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From Canada's Mountains to Movies

Canada's natural beauty has long been a drawcard for movie makers – and now its cities are also getting in on the act. Louise Mitchell reports on ‘Hollywood North’.

In the multi-million dollar movie industry, Canada has a well-earned pseudonym: Hollywood North. Not only is the country abundant in natural beauty, providing year-round epic filming locations, its free-trade benefits and lower dollar value means it makes economic sense to film there.

Over the past few years filmmakers across all platforms, including blockbuster movies, documentaries, independent cinema and more recently Netflix and other streaming services, have stumbled on some amazing similarities between USA and Canadian cities and landscapes. This has seen Canada become Hollywood’s biggest production hub after California and New York.
Barren mountain ranges of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, with pillow clouds hanging overleaf

Calgary

Backdropped by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the sweeping prairies surrounding the city of Calgary are the perfect locale to stage films set in America’s wild west. Some notable mentions filmed in ‘them these parts’ go to: Brokeback Mountain (2005) and The Revenant (2015). Visit Alberta on our 17 Day Highlights of the Rockies and Alaska Cruise.
 

Icefields Parkway

With more than 100 glaciers to choose from, wintry scenes can be shot year-round in locations found along this spectacular roadway, Icefields Parkway, between Jasper and Lake Louise. The region includes sweeping forested valleys dotted with waterfalls, emerald lakes and towering rock spires making it a perfect filming location, often standing in for the Alaskan wilderness in films such as The Edge (1997) and Mystery, Alaska (1999). 
View of Icefields Parkway road in Autumn

Toronto

In many films and an increasing amount of television productions, downtown Toronto with its tall art-deco buildings and grid street layout is used as a stand-in for New York and Chicago street scenes. The Netflix series Suits and the blockbuster Suicide Squad (2016) are recent examples. 
Narrow city building between two roads in down town Toronto, Canada

Quebec & Montreal

The French heritage of Quebec City and Montreal is obvious in their wide boulevards and distinctive architecture. This also means that American filmmakers don’t have to travel across the Atlantic to give their films a European flavour. Many of the ‘Parisian’ scenes in the 2002 blockbuster ‘Catch Me If You Can’ were shot in Quebec. Visit this region on the 27 Day Highlights of Eastern and Western Canada with Alaska Cruise.
street view old town montreal

Vancouver & Victoria

On the West Coast, and just a short hop from LAX, the British Columbia cities of Vancouver and Victoria, which are surrounded by spectacular wilderness regions, tick many boxes for Hollywood producers. Vancouver’s Gastown district, with its cobbled streets and quaint buildings often stands in for ‘middle America’. The Twilight, vampire series films and Fifty Shades of Grey, among dozens of others have been filmed here. 
View of gastown city in Vancouver
So if you go to Canada for the first time and things look decidedly familiar – it’s probably because you have seen it before on film. And if you are returning traveller on one of our Canada tours, next time view it all with a film location scout’s point of view – you may even earn yourself a spotting fee!