7 Best Movies to Watch by Sandra Oh

Staff & contributors

Forgoing the typical catastrophic approach to the apocalypse, writer, star, and director Don McKellar opts for a grounded tone in Last Night, a film about the end of the world. In it, various Torontonians figure out how best to celebrate and mourn their final hours on Earth. While McKellar’s character Patrick originally planned to spend the day alone, he finds himself gravitating to Sandra (Sandra Oh), a stranger who he gets to know in a series of conversations.

Last Night is more like Before Sunrise than The Day After Tomorrow in that way, filled as it is with thought-provoking dialogue and interesting insights into everyday characters. Whether it was intentional or due to the obviously limited budget, the decision to leave out details like why the world is ending and how is a clever one since it allows us to hyperfocus on everyone's psyche and inner workings. There is desperation, longing, and anxiety, but also relief, gratitude, and joy. 

If you’re watching it for the first time, you’ll be delighted to find surprise stars populate this lo-fi production—apart from McKellar and Oh, well-regarded auteurs Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell) and David Cronenberg (Crimes of the Future) also make welcome appearances. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Arsinée Khanjian, Bob Martin, Bruce McDonald, Bryan Renfro, Callum Keith Rennie, Charmion King, Darren O'Donnell, David Cronenberg, Don McKellar, François Girard, Geneviève Bujold, Jackie Burroughs, Jessica Booker, Karen Glave, Kirsten Johnson, Michael McMurtry, Regan Moore, Roberta Maxwell, Robin Gammell, Sandra Oh, Sarah Polley, Tom McCamus, Tracy Wright, Trent McMullen

Director: Don McKellar

Rating: R

Sandra Oh earned her breakout in this warm, candid Canadian indie, which — not uncoincidentally — shares its name with that of a decorative Chinese symbol associated with marriage. The movie’s title is also a reference to 22-year-old Jade Li’s (Oh) struggle to pursue her own ambitions and meet the clashing romantic and professional expectations her disapproving first-generation immigrant parents have for her. As she puts it, “Double happiness is when you make yourself happy and everyone else happy, too.”

An aspiring actress who dreams of playing Blanche DuBois, Jade is instead asked by unimaginative casting directors to adopt a pronounced Chinese accent for tiny bit parts. In essence, she’s typecast everywhere: on set, and at home, where she struggles to play the good daughter who’ll give up acting for a more conventional job and will only marry a man her parents approve of. It’s a jarring existence, but Double Happiness never feels claustrophobic because it gives Jade the freedom to finally be herself via witty, confessional monologues and fantasy sequences. There’s undoubtedly bittersweetness to this portrait of a young woman fighting to be herself on every front, but that it's nevertheless such an irresistibly charming, never-flippant watch is a testament to first-time director Mina Shum and Oh’s already mature talents.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alannah Ong, Callum Keith Rennie, Donald Fong, Frances You, Gene Kiniski, Sandra Oh, Stephen Chang

Director: Mina Shum

The best way to watch this movie is to be completely unprepared; it's a super indie (sub 1 million dollar budget) Canadian thriller that completely wowed critics and audiences, even as it (and we're being honest here) totally freaked them out. So, no spoilers, we can let you know it's an internet thriller with shades of Little Red Riding Hood, hyperrealistic violence, and extremely surprising plot twists. Also, there's less than 9 minutes of music in the entire film, which instead uses creepy ambient noises and breathing, so, yeah, it gets a bit tense.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ellen Page, Elliot Page, G.J. Echternkamp, Odessa Rae, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh

Director: David Slade

Rating: R

Best friends Miles and Jack are off to wine country to celebrate Jack's last week of freedom before he gets married. They drop white lies about themselves, with Miles pretending to be a successful writer and Jack not mentioning his impending wedding, and soon meet two beautiful women whom they spend the rest of their stay with. What sounds like a dreamy bachelor's celebration, however, soon unravels into a messy tangle of tall tales. Miles and Jack contemplate their situation in smart, sad, and silly turns, delivering excellent performances and an overall hard-hitting road movie. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alysia Reiner, Cesar Ramos, Jessica Hecht, Joe Marinelli, M.C. Gainey, Marylouise Burke, Missy Doty, Patrick Gallagher, Paul Giamatti, Peter Dennis, Phil Reeves, Robert Covarrubias, Sandra Oh, Shake Tukhmanyan, Shaun Duke, Stephanie Faracy, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and Miles Teller star in this subtle drama about the state of a couple eight months into dealing with the sudden loss of their son.

The movie is based on a David Lindsay-Abaire play by the same name which won a Pulitzer Prize. It deals with the timeline of grief, and whether such a thing even exists: can the couple attempt to move on after 8 months? What about 8 years, like another couple they meet in a counseling group?

It’s also about how the differences in grief create tensions: the mother wants to donate the clothes and sell the house because she doesn’t want to be reminded of the event. The father wants to hold on the memory instead.

Rabbit Hole, like its source material, is sad, but its realistic approach and excellent performances make it nothing more than a perfect reflection of how complicated life can be.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Eckhart, Ali Marsh, Deidre Goodwin, Derek Blakeney, Dianne Wiest, Giancarlo Esposito, Jay Wilkison, Jennifer Roszell, Jon Tenney, Julie Lauren, Marylouise Burke, Mike Doyle, Miles Teller, Nicole Kidman, Patricia Kalember, Rob Campbell, Roberta Wallach, Salli Saffioti, Sandi Carroll, Sandra Oh, Sara Jane Blazo, Stephen Mailer, Tammy Blanchard, Teresa Kelsey, Ursula Parker, Yetta Gottesman

Director: David Lindsay-Abaire, John Cameron Mitchell

Rating: PG-13

Two months after its premiere in TIFF, Quiz Lady arrived on streaming this November. The comedy film has a sort-of buddy cop dynamic, with an anxiety-ridden, tightly-wound Awkwafina as Anne, and a chaotic Sandra Oh that lets loose with free-spirited Jenny. The film does take its time to get to the good part, and in certain scenes, it feels like it’s torn between the heartfelt and the humorous, but the leads’ acting smooths over some of the awkward writing. Quiz Lady still leads up to a fun watch, though better pacing and writing could have made this charming comedy a classic.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Alan Heitz, Ammie Masterson, Amy Tolsky, Angela Trimbur, Atul Singh, Awkwafina, Betsy Holt, Camrus Johnson, Charles Green, Charlie Talbert, Choppy Guillotte, Christine Lin, Davina Reid, Derek Roberts, Eddy Lee, Holland Taylor, Jane Yubin Kim, Jason Schwartzman, Joe Chrest, Jonathan Park, Jophielle Love, Justiin A. Davis, Larry Weissman, Maria Bamford, Matt Cordova, Ned Yousef, Nicole Marie Appleby, Paul Reubens, Phil LaMarr, Sandra Oh, Shirley Chen, Summer Selby, Tawny Newsome, Tony Hale, Will Ferrell

Director: Jessica Yu

Rating: R

It's not that being similar to another, successful, animated franchise is a bad thing, but The Tiger's Apprentice hurries to practically every plot point without properly establishing its setting, its characters, or their relationships. It all means well, and once you get used to its lower production values, it becomes clear that the film has a distinct visual personality that it makes pretty good use of—especially during its kinetic fight scenes. But too much of the movie ultimately feels like a blueprint that hasn't had the details filled in yet. It becomes difficult to feel anything when the film doesn't give you a chance to sit with any one moment (like, you know, the death of an important character) for too long.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Bowen Yang, Brandon Soo Hoo, Deborah S. Craig, Diana Lee Inosanto, Greta Lee, Henry Golding, Jo Koy, Josh Zuckerman, Leah Lewis, Lucy Liu, Michelle Yeoh, Patrick Gallagher, Poppy Liu, Raman Hui, Ryan Christopher Lee, Sandra Oh, Sherry Cola, Tan Kheng Hua

Director: Raman Hui

Rating: PG