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25 Hidden Gems on Netflix Canada You Need to Watch Right Now

From overlooked Hollywood fare to international cinema's best-kept secrets, we've rounded up the finest hidden gems on Netflix Canada.

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Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - Frances Ha - Greta GerwigPhoto: Netflix

Frances Ha (2012)

“I’m so embarrassed, I’m not a real person yet,” says the kooky Frances Halladay (the brilliant Greta Gerwig), a marginally employed dancer living in New York City with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). After their moving plans collapse and the two have a falling out, Frances realizes that her days of pursuing her outsized dreams are numbered. With notable supporting turns from Adam Driver and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Michael Zegen, Frances Ha is a charming coming-of-age comedy about a 27-year-old scatterbrain.

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Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - HeistPhoto: Warner Bros. Pictures

Heist (2001)

Fans of David Mamet’s distinctive plays know that his characters talk fast, tough and vulgar—in Heist, the sometime-filmmaker mounts his most satisfying feature yet. Career criminal Joe Moore (Gene Hackman, in one of his final roles) calls it quits after he’s caught on camera during his latest caper, but in true noir fashion, he’s brought back by mobster Mickey Bergman (Danny DeVito) for one final assignment: robbing a Swiss cargo plane full of gold. As this is Mamet working in thriller mode, Heist has enough twists and double-crosses to make one’s head spin.

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3 / 25

Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - The StrangerPhoto: Netflix Canada

The Stranger (2022)

A real gem in Netflix’s never-ending stream of true crime fare, this striking enigma of a film takes inspiration from a real-life abduction case that grabbed Australian headlines for more than a decade. The Stranger follows Henry (the criminally underrated Sean Harris), a troubled drifter who may or may not have murdered a young boy eight years earlier. Unbeknownst to Henry, his latest employer, Mark (Joel Edgerton), is an undercover cop set on extracting a confession, even at the risk of Mark’s own mental state. Director Thomas M. Wright wisely refrains from pop psychology or exploitation—instead, he and cinematographer Sam Chiplin create a world in which past and present, dreams and nightmares, live together always.

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Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - The Way BackPhoto: Lionsgate

The Way Back (2010)

Despite its sometimes grim content, this tale of six men (played by the likes of Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Colin Farrell) who escape from a Siberian Gulag during the Second World War, and the young Polish orphan (Saoirse Ronan) who later joins them on their journey, is nothing short of miraculous. After learning that their destination, Mongolia, has too been overrun by communism, the runaways change their plan and instead travel to British-occupied India—all told, a 6,500-kilometre walk. Based on the (mostly fictional) memoir by former Polish prisoner of war Sławomir Rawicz, The Way Back is grand entertainment.

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5 / 25

Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - The GreyPhoto: Open Road Films

The Grey (2011)

In the Alaskan wilderness, a group of plane crash survivors—pipeline workers from an oil company, including sharpshooter John Ottway (Liam Neeson)—must contend with the harsh elements and a pack of Canadian Grey Wolves. As they make their way to a nearby tree line, and later, to a canyon, each new attack from the pack tests their courage, their determination and their faith in God. The result is one of the greatest survival films ever made—a mesmerizing, emotionally shattering ride that also boasts Neeson’s best-ever performance.

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Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - MaudiePhoto: Mongrel Media

Maudie (2016)

Though Maud Lewis would become one of Canada’s most famous painters, the artist’s reclusive nature left her personal life a bit of a mystery. Director Aisling Walsh and screenwriter Sherry White (Saving Hope) aim to change that with Maudie, an understated but moving character study starring Sally Hawkins as Lewis and Ethan Hawke as Everett, a fish peddler who later becomes her husband. Exploring the couple’s sometimes uneasy relationship, Lewis’s rise to national fame and her own tumultuous upbringing, this hidden gem is buoyed by fearless performances and a commitment to the power of art.

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7 / 25

Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - The DigPhoto: Netflix

The Dig (2019)

The chance to find priceless treasures, learn more about our past and become famous in the process—it’s no wonder archaeology is such a popular field. But for the characters in The Dig, it’s a lot more complicated than that. As the Second World War approaches, Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), a wealthy Suffolk landowner, hires Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to excavate the burial mounds on her rural estate. Their project soon draws the attention of a team of archaeologists, including Peggy Piggott (Lily James), but the impending war leads to deep rumination for all involved. Intimate in design but grand in feeling and performance, this hidden gem poses the most common—and most troubling—of life’s questions: Will I be remembered after I die?

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8 / 25

Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - Happy As LazzaroPhoto: Netflix

Happy as Lazzaro (2018)

Magical realism abounds in Happy as Lazzaro, which follows a young peasant living on a tobacco farm in Southern Italy. Despite being exploited by his tyrannical boss, Lazzaro is so kind-hearted he’s often mistaken for being simple. Things take a turn when Lazzaro meets young baron Tancredi, who asks Lazzaro to help him orchestrate his own kidnapping.

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Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - And Breathe NormallyPhoto: Netflix Canada

And Breathe Normally (2018)

Meet Lára and Adja: the former is an Icelandic single mother in dire financial straits, while the latter is an asylum seeker from Guinea-Bissau. When Lara takes a job with the local airport police, she crosses paths with Adja, who is later held at a refugee centre with her immigration status in peril. Socially resonant and led by two captivating performances from leads Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir and Babetida Sadjo, And Breathe Normally is a tragic portrait of two women in free fall.

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10 / 25

Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - MosulPhoto: Netflix Canada

Mosul (2020)

During the Battle of Mosul, in which ISIS took over what was once Iraq’s second largest city, the Nineveh SWAT team, an elite police unit made up of local men who have had family members killed by ISIS, embark on their final mission. The newest recruit of the SWAT team is Kawa, a 21-year-old police officer who is immediately taken under the wing of unit leader Jasem (Suhail Dabbach). Directed with uncommon intelligence and empathy by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Mosul combines visceral action scenes with real heart.

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11 / 25

Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - CroupierPhoto: Netflix

Croupier (1998)

Forget all the talk about who should and shouldn’t play James Bond now that Daniel Craig’s retired from the role—it’s time to think about what could have been. In 1998, then 34-year-old Clive Owen shot to international fame when he provided the answer to the question, “What if 007 were a casino dealer instead of a British Secret Service agent?” As Jack Manfred, Owen conjured one of the most irresistible protagonists in modern noir—an impossibly cool, perfectly detached writer-turned-croupier who loves his gig, booze and women equally, and can handle himself in a fight too. Owen may not have played 007—our loss—but we’ll always have Jack Manfred.

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Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - Cold PursuitPhoto: Lionsgate

Cold Pursuit (2019)

Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) has it all: a well-paying job as a snowplow driver, a loving wife (Laura Dern) and the respect of his fellow residents in the fictional ski resort of Kehoe, Colorado. Coxman’s adult son, however, is killed after unwittingly getting caught up in the drug trade, forcing Coxman to wage war with local gangs. Wisely, Cold Pursuit, the remake of a 2014 Norwegian thriller starring Stellan Skarsgård, doesn’t take itself seriously—on the contrary, this late-career triumph from Neeson sometimes feels like an adults-only cartoon. (Think: title cards eulogizing each of the 25 fatalities in the film, and an upbeat score that recalls Christmas in Scandinavia.)

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Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - Ladies In Black 2018Photo: Sony Pictures

Ladies in Black (2018)

Is it possible for a film to be so utterly sweet that you watch it from beginning to end with a smile on your face? Ladies in Black takes the challenge head-on—and mostly succeeds. This Australian comedy-drama centres on Lisa (Angourie Rice of Spider-Man fame), a Sydney teen who takes a part-time job at an upscale department store during the 1959 Christmas season. There she meets the store’s colourful characters, including Magda (Julia Ormond), a Slovenian immigrant who was once a member of high society in her past life, and who nurtures Lisa’s dream of going to university and becoming an actor, poet or novelist. The lesson of Ladies in Black: why not all three?

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Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - Private LifePhoto: Netflix Canada

Private Life (2018)

Middle-aged couple Richard (Paul Giamatti) and Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) have been trying to have a child for years—they have faced multiple failed attempts at artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, while a teenager whose baby they hoped to adopt has stopped contacting them. Things are looking hopeless, until the couple’s 25-year-old niece, the bohemian Sadie (Kayli Carter), agrees to provide a donor egg to Rachel. Wonderfully acted and remarkably written, Private Life is a poignant look at the difficulties of starting a family in the 21st century.

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Hidden Gems On Netflix Canada - Leave No TracePhoto: Netflix

Leave No Trace (2018)

Leave No Trace, the second-most reviewed film to receive a 100 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, tells the story of Will, an Iraqi War veteran suffering from PTSD (Ben Foster) who lives in a public park in Portland, Oregon, with his 13-year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie). One day, they’re spotted, arrested and given food and a home by social services. Faced with this opportunity for a fresh start, Will struggles to overcome his demons and adjust to regular life, while his daughter feels her father is holding back her true potential. It’s a quiet—and ultimately devastating—moviegoing experience.

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Warrior (2011)Photo: Lionsgate

Warrior (2011)

A box office disappointment upon release, Warrior has since found a cult following. This gripping sports drama follows Tommy (Tom Hardy), a former Marine who enlists his recovering alcoholic father (Nick Nolte, in an Academy Award-nominated performance) to train him for a high-stakes mixed martial arts tournament. Also competing is Brendan (Joel Edgerton), Tommy’s estranged brother—and a man with his own fighting pedigree. With its vivid depiction of family, trauma and redemption, Warrior is one of the most emotionally shattering films of the 2010s.

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Hidden gems on Netflix Canada - HushPhoto: Netflix

Hush (2016)

With Hush, writer-director Mike Flanagan (Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House) adds an irresistible twist to the home invasion genre. Author Maddie Young (Kate Siegel) lives in complete isolation in the woods while working on her novel. Her world quickly unravels, however, when she discovers that a psychopath has been stalking her home—and aims to make her his next victim. The twist? Maddie just so happens to be deaf and mute, putting her at a major disadvantage to her would-be killer.

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Lily James in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyPhoto: Netflix Canada

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

In 1946, writer Juliet Ashton (Downton Abbey‘s Lily James) learns of a book club the residents of Guernsey formed during the German occupation of WWII. She decides the quirky group—the titular Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—will be the subject of her latest article. In the process of writing the feature, she forms a bond with the island’s inhabitants, while also investigating the whereabouts of the club’s mysterious founding member.

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Netflix Canada: AtlanticsPhoto: Netflix Canada

Atlantics (2019)

In this supernatural romantic drama, 17-year-old Ada, set to marry a wealthy man, falls in love with young construction worker Souleiman. After Souleiman and his colleagues are denied payment for work on a new tower, they decide to leave Senegal by sea in search of a brighter future, only to perish on the journey. Following a mysterious fire, Ada discovers that the souls of the men lost at sea have returned to the neighbourhood.

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Sarah Paulson in "Blue Jay" on Netflix CanadaPhoto: Netflix

Blue Jay (2016)

Two decades after their break-up, former high school sweethearts Jim (Mark Duplass) and Amanda (Sarah Paulson) rediscover each other in their hometown grocery store and decide to spend the day strolling down memory lane. The initial sweetness of their reunion slowly gives in to sadness, however, as Jim and Amanda bond over the unhappiness of their current lives and romantic paths not taken.

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind on Netflix CanadaPhoto: Netflix Canada

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019)

In Malawi, 13-year-old William Kamkwamba spends his spare time fixing radios for neighbours and devouring engineering books at his school library. Inspired by his readings, William builds a wind turbine to save his village from famine. Based on Kamkwamba’s memoir, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is one of the most inspiring movies on Netflix Canada, and an impressive directorial debut by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.

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Hidden Gems on Netflix Canada - I Don't Feel At Home In This World AnymorePhoto: Netflix

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

When depressed nursing assistant Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) returns home one day to learn that her grandmother’s silverware has been stolen, she enlists her peculiar neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood) to help her find the violent gang of criminals responsible. Look past its offbeat title, and you’ll find that I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a darkly funny tale about the importance of kindness.

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Ray Romano and Mark Duplass in PaddletonPhoto: Netflix Canada

Paddleton (2019)

The bromance between Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) is upended when Michael is diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. Per Michael’s wishes for his final days, the two make pizzas together, watch kung-fu movies, play a game they’ve dubbed “Paddleton,” and go on a road trip to retrieve the medication that will help Michael end his life. It may be about death, but Paddleton‘s blend of comedy and drama is always life-affirming.

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Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Kindergarten TeacherPhoto: Netflix Canada

The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)

The Kindergarten Teacher stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as an educator who discovers one of her five-year-old students is a poetry prodigy. Dissatisfied by her home life and failed artistic aspirations, she finds new purpose as a mentor to her pupil, but that initial encouragement turns into an unhealthy obsession with the boy.

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Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal in End of Watch on Netflix CanadaPhoto: Open Road Films

End of Watch (2012)

Police officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) patrol the streets of South Central Los Angeles, often finding themselves in the crosshairs of rival gangs. After investigating a house fire, they stumble upon a cell full of human trafficking victims and learn that the home is connected to a powerful drug cartel. The partners soon fear that their lives—and the lives of their families—are in danger.

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