Canadian Films to watch this Thanksgiving

As the autumn leaves begin their colorful descent and a chill enters the air, families across Canada prepare for one of our most beloved traditions – Thanksgiving. This cherished holiday holds a special place in our hearts as a time to come together with loved ones, reflect on what we’re grateful for, and of course, indulge in delicious feasts.

While Thanksgiving makes us think of turkey dinners and gathering around the table with family, it’s also the perfect time to cozy up on the couch and dive into the world of Canadian cinema. What better way to celebrate this holiday than by exploring the diverse stories, cultures, and voices that make up the fabric of our nation’s film industry?

In this post, we’ve curated several Canadian films that are perfect for enhancing your Thanksgiving festivities, whether you’re looking for heartwarming family films, stories that explore Indigenous perspectives, or Canadian classics to feel that familiar sense of home.

The Canadian Film Industry

The story of Canadian cinema is one of perseverance, creativity, and a commitment to amplifying diverse voices. Before jumping into our list of must-see Canadian films for Thanksgiving, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the captivating history of this industry.

From humble beginnings in the early 20th century to now standing tall on the world stage, the journey of Canadian film has been defined by the resilience and vision of our storytellers. They have continuously pushed boundaries and brought exceptional stories to screens. The brilliance of talents like James Cameron, Atom Egoyan, and Xavier Dolan has garnered acclaim at prestigious ceremonies like the Oscars and Cannes.

Supporting homegrown films this Thanksgiving holds special meaning. By choosing Canadian stories this holiday, we celebrate our rich culture and talent. We honor the dedication of filmmakers who have built an industry we can proudly call our own. 

Their efforts to nurture diverse voices have shaped a cinematic landscape as vast and beautiful as this country itself. So as you gather with loved ones this Thanksgiving, let Canadian cinema entertain and inspire you. 

Classic Canadian Thanksgiving films

A standout quality of Canadian film is its remarkable diversity – our stories come from creators of all backgrounds, exploring every facet of human experience. This rich tapestry of perspectives is embodied by the array of Thanksgiving film recommendations we’ve curated.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) 

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a quintessential Canadian coming-of-age story, following a young man pursuing his version of the elusive “Canadian Dream” in Montreal.

Duddy is a magnetic yet controversial character, fueled by ambition and hungry to succeed at all costs. His drive takes him on an entertaining but thought-provoking journey about values, morality, and achieving one’s goals through determination versus integrity.

This classic film beautifully captures the zeitgeist of post-war Canada and the complex dynamics of finding one’s identity as a Canadian outsider. Duddy’s misadventures are funny and heartbreaking and resonate deeply with those who have experienced the profound sense of not entirely fitting in.

Full of charm and wit, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a must-see for understanding the Canadian experience. It reminds us that we can find our place in this mosaic culture through passion, resourcefulness, and a little help from those who love us.

Goin’ Down the Road (1970)

The classic 1970 Canadian road film Goin’ Down the Road captures the restless, optimistic spirit of a generation pursuing their dreams across this vast country. It follows best pals Pete and Joey, who leave behind their small town Nova Scotia lives for the hopeful horizons of Toronto.

Fueled by youthful camaraderie, the likable pair set out on a journey filled with hilarious misadventures and hard truths about making it in the big city. While faced with disappointment and grinding poverty, Pete and Joey’s unbreakable bond and determination to find meaning propels them forward.

At its heart, Goin’ Down the Road is a buddy story that celebrates the power of friendship and chasing possibilities in uncertain times. It beautifully encapsulates the open-road optimism that has defined the Canadian expatriate experience. Millions of us have left home to find opportunity elsewhere while bringing a piece of it along in our hearts.

Contemporary Canadian Thanksgiving Films

As Canadian filmmaking has matured, so too has the diversity of stories being shared through this medium. There are a number of great contemporary films perfect for your Thanksgiving viewing.

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001) 

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is a true cinematic gem that deserves a spot on every must-watch Canadian film list. This 2001 epic was a groundbreaking achievement as the first feature film made entirely in Inuktitut, directed by renowned Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk.

Transporting viewers to a time long ago, the movie artfully translates an Inuit legend passed down through generations into a captivating story on screen. At its heart is the eponymous Atanarjuat, whose turbulent relationship with a rival sparks a dangerous chain of events in their community.

When Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner premiered at Cannes, it took the world by storm. This masterpiece not only won the prestigious Golden Camera award but also claimed six Genies including Best Motion Picture. Remarkably, it surpassed mainstream hits at the box office to become the top-grossing Canadian film of 2002.

Cementing its status as an iconic work of art, Atanarjuat has since been voted the greatest Canadian film ever made. It remains a stunning example of the power of Indigenous storytelling and brilliance of our country’s filmmaking talent. Don’t miss this landmark of Canadian cinema.

Mommy (2014) 

Xavier Dolan’s 2014 drama Mommy is a compelling must-watch that showcases the prodigious talents of this Québécois filmmaker. Dolan wrote, directed, produced, and edited this powerful story of a fiery mother-son relationship pushed to its limits.

Anne Dorval gives a standout performance as the determined mom struggling to rein in her teenage son Steve’s violent outbursts, in hopes of keeping him out of an institution. Revelatory newcomer Antoine Olivier Pilon stars opposite Dorval, with Suzanne Clément completing the talented lead trio.

Mother-son relationships are a hallmark of Dolan’s oeuvre, and Mommy explores their emotional intricacies through a lens both tender and gut-wrenching. His inspiration was sparked by discovering Pilon’s talent and the stirring music of Ludovico Einaudi. Filmed in Québec in an unconventional 1:1 aspect ratio, Mommy transports us into the mother’s desperation and love.

Debuting to acclaim at Cannes, where it won the Jury Prize, Mommy was both a critical smash and box office hit. The film amassed over $13 million worldwide and conquered the Canadian Screen Awards, winning Best Motion Picture among its 9 trophies. A triumph for Dolan and Canadian cinema alike.

Beans (2020) 

Beans is a poignant Canadian drama from 2020 that provides a deeply personal look into the 1990 Oka Crisis. Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer drew from her own experiences as a child during this tumultuous event in Indigenous history.

The story unfolds through the eyes of young Tekehentahkhwa, nicknamed Beans, whose coming-of-age journey is shaped by the Oka Crisis unfolding around her. Deer powerfully captures this pivotal moment through an intimate human lens.

Premiering to acclaim at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, Beans resonated with audiences, earning second runner-up for the coveted People’s Choice Award. It continued generating buzz on the festival circuit.

The film made history in 2021 by claiming the Canadian Screen Award for Best Picture, becoming one of the few Indigenous-made films to earn this prestigious honor. Beans also clinched the John Dunning Best First Feature Film Award, among other accolades.

With emotional authenticity and care, Beans provides a window into a complex moment in Canada’s cultural consciousness. 

Wrapping Up

As we gather with loved ones this Thanksgiving, take the opportunity to celebrate and engage with the diverse voices that make up the mosaic of Canadian cinema. From poignant dramas that capture formative experiences to comedies that highlight our humor, these films showcase a range of talent and captivating stories from across this nation. 

By watching Canadian films together, we can gain new perspectives, reminisce about shared cultural touchstones, and appreciate the determination of our storytellers. The movies on this list are but a sample of the cinematic gems waiting to become part of your new Thanksgiving traditions.

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