11 Great Canadian Films and TV Shows Streaming Now
Check out our top picks of amazing series and movies
In 2017, the musical Come From Away swept Broadway audiences up on a sea of Canadian warmth and good humor. An unexpected and immediate hit, it's the story of how the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland, came together to help 7,000 airline passengers who were stranded in the town on September 11, 2001, when 38 planes were diverted and landed there. The Tony Award–winning production is still running — performances resume Sept. 21 — but if you can't make it to New York, you're in luck: A filmed version will be released on Apple TV+ on Sept. 10, so you can stream the feel-good musical from your own home. Inspired by Come From Away? Here are 11 more movies and TV shows from north of the border that offer a window into Canadian art, culture, history and society.
Kim's Convenience (2016-21)
The Setting: Toronto
The Plot: Based on a play by Ins Choi, this sweet series follows a Korean-Canadian family that runs a convenience store in Toronto's Moss Park neighborhood. The setup and intergenerational squabbles feel as comfortingly retro as a ‘70s sitcom, but New York Times writer Priya Krishna has also praised the show for the revolutionary way it normalizes Korean culture and cuisine. Marvel fans may recognize Simu Liu, who plays son Jung Kim in the show, from his starring role in this year's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
The Most Canadian Part: Toronto is often cited as the world's most multicultural city (51.5 percent of residents self-identified as ethnic minorities in the 2016 census), and this show introduces audiences to one of those immigrant communities.
Watch It: Kim's Convenience, on Netflix
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001)
The Setting: Igloolik, Nunavut
The Plot: Inspired by an Inuit legend passed down through oral tradition, this nearly three-hour epic is the first film to be shot in Inuktitut, one of Canada's Inuit languages. The movie is about love, betrayal and vengeance in a tight-knit community a thousand years ago. But beyond the juicy plot points, it offers an opportunity to see the ingenious ways these people forage, fish, hunt, make clothing, live in igloos and use sled dogs in the remote and hostile Arctic wilderness. At the Cannes Film Festival, the film received the Caméra d'Or for best first feature film.
The Most Canadian Part: In 2015, critics and filmmakers at the Toronto International Film Festival named Atanarjuat the best Canadian movie of all time.
Watch It: The Fast Runner, on Apple TV ($3.99)
Indian Horse (2017)
The Setting: White River and Toronto, Ontario
The Plot: Canadian cinema is unsurprisingly filled with hockey movies (Goon, The Rocket, Les Boys), but few have as much to say about bigger ideas than this 2017 drama, which shed a light on the shocking abuses of the Indian residential school system. Run by Canada's Department of Indian Affairs, it was used to forcefully assimilate Indigenous children at mandatory, church-run boarding schools, and the last one didn't shut down until 1997. Based on a 2012 novel by Ojibwe author Richard Wagamese, the film tells the story of Saul Indian Horse, who survives the residential school system and later becomes a professional hockey player.
The Most Canadian Part: The book and movie are being taught in many Canadian schools as part of the nation's reckoning with this painful history.
Watch It: Indian Horse, on Netflix
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Anne With an E (2017-19)
The Setting: The fictional town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island
The Plot: Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic 1908 children's novel Anne of Green Gables has yielded a century's worth of adaptations, including TV shows, movies, radio productions, plays, musicals and even a Japanese animated series. This most recent version — which won the Canadian Screen Award for best drama in 2017 and 2018 — still follows the story of the imaginative and chatty orphan, Anne Shirley, who is adopted by an elderly brother and sister in small-town Prince Edward Island, but it's not afraid to tackle big ideas like trauma, gender inequality and the pressure to conform.
The Most Canadian Part: The theme song is performed by The Tragically Hip, the best-selling Canadian band from 1996 to 2016, according to Nielsen Music Canada.
Watch It: Anne With an E, on Netflix
Slings and Arrows (2003-06)
The Setting: The fictional town of New Burbage
The Plot: Ontario's real-life Stratford Festival, which has been going strong since 1953, is the inspiration for this high-minded dramedy series, co-created by Kids in the Hall and Superstore star Mark McKinney (62), playwright Susan Coyne (63) and comedian Bob Martin (58). Each of the show's three seasons traces the production of a different Shakespearean play — Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear — and the Bard's themes often seep into the personal lives of the festival's cast and crew.
The Most Canadian Part: The ensemble was a proving ground for future Hollywood stars, including Spotlight Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams and Luke Kirby, who won an Emmy for playing Lenny Bruce in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Watch It: Slings and Arrows, available to stream on Amazon Prime with subscriptions to Acorn TV ($5.99/month), Sundance Now ($6.99/month), or AMC+ ($8.99/month)
One Week (2008)
The Setting: All across the Canadian wilderness, from Toronto to Vancouver Island
The Plot: When elementary school teacher Ben Tyler (played by The Affair star Joshua Jackson) is diagnosed with stage-four cancer, he decides to buy a motorcycle and hit the road after he sees the message “Go West Young Man” printed on a Tim Hortons coffee cup. Along the way, he meets a life-affirming cast of characters, including a man who had recovered from his own bout with cancer — played by Gord Downie, the lead singer of The Tragically Hip, who sadly died of glioblastoma in 2017. Tyler rides a horse in rural Saskatchewan, hikes in Banff National Park, and surfs with humpback whales in the Pacific.
The Most Canadian Part: The soundtrack is made up entirely of Canadian bands and singers.
Watch It: One Week, on Amazon Prime Video
Schitt's Creek (2015-20)
The Setting: The fictional town of Schitt's Creek
The Plot: If you hadn't heard of this cult-turned-mainstream sitcom before the 2020 Emmys, chances are you know about it now: It set a record by sweeping every comedy category. Eugene Levy (74) and Catherine O'Hara (67) star as Johnny and Moira Rose, who lose their family fortune and are forced to move into a motel in Schitt's Creek, a small town that Johnny bought in the 1990s as a gag gift. Along for the ride are their spoiled adult children, David (Eugene Levy's son and show co-creator Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy).
The Most Canadian Part: Levy and O'Hara first started working together on SCTV, Canada's answer to Saturday Night Live and a launching pad for nearly every Canadian comedian you love, including John Candy, Rick Moranis (68) and Andrea Martin (74).
Watch It: Schitt's Creek, on Netflix
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Little Mosque on the Prairie (2007-12)
The Setting: The fictional town of Mercy, Saskatchewan
The Plot: Think you know all there is to know about the prairie provinces? They might not be as homogenous as you assumed! This six-season sitcom follows imam Amaar Rashid (Zaib Shaikh), who runs a mosque out of the rented parish hall of an Anglican church in the middle of Saskatchewan. Expect culture clashes of all kinds — progressive vs. conservative Muslims, Christians vs. Muslims, immigrants vs. locals vs. transplants from the big city — though the topics are always approached with a gentle and warmhearted tone.
The Most Canadian Part: A Gallup poll in 2019 ranked Canada as the most accepting nation for migrants, like the ones who populate the show's small town.
Watch It: Little Mosque on the Prairie, on IMDb TV on Amazon Prime Video
The Grand Seduction (2013)
The Setting: The fictional town of Tickle Head, Newfoundland and Labrador
The Plot: A remake of a 2003 French-language film set in rural Quebec, this English adaptation moves the action to a tiny fishing village in Newfoundland where everyone is on welfare and there are few jobs. A petrochemical company considers building a factory in Tickle Head, but there's a catch: The town must have a resident doctor. Unemployed fisherman Murray French (Brendan Gleeson, 66) sets in motion a plan by which the 120 residents must work together to “seduce” a big-city plastic surgeon, Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch from Friday Night Lights), into sticking around.
The Most Canadian Part: Gleeson, who's from Ireland, said he was worried about mastering the Newfoundland accent, but he was in luck: The super-unique local dialect draws heavily from influences in the British Isles.
Mon Oncle Antoine (1971)
The Setting: The fictional town of Black Hawk, Quebec
The Plot: Often cited as the best Canadian film ever made, this sensitive and naturalistic coming-of-age drama is set over one Christmas in the 1940s in a Quebec asbestos-mining town. While the plot is mostly focused on the small-scale human dramas of the family that owns the village's general store and undertaking business, it also hints at the major, real-world political changes that were about to sweep through the province during the 1949 Asbestos Strike and the subsequent Quiet Revolution.
The Most Canadian Part: There are quite a few nods to the perpetual tensions between French- and English-speakers, such as when the local teens throw snowballs at the English-speaking mine owners.
The Setting: Marshalltown, Nova Scotia
The Plot: A joint production by Ireland and Canada, this biopic is a loving ode to Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis (1903-70), who is played by two-time Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water). Suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, Maud takes a job as a housekeeper for fish peddler Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke, 50) and moves into his 10-foot-by-12-foot cottage. To brighten up the place, she begins painting the walls with cheerful flowers and birds, and she soon becomes an unlikely art hero, earning her the nickname “the Grandma Moses of Canada.”
The Most Canadian Part: Maritime Canadians have a real soft spot for Maud, and her restored cottage can now be found inside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax.
Watch It: Maudie, on Starz, Amazon Prime Video
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines' Hemispheres magazine, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.