Canada has long been a favoured place of filmmakers and television producers. Many of the movies and TV shows we’ve come to love for their ‘New England in the fall’ scenery or ‘European city charm’ were in fact shot in Canada. The country has appeared in so many silver screen moments that a night at the cinema, or on the sofa, may just be the best way to grasp some inspiration when planning your holiday to Canada.
Before you scour the DVD shelf, check out the famous TV shows and movies filmed in Canada in our guide to Canadian filming locations across the provinces.
Whether for entertainment or escapism, the TV shows and movies we watch can be empowering, encouraging or pure fantasy. Alberta has it all in its filmography.
The production crew of the Fargo remake for the small screen made the province’s foremost city, Calgary, its home in 2014. The second season was shot in the industrial Kensington area and downtown. It’s not the first time Calgary has featured as the ideal backdrop, with the 1970s rendition of Superman II starring Richard Donner filmed in the city. No wonder, given the area’s interesting landscapes and the futuristic looking Calgary Tower – perfect for taking in 360 degree views of the city.
Another Albertan destination with a connection to television is being recognised as Canada introduces Star Trek postage stamps to commemorate the show’s 50th anniversary in 2016. The town of Vulcan, the name referring to the alien species that Leonard Nimoy’s Spock belongs to, has become a popular place to visit for fans of the Star Trek franchise and the town even has its own TrekCetera Museum.
Among the major titles, the likes of the dream-bending thriller Inception and modern cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain were shot in Alberta’s stunning Canadian Rockies mountain region. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio made a return to the province for the recently acclaimed motion picture The Revenant. He was so in awe of its natural beauty that he referenced his time filming in Alberta in his Oscar acceptance speech promoting climate change awareness earlier this year.
From reality-warping dramas to epic emotional blockbusters, the province has seen its fair share of screen time and is a testament to what makes Canada such a sought-after place for shooting.
The national organisation First Weekend Club explains: “Canadian film is rich in storytelling and our country is so diverse, with people and family histories from every corner of the world. I think our stories are relatable and people enjoy seeing themselves reflected in the films they watch on screen.”
First Weekend Club has supported over 300 Canadian films and encourages audiences with its video on demand service CanadaScreens, through which they hope to make TV shows and movies filmed in Canada available around the globe.
“British Columbia has earned its reputation as one of the world’s leading creative centres for motion picture production with a long history of producing feature films, television series, documentaries, animation and commercials,” explains Creative BC, the provincial board committed to developing British Columbia’s creative industries.
“When you take a closer look at the advantages BC offers, it’s no wonder we’ve grown to become one of the largest and most popular full-service production centres in North America.”
Vancouver in particular has been a hub for the better known TV shows and movies filmed in Canada. The cityscape and harbour made a recent appearance in the racy 50 Shades of Grey, while the original TV version of 21 Jump Street saw a young Johnny Depp play an undercover cop posing as a high school pupil in Vancouver’s Gastown, and featured the city’s recognisable New Westminster Secondary School.
First Weekend Club adds: “Our landscapes are so diverse that it makes shooting in Canada desirable. In Vancouver alone, my home city, we have the ocean, the mountains, great old forests, raging rivers, meadows, canyons, a busy urban centre and quaint little towns. It’s incredibly beautiful and transcends well on the big screen.”
Perhaps the series X-Files is better placed to take credit for putting Vancouver on the map – well, in producers’ minds at least. The show featured many locations around the city including the Grouse Mountain Skyride. Far from its extra-terrestrial counterpart in the show, British Columbia with its world-renowned Whistler and Kicking Horse resorts is a hotspot for those skiing in Canada.
Outside of the city itself, the forest surrounding Vancouver provided the setting for many scenes in the young adult fiction favourite Twilight Saga. Speaking of mutant teens, the Royal Roads University campus on Vancouver Island became a setting for the X-Men films when Hatley Castle appeared in both X2 in 2003 and X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. Vancouver Island itself is a natural sanctuary just a short distance from the bustling city and cruise day trips offer the chance to escape from the mainland and see some of Canada’s most impressive wildlife.
Along with Vancouver, Ontario’s capital Toronto is the largest filming centre in Canada. It’s familiar and yet not entirely identifiable cityscape has helped Toronto take on the guise of many fictional cities in TV shows and movies. The critically acclaimed Good Will Hunting features Robin Williams at his best and tells the story of a supposedly Boston-based unfulfilled genius. In reality, both cities were used in this film, with the University of Toronto and the now closed Upfront Bar & Grill in the city making appearances.
Perhaps more ironically, Toronto got another American makeover featuring as the Windy City in the 2002 film adaptation of the Broadway musical Chicago starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger. No location was left unused in Toronto for this glitzy jazz-age movie, and observant audiences will recognise the historic Distillery District, the Old City Hall and Toronto’s very own castle Casa Loma among other backdrops. Likewise the sci-fi television series Orphan Black follows Sarah Manning on her many adventures – and those of her clone counterparts – around Toronto, including locations such as the ice skating rink and the Thompson Hotel.
Meeting the waterways of the USA, another jewel in Ontario’s crown is undoubtedly the Niagara Falls – a favourite filming location for big Hollywood blockbusters and where Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was shot in 2006. Rather than create the entire scene digitally, producers of this swash-buckling Disney action movie chose to film the waterfalls at the Canadian Horseshoe Falls side of the Niagara Falls to build the idea of an apocalyptic-style waterfall that the film called for.