I was entertaining an American friend recently and the conversation turned to our respective media cultures.
We talked about our recent international Netflix bingeing – I told him about Trapped, a Fargo-esque small town crime thriller from Iceland, while he told me about a gorgeous Scottish detective show called Shetland.
Netflix is truly breaking barriers and removing borders. The original and international content shared on the network brings a variety of stories from around the world helping us all to learn more about each other – provided we’re willing to read some subtitles.
Then my friend asked me to name some popular Canadian films and television programs that he could watch on Netflix when he returned home. Is it bad I immediately started telling him stories about The Beachcombers? My mind went blank, I couldn’t effectively articulate the best of our country’s entertainment off the top of my head.
So I went digging.
Netflix has a Canadian content section highlighting documentaries, indie films, dramas, comedies, and tv series. Here are some from that list, as well as others I think help celebrate and define Canada on Netflix.
This Oscar nominated Canadian documentary was produced to mark Canada’s centennial with helicopter footage from all 10 provinces. It’s 50 years old, it’s a little cheesy, but if you want to compare then with now, it’s not a bad scan to see how the places you recognize in Canada have changed.
Canadian TV on Netflix
Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara in Schitt’s Creek brings some of our country’s biggest comedy stars together. Heartland celebrates rural prairie life in Alberta. Trailer Park Boys are all satire, but some themes about life in the Maritimes makes the grade.
The long running Degrassi series appears on Netflix now as a rebooted Netflix Original. It tackles teen issues with frank talk and a social responsibility that would resonate in Canadian city life.
Probably the most purely Canadian story in the Netflix Canada collection (not to dismiss the importance of Anne) is The Book of Negroes. The program tells the story of some of the 3,000 Black Loyalists, the African-American slaves who escaped to the British lines during the American Revolution, who evacuated to points in Nova Scotia as free people of colour.
Would you consider the X-Files a Canadian tv series? I know many actors in Vancouver who cut their teeth on an episode or three back in the day. William Davis, the show’s villainous Cigarette Smoking Man, is a Canadian actor, as are The Lone Gunmen trio. The drama of the series was certainly heightened by the gloomy coastal rain forest. I think the early seasons count as Canadian content.
Canadian Movies on Netflix
Now what is a “Canadian movie?” Is it a movie about Canada? Is it one starring Canadians made in Canada? Is it one directed by Canadians, written by Canadians or produced by Canadians?
Leo DiCaprio may have won an Oscar for his role in The Revenant, but the real star of the film is the landscape of Kananaskis Country in Alberta. The cinematography in the movie soars using only natural light. Scenes in the Rocky Mountains and BC rain forests top anything Leo mustered.
What about Deadpool? Ryan Reynolds is a good Canadian kid and used to live in Vancouver, just across the water from that epic crash scene that was shot on the Georgia Street viaduct. Canadian crews made that movie incredible, does it count as Canadian?
Where would you put Titanic on the list of best Canadian films? It has the highest box office gross ever for a film and was directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by Canadian James Cameron. The present day scenes on the research vessel were shot in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Does that make it Canadian?
If you want some Canadian stories to count as truly Canadian films, you could turn to something like Goon. Written and produced by Jay Baruchel, this sports comedy filmed in Manitoba takes a look at the blood sport that is minor pro hockey.
Quebec, with a language barrier that helps insulate their culture, is probably the best place to look for Canadian stories and Bon Cop Bad Cop is one of the biggest purely Canadian films (story, writers, actors, production) of all time.
When a dead body is discovered at the Ontario-Quebec border, two cops are forced to work together to solve the crime. Think Lethal Weapon with more bilingualism and hockey references.
Sometimes Canadian movies aren’t Canadian movies. Eddie The Eagle is about the quirky British ski jumper who gained worldwide fame at the Calgary Olympics, except the movie was made in Germany. The other Calgary Olympic movie, Cool Runnings, is a little more authentic since it was shot in Canada and stars John Candy, but it’s still a Jamaican story.
On the animation side, The Nut Job doesn’t have much to do about Canada, but it is a Canadian production from Toonbox Entertainment. Pirate’s Passage features the voices of Carrie-Ann Moss, Donald Sutherland, and Megan Follows in a story about a Nova Scotia schoolboy.
No matter how you define it, Netflix is filled with Canadian stories, Canadian actors, Canadian writers, Canadian crews, and Canadian settings. You can get Netflix easy through TELUS Optik TV on channel 422, no extra boxes or wires required!
Disclosure: I’m a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and #TeamTelus.