Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon recently won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, though most American critics and moviegoers -- those of us who can't afford the trip to France -- haven't seen it yet. Often the Palme d'Or winners seem to be a bit more daring and interesting than the Oscar winners, but not always. I was a bit underwhelmed by last year's winner The Class, though I thought 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) was outstanding. Then there was Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley, which I loved when I saw it, though my enthusiasm wore off by the time I drew up my year-end top ten list. But we also have to give the Cannes juries props for awarding great filmmakers ahead of the curve, notably Orson Welles, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Jane Campion, Joel and Ethan Coen and Quentin Tarantino. The Oscars either belatedly or never recognized those same talents.

So which are the Palme d'Or winners that stand the test of time? Film Comment magazine has conducted a poll of its regular contributors, asking them to vote for their favorites, from a list that goes back to The Third Man in 1949 (though 1946 festival chose a list of ten winners, which included Brief Encounter, The Lost Weekend and Open City).
The winner, perhaps not surprisingly, is Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), a work that continues to blow away and inspire each new generation of moviegoers. (Rocky was the Oscar winner that year.) Second was Luchino Visconti's awesome epic The Leopard (1963), which most Americans didn't get to see until it was fully restored in the 1980s, and even then was not released on video until 2004. Third was Luis Bunuel's ultra-dark, subversively humorous Viridiana (1961), which raised some hackles in its day, and has barely lost any of its power. By the way, the aforementioned The Third Man came in fifth, just after Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. Coppola also won an Oscar that year, but for The Godfather Part II.

The most recent films on the list were 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days at #20, and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's L'Enfant (2005) at #30. For fun, critic J. Hoberman included his list of the ten worst winners, which appears at the top of the page.