These days, Vancouver and Toronto are some of the hottest filming spots for American and international movies. The cities have even been given their name: Hollywood North; although this term mostly refers to the film industry in Vancouver rather than Toronto. Because of the cities’ diverse geographies, educational capacities, local talent, and government subsidies, they make the perfect locations for film projects and settings. Here are some landmarks in each of these cities that have made it onto the big screen!
Simon Fraser University
A whopping 14 movies have been filmed at one of British Columbia’s most well-known universities, Simon Fraser University (or SFU for short). Located atop Burnaby Mountain, SFU is known for its Brutalist-style concrete architecture and futuristic design. It is a popular choice among film directors who often produce genres of spy, crime, sci-fi, and action. Popular movies filmed at SFU include:
- Fantastic Four (2005)
- Underworld: Awakening (2012), starring Kate Beckinsale
- Catwoman (2004), starring Halle Berry
- Chaos (2005), starring Jason Statham, Ryan Phillippe, and Wesley Snipes
- Spy Game (2001) starring Brad Pitt and Robert Redford
- The 6th Day (2000), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (2012), starring Thom Green
Fun fact: Percy Jackson and the Olympians is set to release sometime in 2023, and its director has selected SFU as a filming location!
Plaza of Nations
Located on the northeast shore of False Creek in Vancouver, this entertainment complex was featured in countless Sci-Fi films and two TV shows before demolishing in 2007. The films and TV shows include:
- X-Men 2
- Final Destination 2
- Fantastic Four
- The Outer Limits
- Stargate SG-1
- Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
Originally built to hold the Expo ‘86 World Fair event, it featured a sharp, futuristic-looking structure made completely of glass and steel rods. It sat right on the water, and the building’s modern and refreshing architectural style piqued the interest of numerous film projects. Today, the area where the building was sits empty, but there are city plans to build a new residential, commercial and retail site called Expo Gardens.
Molson Canadian Brewery
This spot may not be as well-known as the others, but it’s well known to the film industry’s directors. Fan favourites such as Battlestar Galactica, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Lucifer, The Flash, Supergirl, and Batwoman have all used Molson Canadian Brewery as filming spots. Although the building went up for lease in 2019, you’ll catch it in some frames if you watch any of these movies or shows.
High Schools in Vancouver
Some of your favourite sitcoms and teen romance shows have been filmed at various high schools in Vancouver. For example, the Jump Street series starring Channing Tatum was filmed at 12 different high schools, including Lord Byng Secondary, Vancouver College, and Eric Hamber Secondary. Other popular shows like Twilight and Pretty Little Liars used various interiors and exteriors of high schools around Vancouver, and the high schools used in the Netflix Original series Riverdale and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before temporarily became some of the hottest destinations for both locals and visitors alike.
College Street is one of the main streets in Toronto, connecting former streetcar suburbs with the city centre. Although locals know the street for its busy daytime traffic, it’s also known for its role in the 2014 film RoboCop, starring actor Joel Kinnaman. The film drew lots of attention in its initial stages with images of the actor in his high-tech body armour suit floating around on the Internet. The film was deemed a success, later bringing in USD 257.6 million at the box office!
King’s College, Knox College and Convocation Hall (University of Toronto)
Many of Toronto’s landmarks were used to film the 2008 Marvel Comics movie The Incredible Hulk. Although the film’s opening scenes were shot in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, much of the scenes used shots of King’s College, Knox College, and Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto. The film also shot some scenes with the Cherry Street Bridge, Scarborough’s Morningside Park, and Toronto’s famous Yonge Street. As Canadians, we’re proud to say that the film was eventually nominated for the Teen Choice Award for Choice Summer Movie: Drama/Action Adventure!
151 Front St. W., Adelaide St. E., Union Station. and Yonge-Dundas Square
All of these locations were featured in Pacific Rim, a 2013 ultra-violent action film featuring world-famous actors like Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Will Smith, Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini, Rinko Kikuchi, and Ron Perlman. 151 Front St. W. was used to shoot a scene of Will Smith’s character, Deadshot, rappelling down the side of a building, while Adelaide St. E. was used to shoot a snowstorm scene. A plane crash scene was shot near Yonge-Dundas Square, and a second crash was later filmed near Union Station and TTC’s Lower Bay Station.
Interested in the filming industry?
Want to know how a scene is shot? Do you have a dream of becoming a film producer? Check out these schools! They offer classes, courses, and part-time/full-time programs on film production and the film industry.
- Douglas College: Stagecraft and Event Technology
- Fanshawe College: 3D Animation and Character Design
- Langara College: Digital Film Production (Full- and Part-time)
- BCIT: Video Production and Editing
- BCIT: Advanced Video Editing
- Capilano University: 3D Animation for Film and Games
- Vancouver Film School: Film Production