I set out to make a list of important Canadian films that have never been properly released (which you can read below after this preamble), but there was one question that kept popping up in mind as I did it, one that I couldn’t help but obsess over every time I watched a great Canadian film like The Rubber Gun (1977), Clear Cut (1991), Sudden Fury (1975), Loyalties (1987), or Siege (1983).

Why the hell don’t we watch these films!? 

The short answer: No one cares.

The long answer: Canadian Cinema has the stigma of being a chore, homework, and medicine all wrapped up in one chunk of school-mandated edutainment. There are fun movies like Cube (1997), Ginger Snaps (2000), and Last Night (1998), or the work of mainstays like Cronenberg, Mcdonald, and Polley, but that’s about it. The Canadian Canon before the 90’s rarely gets talked about beyond out liners – kid’s classics, like The Peanut Butter Solution (1985), or gold plated landmarks like Goin’ Down the Road (1970) 

Canadian Cinema

I understand this is not a new phenomenon. Canada has struggled with its cinematic heritage since the dawn of the moving picture. It’s lived in the shadow of the United States and focused its energies on documentaries in an attempt to legitimize itself, all the while brushing away most narrative work. How can we compete with the rest of the world? Do our films have a distinct point of view that makes them a national cinema? Why are they all so cheap? There’s a reason The Toronto International Film Festival got rid of Canadian Cinema section and spread them around in more popular programs like Special Presentation and Discovery…

“Urgh, that looks so Canadian,” the audience says “I’ll skip it.”

Time changes. Films that seemed like failures are now revealed to be masterworks but are seen by few – perhaps by small audiences at a retrospective, or at TIFF’s wonderful CANADA OPEN VAULT series, or maybe a professor shows it to a small group of students.

That’s about it.

The Big Problem: Canadian Cinema is disappearing.

Loyalties (1987) was nominated for eight Genie Awards and the only way to watch it is a fuzz-filled copy posted on Youtube. It’s not on Netflix, it’s not at the library, and I only heard about it because I was reading a breakdown of the 1987 Genie Awards nominees (Previously known as The Canadian Film Awards. Now: The Canadian Screen Awards) It was on VHS, but most libraries chucked out all their tapes ages ago.

Loyalties is playing at TIFF OPEN VAULT this weekend on 35mm (Dec 9th at 12:30), but if you miss that or don’t live in Toronto, you’re out of luck for…years…maybe decades?

I want to change things. I want Canadian films to be accessible, to be curated, and most importantly of all, to be feel important. 

Why can’t we have a Criterion Collection for Canadian films?

The Winnipeg Film Group recently remastered and released a beautiful version of John Paizs Crimewave (1985), but it doesn’t have the Making-Of that was part of the On Screen! Bravo Series, or a director’s/critical commentary, or the original ending, and it’s only available if you order directly from the school.  The Toronto Public Library has a copy of the monograph written on the film, but for some odd reason, not the film itself.

We can do better. 

I want to make remastered physical releases, with contextualizing bonus features (commentaries, making-of, archival materials) and I want them to be AVAILABLE in libraries, in schools, and online with the context that will underline (beyond the enjoyment of the work) why they are important. The raw materials are all sitting in the Library and Archives of Canada, waiting for us to jump into action.  We’re in the golden age of physical media right now, with the technology at our fingertips to do new scans, put together beautiful Blu-Ray/DVD packages and release them on demand (at a low cost) with a small team doing all the grunt work. 

These films need our help.

All we need is a grant. Or a private investor. Or a monkey paw wish.

Image result for Simpsons Monkey Paw

Okay, maybe not the monkey paw wish. Those always go bad.

If I’ve peaked your interest and you’d like to help, whether you have time, knowledgeable on the subject,  resources at your disposable, or can organize a wicked spreadsheet – send me an e-mail here

In the meantime, go out and watch Canadian films.  Ask your libraries to get DVD copies of the ones they don’t have. Share the ones you enjoy with everyone you know.

Canadian Cinema has a rich and artistically complex history, but if we don’t make it available, we can’t watch it, and if we can’t watch it we can’t talk about it.

And if we don’t talk about it…

It disappears. 

We can’t have a cinematic future if we ignore our past.



Canadian Cinema
Amanita Pestilens (1963)

The first film color film produced in Canada and the first to simultaneously shoot one version in French and one in English. A man finds his suburban dream smashed when he discovers that mushrooms keep appearing on his property and he can’t do a single thing to eradicate them. It played theatrically and only once on CITY-TV. 

Isabel (1968)

A low key ghost-story from director Paul Amondd – most famous for making the first 7-Up Documentary.  The first of a loose thematic trilogy (none of them available beyond grey market digital versions) that stars his wife at the time, Geneviève Bujold. Where’s a box set?

La Vie rêvée (1972)

The first feature-length Canadian narrative film directed by a woman. “Two twenty-something women dream of the ideal man and slowly realize that reality is very different from their fantasies.” – IMDB.

Between Friends (1973)

Arguably Donald Shebib’s (Goin’ Down the Road) best film, its a heist tale starring Michael Parks (Kill Bill) has never seen the light of day since its theatrical debut.

Canadian CInema

Sudden Fury (1975)

A conniving man gets in hot water while trying to murder his wife. The Canadian BLOOD SIMPLE.

The Rubber Gun (1977)

A bunch of crazy artists, charismatically led by Stephen Lack (Scanners), slowly starts to disintegrate under the gaze of a University student writing his thesis paper on the ragtag group. The first film directed by Alan Moyle (Times Square, Empire Records)

Blood and Guts  (1977)

The Rocky-like tale of a bunch of lovable wrestlers who make their living on the road. Directed by Paul Lynch (The original Prom Night)

Metal Messiah (1978)

The trippy first film from director Tibor Takas (The Gate) that plays like a zero-budget rock opera version of Godard’s Alphaville shot on the mean streets of 70’s downtown Toronto

South Pacific, 1942 (A.K.A Torpedoed) (1981)

A Robert Altman-esque tale of a dysfunctional submarine crew in the middle of WWII.

The Wars (1983)

A mega budget (4 million!) dollar adaption of Timothy Findley’s classic novel.

Dancing in the Dark (1986)

Adapted from Joan Barfoot,  Leon Marr’s film tracks the mental degradation of a housewife as she struggles with some terrible secrets.

Paint Cans (1994)

A Canadian American Psycho that tells the story of a morally conflicted Telefilm executive that will do anything to come out on top. Paul Donovan (Siege) wrote and directed it from his own novel



Canadian Cinema

Rip-Off (1971)

Loving and Laughing (1971) 

The Rowdy Man (1972)

Paperback Hero (1973)

Skip Tracer (1977)

Heartaches (1981)

Pouvoir Intime/Blind Trust (1986)

A Winter Tan (1987)

John and the Missus (1987) 

Where The Spirit Lives (1989)

Being at Home with Claude (1993) 

The Suburbanators (1997) 




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I guarantee you’ll find a new favorite film on this page.

If you can find a way to watch it!

It’s a partial list taken from my personal research into Canadian narrative cinema over the years, culled from my notebook where I’d write down any title that caught my interest.  There’s a lot of classics missing (because I had already seen them), Canuxploitation (because most are easily accessible) and I decided to remove any documentaries to keep it short. I’ve also avoided the films of Guy Maddin, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Sarah Polley, Bruce Mcdonald and a handful of other successful filmmakers because their filmography are readily available.

Please contact me here to suggest a title or point out that I’m wrong by sending me an e-mail here

Highlighted in Red – Never released in any physical format.

Highlighted in Yellow – Only available on VHS

Highlighted in Green: Available digitally in a remastered version. Bolded if it’s been released on DVD in an un-remastered version. To my knowledge, none of the remasters have been released on Blu-Ray or DVD.

Bold Titles – Available on barebones DVD (movie only, rarely remastered) 

Bold Underlined Titles – Available on Special Edition DVD. 

Bold Italicized – NFB/ONF title

I’ve put the titles in chronological order because it’s interesting to see what periods are covered and which ones are forgotten. There are only a handful of modern day films, but that’s because I’m saving those for another article. 

I have not identified titles that are available in crummy looking Youtube versions – which are often sourced from TV tapings or VHS – even though it’s often the only way to watch the film. 

Almost everything released by the NFB/ONF is available online in pristine digital versions for Canadians.

You can find a big list of Canadian Films on Wikipedia

Check out my post on THE ULTIMATE LIST OF CANADIAN FILM BOOKS for more information and reference suggestions.


Canadian cinema

On Quebec Cinema: French is my first language, but I was born and have lived my entire life in Ontario, so it’s difficult for me to speak of Quebec’s cultural awareness of their cinematic past.  I do know that the company Elephant (funded by Quebecor) has been doing digital remasters of classic French Canadian films for years now and they are available (most of them with English subs!) on itunes and online here. They’ve remastered 225 films since 2008. 

Total Films in List: 85

Total Available in a Physical Format: 44

In Circulation in the Toronto Public Library System: 21 (denoted by *)

Back to God’s Country (1919)

La petite Aurore, l’enfant martyre/Little Aurore’s Tragedy (1952)

Bloody Brood (1959)

Tit-Coq (1953)

Nobody Waved Goodbye (1962)*

The Drylanders (1963)*

The Bitter Ash (1963)

Le Chat Dans Le Sac/The Cat in the Bag (1964) 

Winter Kept Us Warm (1965)*

The Offering (1966)

The Ernie Game (1967) 

Isabel (1968) 

Waiting for Caroline (1969)

Goin’ Down the Road (1970)*

Red the Half Breed (1970)

Rip-Off (1971)

Loving and Laughing (1971) 

Wedding in White (1972)*

La Vie rêvée/Dream Life(1972)

La Vraie Nature de Bernadette/The True Nature of Bernadette (1972)*

The Rowdy Man (1972)

Paperback Hero (1973)

Canadian Cinema

Between Friends(1973) 

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) 

Sudden Fury (1975)

Les Ordres (1974) 

Bar Salon (1974)

Lies my father told me (1975)*

Gina (1975) 

The Far Shore (1976) 

Partners (1976)

Outrageous! (1977)*

Skip Tracer (1977)

The Rubber Gun (1977)

Blood and Guts  (1977)

J.A Martin Photographer (1977)

Metal Messiah (1978)

In Praise of Older Women (1978)

Le Vieux pays où Rimbaud est mort/The Old Country Where Rimbaud Died (1977) 

Canadian Cinema

A Scream from Silence (1979)  Released by the NFB

Les Bons Debarras/Good Riddance (1980)*

Heartaches (1981)

South Pacific, 1942 (A.K.A Torpedoed) (1981)

Aux Clair de La Lune (1983)

The Wars (1983)

Sonatine (1984) 

La femme de l’hôtel/A Woman in Transit (1984)

Crimewave (1985) 

My American Cousin (1985)* 

The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood (1986)

Dancing in the Dark (1986)

The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood (1986)

Anne Trister (1986)

I heard the Mermaid Sings (1987)*

Un Zoo La Nuit (1987)*

A Winter Tan (1987)

John and the Missus (1987) 

Life Classes (1988)

Jesus of Montreal (1989)*

Cold Comfort (1989) 

Where The Spirit Lives (1989)

The Top of His Head (1989) 

The Company of Strangers (1990)*

Rafale/Blizzard (1991) 

Marriage (1991)*

Clear Cut (1991) 

Being at Home with Claude (1993) 

Zero Patience (1993) 

Deux Actrice/Two Actresses (1993)

Canadian Cinema

I Love a Man in Uniform (1993) 

Paint Cans (1994) 

Soul Survivor (1995)

Rude (1995)*

Hustler White (1996)

The Hanging Garden (1997)* 

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)*

The Suburbanators (1997) 

Revoir Julie (1998) 

2 Seconde (1998)

Rollercoaster (1999)

Mariage (2001)*

Marker (2005) 

Rhymes with Young Ghouls (2013)*

Werewolf (2016) 

Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves (2016)

Across the Line (2015 

Hello Destroyer (2017)

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