The Best Looks of the Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet: A Visual History

Cannes Red Carpet

In 1991, Madonna showed up to the Cannes Film Festival premiere of Madonna: Truth or Dare in a silk bra and tap shorts and Pepto-pink overcoat by Jean-Paul Gaultier. Twenty-five years later, Charlize Theron took to that same red carpet in a canary yellow Dior Couture gown with a miles-long train. No precise aesthetic defines the festival’s red carpet aside from a penchant for statements and a bit of adventurous glamour. Models and actors alike—Liya Kebede, Linda Evangelista, Carey Mulligan, Cate Blanchett—have nailed the assignment wearing a range of designers including big names like Lanvin, Givenchy, and Alexander McQueen, and relatively more niche labels like Haider Ackermann (Tilda Swinton will perennially make our best dressed list), Narciso Rodriguez, and Ralph & Russo. As stars begin to descend on the south of France for the 2019 edition, we’re highlighting a few of our favorite statements from the Cannes Film Festival red carpet through the ages.


Madonna, in Jean-Paul Gaultier, with the director of the film In Bed With Madonna Alex Keshinian at Cannes in 1991.


Taking a cue from Madonna, Sharon Stone donned a beaded Valentino romper with a skirt overlay for the 1995 festival.


Only Kate Moss could wear a grey Narciso Rodriguez sheath to a black tie event. Then-boyfriend Johnny Depp adhered to dress code, though, for the 1997 festival.


Naomi Campbell, a fixture of the festival, appears at the annual amfAr gala in a sheer, paneled gown in 2001.


Tilda Swinton walked Viktor & Rolf’s Fall 2003 runway show, acting as the design duo’s muse. In 2002, she wore one of their Fall 2002 collection designs to that year’s Cannes festival.


Less important: Natalie Portman’s black gown. More important: The debut of her V For Vendetta buzz cut, here, at the premiere of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

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Models descend on Cannes every year, but few can pull off supermodel Linda Evangelista’s statement Lanvin — here, at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.


Cate Blanchett wore an Alexander McQueen gown for the premiere of Robin Hood at the 2010 festival.


Marion Cotillard, in Lefranc Ferrand, departed from her usual simple and chic red carpet gowns in favor of a metallic jumpsuit for the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.


Cara Delevingne had just one film credit to her name when she graced the red carpet of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival — she was still better known as model than actress — yet she exuded pure movie starlet in Burberry at the premiere of The Great Gatsby.


For the 2013 premiere of her Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis, Carey Mulligan selected a black-and-white Vionnet look, and accessorized with a little Justin Timberlake.


Jessica Chastain, too, eschewed color in favor of an ivory caped Versace gown. And the Bulgari diamond-and-sapphire pendant? A gift from Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor. It made the perfect statement for an anniversary screening of Cleopatra at the 2013 festival.


Tilda Swinton, in her go-to Haider Ackermann, at the premiere of Only Lovers Left Alive at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.


Zhang Ziyi, in Stéphane Rolland, wouldn’t have looked out of place at this year’s Met Gala — instead, the futuristic look appeared on the red carpet of the Grace of Monaco screening at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.


In the same gown that Marion Cotillard would later wear to the 2015 Oscars, French model Laetitia Casta takes Christian Dior Couture to the red carpet for Grace of Monaco in 2014.


Lara Stone’s neon-pink Calvin Klein isn’t a color we’d necessarily think would work, yet somehow it does. She appeared at the premiere of The Search at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014.


It wasn’t her film, but Liya Kebede, in Proenza Schouler, still stole the show at the premiere of Mad Max: Fury Road at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.


Or, rather, stole the show until Charlize Theron, the film’s star, showed up in a canary yellow Dior Couture gown.


The Mad Max red carpet drew all the best looks, including Julianne Moore’s Givenchy couture in velvet.


At the 2015 Cannes Film Festival opening ceremony, Lupita Nyong’o made it her show in an emerald green Gucci dress.


This Ralph & Russo gown was just one of a number of stellar red carpet looks from Fan Bingbing at the 2015 festival.


Chanel Iman stunned in Zuhair Murad at the amfAR gala at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015.


Jessica Chastain radiated old Hollywood glamour in an Alexander McQueen gown at the premiere of Money Monster during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.


Liya Kebede opted for something a little weird: a green velvet Haider Ackermann dress with one leg hole, here seen at the premiere of The Unknown Girl at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.


Kirsten Dunst went a marigold statement in custom Maison Margiela at the premiere of The Neon Demon, upstaging even perennially chic star Elle Fanning, at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.


Rihanna attends the Okja screening during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 19, 2017 in Cannes, France. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


Sara Sampaio attends the 120 Beats Per Minute (120 Battements Par Minute) screening during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 20, 2017 in Cannes, France. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


Bella Hadid is seen during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at on May 12, 2018 in Cannes, France. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.