August 14, 2022
Illustration by Salini Perera On the display screen, Toronto might be Chicago, New York, Hong

Illustration by Salini Perera

On the display screen, Toronto might be Chicago, New York, Hong Kong, even Kandahar. However in these uncommon alternatives the place Toronto will get to play itself, what picture does the “world-class” metropolis supply to audiences at residence and overseas? What’s, even, a “Toronto film”?

This month, two new movies try to reply that query, in wildly other ways. Pixar’s Turning Crimson casts Toronto as an animated bubblegum-pop paradise, the right playground for a younger woman discovering herself and her heritage. The micro-budget drama Scarborough, in the meantime, affords a uncooked street-level view of the town’s forgotten corners. However each are good excuses to checklist the 20 Greatest Toronto Films Ever Made.

Are the next movies ranked so as of their excellence? Not precisely. As a substitute, take into account this checklist a balancing act between real cinematic artistry and simply how creatively filmmakers depict this unusual metropolis of ours. It’s all fully subjective, too, so be at liberty to yell at me later – although, in true Toronto trend, please accomplish that in essentially the most passive-aggressive method attainable.

20.5 Children within the Corridor: Mind Sweet (1996)

Directed by Kelly Makin

All proper, together with one further movie is a cheat proper off the bat. However I couldn’t not embody Mind Sweet, even when the comedy doesn’t explicitly happen in Toronto (nor any metropolis, actually), and the Children within the Corridor troupe hated making the movie, which was as tortured a manufacturing as this stuff may very well be. Nonetheless, the satire of the pharmaceutical business is filthy sufficient with photographs of Sam the Report Man, RBC Tower and Berczy Park to qualify for this checklist. Plus: Mind Sweet is an intensely humorous experiment that has solely gotten higher with age.

At present unavailable digitally in Canada (which is a scandal!). However in the event you do some looking on YouTube

20. The Stairs (2016)

Directed by Hugh Gibson

I’m not sure that there’s a Toronto movie as empathetic, as deeply human, as Hugh Gibson’s The Stairs. Shot over the course of 5 years, the documentary follows three residents of the stigmatized Regent Park neighbourhood – a neighborhood outreach employee, a former intercourse employee, and a drug addict – as they wrestle on the highway to restoration. Beneficiant and devoid of simple gawking, Gibson’s work is unforgettable.

Streaming on

19. I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987)

Directed by Patricia Rozema

Patricia Rozema’s function debut stays a marvel of off-beat artistry, 35 years after it turned the primary English-language Canadian movie to win an award at Cannes. Specializing in a temp employee (Sheila McCarthy) liable to flights of fantasy, the dramedy options myriad Toronto hallmarks in fantastical methods, reconfiguring our understanding of the town (particularly its skyline). Rozema, McCarthy and co-star Ann-Marie MacDonald would all go on to higher-profile, bigger-budget initiatives, however I’ve Heard the Mermaids stays a nexus level for Canadian cinema.

At present unavailable digitally in Canada, although a brand new 4K restoration will play choose theatres beginning March 11 (

18. Diamond Tongues (2015)

Directed by Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson

Like Kazik Radwanski’s movies (preserve studying), there’s a vivid west-end specificity to Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson’s Diamond Tongues, a cringe comedy that follows an actress (Leah Goldstein) stumbling her approach by Toronto’s arts scene. With a pointy script, a brave efficiency from Goldstein, and music by Damaged Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, Diamond Tongues is a nervy portrait of downtown creatives attempting to interrupt by. All this, plus it boasts a genuinely humorous George Stroumboulopoulos cameo.

Streaming on CBC Gem; obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV, Google Play, Cineplex Retailer

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17. Bollywood/Hollywood (2002)

Directed by Deepa Mehta

Like David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, Deepa Mehta has develop into synonymous with Toronto cinema. But the filmmaker has solely set a handful of her movies right here, and every competes with the opposite for representing that excellent marriage of directorial sensibilities and ineffable Toronto-ness. Which is a great distance of claiming that, whereas I nonetheless have the opening of 2008′s Heaven on Earth seared into my mind (that unbearably unhappy journey from Punjab to the suburbs of Brampton), it’s Mehta’s Bollywood/Hollywood that has the Toronto-movie edge. Joyous, vibrant and unabashedly Toronto, this melting-pot rom-com is a delight.

Streaming on CBC Gem, Crave

16. Proudly owning Mahowny (2003)

Directed by Richard Kwietniowski

The most effective factor about watching Proudly owning Mahowny – an ‘80s-set drama based mostly on the actual story of a CIBC banker who embezzled $10-million to feed his playing behavior – is marvelling on the towering abilities of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The worst factor? Remembering that Hoffman is not with us. Someplace between these extremes is a tense and slick drama that captures Toronto as a neat “just-because” setting: it’s used as a result of it’s the place Brian Molony (”Dan Mahowny” within the movie) occurred to reside, work and steal. Toronto just isn’t a lot a personality as it’s a impartial background participant. In that approach, Proudly owning Mahowny is likely one of the extra fascinating Toronto motion pictures ever made.

Streaming on Crave

15. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)

Directed by Sacha Gervasi

The most effective film ever made about North York (okay, maybe the one film made about North York), Sacha Gervasi’s documentary a few forgotten heavy steel band is a head-banging triumph. As Gervasi follows the ups and downs (principally downs) of guitarist/singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner (not that one, despite the fact that there are robust This Is Spinal Faucet vibes right here), Anvil! delivers a real underdog story. One which additionally acts as a neat chronicle of the town’s Jewish neighborhood. Mazel tov, boychiks.

Obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV

14. The F Phrase (2013)

Directed by Michael Dowse

I’m undecided that the world outdoors of Toronto really appreciates Michael Dowse’s rom-com. First: its nervous U.S. distributor CBS Movies retitled the manufacturing What If, undermining Dowse’s ribald-but-sweet imaginative and prescient. Second: I can’t think about that worldwide audiences get as a lot of a thrill watching Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as they court docket one another across the metropolis, together with an intensely charming second contained in the George Road Diner. Third: Torontonians can sorta boast that we helped make supporting gamers Adam Driver (pre-Ladies/Star Wars/Home of Gucci) and Mackenzie Davis (pre-Halt and Catch Hearth/Terminator/Station Eleven) superstars.

Streaming on Prime Video, Crave; obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV, Google Play, Cineplex Retailer

13. Take This Waltz (2011)

Directed by Sarah Polley

Ignore the truth that characters jog from Parkdale to Kew Seashore. Or that rickshaw drivers can afford to reside in non-basement house houses (I suppose this would possibly’ve been the case within the early aughts). As a substitute focus on the lovingly sensuous Toronto that Sarah Polley renders, a sweltering antidote to the town’s chilly status. Specializing in a love triangle that may make you root for the facility of a scalene, Take This Waltz tempts and challenges, all whereas delivering a summer-set ode to a metropolis written in sweat-stained purple ink.

Streaming on CBC Gem, Crave, Hoopla, Tubi; obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV, Cineplex Retailer

12. How Heavy This Hammer (2015)

Directed by Kazik Radwanski

Over the course of just below a decade, Kazik Radwanski has invented a brand new type of Toronto movie: anxious, intimate portraits of women and men trapped by the unattainable largeness of a metropolis that stretches out in each route. Whereas Radwanski’s 2012 function debut, Tower, and his 2019 art-house hit, Anne at 13,000 ft., are touchstones, Radwanski’s finest Toronto film is How Heavy This Hammer. The character drama follows Erwin (Erwin Van Cotthem), a depressed father of two who appears nearly allergic to the world outdoors his house: a stretch of Bloor Road West that completely encapsulates Toronto’s pull towards gentrification and its cussed resilience to carry onto the dingy, almost forgotten previous.

Obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV, Google Play

11. The Silent Associate (1978)

Directed by Daryl Duke

One of many first movies made throughout Canada’s anything-goes tax-shelter period, The Silent Associate is a wild artifact of Toronto sleaze – and proves that the town’s well mannered status is slightly phoney. As this checklist illustrates, filmmakers have lengthy considered the town as a go-to den of Hitchcockian sin, the type of place the place a psychopath (performed by Christopher Plummer) can come in quest of simple money and simpler prey (on this case, Elliott Gould’s crooked financial institution teller, not dissimilar to Hoffman’s antihero in Proudly owning Mahowny). Though screenwriter Curtis Hanson’s adaptation of Anders Bodelson’s 1969 novel is dated and wildly sexist, the movie nonetheless delivers timelessly low-cost and soiled thrills.

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At present unavailable digitally in Canada (three scandals, and we’ve a development!)

10. Turning Crimson (2022)

Directed by Domee Shi

Animation large Pixar has set movies in San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Sydney and the deepest reaches of outer house. However its most spectacular, hyper-local setting is perhaps the Toronto featured in Domee Shi’s Turning Crimson. From the movie’s opening minutes that includes an especially correct rendition of a TTC streetcar to its climax set contained in the SkyDome (the movie takes place in 2002, pre-Rogers Centre), Shi’s story of a younger woman cursed/blessed with the facility to show right into a purple panda is a big, juicy love letter to the town she grew up in.

Streaming on Disney+ beginning March 11

9. Exotica (1994)

Directed by Atom Egoyan

Whereas 2009′s Chloe is Atom Egoyan’s most Toronto-y movie – even with its extraordinarily confused geography – the film that finest highlights the director’s hometown instincts stays the strip-club drama Exotica. A beguiling take a look at jealousy, loneliness and the town that gives a gentle stream of each, Exotica lingers all these a long time later, just like the scent of a lover you lengthy left (or a lap dance immediately regretted). Curiously, the movie’s legacy will seemingly outlive the final Toronto strip joint, on condition that an more and more condo-dense downtown not has room in its coronary heart for such venues.

Streaming on Criterion Channel; obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV

8. Goin’ Down the Street (1973)

Directed by Don Shebib

Maybe the primary true “Toronto film” (properly, no, scratch that – the actual reply is perhaps Don Owen’s landmark 1964 drama No person Waved Goodbye, which is unofficially No. 21 on this checklist), Don Shebib’s Goin’ Down the Street is a vastly influential work that’s intoxicating, difficult and deeply unhappy. So: a stew of vibes that just about nails the town. Following two Cape Breton fellas (Doug McGrath and Paul Bradley) who come to the Large Smoke to make it massive, Shebib’s movie is a scrappy work of cinéma vérité, a poignant debunker of the rural-to-urban dream, and a historic doc of a metropolis remaking itself in real-time. Plus, the film spawned SCTV’s best-ever sketch, Garth & Gord & Fiona & Alice.

At present unavailable digitally in Canada (properly, now I’m simply mad … Though once more, there may be YouTube … )

7. Impolite (1995)

Directed by Clement Virgo

This yr, filmmaker Clement Virgo is ready to ship one of the crucial anticipated Toronto-set motion pictures in ages: Brother, an adaptation of David Chariandy’s award-winning novel set in Scarborough circa 1991. It’s a time-travel venture of kinds for Virgo, whose personal breakthrough got here at about the identical time with Impolite, a landmark take a look at Black-Canadian lives. Telling three interconnected tales in Regent Park, the place Virgo himself grew up, Impolite tackles racism, homophobia and generational trauma with a daring, live-wire power.

At present unavailable digitally in Canada (although Virgo says some excellent news could also be coming within the subsequent few months …)

6. Enemy (2013)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

If Toronto is a metropolis of neighbourhoods, then Enemy’s Toronto is a metropolis of cerebral freak-outs. That includes doppelgangers, large spiders and girls performing acts of crush-fetishism (look it up), Denis Villeneuve’s movie, launched after (however shot simply earlier than) his Hollywood debut Prisoners, affords a broken-puzzle Toronto that takes a number of viewings to piece collectively. This may also be the one Toronto film to crisscross the town with such devoted element: Jake Gyllenhaal’s historical past professor lives in St. James City, commutes to the College of Toronto’s Scarborough campus (right here referred to as the College of Higher Toronto), and makes pilgrimages to Mississauga’s curvy “Marilyn” apartment towers. Villeneuve’s Toronto is a deeply creepy place to go to, however I positive wouldn’t wish to reside there. Which is as finest a summation on the town’s evolving state that I can provide you with.

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Streaming on Crave, Hoopla; obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Directed by Edgar Wright

A Toronto epic for the Tremendous Nintendo era, Edgar Wright’s hyperactive adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel sequence a few slacker’s up-and-down romance was launched in 2010 to a torrent of native hype … after which underperformed on the field workplace, dashing the daybreak of a brand new Hollywood-Toronto love affair. However time has been sort to Scott Pilgrim, and given the movie’s core parts – O’Malley’s unfettered obsession with Toronto ephemera, a presciently solid group of performers (Canadians Michael Cera, Alison Capsule and Ellen Wong, plus pre-Marvel stars Brie Larson and Chris Evans) – there was little doubt it could be assured cult-canon certification. Wright delivers a Toronto that’s vivid, romantic, and, most difficult of all, enjoyable.

Streaming on Crave; obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV, Google Play

4. Videodrome (1983)

Directed by David Cronenberg

I wrestled lengthy and arduous, Jap Promises-style, with whether or not to place David Cronenberg’s Videodrome forward of Crash or vice versa. The deciding issue: The nice in-joke about Videodrome – that CIVIC-TV president Max Renn (James Woods) is a nasty riff on Citytv maestro Moses Znaimer, who cameos right here – is perhaps misplaced on right this moment’s cord-cutting viewers. In the meantime, Crash’s spin on the town’s roadways will stand lengthy after the concrete falls. Nonetheless, Videodrome’s coronary heart pumps Toronto blood by and thru, with Cronenberg crafting a horrific satire that speaks as a lot to our collective lust for on-screen violence because it does to Toronto’s starvation to develop into one thing greater, stronger, all-consuming. Lengthy reside the brand new Toronto flesh.

Streaming on Crave; obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV, Cineplex Retailer

3. Scarborough (2022)

Directed by Shasha Nakhai and Wealthy Williamson

So many “Toronto motion pictures” seize the quote-unquote quintessential metropolis: sights as a substitute of communities, locations as a substitute of houses. Scarborough is blessedly completely different, providing an intimate view of the Kingston-Galloway neighbourhood, the place three kids and their caregivers wrestle to make it to the subsequent day. Along with screenwriter Catherine Hernandez, who adapts her personal novel, filmmakers Shasha Nakhai and Wealthy Williamson ship a heartbreaking, wrenching and devastating work that can be, in the end, uplifting – a real Toronto story.

Now taking part in in choose Canadian theatres

2. Crash (1996)

Directed by David Cronenberg

The best argument for the preservation of the Gardiner Expressway, David Cronenberg’s masterpiece – not that different, Oscar-crowned Crash – underlines a Toronto that’s crassly seductive and classily soiled, and continues a protracted dialogue that the director has been having with the metropolis because the begin of his profession. Shifting the setting of J.G. Ballard’s 1973 novel in regards to the erotic pull of vehicular destruction from London to Toronto, Cronenberg creates a movie that confronts after which upends perversions, together with expectations of what precisely a Toronto film is perhaps. (There are not any CN Tower pictures, the main target is as a substitute on the town’s labyrinthine highways and the anodyne balconies that look out over them.) It’s half well mannered, half annoyed, totally Toronto. A singular work whose improbability and affect develop with every passing yr already, the movie will lengthy stand as essentially the most audacious Toronto film ever made.

Streaming on Crave; obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV, Google Play, Cineplex Retailer

1. Final Evening (1998)

Directed by Don McKellar

When the final film theatre in Toronto closes its doorways (hopefully not in my lifetime), the ultimate screening can solely be Final Evening. Don McKellar’s end-of-days dramedy is an ode to this excellent, maddening, stunning, messy metropolis in addition to a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency eulogy for a spot, folks and elegance of filmmaking that may sooner or later really feel quaint and bygone, whether it is felt in any respect. Set on the eve of the apocalypse, Final Evening follows a handful of misplaced souls (McKellar’s unhappy sack pressured right into a closing household dinner, Sandra Oh’s stranded spouse in quest of one final bottle of wine, Callum Keith Rennie’s hedonist crossing off a bucket checklist of sexual adventures) as they navigate The Finish as solely self-conscious Torontonians can. If that is the best way that the town ends, then it’s not with a whimper, however a cinematic bang.

Streaming on CBC Gem, Prime Video, Crave; obtainable for lease/buy on Apple TV

Tales they inform: Administrators on their very own personal Toronto

Shasha Nakhai on Scarborough

Early within the drama, uncared for youngster Laura is deserted within the Warden subway station, then rescued by a kindly shopkeeper who affords her a beef patty.

“Warden was our very first day of capturing, and there have been simply 5 of us on the subway platform. We couldn’t afford to shut all of it day and fill it with 200 extras, so we had a small group chasing folks to signal launch varieties in the event that they wandered into the shot,” says Nakhai. “There have been no tripods, no lighting, it was naked bones. The Warden station patties are well-known, too. They’ve their very own Instagram account! It was vital to truly shoot there.”

Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

Kazik Radwanski on How Heavy This Hammer

At one level within the character drama, newly separated father Irwin takes his two younger sons to the rooftop of his house to sadly showcase his exceedingly modest Bloor West hood: “You possibly can see the whole lot from right here! Espresso Time! Ali Baba’s!” Seems the rooftop was the identical one above Radwanski’s personal house.

“It’s this humorous relationship with the town: the splendour of it, but in addition this self-effacing humour,” says the director. “There’s a specificity to Toronto that always will get glossed over in different movies. It’s about discovering the alienation there, or the drama inside one thing quotidian or bizarre.”

Vivien Killilea/Getty Pictures for SCAD

Clement Virgo on Impolite

Impolite opens with a hypnotic scene of an Indigenous man (a younger Michael Greyeyes) dancing, the downtown skyline within the background – a stage-setting juxtaposition of the pure and concrete worlds.

“We shot on high of the outdated CBC constructing off of Shuter Road. I don’t know why I had this picture in my head as a 25-year-old writing the script, however I at all times beloved the concept of the pure and magical merging collectively in a single picture,” remembers Virgo.

“I believe I labored Michael too arduous by way of the dancing, although. He put the whole lot into the primary take, and I beloved it. However as a younger filmmaker, I wasn’t positive I had it within the can, so I needed to go time and again. However he was recreation, a really devoted artist.”

MARTA IWANEK/The Canadian Press

Deepa Mehta on Bollywood/Hollywood

Midway by Bollywood/Hollywood, the movie’s culturally mismatched (or so they appear) romantic leads interact in a Bollywood-inspired dance quantity atop a downtown constructing, with Toronto’s skyline behind them.

“We shot that on Wellington Road, the digicam swirling round, the view of the lakefront within the again. It was nice enjoyable, as a result of I needed one thing mild, one thing Canadian, but in addition about India,” says Mehta. “I had simply obtained shut down with making Water in India, so I got here again to Canada and stated to myself that the subsequent movie must be enjoyable. And it was a breeze! It confirmed Canadian-Indians in a fantastic mild, and broke each preconception. That was vital to me.”

The most effective stealth Toronto motion pictures

Aaron Johnson (as Kick-Ass) and Chloe Moretz (as Hit Lady) star in KICK-ASS.Courtesy of Marv Movies / Lionsgate

After I consider “Toronto motion pictures,” my thoughts immediately goes to the late Bob Saget’s forever-underrated Norm Macdonald automobile Soiled Work, a movie that’s extremely Toronto-y however is unquestionably not set in Toronto.

Different stealth/secret-ish examples: American Psycho (whose filming right here brought on no scarcity of uproar on the time), Imply Ladies, Good Will Looking, Zack Snyder’s Daybreak of the Lifeless, and Resident Evil: Apocalypse (notable for its climax through which Milla Jovovich runs down the facet of Metropolis Corridor’s west tower).

There’s additionally Kick-Ass, which is generally annoying however retains a spot in my coronary heart because of one scene showcasing the Scotiabank Cineplex, which I watched … whereas seated contained in the Scotiabank Cineplex.

The worst Toronto motion pictures ever made

The solid of The Love Guru.Pictures by: George Kraychyk

Don’t assume Canadian politeness will allow you to off the hook, filmmakers. For each Toronto masterpiece, there’s a GTA-sized mess: Little Italy (extra distasteful than dumpster-diving outdoors a Pizza Pizza), The Love Guru (through which Mike Myers ruins hockey), Run This City (which robs Torontonians of the right Rob Ford story that they so richly deserve), and The Sentinel (ultra-bland political conspiracy nonsense) all come to thoughts.

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