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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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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @Dolores Monet - I had not thought of that, Dolores. Maybe booing can be fun! Thanks for the insight!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I wonder if you only hear booing at movies that are just out. If the movie has been out for a few days, or a week, and you've read the reviews you might not attend a movie that you might hate. I think seeing something totally fresh and new with a large group and booing might be fun. Just like everyone clapping at a new movie they love is fun.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @Catherine - I think you are probably correct about the content of Davinci Code - some people complained about their seeing sacrilege in it.

      @lyoness913 - A lot of people agree with you about that film! Thanks for a fun comment.

      @lawrence01 - I suppose no director makes movies that everyone always likes. Da Vinci Code sure drew a range of reactions!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Very interesting. I haven't seen all the movies but am really surprised that Scorsese would get that reaction. I enjoyed the book for Da Vinci code but not seen the movie.

      Really informative hub


    • lyoness913 profile image

      Summer LeBlanc 

      6 years ago from USA

      Tree of Life was probably the worst movie I've ever seen. I would have booed in Paris as well. :) Great write up!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      6 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I haven't seen all of the movies so I can't vote. I think The Da Vinci Code may have been booed for its subject matter more than for it's quality as a film. The film was so-so.

      I think I would like to see Sea of Trees.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Thanks - I was braced for it. Not shattered by a long shot.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Congratulations! Some writers frame their first one. Best wishes for your future submissions -- Someone out there will publish these.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Patty - I received my first rejection from a literary magazine - so, I have that out of the way.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Mel Brooks! What a hoot of a movie that would have been. He could make it funny, alright. What a sense of humor, even about evil - "It's Springtime in for Hitler in Germany....."

      I walked out on only two films - one had too much graphic slash-and-gore up front and the other was a "comedy" that included only chains of profanity.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      What a fun hub. You are much more deeply involved in film than I am. There is only one film I wished I had walked out on. Not one listed here.

      The Di Vinci Code to me was a good movie. It was entertaining. I gasped when Hanks tore a page from the book at the Vatican. It was the bookseller in me that was shocked!

      Inglourious Basterds would have been more entertaining had it been directed by Mel Brooks. (I am smiling, I hope you are too.)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @PegCole17 - I should have written that the historical 1913 Nijinsky incident was a ballet stage performance and that stage plays, musicals, and ballets are also booed from time to time, this behavior carrying over to film audiences. However, the ballet was filmed couple of times in the future and audiences were more appreciative.

      The riot at the 1913 performance is shocking as you say, but at least they were not throwing rotten vegetables as audiences did in Vaudeville days

      A curator on traveling exhibits related to Nijinksy said about the 1913 audience, "Some people felt that they had been insulted; that they came to see the ballet and what they got was mud pie thrown in the face." Apparently, they were insulted by the innovations in costumes and dance movements, especially Nijinky's, presented by the Russian dancers.

      Thanks for commenting! I am eager to see "Sea of Trees."

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @Minnetonka Twin - I think the most well-adjusted actors ignore the critics. Some critics make it a hobby of ridiculing films, plays, and art. That was evident from the portrayal of critics in "Birdman." Fortunately, local critics in Central Ohio most often look for the bad and the good in films and offer balanced reviews - a good many taught Film Appreciation at OSU, so they are pretty great.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from North Dallas, Texas

      Interesting reactions from the Cannes Film goers. Most surprising was that "Afternoon of a Faun" in Paris was booed and depicted as too sexy. In Paris? That is the shocker. I never saw the film so I don't really know for sure. Another surprise was that Da Vinci Code was not well received. Despite its questionable concepts, it seemed to be well acted and interesting to contemplate, if not historically sound. It is, as Tom Hanks said, just a movie.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      Patty-Nice job writing about movies that get booed at Cannes Film Festival and become hits. I just saw a news story about Matthew's reaction to the boo's. He didn't mind, and told the paparazzi that critics don't bother him.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Yes, a lot of people love this film.

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Indeed. I laughed pretty hard at times, and at others, I was duly impressed with performances.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Reactions to the film are amazing, are they not?

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      "Inglorious Basterds" was so much fun. I can't imagine anyone unironically booing.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I wondered how Maggie would be. Now I know. Thank you for this film-world enlightenment. Perhaps Arnold should retire.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      I just saw a film, Patty, that I nominate for the worst movie of 2015 ... so far. 'Maggie' with Schwarzenegger, It was too long, too repetitive, too little action and a complete waste of time. Ahnold could have phoned in his performance.

      Thanks for this fascinating resume of films booed at Cannes.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @Kathleen Kerswig - Thanks for your views! I like Matthew in some films and not in others, but this one sounds pretty good to me.

    • profile image

      Kathleen Kerswig 

      6 years ago

      The world is full of critics and each person's perception is unique. I have learned to form my own opinions (for the most part) because my perception is based on my life experiences. I like Matthew McConaughey as an actor. Let's see how it goes for him after this project. Thanks for sharing!


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