The six best movies we saw at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival

A woman holds a red phone to her ear.
Demi Moore in the movie “The Substance.”
(Festival de Cannes)

The pageantry is over; only the awards themselves remain a mystery for the moment. Masters returned to, if not top form, then a vigorous facsimile of same, or — even better — something wholly new. Others just returned. But even at a coolly received Cannes, it’s impossible not to find pure exhilaration a few times. Here are the six films we’ll be taking home with us, burned into our dreams and nightmares (mostly nightmares).



A young woman dances in a club
Mikey Madison in the movie “Anora.”
(Festival de Cannes)

In a main competition light on laughs, Sean Baker’s uproarious firecracker of a romantic-action-crime comedy, starring Mikey Madison (“Better Things”) as a stripper who becomes embroiled in a Russian family drama, landed like the left hook I never knew I always wanted. When an oligarch’s high-rolling 21-year-old son (Mark Eydelshteyn) patronizes her club, Anora (Madison) winds up as his companion for the night — and, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, turns that night into something more permanent. At least until his disapproving parents catch wind of it and the film suddenly catches fire, shifting gears with an enthralling, madcap set-piece reminiscent of “Midnight Run” or “Something Wild.” Careening like a pinball through the Russian American enclaves of Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, Baker draws a host of comic characters as briskly and precisely as a punch-up guy, including a trio of heavies you won’t soon forget. And as the center — or is it cause? — of the maelstrom, Madison brilliantly adds her stamp to the “tough broad” archetype, replete with fighting spirit, foul mouth and unparalleled negotiating skills. The effect of it all is so electric, it’s liable to leave you levitating. — Matt Brennan

In expanding the story of Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy), director George Miller still creates entertaining, pounding action — but loses the forward momentum on which the franchise is based.

May 15, 2024



A close-up of a woman wearing earrings in profile, as another woman out of focus glares at her.
Renate Reinsve in the movie “Armand.”
(Festival de Cannes)


An appropriately Bergmanesque psychodrama from writer-director Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel, the grandson of Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann, “Armand” unravels from an unseen “incident” between two primary-school students. That I cannot provide much more than that turns out to be the point: Described only vaguely, confusingly and second- or third-hand, what happened between Armand and Jon is immaterial to their parents, warring over their own agendas, or to the educators mostly desperate to reach the summer holidays. Ribboned with surrealism — a dance sequence, an orgy — and laced with uncomfortable humor — a counselor whose nose bleeds like a faucet — the film builds and releases the tension between Armand’s mother (Renate Reinsve) and Jon’s mother (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) by degrees until it becomes unbearable, and then breaks forth in a torrent of raw emotion from Reinsve that qualifies as the most astonishing few minutes of screen acting I’ve seen so far this year. I won’t soon forget it, and I hope I won’t have to: Of all I saw at Cannes, “Armand,” and Reinsve’s performance, seem best suited to turn up at next year’s Oscars. — MB

‘Armand,’ ‘Bird’ and other top films at Cannes understand that hand-wringing over the dangers of modern childhood glosses over who’s really responsible: adults.

May 22, 2024



A young woman floats in the water.
Nykiya Adams in the movie “Bird.”
(Atsushi Nishijima)

If you’d told me up front the premise of Andrea Arnold’s new film, about a 12-year-old (Nykiya Adams) rebelling against her father (Barry Keoghan) in the days before his surprise nuptials, or revealed to me its central flight of fancy, I admit I might have balked: Too familiar, too grim, too cringe, I’d have thought. But the lives of Bailey, Bug and her strange new friend Bird (Franz Rogowski) are so deftly and carefully observed — with nature nestling up against urban blight and exaltation against the discontent of the working poor — that “Bird” can’t help but tug you into its current. Experienced scene by scene, if not described in retrospect, it is genuinely riveting, moving inexorably toward both crisis and catharsis. And unlike other, flashier films at Cannes in and out of competition, its tender denouement has lingered on in my head a week after seeing it — particularly Keoghan, who strikes a note of unadorned warmth here unlike anything he’s done onscreen before. — MB

New movies from Andrea Arnold, Yorgos Lanthimos, Paul Schrader and Zambia’s Rungano Nyoni strayed from expectations, scraping at the feel and texture of dreams.

May 19, 2024


‘Black Dog’

A man drives a motorcycle with his dog in the sidecar.
Eddie Peng in the movie “Black Dog.”
(Festival de Cannes)

I left my own black dog behind on my way to Cannes, so there was no way I wasn’t committing to this one. And despite already being a sap, I was extra fortunate to find director Guan Hu’s Chinese drama almost completely free of the sentiment that mars most animal movies. At its essence a double study of redemption — that of a taciturn ex-convict (Eddie Peng) and a bitey greyhound (Xin, robbed of the top Palm Dog prize) — “Black Dog” shares much in common with 1979’s “The Black Stallion,” both quiet stories about respecting the natural world and coming to an equal peace with its denizens. The backdrop is a tiny town on the edge of the Gobi Desert, a place of uneasy modernization, but the dynamics at play are universal. It’s a ravishing movie about life’s rituals, hopefully ones that we’re fortunate enough to share in the company of other species. — Joshua Rothkopf

Starring Adam Driver, Giancarlo Esposito and an unhinged Aubrey Plaza, the storied director’s latest passion project brings the heat of an event film to Cannes.

May 16, 2024


‘The Seed of the Sacred Fig’

A mother and her two daughters come into conflict.
A scene from the movie “The Seed of the Sacred Fig.”
(Festival de Cannes)


The initial frisson of this Iranian drama comes with the idea of revolution, reborn with each generation: young people taking to the front lines at great personal risk. It happened in 2022 with Iran’s Women, Life, Freedom movement, a massive cultural outcry that arose after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested and, it’s widely alleged, murdered by police for not wearing her hijab correctly. (This film’s director, Mohammad Rasoulof, is currently in flight from his country after escaping an eight-year prison sentence.) But a deeper meaning emerges from the parameters of a domestic thriller, as one family’s harboring of a badly beaten student turns into a crucible of incrimination, doubt and rage against authorities both parental and governmental. There were moments during my screening at which I thought I was attending an exorcism; the movie makes you feel thrown by the power of cinema to shake us out of our lassitude. — JR

“Chapter 1,” which premiered Sunday at Cannes, has all the hallmarks of TV. Times staffers debate whether that’s a good or bad thing.

May 20, 2024


‘The Substance’

A box is opened containing a warning.
A scene from the movie “The Substance.”
(Festival de Cannes)

According to most, it was a Cannes that took its time getting started. To these eyes, the ignition point was Coralie Fargeat’s thrillingly gory fantasia, a movie with no competition when it came to hosing down the audience with lubriciousness and then a “Carrie” prom’s worth of blood. The film never gets lost in its own juices, though, and I found myself distracted for days thinking about the many horrors on view: Hollywood’s penchant for female disposability; the sick need for consumable playthings; our own participation in setting expiration dates on what should be our best years. Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley co-create a calibrated performance of staggering richness, but already I feel I’ve said too much about an experience that demands you go in cold. It will eventually take its place among the great dark Los Angeles fables. — JR

Bold new films by Ali Abbasi, Coralie Fargeat and David Cronenberg bring bodily horror to cinema’s frontlines, creating unexpected frisson for many attendees.

May 21, 2024