Non-Canadian Canadian Movies

This page is devoted to movies that are NOT Canadian, but feature Canadian characters or settings. Why? Well, other than just for fun, there's a more sober reason. Namely that a lot of Canadian movies and TV shows don't actually admit they're Canadian, pretending instead that their stories and characters are American. The common mantra chanted by these Canadian filmmakers is that they can't set their stories in Canada, because then no one would watch them, and they couldn't get them distributed. So here's an entire section devoted to non-Canadian movies with some sort of significant, on-screen Canadian identity...and some of these were box offices hits! You draw your own conclusions.

If you know of any other movies or TV shows, American, British, but also non-English language, with some sort of significant Canadian on-screen element (a principle character, etc.), e-mail me here. Since these aren't reviews per se, I'm happy to include entries on films and TV series I haven't seen myself.

A - H  (I - Z)
For TV Series click here


An Adventure in Space and Time (UK)

(2013) David Bradley, Jessica Raine, Sacha Dhawan, Brian Cox.....Dramatization about the creation, and early years, of the long running, cult British science fiction series, Doctor Who. A fanboy indulgence, to be sure (scripter Mark Gatiss has had a long association with the program) -- that transcends itself to be a surprisingly entertaining drama, regardless of your interest in Dr. Who. A story about underdogs (the series' producer was the first woman producer at the BBC, the inaugural director was non-white), a period piece about the early 1960s and the vintage days of TV, a character drama (particularly Bradley's strong performance as troubled actor, William Hartnell). Cox plays Sydney Newman, the Canadian BBC executive (and at one point it's mentioned that another seminal Who writer, John Lucarotti, was also brought over from Canada).

The African Queen (USA)

(1951)  Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart.....Classic romantic/comedy/adventure set in Africa during the early part of the first World War (which I erroneously identified as the Second WW, until a friendly e-mailer corrected me). The behind the scenes story is that, in the source novel, Bogart's boat captain character was British. This was crucial to the story (if I recall) 'cause Bogart's country is supposed to be at war, but Hepburn, as an American missionary, isn't. But Bogart couldn't do the accent. So, for the movie, the character was made a Canadian (Canadians having entered the war long before the United States). Canadian filmmakers often insist that a film featuring a Canadian protagonist can't find an audience, but of course this flick is a bona fide classic. Go figure. Trivia note: director John Huston's dad (actor Walter Huston) was Canadian.

Afterglow (USA)

(1997) Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, Lara Flynn Boyle.....Off-beat comedy-drama about two couples and love, relationships, secrets, etc. set in Montreal. Written and directed by Alan Rudolph, what's interesting (and nice) is that the Montreal setting (complete with characters speaking snippets of French -- although intentionally self-consciously) is irrelevant. American director Rudolph just happened to set it in Montreal. Like a lot of Rudolph's films, it's an acquired taste. I found it a bit awkward in its blending of comedy and drama (with Boyle, inparticular, playing it over the top -- and I usually like Boyle). Still, interresting, and Christie received an Oscar nomination.

Agnes of God (USA)

(1985)  Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, Meg Tilly.....Canadian-born director Norman Jewison relocated the original stage-play (set in Boston) to Quebec City -- the only time Jewison used his Hollywood clout to set a movie in Canada (not counting Hurricane, mentioned below). The story concerns a troubled nun (Canadian raised Tilly) accused of murdering her baby and is pretty...surrealistic at times, playing around with religious themes.

Argo (USA)

(2012) Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin....Oscar-winning drama about the CIA's effort to extract American personnel from Iran during the Revolution -- personnel who have found sanctuary at the Canadian embassy. Based on a true story, the subject was previously used for a Canadian TV movie -- Escape from Iran (though with less emphasis on the behind-the-scenes CIA involvement since that was still largely classified at the time). Canadian actor Victor Garber plays real life Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. When the movie was first released, Canadian commentators applauded the film's Canadian references (in one scene, Affleck's American CIA character coaches his crew on the colloquial pronunciation of T'ron'o!) Yet quickly the movie became viewed as a snub of Canada and the butt of jokes for the way it was perceived as American downplaying of Canadian involvement (even Jimmy Carter, president at the time, was quoted as saying "90 percent" of the operation was actually Canadian). Affleck (who directed as well as starred) defended the accuracy of the movie...but its main source was a book written by the man his character was based upon. The movie was also criticized for its stereotyped depiction of Iranians as a kind of monolithic fanatical mob.

Attack on the Iron Coast (UK/USA)

(1968) Lloyd Bridges, Andrew Keir.....WW II (fact-inspired) story about an Allied attack on a major Nazi naval port, with Bridges playing a Canadian commander. Thanks to Will Thomas for mentioning this one.

Auto Focus (USA)

(2002) Greg Kinnear, Willem DaFoe.....Bio-pic about the (lurid) private life of American sitcom star Bob Crane and his still unsolved murder...including a scene involving Crane's appearance on the Canadian afternoon cooking TV show, "Celebrity Cooks", hosted by actor Bruno Gerussi (played here by Canadian actor John Kapelos).

Back to God's Country (USA)

American James Oliver Curwood's novel about the Canadian north was filmed as a Canadian silent movie and subsequently re-filmed a few times by Hollywood (including once with Rock Hudson).

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (USA)

(2002) Antonio Banderas, Lucy Liu.....Action flick inspired by a video game about various rogue American spies shooting it out in Vancouver. Apparently not a lot of story logic, but lots of things blow up real good. Thanks to an e-mailer for suggesting this one.

Barb Wire (USA)

(1996) Pamela Anderson Lee.....Science fiction adventure based on a comic book heroine -- though borrowing its plot from "Casablanca" -- about night club owning/exotic dancing/mercenary (Anderson) who decides to help her ex-lover escape from a fascist USA to freedom in Canada. Other than as the stated ultimate destination, the Canadian element is minor, though sex symbol Anderson is, of course, originally from Canada. Thanks to an e-mailer for suggesting this one.

Barbarians at the Gate (USA)

(1993) James Garner.....Surprisingly entertaining, enthralling comedy-drama about the real life attempt at a leveraged buy-out of the RJR-Nabisco mega-corp by American-based Canadian, F. Ross Johnson (Garner). A delightfully coherent satire of big business mores. Garner's American accent makes him an unlikely Canadian, but otherwise he's good (of course) -- acually, I'm not sure if the movie even acknowledges Johnson's ethnic origins (at least...I'm pretty sure Johnson's Canadian).

The Bourne Identity (USA)

(1988) Richard Chamberlain, Jaclyn Smith.....In this TV mini-series based on a Robert Ludlum espionage-thriller, Chamberlain's an American amnesiac who discovers he has a wealth of aliases and oodles of money and fears he may've been a high-priced assassin. He hooks up with Smith...who plays a Canadian find the truth. Remade in 2002 -- minus the Canadian element that was in this mini-series and the source novel!

The Bridge on the River Kwai (British)

(1957) Alec Guiness, William Holden.....Classic war suspense-drama about P.O.W.s in a Japanese prison camp. It's been a while since I've seen it, but an e-mailer said that one of the characters in the climax is identified as being Canadian.

Bright Young Things (British)

(2004).....Satire of society dilletantes in England during the 1930s. Canadian Dan Aykyroyd plays a Canadian press baron.

The Brotherhood of the Wolf (France)

(2003) ......France's answer to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is this fantasy story about the hunt for a monster wolf in pre-Revolutionary France. Good looking, but it seems like about three different scripts were thrown together, resulting in a confusing mishmash of ideas and concepts, where characters come and go, and themes arise and are dropped, where the characters are supposed to be tracking a monster...and then spend most of the movie doing everything but hunting the wolf; it can be funny...unintentionally. A bit of a misfire, frankly. The main character has just returned from New France (that is, Canada) and his sidekick is a Mohawk Indian.

The Brylcreem Boys (British)

(1996) Bill Campbell.....Apparently during World War II, Ireland was neutral and would intern soldiers of any nation caught on Irish soil. Campbell plays a Canadian pilot, a P.O.W. in Ireland, who gets involved in a romantic rivalry with a fellow, German P.O.W. for a local Irish girl.

A Bullet for Joey (USA)

(1955).....Edward G. Robinson stars in this thriller about Cold War espionage in Montreal. Thanks to Will Thomas for suggesting this one

Cab to Canada (USA)

(1998) Maureen O'Hara.....Story (inspired by fact) of an elderly woman who hires a cab to drive her from California to Canada and of the friendship that evolves. Thanks to an e-mailer for suggesting this one.

Canadian Bacon (USA)

(1995) Alan Alda, Rip Torn, John Candy.....Michael Moore's only non-documentary (to date) is a satire about an American president (Alda) looking for something to boost his popularity, so he declares war on Canada. A few years later, "Wag the Dog" used a similiar theme. Not a Canadian movie, despite the presence of Candy and a cameo by fellow Canadian Dan Aykroyd.

Canadian Pacific (USA)

(1949) Randolph Scott, Jane Wyatt....Western about the building of the Canadian railroad.

The Canadians (USA)

(1961) Robert Ryan, John Dehner.....An unexpected surprise. Though a bit slow-moving, this atmospheric American film tries really hard to be Canadian in more than just title. Taking a page from Canadian history (when Sioux Indians fled into Canada after Little Big Horn) the story concerns a Mountie (Ryan) trying to maintain the peace -- not easy to do when some redneck Americans are hot on the heels of the Sioux. Surprisingly thoughtful, and sympathetic to the Indians (every generation seems to feel they're the first to be sympathetic -- the "Dances With Wolves" crowd forgetting "Little Big Man", etc.). With Ryan as the stereotypical stoic, decent Mountie, and a scene with a Canadian character describing the differences between Canadians and Americans, you'd swear this was written by a Canadian. Even a scene of cowboys in the middle of nowhere, looking up from their campfire to see Ryan looming over them from out of nowhere, plays into Mountie archetypes. This was the first movie written and directed by long-time western director, Burt Kennedy.

Captains of the Clouds (USA)

(1942) James Cagney.....World War II drama about pilots in the Canadian air force. Thanks to an e-mailer for suggesting this one.

Circle of Deception (British)

(1961) Bradford Dillman, Suzy Parker, Harry Andrews.....W.W. II espionage about Canadian soldier Dillman sent behind enemy lines, unaware that his British superiors want him to fail.

Collateral Damage (USA)

(2002) Arnold Schwarzenegger.....Usual, big-budget Arnold actioner, with him as a guy who sets out to get revenge against a Columbian terrorist who killed his family. Apparently John Turturro, in a supporting part, plays a villainous Canadian. Canadian Elias Koteas also appears in the cast.

Cornered (USA)

(1945) Dick Powell.....Suspense film with Powell as a Canadian in Beunos Aires seeking the murderer of his wife. Thanks to a Guestbook signer for mentioning this one.

Corvette K-225 (USA)

(1943) Randolph Scott, James Brown, Ella Raines....War flick about the exploits of a ship in the Canadian navy.

The Country Doctor (USA)

(1936) Jean Hersholt.....Early take on the story of the Dionne Quintuplets (and one assumes, rather fictionalized). Thanks to an e-mailer for reminding me about this one. Canadians themselves tackled the story decades later in the more cynical Million Dollar Babies.

The Curve (USA)

(1997) Matthew Lillard, Keri Russell.....Quirky thriller about American university students who plot to murder their roommate to take advantage of a clause that says if their roomate kills himself, they automatically get a passing grade. Canadian actress Tamara Craig Thomas is in the cast...and actually plays a Canadian. Go figure. Actually, one of the production companies involved is Mount Royal, which sounds like a Canadian company...but the very fact that it sounds Canadian makes me suspect it isn't.

Death Hunt (USA)

(1981) Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson.....Adventure-drama set in northern Canada in 1932, has Bronson playing real life Albert Johnson, the almost superhuman "Mad Trapper", and Marvin as world weary mountie Edgar Millen who reluctantly forms a posse to go after Johnson after he kills a man in self-defense. What's odd about this true story saga is how it's a mix of genuine fact (even some of the more outrageous scenes: like Johnson emerging unscathed, guns blazing, from the wreck of his dynamited cabin) with utter distortions, like Johnson as a misunderstood individualist as opposed to, well, a madman, relocating the story from the North West Territories to the Yukon, even changing Millen's rank. Filmed in Canada with plenty of Canadians in supporting roles, including Scott Hylands in a part inspired by (without actually being) famed Canadian bush pilot "Wop" May. In many respects, it seems like a movie that would've been more at home coming out in the early seventies.

Death Warrant (USA)

(1990) Jean-Claude Van Damme.....Action movie star Van Damme plays a Mountie who goes under cover in a tough prison in this action flick. Thanks to a guy who signed the Guestbook for reminding me about this one. Actually, one movie book listed this as a Canadian movie, but I don't think it is.

Desperate Search (USA)

(1952).....Drama about the search for a couple of kids lost in the Canadian wilderness. Thanks to an e-mailer for suggesting this one.

Deterrence (USA)

(1999) Kevin Pollack, Timothy Hutton......Minamalist thriller starts out intriguing -- a U.S. president is snowed in at a Colorado diner and must deal with a looming nuclear crisis involving Iraq. Maybe intended as a right wing response to past movies like "Fail Safe", or something, but ethics aside, the movie blows all its early tension and interesting ideas with one ludicrous idea after another, culminating in a truly goofy, preposterous ending, where the writer-director performs an intellectual shellgame so that, by the end, he's hoping you've forgotten that the original moral question was whether the president has the right to nuke millions of civilians. A cartoon-version of earlier, thinking man's thrillers where you can't even debate the moral pros and cons since the solution has so little connection to reality! A waitress in the diner is supposed to be French-Canadian (though her accent is pretty bizarre).

The Devil's Brigade (USA)

(1968) William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Vince Edwards.....Yet another World War II flick. Basically a "Dirty Dozen" type film, except it was based (at least somewhat) on fact, about a joint U.S.-Canadian commando group. Robertson played the leader of the Canadians. The Canadians were portrayed as clean-cut, the Americans as rough-and-tumble, but the intentions were sympathetic. Basically it was the same archetypes as later fueled the TV series Due South (including to the point of the Canadians seeming almost superhuman).

Diamonds (USA)

(1999) Kirk Douglas, Dan Aykroyd.....Story of an ex-boxer, recovering from a stroke, who takes a road trip with his estranged son and grandson from Canada through the United States. Trivia note: Aykroyd's Canadian.

Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes (U.K.)

(2000) Ian Richardson.....TV movie pilot to a brief series of mystery TV movies -- mainly fiction, but inspired by the fact that the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle (here played by Robin Laing) had been the assistant to Dr. Joseph Bell (Richardson), a part time police forensics consultant who Doyle himself claimed had been the model for Holmes. In the first of the movies, a pivotal supporting character is from Canada...though the filmmakers themselves seem a bit muddled about the difference between Canada and the United States, making references that are more clearly American than Canadian! The subsequent TV movies were aired under the umbrella title of "Murder Rooms".

The Doomsday Gun (USA)

(1994) Frank Langella, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey.....Langella stars as real-life Canadian weapons designer Dr. Gerald Bull who worked, variously, for the Canadian government, the American CIA, South Africa and Iraq -- for the latter attempting to build a giant super gun -- and his eventual assassination. As always with movies "based on true stories", how accurate it is, particularly in dicey political areas and who really did what, I'm in no position to comment on (particularly since I haven't seen the film!).

Dudley Do-Right (USA)

(1999) Brendan Fraser, Alfred Mollina, Sarah Jessica Parker.....Live-action comedy based on the old cartoon about the dim-witted but noble-hearted Canadian mountie. A curious film, but if you stick with it past the first twenty minutes or so, it's sort of amusing. Actor Fraser is actually part Canadian and I assume the movie was filmed in B.C., because you can recognize a few Canadian actors in bit parts.

The English Patient (USA/British)

(1997)  Ralph Fiennes, Kristen Scott-Thomas, Juliette Binoche, Willem DaFoe, Naveen Andrews.....Reactions seem to run really hot or cold for this hugely successful, but slow-moving adaptation of Canadian Michael Ondaatje's war-time romance (including scoring a few Oscars) set partially at a Canadian field hospital in North Africa. People either love it or utterly loathe it. Apparently Fiennes character was loosely inspired by a real person. Binoche (who I think received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar), DaFoe, Andrews and others play Canadian characters. Canadian actors have bit parts at the hospital including Torri Higginson and Geordie Johnson.

Evil in Clear River (USA)

(1988) Lindsay Wagner, Randy Quaid.....American TV movie inspired by Canadian fact, about a respected, much loved small town Alberta school teacher (Quaid) who one parent (Wagner) learns is teaching anti-Semitism in his class...and of her up-hill fight to get anyone to do anything about it. Similar subject matter feuled the Canadian-made short drama, Oakmount High.

From Russia With Love
see James Bond

La Fidelite (France)

(2000) Sophie Marceau......Story about infidelity revolving around a French reporter who works for a tabloid...the publisher of which is a Canadian press baron. (thanks to someone who signed the Guestbook for this one)

Fiend Without a Face (USA)

(1958) Marshall Thompson.....50's horror thriller about brain-sucking creatures on a Canadian Air Force base. Thanks to a Guestbook signing for this one (actually, I think a couple of people mentioned this).

The Fire Next Time (USA)

(1993) Craig T. Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia.....TV movie about a U.S. couple who trek to Canada after an ecological disaster in the future (presumably not much of the movie takes place in Canada, so much as Canada is their ultimate destination).

The First Time (USA)

(1969) Story about some young American (male) virgins coming to Niagara Falls for a good time and hooking up with Jacqueline Bisset playing a go-go dancer. Thanks to the prolific Will Thomas for suggesting this one.

The Fly (USA)

(1958) Al Hedison (a.k.a. David Hedison), Patricia Owens, Vincent Price,
Return of the Fly (USA)
(1959) Vincent Price, Brett Halsey,
Curse of the Fly (British)
(1965) Brian Donlevy, Carole Gray, George Baker, Burt Kwouk,

Trio of horror-thrillers all set in Montreal, Canada about scientific misadventures involving experiments with teleportation plaguing more than one generation of the Delambre family. In the first, a semi-classic, the scientist is accidentally merged with a house fly. The second isn't as well regarded, but still has its effective moments, chronicling the son's attempts to follow in his dad's footsteps...with equally disastrous results. The final, a British effort, is less appreciated, but there's still some fun in this more complex, gothic-style effort in which there's far more going on than just switching genes with flies. And now for a little insight into Canadian character: The first two movies were American, the third British, and all were set in Canada and, as noted, the first is something of a minor classic. Yet when Canadian director David Cronenberg remade the film in the 1980s, and was even filming it in Canada...he set his version in the United States!!! Sheesh!

Fly Away Home (USA)

(1996) Anna Paquin, Jeff Daniels.....Inspired by the true story of Canadian Bill Lishman who, looking after orphaned Canada Geese, had to actually teach them how to fly (by designing a light-weight aircraft so that he could fly with them). Heavily fictionalized, with the names changed and Paquin added as the inventor's daughter who comes to live with him after her mother's death. But it still takes place in Canada. New Zealand actress Paquin was born in Canada.

The 49th Parallel (British)

(1941) Eric Portman, Laurence Oliver.....Well regarded war flick about a German U-boat coming aground on Canadian shores. Olivier plays a French-Canadian woodsman -- his accent isn't great, but, by golly, he actually tries for a French-Canadian accent, rather than just a standard French-European accent.

French Kiss (USA)

(1995) Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline, Timothy Hutton.....Romantic comedy (and commercial hit) has American Ryan, all set to become a Canadian citizen to marry her Canadian sweetheart Hutton, only to have Hutton dump her and run off to France. Ryan follows, only to hook up with rougish Frenchman Kline to help her win back her beau (but, of course, we know who she's really going to fall for). What's intriguing about this Hollywood film (written by Adam Brooks -- I believe a Canadian) is how unabashed it is about its Canadian element. I mean, an American heroine who's planning to become a Canadian? (Leading to a funny scene with Ryan at the Canadian embassy in France with Canadian actor Michael Riley as an embassy official). And it was a hit...kind of belying the Canadian-held notion that mainstream American and international audiences will run away from anything that has even a whiff of Canadianess about it.

GoldenEye (USA/British)
see James Bond

The Grasshopper (USA)

(1970) Jacqueline Bissett, Jim Brown, Joseph Cotton.....Melodrama in the Jacqueline Susann mold about a B.C. girl (Bissett) who moves to L.A. and encounters various ups and downs...including prostitution! Thanks to Will Thomas for suggesting this.

Grave of the Gunfighter (Italy/Spain)

(1966) George Martin.....Spaghetti western set in Canada. Thanks to someone who signed the Guestbook for suggesting this one.

The Great Jewel Robber (USA)

(1950) David Brian, Marjorie Reynolds.....Drama about a jewel robber (obviously!) based on the real life Canadian-born Gerard Dennis. Thanks to Will Thomas for mentioning this one.

The Happy Time (USA)

(1952) Charles Boyer, Bobby Driscoll.....Well-regarded comedy about an eccentric family and coming of age in 1920s Ottawa, based on a play by Samuel A. Taylor which was based on stories by Robert Fontaine. Thanks to an e-mailer for memtioning this one.

Hope and Glory (UK)

(1987) Sarah Miles.....Critically acclaimed coming of age reminiscence set in England during World War II. A couple of Canadian characters crop up in supporting parts. Thanks to an e-mailer for suggesting this one (the same e-mailer who suggested Happy Time above).

Hotel Rwanda (USA)

(2004) Don Cheadle, Nick Nolte.....Critically acclaimed true story of a hotel concierge in Rwanda who used his influence and connections to protect people during the genocide in that country. Nolte plays a Canadian U.N. general, presumably inspired by real life Romeo Dallaire.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

There have been many, many versions of this Sherlock Holmes story over the years. In the novel, detectives Holmes and Watson help a Canadian heir to an English estate solve the mystery of a family curse. So, in any version that is reasonably faithful to the novel, a pivotal character will be Canadian. Also made as a Canadian movie (see my main listings for that). And see also The Scarlet Claw (on the next page)

The Hurricane (USA)

(2000) Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber.....True story in which Washington stars as American boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter who spent decades in a U.S. prison for a murder he didn't commit, and was eventually exonerated, in part, through the actions of a group of Canadians. Directed by Canadian Norman Jewison. Trivia note: Carter moved to Canada after his release.

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