The Cannes Film Festival is designed to showcase the best of the best upcoming movies, meaning it’s not surprising that many films shown there are met with praise and celebration. But in the decades since the festival kicked off in 1946, an unusual phenomenon has developed: movies at Cannes tend to receive very, very long standing ovations.
For example, on May 20, Martin Scorsese‘s «Killers of the Flower Moon» received nine minutes of applause. Meanwhile, a five-minute or less standing ovation can sometimes be seen as a sign that the film didn’t quite live up to expectations, with Variety reporting that «Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny» received a «lukewarm» five-minute ovation.
Ahead, learn more about standing ovations at Cannes.
What Movies Received the Longest Standing Ovations at Cannes?
The longest recorded standing ovation at Cannes was for «Pan’s Labyrinth,» which received a 22-minute-long block of applause in 2006, per Quartz. In 2004, «Fahrenheit 9/11» nearly beat that record with 20 minutes of applause, as did «Mud,» which received an 18-minute ovation in 2002. «The Neon Demon» in 2016 received 17 minutes of applause, and 2018’s «Capernaum» and 2012’s «The Paperboy» both were met with 17-minute-long cheer fests. «Bowling For Columbine» in 2003 netted 13 minutes, 2012’s «The Artist» received 12 minutes, and 2009’s «Inglourious Basterds» received 11 minutes. And 2018’s «BlacKkKlansman,» 2011’s «The Beaver,» 2016’s «Captain Fantastic,» and 2015’s «Carol» all received 10 minutes.
Why Are the Standing Ovations at Cannes So Long?
There’s no precise reason why long standing ovations have become staples at the glamorous seaside event. Sociologists have come up with some explanations, however — and in short, most conclude that audiences at Cannes are simply following along with the actions of the people in the front row.
According to Nicholas Christakis, the director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University, the standing-ovation phenomenon at Cannes demonstrates «prestige hierarchy,» or the human tendency to value connection over survival. That inclination is what likely leads audiences to imitate the people in the front row, which usually includes filmmakers, actors, and executives whom audiences tend to perceive as more powerful and influential. «It’s about coming closer to animals that can confer a benefit,» Christakis told The Atlantic in 2021. Per ABC, for example, the standing ovation after «Killers of the Flower Moon» was starting to die down when Leonardo DiCaprio and members of the Osage Nation continued to cheer, sparking a new wave of applause and stretching the ovation all the way to nine minutes.
Still, another, more logistical explanation might be the cause. According to AP News, after films end at Cannes, the camera swoops around and lingers on the individual faces of the filmmakers and cast members, giving them each their own close-ups. This means the applause isn’t just for the movie; it’s also for individual stars and team members.
That doesn’t fully explain the extreme length of many of the Cannes ovations, though, which far exceed anything that happens at Sundance or the Toronto International Film Festival and the like. Maybe the standing ovations at Cannes have something to do with the opulence of the French Riviera and its ambient sea breezes, or maybe they’re just the result of a tradition that got out of hand and now cannot be stopped. Either way, it’s probably best to take news about the long cheering spells at Cannes with a grain of salt.