For all of us who’ve put travel plans on hold in favour of staying home and waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic, life just got a little bit smaller (but a lot safer).For now, we’re satiating our wanderlust by escaping into the world of film and television. So, here are 15 ways to see Toronto through the lens of your favourite actors, directors and cinematographers.
Mexican-born director Guillermo del Toro is a big fan of Toronto, taking advantage of the city’s film industry infrastructure to make several of his best-known projects.
The multiple-Oscar-winning Shape of Water features scenes shot inside the legendary Lakeview Diner (so too, does the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail) as well as inside the stunning Elgin Theatre in the city’s core.
The 2012 remake of the 1990 sci-fi thriller features Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale in a wild chase through a dystopian future city that looks a lot like Toronto (because it is). Watch for the nail-biting car chase under the Gardiner, spot the city’s iconic Roy Thomson Hall and the TTC’s Lower Bay Station, and see scenes shot at the University of Toronto’s Knox College.
Toronto became the stage for all that jazz when the 1920’s roared into the city to take over landmarks like Casa Loma, the cobblestone-paved Distillery District, Greektown’s Danforth Music Hall, and Osgoode Hall at the intersection of Queen and University. Basically, if there was a stately old building in Toronto, it was readying itself for a closeup while the Chicago production team was in town.
For five seasons, multiple Tatiana Maslanys could be spotted all over Toronto speaking in different accents and sporting a variety of hairstyles. Queen Street’s Graffiti Alley and the old Don Jail have multiple cameos in this completely addictive sci-fi series and the west end’s trendy Parkdale neighbourhood is featured, too.
This comic book-based series involves seven estranged superhero siblings (including Canada’s own Ellen Page) trying to save the world (dysfunctionality be damned). The gorgeous greenhouse in Toronto’s Allan Gardens gets some time on screen as does the cool, up-and-coming Queen East neighbourhood.
To all the working parents trying to keep it together at home with the kids underfoot right now: this is the show for you. The Canadian sitcom, now in its fourth season, is basically your guide to where to plan your post-social-distancing celebratory meals in Toronto.
Keep an eye out for the Colette Grand Cafe, The Broadview Hotel (with their rooftop bar and The Civic restaurant), and Flock restaurant on Harbord.
Coming up on their fifth season, this hilarious half-hour show from a squad of Toronto’s funniest women features episodes with titles like “Last Year You Weren’t 40” and “Start by Having Rich Parents.”
Viewers will catch glimpses of artsy Sugar Beach, Queen Street’s super cool Type Books, bohemian Kensington Market, and the mythical white squirrel in his or her natural environment: Trinity Bellwoods Park.
This Emmy darling, based on Toronto author Margaret Atwood’s classic novel, has had Torontonians seeing red for three seasons now. When the show is in production, those now-iconic red handmaid’s capes can be spotted in the tony Bridle Path neighbourhood, at Ripley’s Aquarium, in St. Lawrence Market, and at Toronto City Hall.
The year 1997 was the University of Toronto’s time to shine. Although Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Academy Award-winning debut was situated in Boston (check out those accents!) most of the school-set scenes were filmed at U of T, which stood in for MIT in Massachusetts.
Toronto Twitter went wild when the Batmobile was spotted on Yonge Street near the Toronto Eaton Centre and Yonge-Dundas Square back in 2015.
This chaotic comic book adaptation has a killer soundtrack and lots of Toronto-centric scenes that show off the city’s central core. Look for Union Station, the glistening towers of the Financial District, and Lower Bay Station, too.
Once again, Guillermo del Toro takes over Toronto for one of his brilliant monster movies. Pacific Rim is heavy on soundstage filming, making it very easy to spot those few exteriors where Toronto shows up. Look out for the staggering Scarborough Bluffs, our unique City Hall, and the Hearn Generating Station.
When you’re not busy spotting Meghan Markle do her legal thing on this American-set, Canadian-filmed series about a high-stress Manhattan law firm, spot Toronto.
The series shines a flattering light on King Street’s TIFF Bell Lightbox, on hotels like the Fairmont Royal York and the Ritz-Carlton, and on restaurants like The Citizen, Weslodge, The Lakeview Diner, and Luma.
Want to spot a Toronto icon-in-the-making? Binge the first eight seasons of Degrassi: The Next Generation to see a young Drake (under the name Aubrey Graham) before he was worldwide famous.
In terms of Toronto places, the beautiful Bluffer’s Park has a cameo and so does the infamous adult entertainment venue, Club Zanzibar with its (admittedly cool) neon sign.
One of the funniest moments in the teen comedy-meets-fantasy flick Scott Pilgrim is the scene where suburban Toronto’s Michael Cera goes up against Chris Evans in a fight and the backdrop behind them, depicting New York City, is shredded. Behind that? The Toronto skyline with our highly recognizable CN Tower. An excellent inside joke for film buffs who know just how often Toronto acts as a stand-in for US cities.
We love how 2000’s X-Men movie brought mutants to Toronto to show off our Distillery District (even if it did stand in for a WWII-era concentration camp). We’ll forgive the production team, since they did give Casa Loma a starring role as the home of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Very cool. The downtown core was also featured: keep those lids peeled for both Metro Hall and Roy Thomson Hall.
See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door
there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.
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