On This Day: ‘Pulp Fiction’ Starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman Samuel L. Jackson Premieres at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

On May 21, 1994, 27-years-ago, Quentin Tarantino’s cult classic film Pulp Fiction debuted at the 47th Cannes Film Festival. Widely regarded as one of Tarantino’s enduring masterpieces, the film would forever change the Hollywood landscape, and Tarantino would transition to one of the most promising filmmakers of an era. 

In France, members of the cast, including Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, and Maria de Medeiros, John Travolta, and Uma Thurman, were all present to introduce the neo-noir black comedy. 

Clint Eastwood, the Cannes jury president at the time, presented Pulp Fiction with the Palme d’Or, the highest awards at the film festival. Following the event, the cast attended the afterparty held at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, right by the beach. 

Tarantino Makes Cannes Comeback 25 Years After ‘Pulp Fiction’

It wasn’t until 2007, more than a decade after the Pulp Fiction premiere, that Tarantino returned to the festival with a film of his. He and Robert Rodriguez brought Death Proof to Cannes, which starred Rosario Dawson, Rose McGowan, Tracie Thoms, and Zoë Bel. Death Proof earned Tarantino another Palme d’Or nomination.

Two years after the premiere of Death Proof, Tarantino returned to Cannes. However, this time, he attempted to rewrite history with his alternate version of his World War II drama Inglourious Basterds. The organization nominated the film for a Palme d’Or in 2009 but, again, did not win. 

Tarantino wouldn’t make his Cannes comeback until 2019 — and this time, he would get a seven-minute standing ovation. That year, he premiered another highly anticipated film with his alternate ending trope: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It had also been a quarter of a century since he took home the award for Pulp Fiction. 

“Thank you for being such a fantastic audience for the first time we’ve ever shown it to an audience,” Tarantino told the crowd after the screening, thanking the studio, producers, cast, and crew.

Although Tarantino has directed other films, Pulp Fiction remains an integral piece to the structure of the Hollywood film industry. In addition to the plot, the cast was also widely praised. Jackson earned high praises for his portrayal as Jule Winnfield.  

In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named it the best film since 1983. Since its premiere, it’s appeared on many critics’ lists of the greatest films ever made. In 2013, Pulp Fiction was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”