12 Best Movies on CBC Gem in Canada

Updated September 14, 2023 • Staff

CBC Gem is an awesome resource for movie lovers in Canada looking for something new to watch.

There are award-winning Canadian documentaries like There Are No Fakes, the story of First Nations artist Norval Morrisseau. There are also many comedies and dramas, such as the excellent coming-of-age story Giant Little Ones. And there are animated films, TV shows, and much more. 

Below we list our most recommended movies on CBC Gem. 

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12.

Maudie (2016)

This moving biopic is about Maud Lewis, the legendary Canadian painter who suffered from arthritis. In the film, Maud gets away from her controlling family by finding a job as a live-in housekeeper for a local fish peddler. It is there where she begins to paint, before marrying the fish peddler in spite of their different personalities. Sally Hawkins, who plays Lewis, brings undeniable spark and soul to the role, for which she had to undergo an astonishing physical transformation.

Maudie is a beautiful and uncomplicated film that challenges the conventions of marriage and relationship roles, while at the same time celebrating Maud Lewis’ paintings and life’s simple pleasures.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Billy MacLellan, David Feehan, Ethan Hawke, Gabrielle Rose, Greg Malone, Kari Matchett, Kate Ross, Lawrence Barry, Marthe Bernard, Nik Sexton, Sally Hawkins, Zachary Bennett
Director: Aisling Walsh
Rating: PG-13
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11.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)

Like a Wes Anderson movie, The Last Black Man in San Francisco takes artistic risks and nails every one of them. There are many quirky, aesthetically well-studied, and even funny aspects to this moving story.

Jimmie has been maintaining a typical San Francisco Victorian house, regularly painting the windows and watering the plants. One small problem: other people live there and they don’t want him around. It turns out this was once Jimmie’s family house, having been built by his grandfather in 1948, and he misses it deeply.

This story is based on writer Jimmie Fails’ life, as he tried to reclaim his family home in SF. However, it’s not a movie that limits itself to gentrification. It transcends that to being about the universal yearning to find a place to call home.

Our staff rating: 7.6/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Andy Roy, Daewon Song, Danny Glover, Finn Wittrock, Isiain Lalime, Jamal Trulove, Jello Biafra, Jimmie Fails, John Ozuna, Jonathan Majors, Mari Kearney, Mike Epps, Rob Morgan, Thora Birch, Tichina Arnold, Tonya Glanz
Director: Joe Talbot
Rating: R
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10.

Carol (2015)

Watching Carol is like reading a really interesting book while relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. It is one of those movies that you probably heard about during its Oscar run, and have since delayed actually viewing it. Well now that it is on Netflix and other streaming services you have no excuse! It’s refreshingly unique, incredibly charming, and features a kind of story that hasn’t been told very often – a love story between two women. Both characters played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara attempt to live true to their own principles while facing unjust yet severe backlash from society. If you are open to it, the love story in this will stay with you forever.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Amy Warner, Anita Farmer Bergman, Carrie Brownstein, Cate Blanchett, Chelsea Carnder, Christine Dye, Cory Michael Smith, Deb G. Girdler, Giedre Bond, Greg Violand, Jake Lacy, John Magaro, Ken Strunk, Kevin Crowley, Kk Heim, Kyle Chandler, Michael Joseph Thomas Ward, Nik Pajic, Rooney Mara, Ryan Wesley Gilreath, Sadie Heim, Sarah Paulson, Taylor Marie Frey, Todd Haynes, William Cross
Director: Todd Haynes
Rating: R
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9.

Giant Little Ones (2018)

An insightful and thoughtful Canadian coming-of-age drama, Giant Little Ones is about two seventeen-year-old best friends whose relationship changes after an incident one night. Spanning a quick 90 minutes, it manages to tell its story quickly and honestly, as it touches on themes of sexual identity not only for the teenagers but for their parents as well. And it has a great message about tolerance. It's a lovely and wholesome movie. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Carson MacCormac, Cory Lee, Darren Mann, Evan Marsh, Hailey Kittle, Jeff Clarke, Josh Wiggins, Kiana Madeira, Kyle MacLachlan, Maria Bello, Niamh Wilson, Olivia Scriven, Peter Outerbridge, Stephanie Moore, Taylor Hickson
Director: Keith Behrman
Rating: R
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8.

A House Made of Splinters (2022)

Somewhere near the border between Russia and Ukraine lies a shelter for kids coming from unstable homes. Their parents, either alcoholics or abusers, have nine months to prove that they’re fit to look after their children; otherwise, the kids are sent straight to the orphanage, with no chance of a goodbye. A House Made of Splinters is a documentary that quietly and closely follows the shelter’s occupants amid growing joys and pains, not to mention the ever-present danger of war.

Perhaps one of the most striking things about A House Made of Splinters is how attuned it is to the kids. It serves as a reminder of their immense sensitivity and observational skills (more than once, you’ll hear a child assess their home situation in the calmest of manners), as well as their clever ingenuity (there’s a lot of playing going on despite everything, which is heartwarming to watch.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Documentary, Drama
Director: Simon Lereng Wilmont
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7.

The Breadwinner (2017)

The Breadwinner is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. The animation is magical as it seamlessly jumps back and forth between Parvana's stark reality and richly detailed fantasy. It's a wonder to just look at, but it's a tapestry brought to life by the story at the center of it. 

Set in 2001, at the height of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the film follows Parvana, a young girl driven to desperate measures to keep her family alive. Because of the violent restrictions imposed on women (they’re not allowed to buy, sell, study, or practically do anything without a male chaperone), Parvana disguises herself as a boy so she can work for a living. The more she gets away with it, the bolder her attempts get. It's a story of survival and standing up, but it's also a sobering reminder of what fundamentalism is capable of doing (or more accurately, ruining). As long as cruel systems like this are taking place in the world, Breadwinner remains essential viewing for all.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Animation, Drama, War
Actor: Ali Badshah, Ali Hassan, Kawa Ada, Laara Sadiq, Noorin Gulamgaus, Nora Twomey, Saara Chaudry, Shaista Latif, Soma Bhatia, Soma Chhaya
Director: Nora Twomey
Rating: PG-13
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6.

Still Mine (2012)

A slice-of-life true-story-based film on growing old and in love. When on his own land, Craig Morrison (played by James Cromwell) starts building a more convenient house for his ailing wife Irene (Geneviève Bujold), he is faced with crippling bureaucracy. The state gives him the choice between stopping the construction or going to jail, while he is witnessing his wife's health deteriorating even further. The act of going against the system brings out both how beautiful his relationship with his wife is, as well as his own resilience in this moving, insightful drama.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Barbara Gordon, Campbell Scott, Chris Farquhar, Chuck Shamata, Geneviève Bujold, George R. Robertson, James Cromwell, Joe Pingue, Jonathan Potts, Julie Stewart, Kiva Mary Golden Carlson, Lewis Hodgson, Ray Landry, Rick Roberts, Ronan Rees, Zachary Bennett
Director: Michael McGowan
Rating: PG-13
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5.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2019)

Barry Jenkins’ follow up to his award-winning film Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk is a highly compelling tale that explores the extent of the emotional consequences of racial injustices through the lens of a young couple torn apart by the judicial system. Staying faithful to James Baldwin’s original novel while adopting Jenkins’ signature melancholic style, it fails to reach the brilliance of Moonlight, but still stands strong enough on its own and successfully tugs on your heartstrings.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Aunjanue Ellis, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Brian Tyree Henry, Colman Domingo, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Dominique Thorne, Ebony Obsidian, Ed Skrein, Emily Rios, Ethan Barrett, Finn Wittrock, KiKi Layne, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Michael Beach, Milanni Mines, Pedro Pascal, Regina King, Stephan James, Teyonah Parris
Director: Barry Jenkins
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4.

Goon (2012)

Goon is funny, violent, and sweet as hell. You’ll be surprised by how nasty it is but at the same time you won’t care. What you will want to do, on the other hand, is rip through the screen, and hug the main character. It is also a great example of a feel-good movie that isn’t solely focused on being a feel-good movie. It’s also great love story, with all its absurdities and highly emotional load. The story shines a light on the players who join hockey teams not for the game but for the fights that may erupt. They are called goons. Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is a new goon and this movie is his journey towards success both on the ice and off.

Our staff rating: 8.7/10
Genre: Comedy
Actor: Ali Hassan, Alison Pill, Amy Groening, Andrew Degryse, Aron Tager, Brandy Jaques, Christian Fraser, Darren Ross, David Paetkau, Don Carmody, Ellen David, Eugene Levy, Gabriel Daniels, George Tchortov, Jacob Klick, Jay Baruchel, Jeff Strome, Jeff Wahl, John Paul Tremblay, Jonathan Cherry, Kalyn Bomback, Karl Graboshas, Ken St. Mars, Kim Coates, Lance Cartwright, Larry Woo, Liev Schreiber, Lorrie Papadopoulos, Marc-André Grondin, Mark Dann, Michael Dowse, Mike Bell, Mitchell Kummen, Nicholas Campbell, Richard Clarkin, Ricky Mabe, Robb Wells, Sarah Scheffer, Sean Skene, Seann William Scott, Sidney Leeder, Terry Ray, Tom Anniko
Director: Michael Dowse
Rating: R
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3.

The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

Written and directed by the filmmaker Sylvain Chomet, this 2003 French film is, in the strictest sense, an animated comedy film. It's the one that introduced Chomet's name to an international audience. Triplets' visual style, however, it is unlike anything you have ever seen. Focusing on ugliness and imperfection, the characters are deliciously exaggerated, while the animation steers clear of the naturalist hyperrealism, cutesiness, or porcelain perfection of other animated movies. That doesn't mean it's not incredibly detailed. Without much of a dialogue, it tells the story of a young orphan boy, who loves to watch the vivacious jazz of the The Triplets of Belleville trio, and grows up to become a Tour de France racer. He gets kidnapped by sinister characters (the French mafia?) and the beloved jazz trio of his childhood and others come to his rescue. While this film is not for the causal movie watcher, it is a fiercely original piece of hand-drawn animation and a strange, surreal experience.

Our staff rating: 8.9/10
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family
Actor: Beatrice Bonifassi, Betty Bonifassi, Charles Linton, Jean-Claude Donda, Lina Boudreau, Michel Robin, Michèle Caucheteux, Suzy Falk
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Rating: PG-13
Go to Cbcgem Canada

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