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Many of us will know that Danny Boyle’s The Beach was filmed in Thailand and The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand, but something you might not know is that Canada has been the setting for lots of blockbuster movies.
Not only have cities in Canada been used as filming locations, but the stunning scenery that is synonymous with the country has also featured heavily in some movies.
Tony Reeves from Movie Locations, a guide to film locations around the world, told us why Canada is such a popular filming location: “The size of Canada provides a wealth of locations for cinema, from the snowy Rockies of Alberta to the almost European feel of Québec and the urban centres of Toronto and Vancouver, which you’ve seen on screen far more times than you probably realise – usually masquerading as other, often US, cities.”
So if you’ve booked a Canada holiday package to the likes of Toronto or you’ll be trekking in the Canadian Rockies you might recognise some of the views as they have been featured in one of your favourite movies.
Take our quiz to see what movies and TV shows have been filmed in Canada and put your knowledge to the test.
Which areas of Canada have been used as filming locations?
As we’ve touched on, there are loads of famous movies that have been filmed in Canada and here we take you through the areas that have been the backdrop for many a blockbuster.
Movie Locations’ Tony Reeves, says: “Some of the biggest films made or partly-made in Canada include most of the X-Men movies, Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Interstellar, Oscar-winning The Revenant and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, superhero films such as Deadpool, Man of Steel, Watchmen and Suicide Squad, the Fifty Shades trilogy, along with Good Will Hunting, Chicago, The Incredible Hulk, Pacific Rim, the 2014 reboot of Godzilla and the latest series of Planet Of The Apes Movies.”
Take a look at our interactive map to find out the different movies and their locations and then read on for more information.
Canadian Rockies, Alberta and British Columbia
This world-famous mountain range spans the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and with its mist-shrouded forests and breath-taking mountains, it should come as no surprise that it has been the setting for lots of movies.
Tony Reeves tells us about some of the more recent movies that have been filmed in the area: “The Kananaskis Range in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta became ‘Wyoming’ for Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (the same area was used in Interstellar) and also ‘Montana’ and ‘South Dakota’ for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, which saw Leonardo DiCaprio get his first Oscar.”
One of the most popular ways to explore the Canadian Rockies and its beautiful sights is on the Rocky Mountaineer train as it travels right through the heart of the Rockies to the towns of Banff and Jasper.
It is a destination that British travel writer Jodie Dewberry, who runs the blog Ala Jode, has visited on several occasions as her fiancé grew up there.
She told us a bit about what she loves doing in the Canadian Rockies when she is there, “Lake Louise is one of the most famous places in the Canadian Rockies and is unmissable. Although it is popular, it’s definitely not underrated, so make sure you fit it into your itinerary. If you are a wildlife lover like me, the Lake Louise gondola is a must-visit too. It’s one of the best places to spot bears in Alberta. You can spot both black bears and grizzlies here, and the staff keep a running record of bear sightings.”
Only an hour’s drive away in Canmore is the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company and this is Jodie’s favourite place to stop for lunch: “While I recommend trying a regular poutine during your trip to Canada, the lobster poutine here is unique and phenomenal.”
Regarded as the cultural capital of Québec, this thriving city is more famed for its food scene, arts and festivals than it is for its film prowess.
However, Montréal has been featured in many films such as Steven Spielberg’s hit Catch Me If You Can, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in a story about a seasoned FBI agent pursuing a teenager who before his 19th birthday has forged millions of dollars posing as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor and a legal prosecutor.
The city has also been used by Martin Scorsese as the backdrop for the blockbuster The Aviator and Canadian director David Cronenberg’s films Rabid and Shivers.
Becky Moore, the owner of travel blog Global Grasshopper, has spent some time in Montréal and she told us why she thinks it is a must-see on a trip to Canada.
“Montréal is a city which is made up of many vibrant neighbourhoods but one of my favourites was Mile End, a hip area with a creative and artistic vibe. It’s a fantastic place to get a real taste of what Montréal is all about and meet some of the friendly locals at the same time. Filled with vintage boutiques stores, cool eateries, old-school bagel shops mixed in with buzzing brunch spots and stylish restaurants, it’s a must-see place. Don’t miss Dieu du Ciel Montréal’s top craft brewery which serves up inventive home brews and the fabulous Casa del Popolo which is equal parts vegan eatery, coffee shop, indie music venue, and art gallery.”
Known as Canada’s answer to Manhattan, Toronto has been the big movie star in many films, but you might not always recognise it. There are lots of economic reasons for shooting in Toronto as the facilities are a lot less expensive than in New York. The city isn’t as overcrowded as New York either which is why production facilities have been set up here and tax breaks are offered to productions relocating from the USA.
Tony Reeves tells us a bit more about some of the films that have been shot in the East Coast city: “Toronto has been standing in for ‘New York’ for many years, in films such as Moonstruck, Three Men And A Baby, Cocktail, American Psycho and the first X-Men film. A few establishing shots of the Big Apple will convince an audience of the location while varied areas of the cities can make a convincing stand-in.
“The Oscar-winning musical Chicago might more honestly have been called Toronto since the only glimpse of the real Windy City is a heavily modified photo of the exterior of the Chicago Theatre. Although ‘Boston’ is famous as the setting for Good Will Hunting, much of the film was made in Toronto. Perennial favourite A Christmas Story blends Cleveland and Toronto seamlessly to become the fictitious town of ‘Hohman’.
“There’s an apocryphal story I’ve heard attributed to several productions, about a Toronto street that had been carefully dressed by the Production Designer with litter, garbage sacks and trashcans to look like a scuzzy area of ‘New York’. After a break for lunch, the crew returned to find that the ever-vigilant city authorities had cleaned the place up and restored the street to its pristine state.”
Suicide Squad was also predominantly filmed in the city and if you’re looking to book flights to Toronto and plan a holiday there in the future, you’ll notice glimpses of Yonge Street, Front Street West, Lower Bay Station, Yonge-Dundas Square, the Eaton Centre and Union Station, which featured in the movie.
One of the most popular parts of the city for filming is the Distillery District which has been used as the backdrop for lots of films. In fact, it has been estimated that over 800 films and TV shows have used the Victorian warehouses that are synonymous with the area.
According to IMDB, not only were scenes for Chicago filmed there but movies such as The Fly, Cinderella Man, Three to Tango and the popular TV show Due South.
RECOMMENDED HOLIDAY: Toronto Holidays
Vancouver, British Columbia
Like Toronto, Vancouver has also built new production facilities and offered tax breaks to encourage more directors to pick this vibrant city as the backdrop for their film. Vancouver was the setting for the X-Men films, Deadpool, the 2014 version of Godzilla, Man Of Steel (as Metropolis), Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (as San Francisco), War For the Planet Of The Apes, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Twilight – New Moon, Fifty Shades of Grey and I, Robot which proves the strategy has been working.
Tony of Movie Locations told us how you can notice some small mistakes in films that are supposed to be based in another location but are in fact being filmed in Vancouver.
“It’s fun to look out for those moments when the attention to detail slips a little – if you watch Look Who’s Talking (1989), you can at one point see John Travolta’s ‘New York’ cab race past the Vancouver Art Gallery.”
One of the most popular areas of the city to film is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, Gastown. With its cobbled streets, quaint architecture and trendy vibe, it has been used for scenes in 50 Shades of Grey, I, Robot, Once Upon a Time and Arrow.
Twilight fans will recognise Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver as this was the area used in the film when Bella took her daring cliff dive into the ocean in New Moon. Close by is also the house that was used as the Cullen House and you can get a stunning view of it from Deep Dene Road.
READ MORE: A guide to Vancouver’s neighbourhoods
Buntzen Lake, British Columbia
A 45-minute drive east of Vancouver is the natural paradise of Buntzen Lake and this was used in the hit sci-fi TV show Supernatural. In the show, it was known as Lake Manitoc, but in reality, the lake is a lot brighter and certainly less gloomy than in the show.
Supernatural was one of the most successful series to ever be filmed in the area and it is fitting that British Columbia’s tagline is ‘Super, Natural British Columbia’.
The lake played a particularly starring role in episode 3 called ‘Dead in the Water’ and fans from around the world now travel to the picturesque lake to retrace the footsteps of the characters in the show.
Supernatural was also filmed in multiple locations around Vancouver such as the University of British Columbia.
Mission, British Columbia
Located along the Lougheed Highway near Mission in British Columbia is Rockos Diner, one of the last free-standing diners in the province. Opened on July 11, 1956, as the Hi-Lite Burger Bar, the Schiller family bought and renamed it in 1986. The drive-in diner is open 24-hours-a-day and the family-run business is renowned for its burgers, poutine, hotdogs, fries and more than 40 flavours of milkshakes.
Something regulars to the popular eatery might not know is that the diner has also been featured in lots of films.
Debbi Schiller, the owner of Rockos Diner, tells us about their involvement in the filming industry: “As one of the last free-standing diners, with privately owned land and building, it makes it a popular location. Hallmark movies, commercials, and other movies such as Killer Amongst Us, Horns, Percy Jackson have used Rockos as a location site. And then came Riverdale, an American teen drama television series based on the characters of Archie Comics.”
What made the eatery even more popular was the filming of Riverdale as few changes were made to the 1950s diner and the popularity of the series saw groups of people come to eat at Rockos.
Debbi Schiller says: “Riverdale was a phenomenon. The local population and our regular patrons immediately recognised Rockos as Pop’s. There was a sudden influx of fans wanting to sit where their favourite characters sat, have a burger and shake, immerse themselves in the real-life ‘Pop’s’ and recreate their own Riverdale pics. The most popular booths from the iconic scenes and the outside group shot are the most popular. Rockos is photographed more by Riverdale fans than anyone.”
Halifax, Nova Scotia
This small, urban city in eastern Canada was actually the closest port to the location of where the Titanic tragically sank. As a result, the ocean scenes in the 1997 film, which has become one of the most successful movies of all-time, were shot around the area the British passenger liner sank in 1912. The movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Billy Zane ended up winning a staggering 11 Oscars as well as a whole host of other awards.
READ MORE: 48 hours in Halifax
Other locations that featured well-known films
– Québec City – Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘I Confess’
– Manitoba – Capote was set in Kansas but was actually filmed in Winnipeg and Selkirk
– Golden Ears Provincial Park – Rambo: First Blood was also filmed in Canada at Golden Ears Provincial Park, Pitt Lake, Pitt Meadows and Hope in British Columbia.
– Calgary – The hugely popular comedy Cool Runnings stayed true to its storyline of the Jamaican national bobsled team competing in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary as the movie was mainly filmed here.
– Brantford – If you are a fan of horror movies, then you’ll recognise the historic downtown of Brantford as that was used by director Christophe Gans for his zombie movie Silent Hill in 2006.
If you are interested in exploring these different locations, then you should consider planning a holiday to Canada with Canadian Affair and book your dream trip now!