Vancouver’s Film Industry Draws Big Productions

Posted on February 14, 2017

CityMash.com - The 1989 feature film “Cousins” directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Ted Danson was one of the first movies to feature the city of Vancouver quite prominently. Since then, the Vancouver film industry has expanded exponentially, often standing in for American cities, and now boasts a number of highly-rated and praised productions.

From multi-billion-dollar franchises to cult classics, the list of productions filmed in Vancouver (or the lower mainland in general) is rivaled by few outside of California or New York in North America. There’s a reason Vancouver has become known in the industry as “Hollywood North.”

So enjoy an entirely arbitrary but unarguable list of the top movies filmed in the Vancouver area.

The “Twilight” Saga

Whether you’re completely obsessed with the uber-popular series of books and films or mock everything about them, there’s no denying the impact of the Twilight saga on popular culture.

When production moved to Vancouver for the highly anticipated second installment in the franchise, 2009’s “New Moon,” the city was abuzz. Throngs of excited teenagers scoured the city during production, searching for a glimpse of stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattison and Taylor Lautner.

“New Moon” was a hit, nearly doubling the worldwide gross of its predecessor, and three more films in the series were made, all in Vancouver. In total the five films in the series earned more than $3.3 billion at the box office.

Many scenes were shot at Vancouver Film Studios, the largest production facility in North America outside of Los Angeles, near Boundary Road and the Trans-Canada Highway. Both Stanley Park and Kitsilano served as a backdrop in the films, as well as other locations in the area.

The “Final Destination” Films

For people of a certain age, even something as mundane as passing a logging truck on the highway has come to evoke a feeling of horror thanks to the “Final Destination” series of movies.

The popular horror films, in which death stalks a group of young people who escaped a catastrophic event, were filmed largely in the Vancouver area, and feature a number of recognizable locales.

The first film used Victoria as a stand-in for Paris, and the Vancouver International Airport as JFK International Airport in New York, while the second film used the Plaza of Nations to represent a medical centre. The fourth film skipped Vancouver, but returned for the fifth edition, filming a spectacular bridge collapse scene on the Lions’ Gate Bridge.  

“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”

Shot in fabulous locations around the world (notably including the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates), much of the interior filming for 2011 action blockbuster “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” was actually done at Vancouver’s Canadian Motion Picture Park Studios (the studio was also used for the “Twilight” saga), located off Marine Way in south Burnaby.

A number of popular Vancouver locations can be spotted in the movie, and one needn’t be an eagle eye to do it. Most notable is the Vancouver Convention Center, which managed to be converted into a hot Mumbai street on a cold Vancouver night. In fact, Vancouver was made up to look like a number of international locales for the filming. Other locations reportedly included Granville Island, beneath the Burrard Bridge, and a Richmond office park.

“Ghost Protocol” was credited with reinvigorating the “Mission Impossible” franchise, earning nearly $700 million, almost $300 million more than “Mission Impossible III.” It remains the highest-grossing film in the series, as well as megastar Tom Cruise’s 30-plus-year career.

The “Fifty Shades” Series

Though set in Vancouver, Washington, 2014’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” was actually filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia. Both the film and the 2011 book upon which it was based spawned a legion of fans, though critics were less than kind.

Vancouver served as a perfect backdrop for the tone of the film, and a number of local landmarks can be seen. Notably the titular Christian Grey is seen jogging the seawall, while many locations in the city’s downtown core were also used, including Five Bentall Centre, which stood in for the Grey Enterprises building.

The film broke records with the biggest opening weekend in February and widest R-rated opening (surpassing “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Hangover Part II,” respectively). Considered by some to be “smut” for its subject matter and content, the movie was still popular enough to lead to two upcoming sequels, “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed.” Both were filmed back-to-back, in part in Vancouver.

The “X-Men” Franchise

Perhaps no movie boosted the Vancouver film industry more than 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Its predecessor in the franchise, “X-2,” was also filmed in Vancouver, but it was “The Last Stand,” one of the most expensive movies ever (at the time) with its inflated $210 million budget, which proved to be a boon to the city.

Nearly every exterior shot evokes such familiarity for fans of the franchise from the lower mainland of British Columbia, from local forests to the Vancouver Art Gallery and the University of British Columbia campus.

The film proved to be worth the heavy investment for Marvel, earning around $459 million worldwide, the highest-grossing “X-Men” film until 2014’s “Days of Future Past.”


Canadian actress Ellen Page had a supporting role in “Last Stand,” but her breakout performance was alongside fellow Canadian Michael Cera in 2007’s “Juno,” which prominently featured areas around Vancouver serving as Minnesota for the film.

Shot on a relatively shoe-string budget (just $6.5 million), “Juno” became a critical darling, winning Diablo Cody an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, appearing in numerous top 10 lists, and even ranking as Roger Ebert’s best film of the year.

Vancouver locations seen in the film include Eric Hamber Secondary School (as the fictional Dancing Elk High School) and the South Surrey Athletic Park Track as the fictional school’s track. The infamously mercurial Vancouver weather even agreed to play nice for the production, snowing when the producers thought they might have to truck in some fake snow to shoot a winter scene.

“First Blood”

This one is stretching the premise a bit, but the outdoor locations used in the first John Rambo movie, 1982’s “First Blood,” should be familiar to most Vancouverites.

The movie takes place in the fictional town of Hope, Washington, however the film was actually shot in Hope, British Columbia, about 120 km east of Vancouver. The local film industry was still in its infancy when “First Blood” settled on Hope and the surrounding area for its production.

The town itself was adorned with American flags and U.S. Post mail boxes, but the town captured on screen is still undeniably Hope. Golden Ears Provincial Park, a favorite camping spot for Vancouver locals, also played a heavy role in the film, as did Pitt Lake in nearby Pitt Meadows, B.C. Additional shooting was also done in North Vancouver and Port Coquitlam.

The film was a hit, topping the North American box office for three weeks in a row upon its release, and spawning a number of sequels spanning decades.


Our final high-profile movie filmed in Vancouver is also the most recent. “Deadpool” stars Vancouver’s own Ryan Reynolds, reprising his role as the Marvel character in a stand alone film.

“Deadpool” was a smash, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time with $782 million, while also setting several other box office records. The movie was also handed two Golden Globes nods, one for Best Picture – Comedy, and the other to Reynolds for Best Actor – Comedy.

The city of Vancouver can be recognized quite easily in the film, including an intense action scene shot on the Georgia Street viaduct. Even the Number 5 Orange on Main Street makes an appearance in the film.

Other Popular Films

The full list of other popular movies filmed in and around Vancouver is epic. Here’s an amuse bouche of the rest:

“Planet of the Apes” (reboot trilogy),

“The Interview” (starring Vancouver’s own Seth Rogen),

“The A-Team” (with filming in Kamloops, B.C.),

The “Scary Movie” franchise,

“Elf” starring Will Ferrell,

“Hot Tub Time Machine,”

And “Godzilla” 2014, featuring Bryan Cranston.

Written by Ken Hill
Freelance writer, editor, and father of two fur babies. Loves travel, history, politics, and unfortunately baklava. Won't rest until the Stanley Cup parades through Stanley Park. More articles by Ken Hill

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