The film -- about residents in a small German town riddled with tragedy as World War I approaches -- was awarded with the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the annual prize-giving ceremony in the French Riviera on Sunday.
Veteran French filmmaker Alain Resnais, 86, was also awarded a special prize for his half-century career. Resnais delighted critics with Les Herbes Folles (Wild Grasses), a romantic comedy starring Sabine Azema and Andre Dussolier and the director's his first movie to compete at the festival in almost 30 years.
The jury at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival was headed by French actress Isabelle Huppert.
The main list of winners is as follows:
Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) - The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke (Austria)
Special Prize - Alain Resnais
Best Actor - Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds (United States)
Best Actress - Charlotte Gainsbourg, Antichrist (Denmark)
Camera d'Or (first-time director) - Samson and Delilah by Warwick Thornton (Australia)
Best short film - Arena by Joao Salaviza (Portugal)
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