The Great Canadian Films



Happy Canada Day.

Before I resume my Top 100, why not take a look at some of the greatest Canadian Films.

There are very few true, qualified Canadian Films with commercial success. In fact, the only Canadian film to every gross over $100 million at the box office is Porky’s. A bit of a sad statement.

That said, the following movies are all excellent. None are on my list. The first two are certainly not far off. All are worth seeing and many are Oscar nominated. Why not end Canada Day with some classic Canadian cinema instead of the usual, boring old fireworks!

Here in order are my 10 Favourite Canadian Films.


1. The Sweet Hereafter (1997 – Atom Egoyan)


Director Atom Egoyan’s Masterpiece. A lawyer travels to a small Canadian town, gripped by the worst of tragedies, to launch a class action suit against anyone on who he can lay blame. His actions are in part motivated by the loss of his own daughter to drugs. A young girl in a wheelchair, a survivor of the accident that ripped the town apart, emerges to lead the way towards healing. The Sweet Hereafter is a heart-wrenching tragic and sad film but a brilliant piece of cinema.


2. Owning Mahowny (2003 – Richard Kwietniowski)


Perhaps the best movie you’ve never seen. The late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as Dan Mahowny, a mid level banker at CIBC who steals from the bank, from clients and some people he has created in order to feed his gambling addiction. Based on real events in Toronto in the 1980s, it’s a magnificent portrayal of a crippling gambling addiction.


3. The Barbarian Invasions (2003 – Denys Arcand)


A long overdue sequel to Decline of the American Empire, in this film Remy is dying of liver cancer and wants to take his final days to reunite with his old friends and make peace with his estranged wife and son. A thoughtful meditation on life, death and dying, it won the 2003 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film


4. The Decline of the American Empire (1986 – Denys Arcand)


A group of French Canadian Academics gather at a resort for dinner. The men cook while the women go to a spa. Each group talks of their sexual exploits, conquests loves and losses. It’s a great comedy with serious overtones with one of my all time favourite screenplays.


5. Thirty-two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993 – Francois Girard)

32 Short Films About Glenn Gould DVD

Glenn Gould was born in 1932 in Toronto and become one of the most celebrated and famous classical pianists in the world. In 1964, he stopped live performing altogether and dedicated his life to the recording studio. Before his untimely death in 1982, he amassed multiple Grammy’s and a collection of the great recordings of all time; most notably his interpretation of J.S. Bach’s The Goldberg Variations. This movie does not really claim to know Glenn Gould, but rather celebrate his life, his eccentricities and his genius. Colm Feore is brilliant in the lead.


6. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974 – Ted Kotcheff)


This is almost required Canadian viewing. A young Richard Dreyfuss plays the lead in this film adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s classic novel. Roger Ebery said “its too sloppy and obvious to be great” and he may be right, but it’s a great character study of ambition and greed and piece of Canadian history. It also made Richler and Oscar nominee for the screen adaptation of his own book.


7. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001 – Zacharius Kunuk)


Filmed in Inuit language Inuktitut, The Fast Runner is a compelling story of a community in the Artic Circle. I won’t describe the plot. Its as old as time but in this movie, fresh and unique. Filmed on location with an almost entirely Inuit crew and cast, The Fast Runner creates an unforgettable tale out of the vast expanses of the tundra. Considered by many to be the greatest Canadian film of all time.

8. Away From Her (2006 – Sarah Polley)

away from her

Nominated for two Oscars, Away from Her tells the story of Grant and Fiona, an Ontario couple married for more than 40 years. Fiona starts to become forgetful and it is eventually determined she has the early signs of Alzheimers. She is admitted to a medical facility that has a no visitors policy for the first 30 days to allow patients to adjust to their new life. When he returns to see her, he realizes how much his life has changed.

9. The Dead Zone (1983 – David Cronenberg)


It’s a stretch to call this Canadian but since Cronenberg directs it I will include it. Its not only Cronenberg’s best film it is easily the best of all Stephen King adaptations and a movie that really brought Christopher Walken into the forefront of the film world. It tells the story of a man who awakes from a five-year coma and discovers that he not only has the ability to predict the future, but to alter it. Its worth it just to see Walken read “The Raven” to his students.

10. Strange Brew (1983 – Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas)


By no means a great film, but it is a classic piece of slapstick Canadian comedy based on two characters dreamed up on the set of SCTV to give it a more “Canadian” feel, to appease the CRTC. Strange Brew is a silly, patchwork comedy and one of the new movies that acknowledge that Guelph exists. It’s either that or a gripping docudrama about what two Canadians will do in order to get free beer. You decide.


Happy Canada Day.




2 thoughts on “The Great Canadian Films

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s