25 Great Films That Won The Golden Lion at The Venice Film Festival

17. The Southerner (Jean Renoir, 1945)

The Southerner

This 1945 film won the inaugural Golden Lion and honored the great film maker Jean Renior. The Southerner was a revolutionary film for the era, and marks a turning point in the works of Renoir. The film introduces a transcendent, spiritual dimension.

The plot is deceptively simple and focuses on the inter-relationships of a group of farmers and neighbors. These relationships will prove decisive in moments of difficulty including a bad harvest.

Renoir posits this film in the tradition of American writers such as John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell and William Faulkner. This was the best received film of Renior’s Hollywood period, winning him an Oscar nomination and becoming one of his the most beloved films.


16. The State of Things (Wim Wenders, 1982)

The State Of Things (1982)

German director Wim Wenders has always been a favorite of the Venice Film Festival, and this 1982 movie is no exception.

In Portugal, a film crew is shooting a film, but the film stalls due to funding issues. The director, Friedrich Munro, travels to Los Angeles and discovers that the producer is in trouble with the mafia, and devises a method to capture the related events on film.

The autobiographical film is stylishly cinematic as it examines both the bitterness of film making and also its joys. The movie was a key film for Wenders, and helped pave the way for successes such as “Paris, Texas” and “Wings of Desire”.


15. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

In 2005 Taiwanese director Ang Lee embarked on a project that many other filmmakers had refused due to its sensitive gay themed subject matter. In the bleak landscape of Wyoming, two young cowboys (played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) are caught up in an overwhelming passion that will last for years, even after both get married.

Throughout his career, Lee has explored the theme of the conflict between feelings and social propriety. “Brokeback Mountain” is no exception as it draws a comparison between physical attraction and the constraints of married life.

Masterful photography and an excellent soundtrack help to create the tension between the desolation of the landscape and the passion of the characters’ feelings. The ending is tragic and leaves a sense of incompleteness due to an atmosphere of repression.

Astonishing performances are given by both Ledger and Gyllenhaal, who complement each other very well, with one being introverted, the second giving a more physical performance.


14. Gloria (John Cassavetes, 1980)

gloria movie

Gloria is a middle-aged woman, a former showgirl and mistress of a gangster, she lives in the Bronx, New York. One day she accidentally discovers that the neighbors are in mortal danger from the mob due to information the father has uncovered while examining some financial records.

The family turns to Gloria to protect the youngest son, Phil, and the vital books. Gloria hates children and Phil does not like women, the two will find themselves bound together as they flee from the criminals.

The is a masterful film from the noted independent filmmaker and actor John Cassavetes. Gloria marks the director’s return to noir in the wake of the crime drama “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie”. The film creates a glimpse of the bitter side of city through the use of telling background characters and evocative images.

The film features an incredible performance by Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes’s wife. It forcefully addresses the role of women in a male dominated sector of society.


13. Marianne and Juliane (Margarethe Von Trotta, 1981)

Marianne and Juliane

The film dissects the complex love-hate relationship between two sisters: Juliane writes for a feminist newspaper, while Marianne is a terrorist. After the mysterious death of her sister, Julianne will try to uncover the truth in all possible ways, demonstrating a true affection for his sister.

The film is inspired by the story of sisters Christiane and Gudrun Ensslin, and is an effort by director Margarethe Von Trotta to reconstruct a difficult moment in the history of Germany. The tone of the film is realistic and steers clear of rhetoric and moralism in order to achieve an understanding of the facts in attempting to discern truth.

The film was much discussed due to its political content, but also contains a great amount of emotional power. The acting is quite fine, particularly by the two lead performers.


12. Au Revoir Les Enfants (Louis Malle, 1987)

Au revoir les enfants

In 1987, French director Louis Malle returned to the Venice Film Festival with a masterpiece, one of his last film, and one of his most praised.

The film is set in a French boarding school and tells of the friendship of Julien with newcomer Jean, who turns out to be Jewish. This knowledge would endanger Jean and other Jews who are hiding from the Gestapo. The fact that the boy is being protected inside the school would also cause the closing of the institution and greatly affect the lives of the students.

The film is inspired by true events which took place in director Malle’s youth. It balances the themes of the innocence of childhood with the brutal realities of adult life, especially in times of turmoil. However, Malle inserts some glimmers of hope, such as bedtimes stories read from The Arabian Nights, and the children watching the Chaplin film “The Immigrant”, both symbols of a lovely, lost era.


11. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)


The setting is 1957 Algeria and the Ali LaPointe is encased in a hideout along with three companions, all of them being surrounded by enemy soldiers. He thinks back on the last three years of his life, which saw him progress from a small time thief to a mighty FLN leader.

The film contains documentary qualities, such as acute attention to detail and simplicity of pictorial composition which helps to clarify difficult issues. It was so controversial to the French that Venice jury members from that country stormed out in protest.

Despite the controversy, director Gillo Pontecorvo’s film was widely appreciated, especially for its semi-documentary technique.


10. The Circle (Jafar Panahi, 2000)

The Circle

In 2000 Iranian director Jafar Panahi made his debut at the Venice Film Festival with The Circle. The film weaves together eight disparate stories of women in the city of Tehran and how they criss-cross to form an ominous circle.

The common thread is theme of the tragic lives of women in contemporary Islamic culture. Panahi had experienced such events first hand, since in 2010 he was arrested for the protests against the ruling regime and was later released. However, censorship has not prevented him from becoming an acclaimed director in many parts of the world.

The Circle is a perfect example of his cinema, which consists of revealing details yet little information about the past or future of the characters, only their current conditions. A gem, this very intense and emotional film underlines the strong growth of modern Iranian cinema.


9. The Way We Laughed (Gianni Amelio, 1998)

Così ridevano

The film covers the years from 1958 to 1964 in telling the story of two Sicilian brothers who emigrate to Turin. The older, Giovanni, is an illiterate laborer; the younger, Peter, attends school in the hope of bettering himself. Director Gianni Amelio creates a stinging and poignant drama, highlighting typical themes from his films.

The two brothers, who grow up as orphans, develop a relationship as passionately intense relationship, doomed to end tragically. Italy is shown to be a lovely but biased and tumultuous country.

The film reconstructs a family history, and plays more on looks and strong emotions than dialogues, and precisely for this peculiarity was little understood by the public and critics. But at the end of the betting, Gianni Amelio, influenced at the time by Italian neorealism, are won.