time it spits them back out. Fresh off her fantastic work as the cinematographer on the Sundance breakout “Scrapper,” Walker takes a seat in the director’s chair for what promises to be a sensitive and sobering debut feature — one that dives headfirst into those legendary spring break nights, but also isn’t afraid to re-examine them in the cold light of day. —DE
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”
You can’t keep an iconic on-screen adventurer down for long these days, particularly one who is a) played by an actor who has made no bones about his continued adoration for the character and b) so ripe for some snazzy, technologically-aided updates to his classic visage. Harrison Ford may have already bought back his Indiana Jones for one last ride already, but it seems like he (and the rest of the Indy team, plus newbie franchise director James Mangold) were just as bummed about “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” as most movie-goers and are eager to close out (for real this time!) with one more giddy adventure.
Little is known about “Dial of Destiny” except that it will toggle between a late ’60s setting and flashbacks to World War II — all the better so Indy can fight the Nazis in classic “Raiders” and “Last Crusade” fashion — powered by CGI youthening techniques first pioneered in “TRON: Legacy” and “The Irishman.” The film also stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies (Sallah from “Raiders” and “Last Crusade”!), Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore, and Mads Mikkelsen. And with a starry May 18 premiere date on the books, it seems no secret that this is one Cannes-minted blockbuster to greatly anticipate. —KE
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
Perhaps no Cannes title comes freighted with more expectation than Martin Scorsese’s latest three-hour epic, uniting in one movie — for the first time — the filmmaker’s two favorite stars, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. They play uncle and nephew in this tragic 1920s American saga adapted by Oscar winner Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump”) from David Grann’s non-fiction bestseller.
The book chronicles the insidious plot by a white Oklahoma family to steal the wealth of the Osage Nation, which was given oil-rich land by the American government. Jesse Plemons is the dogged FBI man who is determined to solve the mystery of a string of inexplicable murders, a part originally slated for DiCaprio. But at his behest, Roth beefed up the role of the more complex Ernest Burkhart, who is married to an Osage woman (Lily Gladstone) who wants to live. AppleTV+ plans to release the $200-million feature in theaters in October via Paramount Pictures. —AT
For revered French filmmaker Catherine Breillat’s first new film in ten years, she chose to remake the Danish erotic drama “Queen of Hearts,” written and directed by May el-Toukhy. The 2019 Danish film was a critical darling that won nine of the Danish Film Academy’s Robert Awards, including Best Danish Film. With references to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the story follows a middle-aged woman embroiled in a forbidden affair with her teenage stepson.
Fresh off her turn in the Oscar-nominated drama “Close,” French actress Léa Drucker plays the lead in the French remake, starring alongside theater actors Olivier Rabourdin and Clotilde Cournau. Never one to avoid controversy, it’s no surprise the provocative source material inspired Breillat, a master of showing women’s sexuality in all of its messy complications. Though certainly a gamble, it remains to be seen if the hot-button subject of “Last Summer” is the right container to revive her somewhat tarnished reputation. —JD
We’re in weird times when a new Todd Haynes film premiering at Cannes is still up for sale, but don’t expect this one to stay on the shelf for long: “May/December” stars Natalie Portman and Julianne, destined to bring star wattage to Croisette photocalls, star in this “Persona”-esque drama about the ripple effect of a tabloid romance that once gripped the nation. Now, 20 years after the romance sparked, Gracie Atherton-Yu (Julianne Moore) and her husband Joe (23 years her junior and played by “Riverdale” heartthrob Charles Melton) are preparing for the empty nest as their twins graduate high school. Meanwhile, a less-veteran Hollywood actress, Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), comes to their Southern home to better understand Gracie before playing her in a film. Very soon, the women’s identities become oddly entangled as family dynamics rip apart.
“May/December” filmed last year in Georgia with cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt stepping in for Haynes pal Ed Lachman, who left the project after an injury. The drama reunites Haynes with his longtime collaborator Moore, who brought worried elegance to his classics “Safe” and “Far from Heaven” as suburban women in crisis before also starring as an actress in Haynes’ “Wonderstruck.” All eyes — cinephiles and buyers alike — will be on this one ahead of its competition premiere mere hours before Martin Scorsese drops “Killers of the Flower Moon” on Cannes that same night. —RL
The prolific Hirokazu Kore-eda has been a bit off his game since winning the Palme d’Or for “Shoplifters” in 2018, as neither “The Truth” nor last year’s “Broker” were up to par with his best work. But you can’t keep one of the greats down for long, and Kore-eda is already back in the fold with another Palme contender, albeit one that he didn’t script himself (a rarity for the auteur, who’s self-generated every one of his films since his 1995 debut, “Maboroshi”).
Written by TV writer Yuji Sakamoto, and starring “Shoplifters” breakout Sakura Ando as a single mother who starts to believe that something is very wrong with her teenage son — and gets more than she bargained for after she demands answers from the kid’s high school teacher — “Monster” seems to find the warm and fuzzy Kore-eda returning to the darker territory that defined the likes of “Distance” and “The Third Murder.” The film’s score will feature contributions from the late Ryuichi Sakamoto, who sent Kore-eda two original piano compositions before his death in March. —DE
“Perdidos en la Noche”
Mexican director Amat Escalante lit a firecracker on the Croisette in 2013, winning best director for “Heli,” a controversial and very violent thriller about a factory worker up against a corrupt police force while in the crosshairs of a vicious drug war. His 2016 sci-fi horror film “The Untamed,” tearing from “Possession’s” pages in centering on a couple driven to psychosexual madness by a creature dropped in their town by a meteorite, skipped Cannes for Venice but won the Italian festival’s Silver Lion for directing.
After trying his hand at directing episodes of Netflix’s “Narcos: Mexico,” the former Carlos Reygadas protégé is back in cinemas with “Perdidos en la Noche” (“Lost in the Night”), a last-minute addition to the Cannes Premiere section out of competition. It follows a young man named Emiliano (Juan Daniel García Treviño) living in a small Mexican mining town, looking to avenge the disappearance of his activist mother. Without help from the justice system, his journey leads him on the path to a wealthy family with secrets of their own, and possible romance amid the chaos. Any Escalante film is a tough vision you can’t ignore, and it’s worth noting that his 2013 “Heli” directing prize came from a jury led by Steven Spielberg. —RL
Chilean director Felipe Galvez’s first feature follows a trio of horsemen in Patagonia circa 1901 hired by an wealthy landlord to mark the perimeter of his territory. With the expedition comprised of a Chilean with mixed heritage, an American, and a Brit, the scenario reportedly devolves into a violent meditation on the country’s colonialist past as the group is tasked with hunting down an indigenous figure who refuses to leave his land.
Galvez, whose 2018 short film “Rapaz” played at Cannes’ Critics Week sidebar, has been developing this ambitious feature debut for years in between editing gigs. Among several Latin American films poised to help the continent make a post-pandemic comeback this year, “The Settlers” may end up as the most impactful of the bunch. —EK
“Strange Way of Life”
Cannes regular Pedro Almodóvar’s second English-language film, like the first, “The Human Voice” (2020), is a short film. When “Brokeback Mountain” was getting set up almost 20 years ago, the Spanish auteur considered directing that seminal gay Western, but turned down the chance out of fear that he would not have creative freedom. He’s now making his own gay Western on his own terms.
This time, the director filmed in the desert in Spain favored by spaghetti Westerns his story of two middle-aged men, a sheriff (Ethan Hawke) and a rancher (Pedro Pascal) who meet again after 25 years. Flashbacks reveal their early romance, when they partnered as hired gunmen. “This is a queer Western,” Almodóvar revealed on the “Dua Lipa: At Your Service” podcast. “There are two men, and they love each other, and they behave in that situation in an opposite way. It has a lot of the elements of the Western. It has the gunslinger. It has the ranch. It has the sheriff. But what it has that most Westerns don’t have is the kind of dialogue that I don’t think a Western film has ever captured between two men.” —AT
“Zone of Interest”
It’s been almost a decade since “Under the Skin” debuted in the fall of 2013, but the ever-unpredictable Jonathan Glazer has finally returned with another film: A Martin Amis adaptation about the love triangle that develops between an Auschwitz commandant (Christian Friedel), his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), and another Nazi officer — who says romance is dead? Sure to be every bit as confrontational and dread-inducing as Glazer’s previous work, “The Zone of Interest” finds the director reteaming with composer Mica Levi for a different kind of Holocaust drama, one that focuses on complicity and perspective as it probes the inner lives of those who passively observed and/or participated in one of history’s worst atrocities. —DE