How to do the Cannes Film Festival …without a Badge!

Still from the film The Treasure of Sierra Madre: "We don't need no stinkin' badges!"

“We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

The mythic Cannes Film Festival, held May 9-20, 2018, is an industry-only festival with badges and strict access.  

There are, however, many ways that the unaccredited can experience the Cannes Film Festival and, if you know how, can even get in to see films…



How to See Films Without a Badge

People watching films on the beach at Cannes during the Cannes Film FestivalFree Movies on the Beach:   Every night at 9pm Cinema de la Plage screens a ‘Cannes Classic’ film on Mace Plage, the beach next to the Palais and across from the Hotel Majestic, and they even provide comfy beach chairs and blankets.  No tickets required, just line up early, and even if you’re too late for a chair, you can always throw down a towel or perch on the beach wall.  Bring a picnic and wine and it’s a lovely way to experience the Festival, but be forewarned, not all beach films are subtitled, so pick your night carefully.

Hang out by the Red Carpet or Blue Carpet and Hope for the Best:  

Jean Dujardin on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival

Jean Dujardin at Cannes in 2011, photo by Simon Saunders, courtesy of Totally Gone

Badge-holders actually get penalized if they take tickets and then don’t use them, so there are a lot of tickets bequeathed by badge-holders at the last minute to avoid the dreaded ticket penalty. If you dress nice and stand around the red carpet zone, you might get lucky and be given one of these coveted tickets.  One detail to be aware of: without a badge you can only get in with a blue ticket, but you can make the much more plentiful brown ones work too, if you are accompanied by a badge holder (which means that you are standing next to a guy who also has a brown ticket, that agrees to say, “Yeah, she’s with me,” at the moment that they scan your ticket.)

This strategy also works for the films shown in the Debussy Theatre, the blue carpet, which also requires tickets.  Here is the full schedule of red carpet Lumiere screenings, and blue carpet Debussy screenings.

Evening red carpet screenings in the Lumiere Theatre (after 6pm) include inspection by the fashion police, which means a tux for men, although you can often get away with a black suit if you have a black bow tie.

Cannes Film Festival logo projected on a movie screenFree Films in the Critic’s Week Section:   Critic’s Week is a rather avant garde subsection of the Festival, and dedicated to discovering the next crop of hot new directors.  All films are subtitled in English with director Q&A’s after most screenings.  Almost nobody knows this, but anyone can get a free ticket to the Critic’s Week films if you can just find their unassuming ticket tent tucked away on the sidestreet next to the Miramar Hotel at 35 rue Pasteur.  Free tickets are limited, and entry is not guaranteed (badged festival-goers get priority) but the trick here is just to get in line at least an hour in advance.   To pass the time, pop into the Miramar lobby to stock up on the daily trade papers, or just watch the sidewalk parade which is very amusing in itself.

Free Cannes Cinephiles screenings:  Cannes Cinephiles offers free screenings of all the Festival films (but not necessarily subtitled) at 4 venues in and around Cannes: The Theatre Alexandre III, a few streets inland from the Palais in Cannes, is the most convenient, but if you have wheels, the La Licorne in Cannes La Bocca, Studio 13 at MJC Picaud, and the Cinema Raimu in Ranguin can also be good and are less crowded.  These free screenings are open to anyone, not just to people with Cannes Cinephiles accreditation: if you don’t have the Cinephile card, just show up nice and early and get in the ‘last minute line’ (dernier minute). Click here for the schedule.

Buy Tickets to Director’s Fortnight Section:   
Anyone can buy tickets to the Director’s Fortnight screenings for a very reasonable 7€.   The ticket booth is to the left of the Marriott (look for the sign Quinzaine, which is fortnight in French), and then line up on the sidestreet to the right of the hotel.  All the films are subtitled in English, and the first screening of each film features an intro and Q&A by the director and cast.  But even with a ticket, you need to line up early (and be sure you are in the right line: Billets).  Click the link above and scroll down for the schedule.

Cannes Residents get Free Palme d’Or Screenings:   The city offers 3 screenings the Monday after the Festival to Cannes residents; to get your free tickets, go to the Hotel de Ville the last Sunday morning with some ID and your lease, France Telecom or EDF bill to prove residency.

Plan Ahead: Cannes Cinephile Accreditation:  Plan ahead and join a local film appreciation group well in advance (like the Cine Cafe in Nice), then you can apply for a free local film-lover’s accreditation next January and get a coveted badge!

And don’t forget: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”


Star Gazing Strategies Without a Badge

Paparazzi on the red carpet at the Cannes Film FestivalRed Carpet:  Anyone can hang out by the tapis rouge and watch the star arrive for their competition screening… Get there a little early and walk the Croisette and soak in the crazed ambiance. Dress up a bit and the mercenary tuxedoed paparazzi will rush to shoot your photo.  The red carpet roll call of Hollywood royalty starts around 7pm and again at 10pm.  If you can’t get up close and personal, no worries, it’s all conveniently simulcast on several nearby jumbo-trons.  Check out the competition schedule here to choose your moment.

After the competition films: Hang out at the barrier near the alley behind the Palais (east side) to see the the stars hobnob after the film as they exit through the back way before leaving in their limos.Late night Cannes:  Try the Petite Majestic Bar behind the Grand Hotel, where the drinks are cheap and the crowds take over the streets!

Hotel in Cannes during the Cannes Film FestivalThe Grand Hotels:  During the festival, entry to the major hotels is restricted to badge only, but you can sometimes breeze in if you look the part, have an attitude, and rudely insist that you are meeting someone in the bar.  Warning: if you’re on a budget, a drink at these grand hotels will set you back the price of dinner, but it is THE place to hobnob with the bigwigs.

Cannes beaches


The Croisette:  During the festival, you never know who or what you will see just walking along the Croisette…  starlets with paparazzi, the Leopard Ladies, street musicians hoping to be discovered, protesters, banzai film promotions…  One year a mustachioed man opened his trench coat at me, and it wasn’t until later when the film came out that I realized that I’d been flashed by… Borat in his man-kini!

The Grand Journal and Les Guingols:  This iconic Canal+ French talk show and satirical puppet newscast broadcasts live from the Croisette each afternoon (near the Martinez), and you just crowd around to watch.

Late-night Cannes:  Try the Petite Majestic Bar behind the Grand Hotel, where the drinks are cheap and the crowds take over the streets!


More Insider Tips

Even if you do have a badge, here’s a killer resource for first-time Cannes-goers with tons of inside tips.  Start with tip #4 for newbies, and go from there…

And if you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to be an intern at the Cannes Film Festival, check out this article from the BBC by Cannes expert Lanie Goodman


Hotel booking during the Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Festival Red CarpetHotel rooms are reserved years in advance, so finding accommodation during the festival can be a challenge.

If you try to book early, you’ll find it’s all generally booked up, because hotels hold the same rooms for the same clients year after year.  It’s counter-intuitive, but you will have a better chance booking late, as the regular clients maybe skip a year and free up their room in a hotel that was previously sold out.  Check daily, as these pop up quick, and are grabbed just as quick!

The hotels not only inflate their rates, but most impose an 11-day minimum during the festival, to profit to the max.   So here’s an insider tip: if you can’t find any rooms for your preferred dates, plug in the entire period instead, and voila, rooms!  Now try the same hotel for 10 nights, to find their threshold.  Click here to get a snapshot what’s available and for how much… and remember, many of the hotels and apartments can be split between several people, bringing them into the reasonable zone.

Many festival-goers don’t stay the entire 11 days, however, so once the guest checks out, the paid-for rooms tend to come up again to get re-sold by the hotel a second time (greedy bastards!).  Especially at the lower-end hotels, this second selling is more likely to be at their regular, non-inflated price, so rooms in all price ranges can often be found last-minute in the second half of the festival.

Normally I’m a big holiday apartment rental fan, but not during these massive international festivals, because the owner can cancel at the last minute with very little penalty.  If you booked far in advance and think you got a killer deal, you could find it whipped out from under you at the last minute (under the guise of “emergency plumbing problems”) if the owner gets a better offer privately.  For this reason I recommend, only for these giant conventions, to avoid apartment rental sites and book only through a reliable rental agency where you get a firm contract (but it’s more expensive as the agent gets a cut…), or better yet, a trusted hotel booking site with clout, like, where once you book you are guaranteed.

See Related Pages:

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Photo credits: Jean Dujardin on the Red Carpet by Simon Saunders   Andie McDowell and Red Carpet by Rita Molnar, Hotel Majestic by Patrick Rouzet, Croisette by Bledard92, Masses on Red Carpet by Tangi Bertin, all licensed under Creative Commons.  Cinema de la Plage courtesy Nice-Matin.  The Treasure of Sierra Madre available through

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