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Movies That Were Booed and Hissed at the Cannes Film Festival But Succeeded

Updated on May 18, 2015
Vaslav Nijinsky, seen by many critics as the most important dancer of the 20th century, was described as too sexy, etc. in "Afternoon of a Faun."
Vaslav Nijinsky, seen by many critics as the most important dancer of the 20th century, was described as too sexy, etc. in "Afternoon of a Faun." | Source

Hated Performances Often Become Classics

The first night of Afternoon of a Faun was booed and hissed in Paris, France many years ago, reportedly with Coco Chanel in the audience, shrinking with chagrin for friends connected with it - Igor Stravinsky and the dancer Nijinsky.

Today, some movies enjoy the same abuse on their premiers. As with Faun, many of these hated movies become hits or at least cult classics. You can see several listed below.

Very Interestingly, a 2009 film portraying the Afternoon of the Faun incident in Paris did well at Cannes. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, directed by Jan Kounen was presented as the as prestigious Closing Film of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival in May, 2009.

Matthew McConaughey's film "Sea of Trees" was booed at Cannes during May 2015.
Matthew McConaughey's film "Sea of Trees" was booed at Cannes during May 2015. | Source

Matthew McConaughey Booed in Paris

Matthew McConaughey. my favorite character in Contact, Mudd, and Interstellar, was booed on 5/15/15 for his work in the PG-13 Sea of Trees, directed by Gus Van Sant.

The film examines the lives of a man (McConaughey) and his wife (Naomi Watts - audiences disliked her more than they did McConaughey), neither of whom commits to their marriage. They know very little about one another. Their marriage ends when she dies and he goes off to end his life.

He travels to the Aokigahara of Japan, a sea of trees dedicated to his purpose. The trees are so dense on a floor of volcanic rock, that littlle wildlife exists and the wind cannot be heard. it is deadly quiet.

However, he meets a Japanese gentleman (Ken Watanabe) who seems injured and confused. Their interaction comprises the majority of the 110-minute film. The major critics have ridiculed the movie harshly, but the may be a sign that it will succeed at the box office and in garnering awards. The films discussed below did either or both!

The actual Seas of Trees in Japan, heading for Mt. Fuji.
The actual Seas of Trees in Japan, heading for Mt. Fuji. | Source

Are These Films Really Bad?

The Cannes Film Festival is an elite movie party in which strong emotional and verbal responses are offered by audiences. These reactions come from viewers that are glad to provide visible love and hate for the new films.

After viewing a few thousand films, I have not witnessed booing by an American audience. Infrequently, I have seen a handful of people walk out of a showing, including a few media reviewers with shaking heads and a few grumbles. Booing has not been part of their reactions.

Often, however, I read negative reviews about all films in the local press and wonder if this is a fad to denigrate all movies. I wish Roger Ebert could come back.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music has enjoyed hosting a Booed at Cannes film festival, with a meny of some of the best movies with the worst reputations at Cannes.

Films Considered Worst at Cannes

Some of these films have become famous and cult classics and are difficult to believe as booed at Canned:

1) Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (113 minutes, rated R)

This is the nightmare life of a Viet Nam Veteran in a cab on the city streets. It could be one of the veterans that we know in real life.

Taxi Driver won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in the 1976 festival after many viewers, including the press, protested the film's explicit violence and the appearance of a 13-year-old Jodie Foster as a painted prostitute. The 1970s were times of controversy as both Foster and Pretty Baby star Brooke Shields portrayed young teenagers as sex objects. This type of portrayal grows more disturbing with the crackdown on child exploitation occurring today.

Although Taxi Driver was booed and ridiculed, it became a famous film, with thousand's of people imitating star Robert De Niro's "You talkin' to me?" (See video below.)

In 1994, this film was selected to be preserved in the US National Film Registry of best films made in our country. The film was nominated for many awards when it was released and won several.

I thought that Director Scorsese's 1989 Bringing Out the Dead, starring Nick Cage as a half-crazed EMT, was very much more weird and disturbing. However, it never made it to Cannes.

When John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, he cited "Taxi Driver" as his inspiration in that he wanted to impress Jodie Foster (or her character in the movie).

The Famous De Niro Line

2) Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code

Directed by Ron Howard for 2006, The Da Vinci Code is based on a Dan Brown novel of 2003 that looks into secrets of the Bible that not everyone likes; but as Tom Hanks said on the David Letterman late show, "It's just a movie."

Still, people are fascinated by several sets of Bible Codes, hence the popularity of the movie. It also receive at least 20 award nominations and won a handful, none of them Oscars. Perhaps it was a tad too long - 149 minutes and rated PD-13.

Many are complex and many are not quite believable, but one code will not leave human consciousness. When the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, an atheistic journalist, Michael Drosnin, was investigating Bible codes and found the prediction of the assassination before its occurrence. He may not have had the verses and the wording exactly correct, but he tried to warn the victim several times. Guards and gatekeepers would never let him through. Thus, he saw the prediction come to pass and decided that the Bible must be true. People are looking for messages in codes from an afterlife, from Heaven, from Outer Space. They like code and message movies.

Tom Hanks appeared in the film as the symbolics detective Robert Langdon, with Sophie Neveu as a cryptographer, the team of two investigating an pentagram-encrypted corpse found in the Louvre and the possibility that Jesus was married with children. All this brings the investigative team up against the Church and mayhem threatens their lives.

The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code
Tom Hanks says to watch this movie for entertainment and to not take it seriously. It was banned in several countries, including some Muslim nations.

The film was a Hollywood blockbuster, but some of the Cannes audiences booed, laughed, and walked out on its first showing. Many critics were kinder - they thought some of the lines in the film were trite. The inclusion of self-flagellating holy men of Opus Dei was a bit disturbing and some viewers may have been put off the movie for that.

Howard and Hanks ignored all the negative opinions, made a lot of money, and released Angels and Demons, which added a black hole in the sky over the Vatican. A visitor went through that portal, to God knows where, for the time being. This sequel, too, made a lot of money.

Roger Ebert disliked the book, but gave the film three out of four stars. The only of Dan Brown's novels I like is the 2001 Deception Point, which involves the Arctic, natural resources, and extraterrestrial life. It's quite exciting and interesting science fiction. I think the Da Vinci Code is OK, but not great.

The Ron Howard film was banned in several countries and some Muslim groups declared that the movie and the book were as bad as the cartoons they hated about Muhammad.


3) David Lynch's Wild at Heart

This 1990 crime film directed by David Lynch stars Nicholas Cage as a young man whio runs away with a young woman (Laura Dern) who wants to be rid of her controlling mom. Somehow, the mafia involves itself in the flight. The film began with an NC-17 rating in the USA, with a modification of a shotgun blast to the head reducing the rating to R. IMDB lists it as NC-17 and 125 minutes.

Many viewers at Cannes objected to the movie's many strange references to The Wizard of Oz and to Elvis Presley films. I'm not sure that this is enough to boo and hiss a film and walk out. However, even though about 200 people walked out, this story won the Palme d'Or for best picture of the festival. In fact, the movie and its actors won several awards.

If there is a reason to walk out of this film, it is the amount of powerful violence included.

He likes the box office prizes that go along with his pop satires, so he makes dishonest movies like this one.

— Roger Ebert about David Lynch and "Wild at Heart"

4) Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny

This film may be more deserving of the Cannes hissing and booing. The 2003 art-house offering is a surreal film in the tradition of 1999's Fight Club, with some of the same psychological elements.

The Brown Bunny was directed by Vincent Gallo, who also starred in it as a motorcycle racer/bum who takes a road trip to the West Coast to make a racing comeback. He is slightly unbalanced at the start and becomes more deviant along his route.

The film centers on a search across the country for a phantom girlfriend. The Cannes audience booed loudly at much of it, and especially at a graphic oral intimacy (unsimulated) provided by actress Chloe Sevigny. Many found it disgusting and even more disgusting when they saw a pixelated image of it on the album cover of the soundtrack.

The movie is about 93 minutes long, unrated, but would probably be an R.

"The Brown Bunny" is the worst film in the history of Cannes.

— Roger Ebert; Chicago Sun Time, September 3, 2003

Roger Ebert is a fat pig with the physique of a slave trader.

— Director Vincent Gallo; The Guardian; November 14, 2003

Brown Bunny Compromise

After an exchange of insults with Roger Ebert in the press, Director Gallo cut nearly 30 minutes from his film and firmed up its logic. Viewing the second cut of the work, Ebert gave it a Thumbs Up. it has a bit of a cult following.

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt | Source

5) Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds

Some filmgoers feel that anything starring Brad Pitt is outstanding, but some moviegoers in audiences at Cannes booed this 2009 film. The critics deny the booing, stating that they gave it a 10 minute standing ovation. Clearly, there was a difference of opinion.

The objections stem from portraying Jewish GIs committing torture as did Nazis.

Still, it grossed over $321,000,000 USD and received dozens of awards and nominations, including eight nominations for Oscars, and the Cannes Best Actor prize and the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, as well as others, to Christoph Waltz.

In the storyline, Brad Pitt and his band of WWII Jewish-American GIs invade the European Theater. There, they torture and scalp Nazis. They are like snipes with knives instead of guns. The mayhem lasts for much of the 153 minutes in this R-rated story. It is a little like the alternative realties of Harry Turtledove Novels.

Roger Ebert liked the film and it still has an 88% at Rotten Tomatoes at this writing.

I knew Tarantino had made a considerable film, but I wanted it to settle, and to see it again. I’m glad I did. Like a lot of real movies, you relish it more the next time.

— Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times, August 19, 2009

Additional Movies That Were Booed in Paris

  • Antichrist, 2009; directed by Lars von Trier.
  • Crash, 1996; directed by David Cronenberg. It won a Cannes special award for Audacity.
  • Lost River, 2014; directed by Ryan Gosling.
  • Marie Antoinette, 2006; directed by Nick Gage's relative Sofia Coppola.
  • Sweetie, 1989; directed by Jane Campion.
  • Southland Tales, 2007; directed by Richard Kelly. This is a sequel to Donnie Darko.
  • Tree of Life, 2011; directed by Terrence Malick. Even though booed, this Brad Pitt film won the Palme d'Or.
  • Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, 1992; directed by David Lynch. Boos occurred throughout the entire film and many people left early. Since 1992, it has been called a "masterpiece."
  • A few other films won boos and hisses at the annual Cannes Film Festival. IUf you know of any, please add them to "Comments" below.

Happy Viewing at the Movies!

Worst Movies In Your Opinion

Would you boo any of these movies?

See results

© 2015 Patty Inglish MS


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