Many scenes in big budget Hollywood blockbusters feature the beauty of the Great White North, often without the audience even realizing it. Over the years, Hollywood directors from Warner Bros, NBC, Twentieth Century Fox and Dreamworks have looked to Canada when searching for the perfect filming location.
In a country the size of Canada, the opportunities for filming and finding the right shots are endless. In fact, Canadian locations often masquerade as American or European locations when needed. There’s Montreal and Quebec City, which both have a distinctive French or European look. There’s Toronto, which has been used as a stand in for New York City and Chicago. Vancouver has provided the backdrop for hundreds of highly successful films. There are also plenty more desolate, scenic areas like the Canadian Rockies which are considered perfect for designing Hollywood film sets. Movies shot in Canada have ranged from martial arts action movies, romantic dramas to Alaskan thrillers.
Movie directors are attracted to shooting their films in Canada for a number of reasons, including diverse landscapes, unique architecture but it all comes down to money. Check out our list of the 10 most popular Canadian locations to film Hollywood movies.
10. Quebec City – Catch Me If You Can grossed $350 million
Located less than two hours from Montreal, this gem of a city is popular in Hollywood for its architecture. Founded hundreds of years ago by French colonialists, the architecture is distinctly French – but geographically much closer to Hollywood. One of the first big films shot in Quebec City was the 1950s Alfred Hitchcock film called I Confess. Winning eight Oscars and featuring actor Montgomery Clift at his height of fame, this successful film includes Quebec City landmarks that you can still find there today. In more recent times, Catch Me If You Can included scenes in Quebec City, thanks to its French look and feel. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring the likes of Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, this film grossed $350 million.
9. Calgary – Superman grossed $300 million
Undoubtedly the most popular movie ever filmed in and around Calgary is Cool Runnings. This late 1990s classic, based on the true story of a Jamaican bobsled team, is Calgary’s big claim to fame in the Hollywood movie industry. Aside from Cool Runnings, other films shot in Calgary include Superman (the original in 1978) and Shanghai Noon in 2000, which starred Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson and Lucy Liu. This action film was set in Nevada, but Calgary was chosen as a filming location for its spectacular scenery that is well suited to Western-style Hollywood blockbusters.
8. Whistler – The Grey grossed $84 million
Whistler in British Colombia isn’t a surprising addition to this list. Known for its stunning mountainous scenery, it has formed the backdrop for many famous Hollywood movies. Shooter, which was released in 2007 and starred Mark Wahlberg, includes scenes shot on a 7000-foot tall glacier above Whistler. Mark Wahlberg was quoted as saying that it was a “pretty scary” filming location, particularly when some bad weather hit. As well as Shooter, many thriller fans will remember The Grey, featuring Liam Neeson in 2011. Although the story was based on a plane crash in Alaska, the film was actually shot in and around Whistler for the most part.
7. Winnipeg – Capote was nominated for 5 Academy Awards
This city, in the central Canadian province of Manitoba, holds claim to most scenes in Capote. The successful Hollywood film resulted in Philip Seymour Hoffman winning an Academy Award for Best Actor. The film’s plot is actually set in Kansas in the USA, but Winnipeg and prairie landscapes were selected as the best filming location. Some landmarks you’ll spot in the film include the Manitoba Legislative Building and Gilbart’s Funeral Home. The Horsemen, starring Dennis Quaid and Zhang Ziyi (who became famous in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), was also filmed primarily in Winnipeg. The directors of the 2009 thriller sought a cold, snowy film set and scenes included Winnipeg’s Central Park, Rideau Tower and Bell Hotel.
6. Canadian Rockies – Brokeback Mountain grossed $170 million
This humungous mountain range in the province of Alberta, affectionately known as the Rockies, has been featured in a bunch of Hollywood films. Take the epic film Brokeback Mountain, for example, which grossed over $170,000,000 worldwide and was nominated for eight Academy Awards. This 2005 movie starring Hollywood heartthrobs Heath Ledger (who passed away in 2008) and Jake Gyllenhaal was set in the USA’s Wyoming, but the mountain and forest shots were all thanks to the Canadian Rockies. Another big hit filmed partially in the Rockies was the mysterious science-fiction thriller, Inception. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the 2010 blockbuster includes chase scenes in the Rockies.
5. Halifax – Titanic grossed $2.1 billion
Halifax, the largest city in Canada’s Maritimes region is perhaps an unlikely spot for Hollywood movie making, but was the chosen filming location for one of the biggest grossing films of all time, Titanic. Released in 1997 and starring a young Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, a large chunk of this film was made in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In particular, director James Cameron used the area near Halifax to film the ocean scenes, as it was close to where the real ship hit the iceburg and floundered in 1912. Titanic also had other Canadian ties, with French-Canadian singer Celine Dion providing the hit song from the Titanic soundtrack, My Heart Will Go On. It was the world’s best selling single in 1998, the year following the release of the movie.
4. Niagara Falls- Pirates of the Caribbean grossed $963 million
World famous for its idyllic views, Niagara Falls has long been a hot spot for shooting Hollywood films. Located in between Ontario in Canada and New York in the USA, these giant waterfalls offer a stunning backdrop for movies. In 1953, the film Niagara was shot in Niagara Falls, Ontario and helped launch the career of a young Marilyn Monroe. The film wasn’t a huge hit but it certainly helped Monroe, who went on to become a Hollywood legend. The Falls were also featured in the 1980 film, Superman II, fans of the main character Christopher Reeves visited the Falls at the same time. A big blockbuster featuring Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, called Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, created a world-ending waterfall using scenes from Niagara Falls (rather than creating the scene digitally). The 1995 satire, Canadian Bacon, was written and directed by Michael Moore and it also featured Niagara Falls in its scenery.
3. Montreal – The Notebook grossed $115 million
Montreal makes it to number three on our list, after having been a popular Hollywood filming location for years. One of the biggest romantic dramas of all time, The Notebook, featured Montreal in several scenes, and starred Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling (who were both born in Ontario). The 2004 film grossed more than $115 million worldwide. There was also the unconventional zombie romantic comedy, Warm Bodies, which had scenes shot at the Mirabel Airport and the Montreal Olympic stadium. The 2013 political action movie White House Down featuring Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum looked like it was straight out of Washington DC but it turns out nearly all the movie was shot in Montreal. There was also X-Men in 2013, which brought Jennifer Lawrence and Hugh Jackman to the city. Jackman enjoyed his time in Montreal, leaving a $10,000 donation to the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.
2. Toronto – Good Will Hunting grossed $225 million
Toronto is quite the attraction for Hollywood film directors. This big city offers excellent scenery and cheaper production rates. In 1997, Good Will Hunting, featuring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, was largely filmed in Toronto and features landmarks like the University of Toronto and Upfront Bar & Grill. It went on to win two Academy Awards and gross more than $225 million. A few years later, the first Kick-Ass movie (co-produced by Brad Pitt) shot scenes in Toronto locations including Yonge Street and Dip ‘N’ Sip Donuts on Kingston Road. Then in 2002, Chicago was surprisingly filmed in Toronto as opposed to Chicago, and viewers will notice landmarks such as Osgoode Hall, Casa Loma and Union Station. In 2004 the teenage comedy, Mean Girls, was shot in Toronto too, bringing the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams to town.
1. Vancouver – Fifty Shades of Grey
Vancouver is such a big deal in Hollywood circles that it’s been nicknamed “Hollywood North”. In fact, it now has the third-largest film industry in North America. Juno, starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera, was released in 2007 and made more than $230 million internationally in the box office. The movie’s indie, edgy vibe matches perfectly with Vancouver and scenes were shot throughout the city, including at Eric Hamber Secondary School. This city in British Colombia can also add Twilight’s New Moon movie to its list of Hollywood hits. The teenage love story of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) took viewers around the city, including Stanley Park, the Ridge Theatre and David Fraser Secondary School. When filming took place, in March 2009, the city came alive with excited Twilight fans who were forever trying to track down their celebrity idols. Currently being filmed in Vancouver is the much-awaited Fifty Shades of Grey.
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