Cannes Film Fest: Palme d’Or–History of a Prestigious, Controversial, Ever-Changing Award

Cannes Film Fest: Palme d’Or–History of Turbulent

The Palme d’Or is considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry.

Presented by Festival International du Film de Cannes, it was
first awarded 1955

Currently held by French feminist film, Titane (2021) and the English-speaking debut of Ruben Oustland, Triangle of Sadness (2022).

The Palme d’Or (English: Golden Palm) is the highest prize at the Cannes Film Fest.

It was introduced in 1955 by the festival’s organizing committee.

Previously, from 1939 to 1954, the festival’s highest prize was the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film.

In 1964, The Palme d’Or was replaced again by the Grand Prix, before being reintroduced in 1975.

In 1954, the festival presented an award annually, titled the Grand Prix of the International Film Festival, with new design each year from contemporary artist.

The festival’s board of directors invited several jewelers to submit designs for a palm, in tribute to the coat of arms of the city of Cannes evoking the famous legend of Saint Honorat and the palm trees lining the famous Promenade de la Croisette.

The original design by Parisian jeweler Lucienne Lazon, who took inspiration in a sketch done by director Jean Cocteau, had the beveled lower extremity of the stalk forming a heart, and the pedestal a sculpture in terracotta by the artist Sébastien.

In 1955, the first Palme d’Or was awarded to Delbert Mann for the US film, Marty.

From 1964 to 1974, the festival temporarily resumed a Grand Prix.

In 1975, the Palme d’Or was reintroduced and has since remained the symbol of the Cannes Film Fest, awarded every year to the director of the winning film.

It has been presented in a case of pure red Morocco leather lined with white suede.

Only Two Women Winners

As of 2021, Jane Campion and Julia Ducournau are the only female directors to have won the Palme d’Or, for their work on The Piano and Titane, respectively.

Multiple Palm d’Or

However, in 2013, when Blue Is the Warmest Color won the Palme d’Or, the Spielberg-headed jury awarded it to the film’s director Abdellatif Kechiche, as well as the film’s actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. This marks the first time that multiple Palme d’Or trophies were given out in the festival’s history.

The jury decided to award the actresses alongside the director due to a Cannes policy that forbids the Palme d’Or-winning film from receiving any additional awards, thereby preventing the jury from rewarding both the film and the film’s actresses separately. Of the unorthodox decision, Spielberg said that “had the casting been 3% wrong, it wouldn’t have worked like it did for us.”

Kechiche later auctioned off his Palme d’Or trophy to fund his new feature film. He also expressed dissatisfaction about the festival having given out multiple trophies–he felt they had “publicly insulted” him by doing it, and that “liberating myself from this Palme d’Or is a way of washing my hands of this sorry affair.”

At the beginning of the 1980s, the rounded shape of the pedestal, bearing the palm, gradually transformed to become pyramidal in 1984.

In 1992, Thierry de Bourqueney redesigned the Palme and its pedestal in hand-cut crystal.

In 1997, Caroline Scheufele redesigned the statuette and since then, has been manufactured by Swiss jewellery Chopard. The palm is made from 4.16 oz (118 g) of 18-carat yellow gold while the base of the branch forms a small heart. The Palme d’or rests on a dainty rock crystal cushion shaped like an emerald-cut diamond.

A single piece of cut crystal forms a cushion for the palm, which was hand-cast into a wax mold and now presented in a case of blue Morocco leather.

In 1998, Theo Angelopoulos was the first director to win the Palme d’or as we now know it today for his film Eternity and a Day.

The winner of the 2014 Palme d’Or, Winter Sleep—a Turkish film by Nuri Bilge Ceylan—occurred during the same year as the 100th anniversary of Turkish cinema.

Upon receiving the award, Ceylan dedicated the prize to the “young people” involved in the ongoing political unrest in Turkey and the workers who were killed in the Soma mine disaster, which occurred on the day prior to the commencement of the awards event.

In 2017, the award was re-designed to celebrate the festival’s 70th anniversary. The diamonds were provided by an ethical supplier certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council.

The 2020 Cannes Film Fest was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 56 films were announced as official selections by the festival, but no awards were given this year.


1939: Union Pacific Cecil B. DeMille United States

1940–1945 No festival due to World War II.


Brief Encounter, David Lean United Kingdom
The Last Chance (Die Letzte Chance) Leopold Lindtberg, Swiss
The Lost Weekend Billy Wilder, US
María Candelaria Emilio Fernández Mexico
Men Without Wings, František Čáp Czechoslovakia
Neecha Nagar Chetan Anand India
Pastoral Symphony La symphonie pastorale Jean Delannoy France
The Red Meadows, Bodil Ipsen & Lau Lauritzen, Jr. Denmark
Rome, Open City Roma, città aperta Roberto Rossellini Italy
Torment Hets Alf Sjöberg Sweden
The Turning Point Великий перелом Fridrikh Ermler Soviet Union[


Antoine and Antoinette (Best Psychological & Love Film) Antoine et Antoinette Jacques Becker France
Crossfire (Best Social Film) Edward Dmytryk US
The Damned (Best Adventure & Crime Film) Les Maudits René Clément France
Dumbo (Best Animation Design) Ben Sharpsteen US
Ziegfeld Follies (Best Musical Comedy) Vincente Minnelli US


No festival due to budgetary problems.


The Third Man Carol Reed United Kingdom


No festival due to budgetary problems.


Miracle in Milan # Miracolo a Milano Vittorio De Sica Italy
Miss Julie # Fröken Julie Alf Sjöberg Sweden


Othello # Orson Welles Morocco[
Two Cents Worth of Hope # Due soldi di speranza Renato Castellani Italy


The Wages of Fear Le salaire de la peur Henri-Georges Clouzot France

1954 Gate of Hell 地獄門 Teinosuke Kinugasa Japan
Awarded as “Palme d’Or”

1955 Marty § Delbert Mann United States[40]

1956 The Silent World (Le monde du silence), Jacques Cousteau & Louis Malle France

1957 Friendly Persuasion William Wyler, US

1958 The Cranes Are Flying Летят журавли Mikhail Kalatozov Soviet Union

1959 Black Orpheus § Orfeu Negro Marcel Camus France


La Dolce Vita § Federico Fellini Italy


The Long Absence # § Une aussi longue absence Henri Colpi France
Viridiana # § Luis Buñuel Spain


O Pagador de Promessas § Anselmo Duarte Brazil

1963 The Leopard § Il gattopardo Luchino Visconti Italy
Awarded as “Grand Prix du Festival International du Film”

1964 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg Les parapluies de Cherbourg Jacques Demy France


The Knack …and How to Get It Richard Lester UK


The Birds, the Bees and the Italians # Signore e signori Pietro Germi Italy

A Man and a Woman # Un homme et une femme Claude Lelouch France

1967 Blowup Michelangelo Antonioni UK


No award because the festival was cancelled midway to show solidarity with the students and workers demonstrating in what became known as the May 68 movement.


If…. Lindsay Anderson United Kingdom[55]


MASH Robert Altman, US


The Go-Between Joseph Losey, UK


The Mattei Affair # § Il caso Mattei Francesco Rosi Italy
The Working Class Goes to Heaven # § La classe operaia va in paradiso Elio Petri Italy

1973: Tie

The Hireling # Alan Bridges UK
Scarecrow # Jerry Schatzberg US


The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola US (Awarded as “Palme d’Or”)


Chronicle of the Years of Fire Chronique des années de braise Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina, Algeria


Taxi Driver Martin Scorsese US


Padre Padrone Paolo and Vittorio Taviani Italy


The Tree of Wooden Clogs § L’albero degli zoccoli Ermanno Olmi Italy

1979: Tie

Apocalypse Now # Francis Ford Coppola US

The Tin Drum # Die Blechtrommel Volker Schlöndorff, West Germany


1980: Tie

All That Jazz # Bob Fosse, US
Kagemusha # 影武者 Akira Kurosawa Japan

1981 Man of Iron Człowiek z żelaza Andrzej Wajda, Poland


Missing # § Costa-Gavras, US

Yol # § Yılmaz Güney & Şerif Gören Turkey


The Ballad of Narayama 楢山節考 Shohei Imamura Japan

1984 Paris, Texas § Wim Wenders West Germany, France

1985 When Father Was Away on Business § Отац на службеном путу Emir Kusturica Yugoslavia

1986 The Mission Roland Joffé United Kingdom[76]
1987 Under the Sun of Satan § Sous le soleil de Satan Maurice Pialat France


Pelle the Conqueror Pelle Erobreren Bille August Denmark
1989 Sex, Lies, and Videotape Steven Soderbergh US


1990 Wild at Heart David Lynch US


Barton Fink § Joel Coen United States


The Best Intentions Den goda viljan Bille August Denmark, Sweden

1993: Tie

Farewell My Concubine # 霸王別姬 Chen Kaige Hong Kong
The Piano # Jane Campion New Zealand, Australia, France


Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino United States[85]


Underground Подземље, Emir Kusturica, France

1996 Secrets & Lies Mike Leigh France, UK

1997: Tie

The Eel # うなぎ Shohei Imamura Japan

Taste of Cherry # طعم گيلاس Abbas Kiarostami Iran

1998 Eternity and a Day, Theo Angelopoulos, Greece

1999 Rosetta § Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium, France


Dancer in the Dark Lars von Trier Denmark

2001: The Son’s Room, La stanza del figlio Nanni Moretti Italy, France
2002 The Pianist Roman Polanski Poland, France, Germany, United Kingdom[93]

2003 Elephant Gus Van Sant US


Fahrenheit 9/11 Michael Moore, US


L’Enfant Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne Belgium, France

2006: The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Ken Loach, Ireland, UK, Italy, Germany, Spain

2007 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days 4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile Cristian Mungiu Romania

2008 The Class, Entre les murs, Laurent Cantet, France


The White Ribbon Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte, Michael Haneke Germany, Austria, France, Italy


2010: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, UK, Thailand, France, Germany, Spain

2011: The Tree of Life Terrence Malick, US

2012 Amour Michael Haneke France, Germany, Austria[103]


Blue Is the Warmest Colour § La Vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 et 2 Abdellatif Kechiche, France, Belgium, Spain


Winter Sleep Kış Uykusu Nuri Bilge Ceylan Turkey, France, Germany


Dheepan Jacques Audiard France


I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach, UK


The Square, Ruben Östlund, Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark


Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda Japan


Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, South Korea



No festival, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Titane, Julia Ducournau, France, Belgium


Triangle of Sadness, Ruben Östlund, Sweden



The Palme d’Or for Union Pacific was awarded in retrospect at the 2002 festival.

The festival’s debut was to take place in 1939, but it was cancelled due to World War II.

The organizers of the 2002 festival presented part of the original 1939 selection to a professional jury of six members.

The films were:

Boefje, The Four Feathers, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Lenin in 1918, La Loi du Nord, Union Pacific & The Wizard of Oz.

Multiple Winners

Nine directors or co-directors have won the award twice:

Sweden: Alf Sjöberg (1946 & 1951)

US: Francis Ford Coppola (1974 & 1979)

Denmark: Bille August (1988 & 1992)

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/Serbia and Montenegro/Serbia: Emir Kusturica (1985 & 1995)

Japan: Shohei Imamura (1983 & 1997)

Belgium: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne (1999 & 2005)

Austria: Michael Haneke (2009 & 2012)

UK: Ken Loach (2006 & 2016)

Sweden: Ruben Östlund (2017 & 2022)

Honorary Palme d’Or

In 1997, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Festival, the Cannes jury awarded a “Palme des Palmes” for the first time.

1997 Ingmar Bergman: Director/Screenwriter Sweden

In 2002, the festival began to sporadically award non-competitive Honorary Palme d’Or to directors or actors who had achieved a notable body of work but who had never won competitive Palme d’Or.

2002: Woody Allen Director/Actor/Screenwriter US

2003 Jeanne Moreau, Actress France

2005 Catherine Deneuve, Actress France

2007 Jane Fonda, Actress United States

2008: Manoel de Oliveira, Director/Screenwriter Portugal

2009: Clint Eastwood, Actor/Director US

2011: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Actor France; Bernardo Bertolucci, Director-Screenwriter Italy

2015 Agnès Varda, Director/Screenwriter France

2016 Jean-Pierre Léaud, Actor France

2017 Jeffrey Katzenberg, Producer US

2019 Alain Delon, Actor France

2021 Marco Bellocchio[129] Director/Screenwriter Italy

Jodie Foster, Actress/Director US


In 2018, the Cannes jury also awarded “Special Palme d’Or” for the first time.


The Image Book, Le Livre d’image, Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland