Pedestrians pass under the brightly lit Mattamy Athletic Centre Ryerson University sign.

Iconic Canadian Films to Prepare You for Your Exchange at Ryerson

One of the most difficult aspects about going on exchange is understanding the new culture you’re going to be living in for the next few months. To better prepare you for this culture shock, we have compiled a list of the must-see Canadian films, ranging from iconic classics to brand new releases, and everything in between. Read on to see which films you should binge before you arrive for your exchange.

One Week (2008)
Starring 90’s heartthrob Joshua Jackson (aka Pacey from Dawson’s Creek), this drama follows Jackson’s Ben Tyler on a motorcycle trip across Canada. The film showcases Canada’s scenic beauty, from Toronto to Vancouver Island, with an all-Canadian soundtrack to set the mood. The film also features a cameo by The Tragically Hip frontman, and true Canadian icon, the late Gord Downie. A truly Canadian film from start to finish, this film is the perfect beginning to your Canadian exploration.

The Shape of Water (2017)
Almost an entirely Canadian production, this Oscar Best Picture winner was filmed in Toronto, and neighbouring city Hamilton, using Canadian talent to bring the merman drama to life. Director Guillermo del Toro often films his movies in and around Toronto (where he now lives), from the Canadian supernatural-horror Mama (2013) [where he served as producer] to the Sci-fi action film Pacific Rim (2013) and the gothic romance Crimson Peak (2015).

Fly Away Home (1996)
A quintessential Canadian family film, Fly Away Home is based on the actual experiences of Canadian Bill Lishman, who trained Canadian Geese to follow his ultralight aircraft. The feel-good film stars a young Anna Paquin and was filmed in Lindsay, Ontario, less than two-hours North-East of Toronto.

Anne of Green Gables (1985)
Perhaps the most iconic Canadian film on this list, the 19th century drama is based on the novel of the same name by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The four-part series showcases the natural beauty of Prince Edward Island. The story follows 13-year-old orphan Anne Shirley as she adapts to life at Green Gables after being adopted by the Cuthbert siblings. An enduring story, the adventures of Anne have been adapted for film and television several times, from her first appearance in the 1919 silent film of the same name, to her most recent portrayal in the 2017 CBC series Anne (also known as Anne with an E).

Ginger Snaps (2000)
This iconic Canadian horror movie follows two outcast sisters as they navigate high school, puberty, and an unfortunate werewolf curse. The hit film spawned two subpar sequels, but the original film is a must-see for horror fans.

The Canadian Slasher: Black Christmas (1974) or My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Sticking with the horror movie theme, these two Canadian slasher films are a must for film buffs and horror fans alike. While both films have been remade by American studios, the original films are considered far superior to their descendants. Black Christmas — filmed in Toronto — follows a group of sorority sisters as they are stalked by a killer hiding in their attic, while My Bloody Valentine focuses on a group of young adults who are tormented by a vengeful killer decked out in mining gear.

Any Cronenberg Flick
Rounding up the horror movie theme is the godfather of Canadian horror, and one of the principal creators of the body horror genre, David Cronenberg. Known for his polarizing films, Cronenberg is a Canadian must. Some of his best known Canadian films are The Fly (1986) starring Jeff Goldblum, the controversial erotic-thriller Crash (1996) (not to be confused the 2006 Oscar Best Picture winner of the same name), and gangster film Eastern Promises (2007) starring Aragorn himself, Viggo Mortensen.

Chloe (2009)
Canadian writer/director/producer Atom Egoyan made the biggest splash of his career with the erotic thriller Chloe. Suspicious that her husband (Liam Neeson) is having an affair, Catherine (Julianne Moore) hires call girl Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to test her husband’s loyalty. Set in Toronto, the film highlights several Toronto mainstays including, Allan Gardens (a Ryerson student favourite), the Royal Ontario Museum (aka the ROM), the Art Gallery of Ontario (aka the AGO), and the CN Tower.

Manufactured Landscapes (2006)
Based on the work of Ryerson Photographic Arts Alumnus Edward Burtynsky, the documentary follows Burtynsky’s trip through landscapes that have been altered by large-scale human activity, such as factories in China and the Three Gorges Dam, the largest dam in the world.

Burtynsky is an active Ryerson alumnus and his work is often on display at the Ryerson Image Centre, and around Toronto. Check the Ryerson Image Centre website for upcoming events.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Written by, and starring, Ryerson Alumna Nia Vardalos, the romantic comedy follows Vardalos’ Toula as she navigates her big, overly involved, Greek family. While the story is set in Chicago, the movie was filmed in Toronto, with the Danforth (aka Greektown), and Ryerson University featured prominently (Toula’s college is actually the Rogers Communication Centre, while Ian’s classroom is in Kerr Hall).

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Based on the Canadian graphic novel of the same name, Scott Pilgrim is a love letter to the city of Toronto. Following titular character Scott (Michael Cera) as he battles his girlfriends’ seven evil exes, the film moves away from the traditional Toronto landmarks – like the CN Tower – and instead highlights often overlooked Toronto mainstays like Pizza Pizza, Second Cup, Casa Loma, and Lee’s Palace (all must visits while you’re in town).

The F Word [aka What If and If You’re Lucky] (2013)
Based on the play Toothpaste and Cigars, the romantic drama follows Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) as they fight their attraction to each other and remain as just friends. Filmed in and around Toronto, the movies features Toronto favourites like George Street Diner and the Scarborough Bluffs (much like the Scott Pilgrim highlights, these are must visits during your time in the 6ix).

BONUS – Mike Myers’ Hollywood franchises Austin Powers (1997-2002) and Wayne’s World (1992-1993)
Possibly the most Canadian-esque American films, the Austin Powers trilogy and the Wayne’s World duology are Canadian musts. Based on a Saturday Night Live sketch, and produced by SNL creator and Canadian comedian Lorne Michaels, Wayne’s World was the big screen debut of Toronto-born comedian Myers. The Austin Powers trilogy cemented Myers’ place in pop culture history, poking fun at the outrageous plots and antics of 1960s spy films – like the James Bond franchise – while giving fans some of the most quotable lines of the 90s.


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