French Canada frequently stars as itself in fantastic movies, but the rest of the world doesn’t always take notice. That’s their loss, though. Here are a few of our favourite movies where French Canada gets to play itself.
La Grande Séduction
In one of the most imaginative comedies out there, the tiny town of Ste-Marie-la-Mauderne in northern Quebec must double its population of 120, find a town doctor, and scrape together a bribe to convince a businessman to build a factory there and get them all jobs. What follows is a jovial farce where small-town residents need to pretend to like cricket, jazz, and fancy foods so their potential doctor will think everyone in town is like him and want to stay. Fun fact: Harrington Harbour, Quebec, looked too nice to play a down-on-its-luck town, so filmmakers had to dirty it up a bit.
Bon Cop, Bad Cop
What do you get when you combine a street-smart detective from Sûreté du Québec with a by-the-book OPP detective? You get one of the most successful films in Canadian history. There are plenty of jokes only a Canadian would get, such as the killer posing in front of a mirror and using the Familiprix tagline, the Sûreté du Québec director named Capitaine LeBoeuf, or the joual swear words. Oh, and there are characters parodying Peter Pocklington, Marcel Aubut, and Gary Bettman, if you need some hockey deep cuts.
There are lots of films about aging, perhaps immature, men pursuing their sporting dreams long after they should’ve hung up their skates, but Les Boys is the best. It’s also criminally underrated beyond Canada, but we digress. This ragtag team of misfits—including an inept doctor, an unemployed hockey trivia buff, a closeted gay lawyer, a smarmy car salesman, and a hunky mechanic—must win a hockey game against a team of ringers from the minor leagues in order to save their friend’s pub. This movie spawned three sequels, so that should tell you something about the chord it struck.
A down-on-his-luck deliveryman in Montreal is feeling anxious about his girlfriend’s pregnancy. That anxiety explodes, though, when he finds out that he’s the father of more than one hundred children thanks to his years of donating sperm and that many of his children have started a class-action lawsuit against the sperm bank to force them to reveal his identity. Equal parts funny and poignant, this film was a runner-up for the People’s Choice Award at TIFF. Also, it’s way better than the American remake.
The Barbarian Invasions
Mainly shot in Montreal, The Barbarian Invasions is technically a sequel—but it can stand on its own. It follows the elderly Rémy as he slowly passes away from cancer and his son, Sébastien, who does not get along with his father but nonetheless does his best to make his father’s final days peaceful and happy. That said, the film is as much about the clash of the Quiet Revolution generation with the more modern one. Rémy and Sébastien don’t quite come to terms with each other, but they do pursue a kind of détente.