20. Hard Core Logo (1996)
Bruce McDonald’s mockumentary finds itself frequently on the lists of Best Canadian Films. This cinematic commentary on the state of punk rock follows a fictional band called Hard Core Logo as they travel around Western Canada on a reunion tour.
The tour is riddled with friction between the two alpha personalities among band members, Joe Dick and Billy Talent, but the film’s satirical view of the “has been” aspects of fame does lend itself to quite a few (slightly uncomfortable) laughs.
Based on the novel written by a Vancouver writer Michael Turner, the film also features cameos by a number of actual punk musicians such as Joey Ramone. In 2010 Bruce McDonald made a follow up to the film called Hard Core Logo II.
19. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001)
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is the very first Canadian feature film made completely in the language of the Inuit people, Inuktitut. Canadian Inuit director Zacharias Kunuk wanted to preserve a part of his dying culture’s storytelling tradition in a cinematic form. He did so by committing an ancient Inuit tale to big screen and filmed almost exclusively with Inuit cast and crew.
Atanarjuat’s tale is one of a love triangle, deception and the perseverance of the human spirit in the harsh Northern conditions. The son of the group’s leader, Oki, has been betrothed to the beautiful Atuat since they were children. However, Atuat is in love with Atanarjuat, better known as The Fast Runner. The two men engage in a traditional form of fighting, which makes for one of the most memorable cinematic moments in the film.
Though Atuat and Atanarjuat marry what ensues is a far cry from “happily ever after”. Their happiness is challenged by deceit and tragedy, leading to Atanarjuat running for his life, barefoot and desperate across the expanse of northern ice. Among numerous awards it garnered, the film also won the Golden Camera at the Cannes Festival in 2001.
18. Dead Ringers (1988)
Very loosely based on a 1975 New York case, David Cronenberg’s tantalizing, intense psychological thriller features Jeremy Irons in the dual of role of twins Beverly and Elliot Mantle. Both gynecologists and experts in infertility, these two men not only share genetic material and their profession but also the women they sleep with.
Until Claire Niveau, an actress and a patient, walks into their clinic and their lives and the fragile balance of their existence is threatened as for the first time. Beverly has come across something/someone he does not want to share with his brother.
What ensues is a gradual disintegration of each brother, individually and of their mutually dependent relationship. Cronenberg offers an in-depth and memorable psychological exploration of the concepts of control, freedom and dependency.
17. Le Confessionnal (1995)
Le Confessionnal was a feature directorial debut for the actor and theater director Rober Lepage. Set in Quebec City during two different time periods, Le Confessionnal is a mystery drama about the search for identity. The first storyline follows the narrator Pierre (Lothaire Bluteau) as he returns home in order to attend his father’s funeral. His return sets him in search of his adopted brother Marc, as well as the search for the true story of Marc’s origins.
Back in 1952 the city has come alive because of the visit by the famous director Alfred Hitchcock who is filming I Confess there. In the same church in which Hitchcock is filming, a young, pregnant and unwed girl is making a confession to a priest.
Lepage seamlessly connects the two time periods and makes a visually elegant and stimulating piece of work by including the scenes from Hitchcock’s fictional cinematic work. This is a story with many themes but the main one is beautifully put in a frequently mentioned quote of the lines delivered by the narrator: “In this city where I was born, the past carries the present like a child on its shoulders”
16. Barney’s Version (2010)
Another fairly successful Canadian film based on a novel by Mordecai Richler, Barney’s Version, is a funny and sentimental story of one man’s quest for love. If that quest happens to lead through a number of eventful marriages so be it.
Barney Panofsky (played by brilliant but frequently underrated Paul Giamatti) is a flawed, bad-mannered, yet surprisingly likable TV show producer who just cannot help himself, whether it comes to his opinions or the women he falls for.
Film’s star-studded cast includes Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, Bruce Greenwood, Scott Speedman and Dustin Hoffman in the role of Barney’s father. It also includes cameos by a few notable Canadian directors such as Denys Arcand, David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan.
15. C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
Almost a decade before he made his two latest cinematic successes “Wild” with Reese Witherspoon and “Dallas Buyers Club” with Matthew McConaughey, Jean-Marc Vallée started working on a screenplay for C.R.A.Z.Y., a French-Canadian film whose success was an early sign of what was awaiting this talented director.
The main character and the film’s narrator, Zachary Beaulieu, is the fourth child in a large, middle class Quebecois family. Zac, a 60s Christmas Day baby, carries around a heavier burden than the one of his birthday – the burden of constant inner struggle with the truth of his sexual identity.
The film is a deeply touching and frequently humorous exploration of what it means to grow up feeling “different” in a world filled with prejudices. The bonus is its fantastic soundtrack filled with music of the 70s and 80s.
14. Eastern Promises (2007)
David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises is much more than just a crime thriller. It’s a cinematic glimpse into the nuances of the Russian underworld in London.
It is a film brimming with blood, violence and nudity, yet it is more defined by its depth and the subtle, understated, stellar performances of its star-studded cast. When midwife Anna Ivanovna’s patient, a teenage Russian prostitute, dies during childbirth, Anna discovers a diary the young girl left behind.
Not understanding the implications of the words written in a foreign language, she finds herself entangled in the world of the Vory v Zakone, a Russian mafia brotherhood. Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), its seemingly charming but ruthless patriarch, and his “on a good day out of control” son Kiril (Vincent Cassel) will stop at nothing to protect their empire.
Caught and torn between the two worlds is their driver and “cleaner” Nikolai (played with impeccable nuances by frequently underrated Viggo Mortensen). One of the film’s most important and memorable scenes is the much talked about steam baths fight scene, which features unlikely nudity and resembles more a series of elegant dance movements rather than an act of violence.
13. Exotica (1994)
Written and directed by Atom Egoyan is a deep, psychological exploration of the (under)world of a “gentleman’s club” and those who inhabit it, as well as a cinematic puzzle waiting to be solved by the viewer. At the center of the film is a fictional club Exotica which bring together a colorful array of characters. And the center of it all is exotic dancer Christina. The club’s DJ and Christina’s ex, Eric, is still hung upon her.
Christina’s regular client Francis cannot stay away from the club. And why does he keep hiring a babysitter, Tracey? Then there is an exotic pet store owner, Thomas, being audited by Francis. And finally the pregnant Exotica club owner Zoe who believes her club is there to help alleviate loneliness of those who gather in it.
Exotica is Egoyan at his best – an in-depth study of the film’s characters, exploring the hidden corners of the human psyche while simultaneously taking the viewer on an intensely engaging ride through the film’s plot.
12. The Red Violin (1998)
Francois Girard’s The Red Violin follows the story of the 300 year long journey of the instrument from the moment of its creation by fictional Italian violin-maker Nicolo Bussoti, across Austria, England, China to its current day destination at an auction house in Montreal, Canada.
Creating an invisible thread between otherwise unconnected people across different time periods and geographical areas, the “red violin” becomes the main character of the movie, attaining a life of its own. The beautiful music score written by the composer John Corigliano earned the movie an Oscar for the Best Original Score.
11. Away from Her (2006)
Based on a short story written by an iconic Canadian author and a Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro, Away from Her is a feature directorial debut of an established Canadian actress Sarah Polley. Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) have been together for almost half a century. Though not perfect, their marriage has been for the most part a happy one, marked by intimacy and closeness.
When Fiona starts experiencing the symptoms of an early onset dementia, in an attempt to exercise control over her life while she still can, she decides to move to a nursing home. Away from Her is a quiet, contemplative observation of the ways in which Alzheimer’s alters even the deepest of connections.