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, adds: “The size of Canada provides a wealth of locations for cinema, from the snowy Rockies of Alberta to the almost European feel of Quebec 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 your flights to Toronto from the UK or are trekking in the Canadian Rockies you might recognise some of the views as they may have featured in one of your favourite movies.
Take our quiz to see what movies and TV shows have been filmed in Canada.
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.”
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 adds: “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.”
You can see the Canadian Rockies by rail as the Rocky Mountaineer train travels right through the heart of the Rockies to the towns of Banff and Jasper.
Regarded by many as the cultural capital of Quebec, this thriving city is more famed for its food scene, arts and festivals than it is for its film prowess. However, Montreal has been featured in many of Canadian director David Cronenberg’s films such as Rabid and Shivers.
More recently the city was picked by Martin Scorsese for the blockbuster The Aviator. Steven Spielberg’s hit Catch Me If You Can, was also filmed here, which stars Leonardo Di Caprio 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.
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 discusses 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 Toronto and if you’ve ever been to the city you’ll notice glimpses of Yonge Street, Front Street West, Lower Bay Station, Yonge-Dundas Square, the Eaton Centre and Union Station.
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 and I, Robot which proves the strategy has been working.
Tony of Movie Locations adds: “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 Vancouver Art Gallery.”
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 now open 24-hours-a-day and the family-run business is renowned for its burgers, poutine, hotdogs, fries and 35 flavours of milkshakes. However, regulars to the popular eatery might not know that it has also been featured in lots of films. Debbi Schiller, the owner of Rockos Diner, told 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.
“During the filming of Riverdale, few changes were made to the diner as it was already a 1950s diner, and we were asked to provide the food and the milkshakes for the shooting to keep it authentic.
“Riverdale was a phenomenon. The local population and our regular patrons immediately recognized 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.
“Riverdale‘s Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe and Rockos Diner have become synonymous. Occasionally the lines have blurred, but it’s all good. We have received postcards from Scotland, cookies from Australia, and emails from Cyprus, but the very best of this worldwide fandom is the people. People from as far away as the Philippines have stopped in because of the show. Groups make weekend adventures to see us and drive from other provinces and USA. It has been a positively great experience.”
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 Di Caprio, Kate Winslet and Billy Zane ended up winning a staggering 11 Oscars as well as a whole host of other awards.
To find out more about what you could do in 48 hours in Halifax, read our post here.
Other locations that featured well-known films
– Quebec 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.
If you are interested in exploring these different locations, then take a look at the Canadian Affair website and book your holiday now!