toronto film directors

The top 10 film directors from Toronto

The top film directors from Toronto prove this city is rich in cinematic excellence in more ways than just TIFF. From mainstream movies to indie classics, the cinematic contributions made by our city's most eminent filmmakers owe much to Toronto's thriving film community, a little bit to luck, and that rare flicker of greatness.

Here are my picks for the top 10 film directors from Toronto.

David Cronenberg
Forty years of consistently shocking, original and challenging films including A History of Violence, Dead Ringers and The Fly is what puts David Cronenberg at the top of this list. Cronenberg also founded the Toronto Film Co-op with Ivan Reitman, and is a staunch supporter of Telefilm Canada and government funded film projects. He has received the Cannes Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2014 was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. We're still waiting for his park.

Norman Jewison
Norman Jewison is perhaps the most highly acclaimed Canadian filmmaker of all time. He began his film career as an assistant director at the CBC and in the four decades since has directed 42 feature films including In The Heat of the Night, The Hurricane and Moonstruck. The director's legacy has been cemented with his films receiving 46 Oscar nominations including 12 wins.

Atom Egoyan
Stylistic and moody, the films of Atom Egoyan embody Canadian art-house cinema. Early films like The Adjuster and Speaking Parts gained him international attention, and his non-linear narrative style was refined with Exotica and won the International Critics Prize at Cannes. The Sweet Hereafter is Egoyan's most critically successful film earning a Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director nod at the Oscars.

Deepa Mehta
Over the course of her 25 year career, Mehta has proven herself to be a master storyteller presenting characters in lush, emotional landscapes punctuated with rich details and vibrant cinematography. Her debut feature Sam & Me was a runner up for the Camera d'Or at Cannes, and Water, the final installment in her Elements Trilogy garnered nine Genie nominations and an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

Bruce McDonald
Born in Kingston, Bruce McDonald attended North Albion Highschool. Feature films like Roadkill, Highway 61, and Hard Core Logo have established him as the King of the Canadian Road Movie. He directed the Broken Social Scene pseudo-concert doc This Movie is Broken, and 2008's Pontypool was nominated for three Genies including Best Director. More than anything McDonald is, perhaps, the punk-rock of Canadian cinema.

Sarah Polley
Intelligent, poised, focused - these words can be used to describe Sarah Polley's acting as much as the films she's directed. Her debut film, Away From Her received eight Genie awards. She followed this with the charming, set-in-Toronto romance, Take This Waltz and her documentary Stories We Tell which won Best Feature Length Documentary at the Genies and gained international praise. Polley has proven herself to be a deft, accomplished storyteller. Her directing career has only just begun.

Ivan Reitman
Born in Czechoslovakia but raised in Toronto, Ivan Reitman and business partner Dan Goldberg were the first Canadians to be convicted under Canada's decency laws for producing a movie called Columbus of Sex. They were fined $300. This smut-pioneer went on to direct Stripes, Ghostbusters, Twins, and Kindergarten Cop - collectively known as the best movies ever made. He helped launch the careers of Eugene Levy and Bill Murray, and made Arnold Schwarzenegger (intentionally) funny.

Ruba Nadda
Born in Montreal, Ruba Nadda attended York University. After taking a six-week film production course at the Tisch School in New York, she began her career with a series of 13 short films produced between 1997 and 2004, which have been shown in over 500 festivals around the world. Among her four feature-length films, Cairo Time starring Patricia Clarkson took home the Best Canadian Feature Film award at TIFF and was the best-reviewed romance on Rotten Tomatoes in 2010.

Don McKellar
Born in Toronto and more or less a fixture in Parkdale, Don McKellar began his career writing, directing, and acting in plays as part of the Augusta Company - a theatre group he founded alongside Daniel Brooks and the late, great Tracy Wright. His directorial debut, Last Night collected many awards and accolades including the Toronto Film Critics Award for Best Canadian Film. He's directed two features since, Childstar, and The Grand Seduction.

Michael Snow
Michael Snow creates challenging works of avant-garde cinema - non-narrative pieces that toy with conceptions of time and space. His 1967 structural film, Wavelength is plainly referred to as one of the greatest underground art-house films ever made, and was designated as a masterwork by the (now defunct) Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada. He's made 23 films over his 50-plus year career.


Allan Dwan
Toronto native Allan Dwan helped lay the foundation of modern cinema. His 50-year career (directing over 400 films) encompassed the silent-era, the advent of talkies, and extended well into the epic Technicolor-productions of post-war Hollywood. His directing career includes iconic classics - Robin Hood (1922) with Douglas Fairbanks, Heidi (1937) starring Shirley Temple, and perhaps his most famous, Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) starring John Wayne.

Who did I miss? Add other notable Toronto film directors to the comments.

Photo: Julian Carrington

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