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The 5 most popular film locations in Toronto

Posted by Chris Bateman / August 15, 2014

Toronto film locationsToronto is a Hollywood star. Although the city rarely gets a chance to play itself, often standing in for New York City, Chicago, or other American cities, movie makers seem to love setting up fake subway entrances and lining the curb with yellow taxis. The TTC even has the tools to make the disused Bay Lower station look like the New York subway. Right now, more than 30 productions are filming in Toronto, according the city's film department. In the past, it's been everything from Auschwitz to Harvard.

Here are five favourite haunts of Hollywood filmmakers.

University of Toronto
The old stone buildings of the university's central campus make a great stand in for just about any historic North American educational institution. Though the movie is set in the suburbs of Chicago, the Mathletes scene in Mean Girls was shot at Convocation Hall (the actual school is Etobicoke Collegiate Institute,) and Hollywood films like Capote, Chicago, Good Will Hunting, Cocktail and The Incredible Hulk have also used various parts of the campus as a backdrop. Chicago also included scenes filmed at the Elgin Theatre on Yonge St., Union Station, Osgoode Hall, and Queen's Park legislature building.

Toronto City Hall
The modernist towers of City Hall and by extension Nathan Phillips Square have served as the backdrop to key battle scenes in Resident Evil: Apocalypse and played Washington D.C. landmark in the movie The Sentinel, about a rogue U.S. Secret Service agent (Michael Douglas) bent on killing the president. Kiefer Sutherland, as David Breckinridge, eventually catches up to him by the reflecting pool in the movie's climax. Oh, and let's not forget the cameo in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Casa Loma
Casa Loma, the former home of wealthy financier Sir Henry Pellatt and once the largest private residence in the country, is a bizarre architectural oddity, making it an ideal prop for movies in need of a scary castle or opulent palace. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which unlike most movies filmed in Toronto is actually set here, features Casa Loma prominently, as do X Men, Chicago, Cocktail, and The Love Guru.

The Distillery District
Now a popular tourist destination, the city's historic distillery district, built in the mid-1800s, makes a perfect Victorian street backdrop. Many of the old whiskey factory's appearances on screen came during the 1990s, when the area was abandoned, and into the early 2000s. Thousands of films such as David Cronenberg's The Fly, Undercover Brother, Death to Smoochie, Three Men and a Baby, Blues Brothers 2000, Chicago, The Long Kiss Goodnight. In Cinderella Man, the area was the New Jersey docks, and in X-Men, it played a concentration camp.

Financial District
Toronto's downtown office towers, especially TD Centre, are dead ringers for similar buildings in U.S. cities. American Psycho's creepy business card scene was filmed in TD Centre and The RoboCop remake pretends our downtown Toronto is Detroit. More recently, the Bay-Adelaide Centre has been used in the TV series Suits. Usually, the maroon Scotia Plaza building is the giveaway.


Under the Gardiner
Countless films have used the stretch of Lake Shore Blvd. under the Gardiner to make Toronto look perhaps a bit more rawly urban than it really ease. The Total Recall reboot shut Lake Shore down a few times to shoot here, though the resulting scenes are obscured with layer upon layer of effects. It (unsurprisingly) features heavily in David Cronenberg's Crash, and often doubles as Chicago (see The Vow).


Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: /blogTO Flickr pool.



Brent / August 15, 2014 at 11:13 am
City Hall doesn't play Washington D.C. anything in The Sentinel — it plays itself (for once!).
Clarity and Truth / August 15, 2014 at 11:25 am
When you say "RoboCop", you mean the piece of shit from 2014, yes? It's important to clarify that it is not the original masterpiece.

Ditto for "Total Recall".
Tommy Boy was shot in the distillery and financial disctrict / August 15, 2014 at 11:32 am
What about TOMMY BOY?
WitDickman / August 15, 2014 at 11:41 am
Lots of movies film at Hearn Generating Station.
Reality Check / August 15, 2014 at 12:23 pm
90% of all films are not set in the true city in which the filming was done. Canadians, for some strange reason, seem to imagine that this only happens in Toronto, and bizarrely even get upset about it. That is a reflection of our lack of knowledge as to how the film industry really works around the world. Chicago Hope, Chicago? Nope. The list goes on and on and on. / August 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm
FWIW: The phrase "Polish concentration camp" is one that's usually best avoided:
416girl / August 15, 2014 at 12:56 pm
Please remove the phrase "polish concentration camp" as it is incorrect. The concentration capms were German, on natzi occupied polish land. You can change it to "natzi concentration camp" or "German concentration camp in natzi occupied Poland"
Red Knight / August 15, 2014 at 08:10 pm
Don't forget Northern Secondary School--host to the Academic Decathlon from Billy Madison, Resident Evil, and Carrie.
Pamela / August 15, 2014 at 08:58 pm
what about Lower Bay Station? Tons of movies were shot there.
Hair salon Toronto / August 15, 2014 at 09:04 pm
In the St Lawrence Market Area they use to film lots of movies, St James Park and lots of movies were shot also on Victoria street in downtown.
Herbert / August 15, 2014 at 09:50 pm
Kensington Market and Humber College Lakeshore Campus... Police Academy. John Q... Can't remember the location. Crimes of Fashion (starring Kaley Cuoco and Megan Fox)... Victoria University.
Mark Moore / August 15, 2014 at 09:59 pm

Capote was not shot in Toronto. Winnipeg.
syl / August 15, 2014 at 10:20 pm
Countless films have used the stretch of Lake Shore Blvd. under the Gardiner to make Toronto look perhaps a bit more rawly urban than it really "ease."

I think you mean "is".
Michael Alucard / August 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm
Or the Hearn…Hamilton. There's billion other places used more than these…
Spike replying to a comment from Clarity and Truth / August 17, 2014 at 01:00 am
I like the 2014 movie, just for the fact that it was different. Too bad there won't be more.
Reggie / November 11, 2014 at 08:39 pm
A lot of movies are also shot in North-East Scarborough in the Rouge Valley area.
Melissa / November 11, 2014 at 08:58 pm
I live across from St. James park and they film or pilot there every second week. It's pretty fun to watch! However, it was a little annoying this summer when they blocked me from getting into my apartment during the filming of Pixels with Adam Sandler and Peter Dinklage
steve54 / November 14, 2014 at 08:12 pm
At the end of the movie, the shelter looks like an old fire station that I have seen in another movie. Can anyone verify this and identify the building?
steve54 / November 14, 2014 at 08:20 pm
Sorry, the movie was "Crazy Christmas" with Howard Hessman. (2005)
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