Cannes Film Festival May 9-20, 2018

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

"We don't need no stinkin' badges!"

“We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

The mythic Cannes Film Festival 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, even get in to see films…



How to See Films Without a Badge

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

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.

Free 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.  Here’s the 2016 schedule.

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

Red 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!

The 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.


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


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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