Cannes Film Festival

A Guide to the World Famous Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Festival
Getty Images/ Alex B. Huckle Stringer

The annual Cannes Film Festival is one of the world’s great film festivals. The downside is that it's an industry event so you have to have accreditation to get into the major film showings themselves. HOWEVER  there is a chance to get to watch some films publicly - see below. But hey, it’s a wonderful time to be in the glitzy and fashionable Mediterranean resort; the place is full of stars, and the whole town is really buzzing with excitement. So you’re bound to spot those stars if you're here – either around town or on the red carpets.

Official Cannes Film Festival Website

Public Events

  • Cinéma de la PlageRest assured, there are ways you can join in the film festival. Tourists might not be able to get into the main films, but there is a wonderful and exciting chance to see groundbreaking films before anybody else. Go to the Cannes Tourism Office and get the schedule and tickets for the Cinéma de la Plage. This is a huge outdoor film screen, so take a picnic and watch films on the beach at Plage Mace as evening falls. On the programme are films from the Out of Competition section, as well as Cannes Classics and it’s a magical experience.
  • Get the SouvenirTents set up around the Cannes Film Festival grounds are the places for special souvenirs, like t-shirts, posters, mugs and the like. The official shop is opposite the Majestic Barriere Hotel on La Croisette.​

Celebrity Spotting at Cannes Film Festival

  • Many of the stars stay at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes and you could try to book there. But you’ll have to book early in the year, and have a fairly substantial budget. Read guest reviews, compare prices and book at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes on TripAdvisor.
  • Security is inevitably tight at the hotel, but you might try for a table in the Carlton Restaurant. Or dress the part and go for a drink at the Carlton Bar. If you do, order the Lady Carlton, apparently named after an Englishwoman who lived in the hotel for 25 years. Or just wait outside the hotel and wait for the celebrities to appear.
    • Many stars stay on the luxury yachts that fill the harbor or are anchored just out in the bay. Just walking around gives you the chance to spot somebody; check out the schedule and find yourself a good spot at the barricades near the red carpet entrances into the main theaters.

Cannes for Tourists

  • Cannes is an elegant town and the star of the Côte d’Azur. The main attraction is La Croisette, a long boulevard of elegant architecture and palm trees that runs beside the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean. At the west end and just in front of the Old Port with the red rocks of the Esterel as background, you’ll find the famous Palais des Festivals.
    • The rich live in the area that stretches fom La Croisette up to the Rue d’Antibes. The area is full of villas and fancy apartment blocks, boutiques and restaurants, and hotels like the InterContinental Carlton Cannes, the Martinez and the Majestic Barriere where the jet set hangs out. Sidewalk cafes near the Palais des Festivals are great for spinning out a café au lait and watching the glamorous world go by.
  • Check out the top tourist attractions and things to do in Cannes.

Read guest reviews, compare prices and book a hotel in Cannes on TripAdvisor.

Cannes Tourist Office
Palais des Festivals
1 bd de la Croisette
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 92 99 84 22

How it all started

The first festival took place in 1946, seven years after film makers, alarmed by the interference of fascist governments in Germany and Italy at the selection for the Venice Film Festival, floated the idea of a French festival. The festival was supported by the Americans and the British, but for several years Cannes and Venice competed with each other. In 1951 agreement was reached to hold the Cannes Film Festival in May and the Venice Film Festival in the autumn.

The Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) was created in 1955 and was awarded until 1963 when it was replaced by a different award (the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film). In 1975 it was reinstated. Other innovations included the highly successful and commercial Film Market in 1959.

The Festival was not without its political difficulties however; the 1968 Festival was stopped in sympathy with the student riots. In the 1970s the system of different countries choosing which films they wanted represented at the festival was changed and two committees were created -- one to choose the French films, and the second to choose the foreign films. In 1983, the Palais des Festivals et des Congres was built to host the festival.

The Winners

The winners of the coveted prizes is a Who’s Who of the film industry, though some of the films are now only well known to film enthusiasts. The major prize has gone to such diverse films as Union Pacific (Cecil B DeMille), Billy Wilder’s Lost Weekend; Rossellini’s Rome, Open City; Carol Reed’s The Third Man, Orson Welles’ The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice and Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear. Since 1955 it’s gone to William Wyler for Friendly Persuasion; Fellini for La Dolce Vita; Visconti for The Leopard; Bob Fosse for All That Jazz, Costa-Gavras for Missing and many other of the world's great films. Recently it has been awarded to Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley; Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon (in 2009) and in 2010 to the Thai Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Cannes Film Festival Events

  • The main event is the Official Selection. 20 films compete for the Palme d’Or and are shown at the Theatre Lumière.
  • Un Certain Regard is 20 original films selected from different countries which are very different from the more commercial Official Selection. They are shown at the Salle Debussy.
  • Out of Competition films do not compete for the main prize and are shown at the Theatre Lumière and Cinéma de la Plage.

Special Screenings

  • Cinefondation. Around 15 short and medium-length pictures from international film schools are shown at the Salle Bunuel.
  • Short Film Palme d’Or. Around 10 short films in competition are shown at the Salle Bunuel and Debussy theaters.

Sections which are not in the competition show other aspects of cinema and include Cannes Classics; Tous les Cinemas du Monde; Camera d’Or; and Cinema de la Plage.

Where to Stay in Cannes

If you want to stay in Cannes you'll have to book very early and expect to pay high rates. 

  • Check out the hotels in Cannes, compare prices and book

Or consider staying outside Cannes, either in Nice or in Antibes.

If you're here, check out more of the surrounding attractions


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