The Cannes Film Festival isn’t just a hub of red carpet premieres, champagne-drenched parties, and stars, stars, stars. It’s also a vibrant locus of dealmaking, with studio executives, agents and filmmakers descending on the Riviera to secure financing for their upcoming projects or to find a distributor for their latest movies. The 2023 edition is playing host to several compelling packages and potential awards contenders that could spark heated bidding wars. Here are 11 films that could leave buyers reaching for the espresso instead of the rosé as they engage in all-night battles to land the next big thing.
Cast: Sean Penn, Tye Sheridan, Katherine Waterston, Michael Pitt, Mike Tyson
Director: Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
Agency: CAA, WME
Why Buyers Care: Penn and Sheridan have crackling chemistry as disgruntled mentor and doe-eyed mentee in the edge-of-your-seat thriller, which takes audiences into the often harrowing, always intense reality for paramedics in New York City. A gentle warning, though, that “Black Flies” isn’t for the squeamish. Expect plenty of blood, disturbing and graphic injuries, extreme violence…and a lot of yelling.
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Jude Law
Director: Karim Aïnouz
Why Buyers Care: This look at the final days of Henry VIII and the oft-married king’s final wife, Katherine Parr, sounds like Oscar bait. There’s costumes, pageantry and some showy performances from both Vikander and a nearly unrecognizable Law that could put them in the heat of awards season provided “Firebrand” gets the right indie home — the kind of place that can treat this adult drama with the kind of TLC that Henry, with his penchant for calling for the executioner to settle marital disputes, rarely showed his significant others. As for Parr, she had the last laugh, outliving the volatile monarch to enjoy her remaining days with her head still firmly affixed to her body.
Cast: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton
Director: Todd Haynes
Agency: CAA, UTA Independent Film Group
Why Buyers Care: Haynes returns with his first narrative feature since 2019’s “Dark Waters,” along with two pedigreed actresses in Moore and Portman, as well as newcomer Melton (already being tipped as a festival breakout). The story is juicy, involving a cross-generational affair between Melton and Moore that grips the nation at its start. Eighteen years later, they’re about to ship their kids off to college. Portman surfaces as an actress meant to play Moore in a movie about the family, one who embeds with the couple to research her performance. Probing questions about their origins lead to great tension. Don’t forget, last time Haynes and Moore got together, we got Oscar bait in “Far From Heaven.”
Cast: Ando Sakura, Nagayama Eita, Kurokawa Soya, Hiiragi Hinata and Tanaka Yuko
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Agency: CAA, Goodfellas
Why Buyers Care: Kore-eda already won the Palme d’Or for 2018’s “Shoplifters,” and he might pull off the same trick again with “Monster,” the story of a mother who becomes increasingly concerned after her young son Minato starts to behave strangely. Her search to discover the cause leads her to uncover some painful truths. Foreign films are hit-and-miss at the U.S. box office, but Kore-eda has become one of the most globally admired auteurs around. Cinephiles always take notice when he unveils his latest work.
Cast: Dave Bautista
Director: Drew Pearce
Why Buyers Care: Bautista is playing… directly into type as a South Beach bouncer who finds himself on the brink of redemption in hopes of reuniting with his family. But that’s all thrown for a loop when a drug-filled safe is stolen from the club where he works and he’s blackmailed into finding it before the Miami PD narcotics bureau comes to retrieve it. Come for Ray’s journey toward absolution, stay for his epic 36-odyssey across Miami Beach to get that safe back.
Jeanne du Barry
Cast: Johnny Depp, Maïwenn
Agency: CAA, Goodfellas
Why Buyers Care: Regardless of quality, “Jeanne du Barry” is expected to be one of the most talked about films at this year’s festival. That’s because it marks the first leading role for Depp after a three-year hiatus following ongoing legal battles with his ex-wife Amber Heard. Also making headlines in the lead up to the premiere is Maïwenn, who admitted to spitting in the face of an investigative journalist who wrote an article that accused her ex-husband Luc Besson of rape. Buyers can’t, well, buy that kind of press for the historical period drama, which revolves around the tumultuous relationship of French king Louis XV and his lover Jeanne du Barry.
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Kate Hudson, Kaia Gerber
Director: Max Minghella
Agency: CAA, WME, Black Bear International
Why Buyers Care: Minghella, better known for his work in front of the camera with “The Social Network” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” returns to the director’s chair with an intriguing commentary about society’s obsession with youth and looks. And he’s assembled a buzzy cast, including his “Handmaid’s Tale” co-star Moss, the always-charming Husdon and Gerber, to bring the twisted psychological thriller to life. Moss plays a struggling actress named Samantha, who jumps at the opportunity for a free trial at Shell, a beauty company that promises to keep patients looking “young forever.” As her life and career are transformed by the treatment, she develops a friendship with Shell’s glamorous CEO (Hudson). But when a string of former patients go missing under bizarre circumstances, Samantha starts to worry that she’s in danger. Spoiler alert: she may be right.
Cast: Sylvester Stallone
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Agency: CAA, Rocket Science
Why Buyers Care: In 1993, the original “Cliffhanger” helped resurrect Stallone’s career after a series of high-profile flops such as “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” and “Oscar.” Thirty years later, Sly summits the mountain yet again for another high-altitude thrill ride. And this time, Stallone is a hot commodity, thanks to the Paramount+ series “Tulsa King” and his acclaimed turns in the first two “Creed” films (he skipped the third sequel because…it’s a thing). Plus, “Cliffhanger” promises to deliver the kind of showy action that easily translates to global crowds.
Lords of War
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Bill Skarsgård
Director: Andrew Niccol
Why Buyers Care: Cage returns as an amoral arms dealer in this follow-up to the 2005 crime drama “Lord of War.” Only this time, he’s got a son, played by “It” breakout Skarsgård. Given all the geopolitical strife erupting all over the world right now, “Lords of War” feels sadly topical. That ripped-from-the-headlines quality and Cage’s gonzo appeal may make this a hot package.
Cast: Bill Skarsgard, FKA Twigs, Danny Huston
Director: Rupert Sanders
Why Buyers Care: How many times can “The Crow” fly? The cult film franchise, based on the graphic novel by James O’Barr, has a tragic place in Hollywood history. The first film starred Brandon Lee, who was fatally shot in the abdomen with an improperly loaded stunt gun on the set in 1994. Fans came to see the movie in force, leading to three lesser sequels and a Canadian TV adaptation. Director Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”), known for glossy action, now brings to market a full reboot of the character — a musician resurrected after his own brutal murder. A busy Skarsgard should pique buyer interest, as well as his leading lady and crossover musician FKA Twigs.
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Mathieu Demy, Elsa Zylberstein, Amir El-Masry and Sidse Babett Knudsen
Director: Jessica Hausner
Why Buyers Care: Wasikowska, a favorite from “Jane Eyre” and “Alice in Wonderland,” is certain to intrigue as a teacher at an elite prep school with sinister intentions. It all starts innocently, as teen cults are wont to do, with Miss Novak instructing her students that eating less is healthy. By the time the other educators and parents take note, an unthinkable reality has already started to unfold. Come hungry… or don’t.