Tuesday, October 25, 2016Clear 8°C

The top 10 people's choice winners of all time at TIFF

Posted by Alexander Huls / August 29, 2014

tiff peoples choiceOne of the top annual awards handed out at the Toronto International Festival is the People's Choice Award (PCA). Chosen by audiences, every year the award represents the film that most captured the hearts and minds of TIFF-goers.

What's remarkable about the award is that over its forty-year history, a large amount of movies picked have gone on to become all-time classics and big Oscar winners. With such a buffet of quality represented, I decided to dive in and pick and rank ten of the best films that have ever walked away with TIFF's coveted People's Choice Award.

Disclaimer: Before your "I can't believe you didn't include..." outrage boils over into the comments section, a brief note: much to my ongoing shame, I have yet to get around to The Big Chill, Roger & Me, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and The Fisher King. I know. I'm the worst. Rest assured I'm seeking professional help to correct these oversights.

Please be sure to share your own top 10 list from the many, many winners in the comments section.

10. The King's Speech (2010)
The world--especially TIFF--loves Colin Firth. So it's no surprise that a movie that makes him vulnerable, sweet, and stuttering King George VI becomes a crowd-pleaser that rode a wave of adoration to a PCA and then onwards to several Oscars.

9. Precious (2009)
TIFF audiences often skew towards rewarding the whimsical, charming, or rousing. Precious might appear to be an anomaly then. But festival goers have no problem with challenging if there's inspirational perseverance--which is definitely the case in this film about the resilient spirit and hope of its central character.

8. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
From its very first screening at TIFF, Silver Linings Playbook was the buzzed about film of 2012 thanks to its quirky, off-beat, feel-good take on the romantic comedy. Having everyone's favorite Oscar winning sweetheart goofball right now, Jennifer Lawrence, doesn't hurt either.

7. Eastern Promises (2007)
Eastern Promises remains David Cronenberg's most accessible effort to date, yet this gritty, violent, always enthralling gangster film is still distinctly Cronenberg. No doubt that's exactly why TIFF audiences embraced it.

6. Whale Rider (2002)
It's a shame that this has become perhaps most forgotten PCA winner on this list. Whale Rider remains a wonderful, compelling coming-of-age story about a young Maori girl that festival goers were dead-on in recognizing.

5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Ang Lee's beautiful, tranquil martial arts dramatic romance received justified love at TIFF in 2000. Love that was critical in helping the movie go on to become a surprise box-office hit and a not-so-surprise award winner.

4. The Decline of the American Empire (1986)
Denys Arcand's film is one of the few Canadian films to win the PCA, and rightfully so. It takes a great talent to make a film that's mostly talking not only successful, but so immensely and enjoyably watchable.

3. Amelie (2001)
Anyone who has seen the whimsical, sugar sweet French film knows the magical power it has over an audience, so it's hardly a surprise it swept festival goers away when it screened at TIFF and made Audrey Tauto a star.

2. The Princess Bride (1987)
Are some of the other films on this list "more important" or better than The Princess Bride? Sure. But none are so damn romantic as this modern fairy tale which has only become more and more beloved as the years have gone by since it wowed TIFF audiences almost thirty years ago.

1. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Some might think it too soon to declare Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave the greatest film to be appointed the People's Choice Award. Yet, considering was an instant masterpiece practically right out of the box, imagine how time will only see it get greater and remain one of the best selections TIFF audiences ever made.

the equalizer movieThanks to the Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington, for sponsoring our coverage of TIFF 2014.



Inigo Montoya / August 29, 2014 at 09:48 am
Sorry, Princess Bride should be #1, prepare to die
Mayor McCokehoover / August 29, 2014 at 10:02 am
Sigh...as much as I love TIFF (and everyone else), I sure do miss the days of Festival of Festivals. Not only was it intimate and fairly inexpensive, but access to filmmakers was unparalleled. We sat in the front row beside Tarrantino and Keitel at the Uptown, no roped off areas, no armies of security guards or headsetted assistants, and afterwards they waded into the crowd to mingle as long as they felt like it.
the hell / August 29, 2014 at 10:31 am
Wait, what..

Made Audrey Tauto a "star"...????

Quick, without Binging the answer...name any other film shes been in since that the general public would know.
Mayor McCokehoover replying to a comment from the hell / August 29, 2014 at 10:40 am
Uh...The DaVinci Code.

Dumbass much?
Proudfood / August 29, 2014 at 11:29 am
Slumdog Millionaire!!
Dave J replying to a comment from Mayor McCokehoover / August 29, 2014 at 07:11 pm
One other recognizable movie does not make her a star. I knew she was in that movie also, but I really had to think about it...and I can't think of anything else. A "star" she is not.
Mookie / August 29, 2014 at 08:33 pm
Stellar list, but also worth noting that Toronto audiences also chose American Beauty and Slumdog Millionaire as the winners in their respective years, because. they know. whaddup.
Kubakuba / August 29, 2014 at 10:59 pm
If you're going to write an article about the Top 10 TIFF winners....WATCH ALL THE FRIGGIN' MOVIES. Or maybe, get a writer who's not just over pee-peeing in his Huggies. This movie moron could have spent maybe 2 days watching ALL the winners before compiling a list, I can't believe that this lazy journalist got the writing about TIFF gig over my application. Rant aside, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for BEST BOY. Missed than one too, Alexander?
Kubakuba / August 29, 2014 at 11:06 pm
One last rant...It's Audrey TAUTOU....THAT would have taken 30 seconds on IMDB to check if you spelled it correctly!!!
Jaja / August 30, 2014 at 08:33 am
Wow someone on this comment board is very bitter about their life
Johnny replying to a comment from Mayor McCokehoover / September 3, 2014 at 05:34 pm
The TIFF you miss was also in a pre-selfie/social-media era. Now a large portion of the public is obsessed with celebrities, sometimes to a dangerous degree (remember that Brangelina debacle a few years ago?). I don't blame them for the security.

Yeah, it was cool when it was lower key, but movies, and especially indie cinema has taken a huge step forward in popularity, thanks in part to great festivals like TIFF.
Other Cities: Montreal