Most Controversial Movies That Got Walkouts and Boos at The Cannes Film Festival

At the Cannes Film Festival, a wide range of controversial films have been booed and walked out of. Read to learn more about it in detail!

Updated on May 15, 2024  |  01:23 PM IST |  42.7K
The Neon Demon & Personal Shopper (Image via IMDb)

The Cannes Film Festival has a history of showcasing both groundbreaking and controversial films. Throughout the years, the festival has served as a platform for films that push the boundaries, resulting in walkouts and heated debates among critics and audiences. 

Directors like Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and Sofia Coppola have received both criticism and praise at Cannes. Even winners of the prestigious Palme d'Or have experienced audience dissatisfaction. The 2023 festival began with Johnny Depp's return amid controversy over films such as Le Retour.

Despite these controversies, Cannes continues to represent cinematic excellence and artistic freedom, challenging societal norms and inspiring filmmakers all over the world.

1. The Neon Demon

The 2016 Cannes film The Neon Demon, a psychological horror picture directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, is set in the world of fashion. Reviews for the movie, which stars Elle Fanning as a young model navigating the darker side of Hollywood's obsession with beauty, have been conflicted. 

Variety's Owen Gleiberman compared the visually arresting—though unsettling—imagery to a bizarre fashion ad or a dreamlike horror movie. Still, the Cannes crowd's reactions were mixed, with some walking out and others booing the film. Some even expressed their outrage on screen.


2. Personal Shopper

Variety's review of Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper, his second film with Kristen Stewart after Clouds of Sils Maria, praised a clever move: premiering a ghost story at Cannes and having the audience's reaction provide the 'boos' at the ending. 



The film follows Stewart's character, a personal shopper who communicates with spirits after her brother dies. Assayas expertly blurs the distinction between reality and grief-induced visions, resulting in a haunting ambiguity. While some Cannes attendees were intrigued, not everyone left satisfied.


3. Triangle of Sadness

Ruben Östlund's film Triangle of Sadness won the Palme d'Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, his second win after The Square. However, not everyone stayed for the entire movie during the premiere. The film includes a graphic scene in which wealthy socialites on a luxury cruise become violently ill during a storm for up to 15 minutes. 


Regardless, those who remained gave an eight-minute standing ovation. Östlund, who will lead the jury for the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, has hinted that his next film will be controversial, stating, "It's going to create the biggest walkout in the history of the festival."


4. The Tree of Life

At the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick, caused a stir. While some members of the audience jeered, others cheered for the Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain film. A reviewer called the jeers "an ugly, animalistic thing." The movie combines cosmic themes with a 1950s Texas family drama.


5. Wild at Heart

David Lynch's 1990 film Wild at Heart, starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern, sparked controversy at Cannes. The romantic crime story about young lovers on the run elicited both boos and cheers during its screening. The announcement of its Palme d'Or victory drew additional criticism. Variety praised the film's violence, humor, and eroticism, describing it as a ride through American gothic themes.

6. Jeanne du Barry

In 1761, Jeanne Bécu, a young woman in need, sent a letter requesting financial assistance. This letter started a chain of events that led to her becoming Madame du Barry, King Louis XV's mistress. Despite her humble beginnings, Jeanne navigated the complexities of court life with grace. 

However, the film Jeanne du Barry simplifies her journey, focusing on her romantic liaisons with the king rather than her personal development. 


7. Le Retour

Aissatou Diallo Sagna plays Khédidja, a wealthy Parisian family who hires her to watch their kids while they spend the summer in Corsica. She is traveling back to the island that her teenage daughters, Jessica and Farah, tragically fled fifteen years ago. 


Khédidja faces her past while her daughters enjoy the summertime pleasures of chance meetings, adolescent misbehavior, and first love. They discover disturbing facts and refute their mother's account as they delve deeper into their family's past. 

On the other hand, accusations of a sexually suggestive scene involving the film's 15-year-old lead and harassment against Corsini by crew members surrounded director Catherine Corsini's Le Retour at Cannes 2023.


ALSO READ: Cannes Film Festival 2024: Check Full List Of Official Selection Ahead Of The Main Event

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