Canada has produced some of the most beautiful, terrifying, and hilarious films, yet many of them fall under the radar. While people know John Candy, Ryan Gosling, and maple syrup, how many can name a Canadian film director? With its strong cinematic history, Canada deserves more credit for its creative output.
From David Cronenberg to Atom Egoyan to Guy Maddin, Canada has quite a few recognizable and well-known directors, many of whom have developed international reputations. The films on this list represent some of the best put out by Canadians, ranging in style, genre, and mood. They've all been critically-acclaimed, many of them recipients of top film-making awards.
10 The True Nature Of Bernadette (1972)
This film by Gilles Carle was submitted as the Canadian entry for the 1972 Academy Awards. Even though it was not selected, The True Nature of Bernadette is considered one of Canada's best films from the 1970s.
The movie follows a Montreal housewife who decides to leave her husband. She finds herself at a commune in Quebec, where she explores love, vegetarianism, and spiritual awakening. This movie encapsulates the vibe of the 1970s, a time when people chose to break free from convention regardless of the consequences.
9 The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
Based on a novel by Russell Banks, The Sweet Hereafter won the Grand Prix at Cannes and received two Academy Award nominations. The movie stars Sarah Polley and Ian Holm, and it focuses on a school bus accident that results in the deaths of multiple children. The after-effects of the accident are explored in the film.
Filmed in British Columbia and Ontario, the movie was inspired by a bus crash on Alton, Texas. Directed by Atom Egoyan, the movie is noted for its medieval score and references to the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
8 Stories We Tell (2012)
Canadian actress Sarah Polley directed this documentary that digs into her family history. Polley makes herself incredibly vulnerable as she unravels the story about how she was the product of an affair between her mother and Montreal producer Harry Gulkin.
Stories We Tell premiered at the 69th Venice International Film Festival, and it was later added to the Toronto International Film Festival's top ten Canadian films of all-time list.
7 I've Heard The Mermaids Singing (1987)
Taken from a line in T.S. Eliot's famous poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," I've Heard The Mermaids Singing was directed by Patricia Rozema.
Sheila McCarty plays Polly, a temp worker who aspires to be a photographer. Filmed on 16mm, spanning from black and white to color and back again, I've Heard The Mermaids Singing is a beautiful rumination on art, love, and impermanence. It also made the Toronto International Film Festival's list of the best Canadian films of all time.
6 Shivers (1975)
This David Cronenberg classic, and the auteur's third feature, focuses on a ferocious parasite that turns its victims into sex maniacs. Treating the parasite's effects like a cross between STDs and possession, Shivers is an insane exploration of body horror. Once infected with the parasite, people turn into zombie-like beings who will not stop until everyone has succumbed.
Shivers helped launched David Cronenberg's career, and he's become synonymous with science fiction and horror. From Videodrome to Cosmopolis, Cronenberg is known by anyone who loves weird and creepy movies.
5 Leolo (1992)
This French-Canadian coming-of-age film follows the trials and tribulations of Leolo. The young boy has an active fantasy life in order to cope with the harshness of his family life.
Considered semi-autobiographical, the movie was shot in Montreal and Siciliy. In the movie, Leolo copes with his burgeoning sexual feelings, developing a crush on his neighbor Bianca. Leolo debuted at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. Unfortunately, it was the last film by Jean-Claude Lazon, who died in a plane crash in 1997.
4 Hard Core Logo (1996)
Canada's version of This is Spinal Tap, Hard Core Logo is a mockumentary directed by Bruce McDonald. Focused on the dissolution of punk rock, the movie follows the trials and tribulations of Hard Core Logo.
The movie follows the reunion of the once-popular band. Now older, the band members butt heads and lose it as they travel across Canada. The film garnered a sequel in 2010, Hard Core Logo 2. The film includes cameos by famous punk rockers like Art Bergmann and Joey Ramone.
3 Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001)
Directed by an Inuit filmmaker and focused on Inuit people, Atanarjuat is an important milestone for Canada's native population. It was the first film ever written, directed, and acted entirely in Inuktitut.
The movie focuses on an Inuit legend passed down through generations of storytelling. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, it won the Camera D'Or and was Canada's top-grossing film for the year. It is also included in the Toronto International Film Festival's list of the best films of all time.
2 The Decline Of The American Empire (1986)
This 1986 French-Canadian comedy directed by Denys Arcand follows a group of University of Montreal socialites through their sexual escapades.
These history department intellectuals engage in a long discussion about their love lives, opening up about topics considered taboo by mainstream culture. They don't hold back as they share their darkest secrets with each other. It won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes and was nominated for an Academy Award. Arcand followed The Decline of the American Empire with two sequels: The Barbarian Invasions and Days of Darkness.
1 My Winnipeg (2007)
Narrated by George Toles, this film was written and directed by Guy Maddin. A well-known installation artist, Maddin is also an accomplished filmmaker.
My Winnipeg is an experimental documentary that combines fiction with history. Employing metanarratives and surrealistic styles, the film delves into Maddin's hometown and his own autobiography. Through his storytelling, the movie mythologizes Maddin's life. By blurring the lines between fact and fiction, Maddin shows that memory distorts history. Tainting the truth is inevitable.