The Ten Best Cannes winners

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The Independent Culture

1 THE LOST WEEKEND
Billy Wilder, 1946

Just about the bleakest movie Wilder ever made, which is probably why it won the prize at a gig more concerned with decay than decoration. Ray Milland plays a man convinced that drink will free his mind (alcohol, he explains, "tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar".) His four-day binge includes some beautifully spiteful encounters; his gnawing hallucinations will damage your dreams for years.

2 THE THIRD MAN
Carol Reed, 1949

Orson Welles once gave a lecture to a room that was only half full. He introduced himself as an actor, writer, magician and painter, then said, "Isn't it a pity there's so many of me and so few of you?" That joke sums up the film. As adventurer Harry Lime, Welles has barely 10 minutes of screen time, but in a Vienna gutted by bombs and self-doubt, his blissfully arrogant spirit swells to fill all the gaps.

3 THE WAGES OF FEAR
Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1952

Who would have thought that four sweaty men in trucks could be so gripping? We're in poverty-stricken, oil-rich Central America, and as our "heroes" try to transport nitroglycerine across 300 miles of rough terrain, the vehicles themselves seem to come to life, and are under as much pressure as the desperate, all-but-inhuman humans at the wheel.

4 LA DOLCE VITA
Federico Fellini, 1960

A film so dizzy on empty glamour that it leaves you all of a spin. Marcello Mastroianni excels as the playboy hack, unable to slow down but yearning for something like peace. Fellini turns ennui into art.

5 THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG
Jacques Demy, 1964

Films featuring impromptu singing normally give me the heebie-jeebies, but this left-field "musical" is a triumph. The sets and costumes swirl with cake-shop colours. Meanwhile, the shop-girl Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve) - apparently abandoned by her lover to bring up a child - discovers the hard way that life isn't sweet.

6 IF...
Lindsay Anderson, 1969

Never mind the radical chic - feel the tenderness. The scene in which Malcolm McDowell snuggles into the straight and narrow bed of one of the younger boys tells you everything you need to know about the loneliness of the "privileged" upper classes.

7 THE CONVERSATION
Francis Ford Coppola, 1974

Such a quiet film it's possible to miss the white noise at its core. With surveillance currently back in the news, this insight into the horrors of peeping and eavesdropping is creepy in all the right ways.

8 TAXI DRIVER
Martin Scorsese, 1976

Such a quintessentially New York film, it's hard to imagine it being watched against a backdrop of French sun, sea and sand. De Niro and Jodie Foster create a world of their own, and leave you guessing, right up to the "is-this-all-a-dream?" climax.

9 APOCALYPSE NOW
Francis Ford Coppola, 1979

Sure, some of this odyssey through war-ripped Vietnam is indulgent, and the "natives" are conveniently mute. But the atmosphere is unforgettable, so simultaneously breezy, and heavy, that even "mad" Dennis Hopper can't break the spell.

10 TASTE OF CHERRY
Abbas Kiarostami, 1997

Superficially, this is a slow film about a man who has lost the will to live; it's actually an emotional epic that leaves you on fire.

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