Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

10 American Movies That Won the Palme d'Or at Cannes

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The 66th annual Cannes Film Festival is in full swing. There are many films from world-renowned directors in heated competition for the coveted Palme d’Or (The Golden Palm) Award, including Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Only God Forgives, Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, and Joel & Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis. Although Cannes is an international film festival, flicks from the United States often win the festival’s grand prize. Here are 10 American movies that won the Palme d’Or Award.

1. The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s time-shifting narrative about discipline and grace was a very polarizing film when it was first released in 2011. After The Tree of Life debuted at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, half of the 2400-seat Grand Auditorium audience heckled and booed the surreal film, while its supporters cheered. The Tree of Life remains a very divisive film among general audiences and critics alike, but was eventually nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture later in the year.

2. Fahrenheit 9/11

Fresh off his Academy Award for Bowling For Columbine, Michael Moore’s follow-up was the first American-made documentary to win the Palme d’Or when it debuted at the 57th Cannes Film Festival in 2004. Fahrenheit 9/11 received a 20-minute standing ovation after it was first screened. Famously, director Quentin Tarantino, who was the president of the festival’s jury that year, told Michael Moore that his film didn’t win the grand prize because of its politics, but rather its accomplishment as a piece of cinema.

3. Elephant

The first film in director Gus Van Sant’s Death Trilogy—along with the films Gerry and Last DaysElephant took a fictional look at the mass shooting at Columbine High School. Reviews of the film were mixed, and Elephant remains a very controversial film, even being blamed by some for spawning copycat school shootings.

4. Pulp Fiction

Director Quentin Tarantino took the world by storm with the release of Pulp Fiction at the 47th Cannes Film Festival in 1994. The festival’s jury loved the film’s sharp wit, non-linear structure, and in-depth storytelling. When Pulp Fiction opened in the US, the film took the No. 1 spot at the box office in its first week of release.

Today, Pulp Fiction is considered one of the best movies of the 1990s.

5. The Lost Weekend

Before the Palme d’Or was the highest award, the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film was the most prestigious honor a film could aspire to during the Cannes Film Festival. In 1945, Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend—which took a dark look at alcoholism in America—received the top prize. The film would go on to win four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Ray Milland.

6. Marty

Director Delbert Mann’s Marty was the first film to unanimously win the top prize in the history of the Cannes Film Festival. Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s 1953 teleplay, Marty told the story of a socially awkward unmarried 34-year-old man (Ernest Borgnine) who still lived with his mother. Marty, along with The Lost Weekend, are the only two films to win both the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Picture.

7. Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese’s breakthrough film was the Italian-American director’s first critical and commercial hit in the United States. Time magazine put the film on its list of Top 100 Films of All Time.

8. Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was the director’s second Palme d’Or-winning film (the first was The Conversation in 1974). The epic Vietnam War film showcased an all-star cast including Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, and Martin Sheen.

With production delays due to a massive typhoon in the Philippines, the early recasting of Martin Sheen for Harvey Keitel, and the theft of the film’s entire payroll, getting Apocalypse Now made was a giant undertaking for Francis Ford Coppola. The film’s production woes were masterfully documented in the film Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.

Despite the troubled production, Apocalypse Now was later nominated for many Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing, and is one of the best films to examine the Vietnam War.

9. Wild At Heart

One of David Lynch’s most controversial films, Wild At Heart received an abundance of applause and wild cheers when it debuted at the 43rd Cannes Film Festival in 1990. But when the film won the Palme’ d’Or, a few film critics—including Roger Ebert—booed and jeered the jury’s selection for the festival’s prestigious top prize. Wild At Heart is a fevered dream of brutality and sexual exploitation, but at its heart is a genuine romance between its characters Lula and Sailor, two outlaws played by Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage.

David Lynch was forced to censor the film for an R rating for its American release, but international audience got to enjoy an uncut and uncensored version.

10. Barton Fink

The Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink was a big winner at the 44th Cannes Film Festival in 1991. The strange film won Best Director for Joel Coen and Best Actor for John Turturro in addition to the festival's top prize. To prevent other films from receiving so many accolades in the future, the festival organizers and programmers limited the number of awards a single film could win to two.

Despite its many honors including multiple Academy Award nominations, Barton Fink was a disappointing box office performer. It failed to register with general audiences because of its specific and yet abstruse subject matter and narrative.

15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers

People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.


There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)


It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.


Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.


American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.


The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.


This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.


The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.


These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.


A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.


The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.


This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.


Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.


Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.


You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.


Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Cost Plus World Market

Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

Buy on Amazon.

2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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astronaut tea infuser

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

Buy on ThinkGeek.

4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

Buy on Amazon.


This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

Buy on Amazon.


It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

Buy on Amazon.

7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
Cost Plus World Market

This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

Buy at Cost Plus World Market.


This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

Buy on Amazon.


cracked egg tea infuser

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

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Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

Buy on Amazon.


When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

Buy on Amazon.

17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.


If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.


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