Cinematographers all over the world know that Canada is a treasure trove of beautiful and diverse locales. The only problem with filming here is that actors may find themselves upstaged by the scenery. However, there are plenty of filmmakers who have found ways to integrate incredible Canadian landscapes into their movies, making our scenery not just a filmic backdrop, but a star in its own right.
From soaring mountains to seaside towns to northerly tundra, Canada is home to diverse natural sites and diverse stories too. Here are a few films that put the Canadian wilderness front and centre.
If you only had a 10% chance of survival, what would you do? This film makes a pretty compelling argument for spending it taking an epic trip across one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world (Canada, of course). One Week stars real-life Canuck Joshua Jackson as Ben, a schoolteacher who has just been diagnosed with stage-4 cancer. Instead of immediately entering treatment, Ben decides to buy a motorcycle and take a week driving from Toronto to Tofino. His journey brings him into contact with a whole cast of memorable characters (including one played by Gord Downie) and through some of the most incredible landscapes on Earth. This is a film that will remind you not just how lucky you are to be alive, but how lucky you are to have access to some of the most amazing scenery on the planet.
Anne of Green Gables (1985)
There have been several movie and TV adaptations made about P.E.I.’s scrappiest hero, Anne with an “E,” but the 1985 miniseries remains the beloved favourite. The series shows off the quaint charm of small-town P.E.I., which is filled with lush greenery and flowers growing wild, much like the imagination of the series’ protagonist. A fair amount of the series was actually filmed in Ontario, where heritage houses were used to evoke the early 20th century. Anne of Green Gables gives us a glimpse of a lush, welcoming landscape filled with equally warm, welcoming characters. It’s a classic Canadian tale of friendship, adventure, and accidental hair-dyeing.
Hollywood knows it: if you need a jaw-dropping mountain backdrop for your film, you need to head to the Canadian Rockies. The gorgeous mountain landscape in this background is a perfect contrast to the story of repression playing out between Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, who play two ragged cowboys with a secret love. The two spend a good chunk of the film camped out in the rolling foothills of the Rockies, herding sheep and dodging bears. While the film isn’t technically Canadian, director Ang Lee filmed virtually the entire thing in Alberta, a wise decision. It’s a powerful story in powerful surroundings.
Konelīne: Our Land Beautiful
Konelīne has been described as a “visual poem.” This documentary shows us the incredible convergence of land, sea, and sky in northwest British Columbia, and introduces us to the people who live and work there. There are miners digging, hunters exploring, environmentalists standing up against diamond drilling, and First Nations trying to hold onto the stories and languages of the past while also embracing the technologies of the future. Konelīne tells universal stories of humans and the land they live on (and often exploit) through the lens of this unique, and uniquely beautiful, place.
The Shipping News
The Shipping News is a fish-out-of-water story that will fill Newfoundlanders with glee. It features Kevin Spacey as a beaten-down newspaper employee living in New York State who decides to return, with his aunt, to his family’s abandoned home in Newfoundland. He becomes a reporter with the local newspaper, but he also struggles with the elements themselves in this harsh but beautiful seaside town. The performances shine in this painful and funny film, but so does the weatherbeaten shoreline of Newfoundland.