Greatest Canadian Films
This week we celebrate Canada Day and to honor the occasion I’ve compiled a list of the best Canadian movies of all time. What follows is a list of films spanning decades and covering a wide variety of genres, themes, and styles— and all made in Canada.
A few quick notes before moving ahead:
I’ve decided not to include short films so don’t expect something like Norman McLaren’s Neighbours to appear on the list.
As with all lists, the choices here are obviously subjective.
Normally, in the past, I would write one capsule review for each film but since I plan on releasing a list for every other year in the decade, I’ve instead decided to simply include one screenshot along with the official plot synopsis courtesy of IMDB.com. Sorry guys, but these lists are time-consuming, and I’ve quickly come to learn that most people don’t bother reading every capsule review either way— so why bother?
That out of the way, here are the 80 best Canadian movies, each represented by one perfect screenshot.
80 Perfect Screenshots from the 80 Best Canadian Movies
Special Mention: Sweet Movie (Dusan Makavejev, 1974)
After winning the “most virgin” contest, Miss Canada is married to a rich milk tycoon. But she quickly flees the marriage to experience the world around her, full of sweetness and anarchy.
80) Outrageous! (Richard Benner, 1977)
A story about a female impersonator who rooms with a pregnant schizophrenic.
79) Hobo With A Shotgun (Jason Eisener, 2011)
Delivering justice, one shell at a time…
A homeless vigilante blows away crooked cops, pedophile Santas, and other scumbags with his trusty pump-action shotgun.
78) The Adjuster (Atom Egoyan, 1991)
Sex… Power… Obsession.
A reflection about what makes everyone’s life unique, through the story of Noah’s family. Noah is an adjuster, having sex with his customers. His wife Hera watches pornographic movies for the Board of Censors. They live with their son Simon and Hera’s sister in a show-flat. One day, they meet Bubba, who wants to make a movie in their house.
77) Roadkill (Bruce McDonald, 1989)
A rock’n’road movie about a girl who learns to drive.
A music promoter sends a young woman on a road trip in search of a band who hasn’t been showing up for their gigs.
76) Highway 61 (Bruce McDonald, 1991)
The most twisted part of this road is the people on it.
A small-town barber goes on a road trip from Thunder Bay to New Orleans with an unpredictable woman and a coffin.
75) Les demons (Philippe Lesage, 2015)
A young boy begins to experience the adult world as he enters adolescence.
74) It’s All Gone Pete Tong (Michael Dowse, 2004)
When you can’t hear, things look very different.
A famous DJ in the Ibiza club scene finds the alcohol and drug-fueled party that is his life threatened by the progressive loss of his hearing.
73) Blackbird (Jason Buxton, 2012)
An alienated teenager’s posturing online threat ignites a firestorm of fear in a small community.
72) Exotica (Atom Egoyan, 1994)
In a world of temptation, obsession is the deadliest desire.
A man plagued by neuroses frequents the club Exotica in an attempt to find solace, but even there his past is never far away.
71) Werewolf (Ashley McKenzie, 2016)
Blaise and Nessa are outcast methadone users in their small town. Each day they push a rusty lawnmower door-to-door begging to cut grass. Nessa plots an escape, while Blaise lingers closer to collapse. Tethered to one another, their getaway dreams are kept on a suffocatingly short leash.
70) Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan, 2013)
What you don’t know WILL hurt you.
A grieving man meets his lover’s family, who were not aware of their son’s sexual orientation.
69) Last Night (Don McKellar, 1998)
It’s your last night on earth. Go out in style.
A group of very different individuals with different ideas of how to face the end come together as the world is expected to end in six hours at the turn of the century.
68) My Bloody Valentine (George Mihalka, 1981)
This Valentine’s Day, romance is DEAD
A decades-old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine’s Day turns out to be true to legend when a group defies the killer’s order and people start turning up dead.
67) I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (Patricia Rozema, 1997)
Isn’t life the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
Scatterbrained Polly gets a job as a secretary in Gabrielle’s art gallery. Polly aspires to be a professional photographer, and idolizes Gabrielle for her artistic ability. When Gabrielle rekindles an old romantic relationship with the younger painter Mary, Polly becomes jealous, and discovers Gabrielle is not who she claims to be.
66) The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, 2015)
In this non-linear amalgamation, submarine crewmen and a woodsman wend their way through a voyage of odd experiences.
65) Manufactured Landscapes (Edward Burtynsky, 2006)
Photographer Edward Burtynsky travels the world observing changes in landscapes due to industrial work and manufacturing.
64) Café de flore (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2011)
Healing a broken heart isn’t easy. Sometimes it takes a lifetime…or two.
A love story between a man and woman. And between a mother and her son. A mystical and fantastical odyssey on love.
63) Antiviral (Brandon Cronenberg, 2012)
Inject some celebrity into your life.
In a blackly satirical near future, a thriving industry sells celebrity illnesses to their obsessed fans. Employee Syd March’s attempts to exploit the system backfire when they involve him in a potentially deadly mystery.
62) War Witch (Kim Nguyen, 2012)
Somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, Komona, a 14-year-old girl, tells her unborn child growing inside her the story of her life since she has been at war. Everything started when she was abducted by the rebel army at the age of 12.
61) Lilies (John Greyson, 1996)
Based on the play by Michel Marc Bouchard
When a bishop comes to a prison to hear the confession of an old friend he is forced to watch a play, performed by the inmates, about their youth together, love and betrayal.
60) The Red Violin (Francois Girard, 1998)
An instrument of passion. A shocking secret. An extraordinary journey.
A red-colored violin inspires passion, making its way through three centuries over several owners and countries, eventually ending up at an auction where it may find a new owner.
59) Crime Wave (John Paisz, 1984)
A young director intent on making “the greatest color crime movie ever” can’t seem to finish his script–he has a beginning and an end, but he can’t quite figure out the middle. The daughter of his landlord, excited to have a real “movie person” living nearby, tries to help by putting him in touch with a man who wants to collaborate on a script–the strange “Dr. Jolly”.
58) Pontypool (Bruce McDonald 2008)
Words lose their meaning when you repeat them.
A radio host interprets the possible outbreak of a deadly virus which infects the small Ontario town he is stationed in.
57) Splice (Vincenzo Natali, 2009)
A secret experiment will break the laws of science and create an animal human hybrid.
Genetic engineers Clive Nicoli and Elsa Kast hope to achieve fame by successfully splicing together the DNA of different animals to create new hybrid animals for medical use.
56) Cube (Vincenzo Natali, 1997)
Fear, Paranoia, Suspicion, Desperation.
Six complete strangers with widely varying personalities are involuntarily placed in an endless maze containing deadly traps.
55) Tucker and Dale vs Evil (Eli Craig, 2010)
The perfect love story… with a high body count…
Affable hillbillies Tucker and Dale are on vacation at their dilapidated mountain cabin when they are mistaken for murderers by a group of preppy college students.
54) Up the Yangze (Yung Chang, 2007)
The river that erased her past will write her future.
At the edge of the Yangtze River, not far from the Three Gorges Dam, young men and women take up employment on a cruise ship, where they confront rising waters and a radically changing China.
53) Genèse (Philippe Lesage, 2018)
Three teenagers are shaken up by their first loves in the turmoil of their youth. At a time when others are conforming, they stand their ground and assert their right to love and be free.
52) A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg, 2011)
Based on the true story of Jung, Freud and the patient who came between them.
A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
51) The Reflecting Skin (Philip Ridley, 1990)
Sometimes terrible things happen quite naturally
In the 1950’s, a young boy living with his troublesome family in rural USA fantasizes that a neighboring widow is actually a vampire, responsible for a number of disappearances in the area.
50) Sleeping Giant (Andrew Cividino, 2015)
While spending the summer in cottage country on the shores of Lake Superior, three teens cope with boredom by testing the limits of their experience.
49) Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967)
One of the most unconventional and experimental films ever made, Wavelength is a structural film of a 45-minute long zoom in on a window over a period of a week.
48) The Bitter Ash (Larry Kent, 1963)
The film was controversial at the time because it depicted sexual activity, brief nudity, profanity and drug use. Unable to secure commercial distribution, King exhibited the film by personally undertaking a cross-Canada tour to screen it on university campuses.
47) Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974)
If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl… It’s on TOO TIGHT
During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.
46) Les amours imaginaires (2010, Xavier Dolan)
“Heartbreaker, that’s you.”
The story of three close friends who are involved in a love-triangle.
45) Heavy Metal (Gerald Potterton, John Bruno, John Halas, 1981)
A step beyond science-fiction.
A glowing green orb – which embodies ultimate evil – terrorizes a young girl with an anthology of bizarre and fantastic stories of dark fantasy, eroticism and horror.
44) A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)
Everyone has something to hide.
A mild-mannered man becomes a local hero through an act of violence, which sets off repercussions that will shake his family to its very core in this action thriller.
43) The Wild Hunt (Alexandre Franchi, 2009)
A medieval reenactment game turns into a Shakespearean tragedy when a non-player crashes the event to win back his girlfriend.
42) The Hanging Garden (Thom Fitzgerald, 1997)
It’s hard to go home… ten years after your death.
William, a once obese and depressed adolescent, is able to move past his teenage years when he moves to the city and comes out as being gay. When he returns home though, he can’t cope with his memories.
41) Un crabe dans la tête (2001, André Turpin)
An emotionally immature underwater photographer returns home to an affair with his best friend’s deaf girlfriend and unresolved issues with the wife he left six months before.
40) Curling (Denis Côté, 2010)
On the fringe of society in a remote part of the French-Canadian countryside, the fragile relationship and unusual private life of a father and daughter is jeopardized by dreary, unforeseen circumstances.
39) The Saddest Music in the World (Guy Maddin, 2003)
“If you’re sad, and like beer, I’m your lady.”
A musical of sorts set in Winnipeg during the Great Depression, where a beer baroness organizes a contest to find the saddest music in the world. Musicians from around the world descend on the city to try and win the $25,000 prize.
38) Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)
They don’t call It the curse for nothing
Two death-obsessed sisters, outcasts in their suburban neighborhood, must deal with the tragic consequences when one of them is bitten by a deadly werewolf.
37) Nobody Waved Good-bye (Don Owen, 1964)
A startling film that shows what teenagers feel… but never tell!
A teenage boy rebels against parental authority and must face a harsh reality when he tries to live on his own.
36) Vinyl (Alan Zweig, 2000)
Alan Zweig investigates the wacky world of record collecting.
35) The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003)
When her grandson is kidnapped during the Tour de France, Madame Souza and her beloved pooch Bruno team up with the Belleville Sisters–an aged song-and-dance team from the days of Fred Astaire–to rescue him.
34) Fubar (2002, Michael Dowse)
Headbangers Terry and Dean explore the depths of friendship, and the art and science of drinking beer like a man.
33) The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979)
The Ultimate Experience Of Inner Terror
A man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist’s therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, amidst a series of brutal murders.
32) Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve, 2009)
A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.
31) Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)
A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.
30) Les Ordres (Michel Brault, 1974)
A fact-based account of ordinary citizens who found themselves arrested and imprisoned without charge for weeks during the October Crisis in 1970 Quebec.
29) Deathdream (Bob Clark, 1974)
He was a madman on a orgy of blood curdling terror…
A young soldier killed in Vietnam inexplicably shows up to his family home one night.
28) Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)
Love knows no boundaries
Held captive for 7 years in an enclosed space, a woman and her young son finally gain their freedom, allowing the boy to experience the outside world for the first time.
27) Beyond the Black Rainbow (Panos Cosmatos, 2012)
Beyond Science. Beyond Sanity. Beyond Control.
Despite being under heavy sedation, a young woman tries to make her way out of the Arboria Institute, a secluded, quasifuturistic commune.
26) J’ai tué ma mère (Xavier Dolan, 2009)
A semi-autobiographical story about Hubert as a young homosexual at odds with his mother.
25) Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk, 2001)
The telling of an Inuit legend of an evil spirit causing strife in the community and one warrior’s endurance and battle of its menace.
24) Tout est parfait (2008, Yves-Christian Fournier)
Josh is an ordinary teen living in an ordinary suburb, wedged between the high school, the mine and the skate park. One morning, he finds his friend Thomas’s dead body. Next, he discovers that three more friends also killed themselves, leaving him out of their pact. As the sole survivor, Josh becomes more and more detached from the world around him. Only Mia, his best friend’s girl, can reach him. With more questions than answers, Josh’s is the story of a survivor. It is a modern portrait of today’s teens: invincible yet fragile, clear-thinking yet confused, idealistic yet jaded.
23) Le chat dans le sac (Gilles Groulx, 1964)
A young journalist is unhappy with society and contemplates what he can do about it.
22) Monsieur Lazhar (2011, Philippe Falardeau)
At a Montréal public grade school, an Algerian immigrant is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom. While helping his students deal with their grief, his own recent loss is revealed.
21) Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)
The only thing worse than losing your mind… is finding it again.
A mentally disturbed man takes residence in a halfway house. His mind gradually slips back into the realm created by his illness, where he replays a key part of his childhood.
20) My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
Fact, fantasy and memory are woven seamlessly together in this portrait of film-maker Guy Maddin’s home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
19) Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007)
Every sin leaves a mark.
A Russian teenager living in London who dies during childbirth leaves clues to a midwife in her journal that could tie her child to a rape involving a violent Russian mob family.
18) Hardcore Logo (Bruce McDonald, 1996)
4 guys, 5 nights, 3000 miles… and one last shot!
A group of washed-up Canadian punk rockers get back together for a road trip in memory of a dear friend who was supposedly shot, or so rumors imply. As they travel, they ignore the underlying psychological darkness within each other.
17) Leolo (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1992)
Young Léo Lauzon lives in a Montreal apartment building with his troubled and highly eccentric family, but he spends much of his time in his own imagination. Devising a strange fantasy world where his mother conceived him with an Italian tomato, Léo attempts to cope with his unsettling reality by retreating into his mind, with his meandering thoughts often drifting to his gorgeous neighbor, Bianca.
16) Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)
You can’t escape Yourself!
A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.
15) C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2005)
Growing up in this family, you’d have to be… C.R.A.Z.Y.
A young French-Canadian, growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, struggles to reconcile his emerging homosexuality with his father’s conservative values and his own Catholic beliefs.
14) Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, 2011)
The search began at the opening of their mother’s will.
Twins journey to the Middle East to discover their family history and fulfill their mother’s last wishes.
13) The Barbarian Invasions (Denys Arcand, 2003)
A provocative new comedy about sex, friendship, and all other things that invade our lives.
During his final days, a dying man is reunited with old friends, former lovers, his ex-wife, and his estranged son.
12. Jesus of Montreal (Denys Arcand, 1989)
A group of actors put on an unorthodox, but acclaimed Passion Play which incites the opposition of the Catholic Church while the actors’ lives themselves begin to mirror the Passion itself.
11) Naked Lunch (David Cronenberg, 1991)
Exterminate all rational thought.
After developing an addiction to the substance he uses to kill bugs, an exterminator accidentally kills his wife, and becomes involved in a secret government plot being orchestrated by giant bugs in a port town in North Africa.
10) Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan, 2012)
A drama that charts ten years in a transgender woman’s relationship with her lover.
9) Warrendale (Allain King, 1967)
The Cannes prize winner they dare not show on TV
Chronicles 7-weeks in the lives of 12 emotionally disturbed children and their therapist’s experimental method of treatment at the Toronto-area Warrendale facility.
8) Goin’ Down the Road (Donald Shebib, 1970)
Two friends leave the picturesque yet rural province of Nova Scotia for the nightlife and culture of Toronto. They soon end up wistful and nostalgic about Nova Scotia though after finding out that Toronto isn’t as fun as they’d hoped.
7) The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997)
Sometimes courage comes from the most surprising places.
A bus crash in a small town brings a lawyer to the town to defend the families, but he discovers that everything is not what it seems.
6) The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
Half man. Half insect. Total terror.
A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.
5) Mon oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971)
Set in cold rural Quebec at Christmas time, we follow the coming of age of a young boy and the life of his family which owns the town’s general store and undertaking business.
4) Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996)
Love in the dying moments of the twentieth century.
After getting into a serious car accident, a TV director discovers an underground sub-culture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce to try to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife.
3) Maelström (Denis Villeneuve, 2000)
After plunging her car into a river, a woman encounters a man who helps her come to terms with her life.
2) Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)
Two bodies. Two minds. One soul. Separation can be a terrifying thing.
Twin gynecologists take full advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart, until their relationship begins to deteriorate over a woman.
1) Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1982)
First it controlled her mind, then it destroyed her body… Long live the new flesh!
When he acquires a different kind of show for his station, a sleazy cable-TV programmer begins to see his life and the future of media spin out of control in a terrifying new reality.