The top 10 highest grossing movies shot in Toronto
The highest grossing movies shot in Toronto prove that this city is the Meryl Streep of Canadian film locations - versatile. We've stood-in for other major North American cities in disaster flicks, period pieces, contemporary dramas, and dystopian futures.
The construction of the massive Pinewood Studios on Commissioners Street has allowed mega-productions to move-in with increasingly larger budgets. As our film industry continues to grow in size and scope, we look back on the biggest blockbusters that were shot in Toronto.
Pacific Rim (2013)
With a reported budget of $190M, Pacific Rim is the most expensive movie ever shot in Toronto. With worldwide box-office returns of $411M, it's also the highest-earning movie shot in the city. The film was shot entirely in Toronto - mostly in the massive soundstages at Pinewood Studios, with a few exteriors at the Scarborough Bluffs, and a memorable scene staged on Elizabeth Street behind City Hall (standing in for Tokyo).
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Winnipeg's Nia Vardalos scored a sleeper hit with My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the highest grossing movie to never reach #1 at the box office. Despite never claiming the top spot during its release, it went on to earn $368M worldwide. The film was set in Chicago, but Toronto is the star with exteriors and interiors shot at Ryerson, the Harbourfront, and of course The Danforth. The family home depicted in the film actually exists on Glenwood Crescent, just off O'Connor Drive near St. Clair East.
Speaking of Chicago, next we have Chicago. Winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Art Direction, and Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago could be the most universally acclaimed movie shot in Toronto. This little song-and-dance number grossed $306M worldwide, and prominently featured Queen's Park, Osgoode Hall, Casa Loma, The Elgin Theatre, and The Distillery District. Sister cities, indeed.
Kicking-off the successful franchise, Bryan Singer's original X-MEN grossed $296M worldwide. The exterior for Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Children is actually Parkwood Estate in Oshawa (also home to Lucy Liu's character in Chicago, and Adam Sandler in Billy Madison), with interiors shot in Casa Loma. The Distillery District doubles as 1940's Poland, and Metro Hall gets trans-mutated into the senate chamber. The sprawling production also used locations in Burlington, Hamilton, and Sudbury.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
All five of the Resident Evil movies were filmed at least partially in Toronto, and two in the series technically grossed enough to make this list (there's also a sixth movie in production). I'm only ranking Afterlife because it made the most in the franchise, and they're all basically the same movie, right? This forth installment earned $296M worldwide. The fifth movie, Resident Evil: Retribution grossed $240M, and would have ranked #8.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
This incredibly miscast production (Ed Norton? Angry?) managed to earn $263M worldwide, and could be better used as a promo reel for U of T. While act one is filmed on location in Rio, much of the film's second act takes place in King's College, Knox College, and Convocation Hall. You can also spot the Cherry Street Bridge, Morningside Park in Scarborough, and Lakeshore Boulevard. Of course, the film's climax takes place outside Zanzibar on Yonge Street, but it's supposed to be Harlem. Hulk smash!
This was another huge production, with a reported budget of $130M. Social media was a flutter when actor Joel Kinnaman gave us the first glimpses of the new RoboCop suit as they were filming exterior scenes on College Street. Hamilton's industrial legacy allowed it to stand-in for a near-future Detroit, and the Hearn Generating Station in the Port Lands provided the gritty backdrop for RoboCop's training scene. This watchable, if unnecessary remake earned $242M worldwide.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Another Oscar-winner joins the list. Matt and Ben took home the Best Original Screenplay award, but this film is notable for the only Oscar win by three-time nominated Robin Williams for Best Supporting Actor. U of T and Central Tech stand-in for Harvard and MIT, and the famous "How do you like them apples" scene was filmed at the recently closed Upfront Bar & Grill on Front Street. Worldwide, Good Will Hunting has earned $225M.
The movie based on the musical based on the movie featuring a cross-dressing John Travolta in a fat-suit earned $202M at the worldwide box-office. The production convincingly turned the intersection of Dundas West and Roncesvalles into 1960's Baltimore, and made use of Lord Lansdowne Public School, The Lakeview restaurant, and areas along Queen Street East. Interior scenes were also filmed at Queen Victoria School in Hamilton. Hairspray was a critical success, and is the sixth highest-grossing movie-musical to date.
Total Recall (2012)
Although it received mixed reviews and under-performed at the box-office, Total Recall still managed to gross $198M worldwide. Familiar locations include Roy Thomson Hall, the Metro Convention Centre, the Gardiner, and Lower Bay Station. With a production budget of $125M, this remake of the 1990 sci-fi classic was the biggest budget film to be produced in Toronto at the time. The scope of its production has since been eclipsed by RoboCop and Pacific Rim.
Photo: Spencer Barclay
This post has been updated to include Hairspray, which was missed the first time around. Thanks to commenter Brent for the heads-up. Also, Twister has been removed after reader Mark Moore noted it was not, in fact, shot in Ontario at all.
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