Vancouver is a movie star, albeit without any lines.
Something about the city's architecture is chameleon enough to sub in for different planets, fantasy worlds, and significant metropolises worldwide. Vancouver has played Tokyo, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Connecticut, Mumbai, Moscow, and even North Korea - not to mention the number of CGI worlds built in Hollywood North studios.
The Vancouver Economic Commission has estimated that 80 per cent of provincial filming takes place in Metro Vancouver and that on average 65 movies and 55 TV shows are shot here each year. Making us the third-largest film and television production centre in North America.
One might think that would mean that every single inch of ground has been covered and documented but in fact, very few quintessentially Vancouver landmarks have made it to the screen.
These are the most recognizable and unique Vancouver landmarks to sneak their way into movies and TV shows.
Plaza of Nations
The Plaza of Nations was built during Expo '86 at the same time as Science World, Canada Place, and the Yaletown Roundhouse. It was demolished in 2007 and a pop-up restaurant concept is in the empty lot but it used to be home to a futuristic-looking glass structure with a dramatically pointed roof. The modern architecture lended itself really well to Sci-Fi and was featured as a location in two TV shows, The Outer Limits and Stargate SG-1 and a Disney Channel original movie, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. The building was also in X-Men 2, Final Destination 2, and the first Fantastic Four movie starring Chris Evans as a superhero before his Captain America days.
Molson Canadian Brewery
The Molson Canadian Brewery is an imposing structure that welcomes you to Kits as you cross the Burrard Bridge. The building went up for lease in 2019 and Concord Pacific has big plans for the site. But while the enormous site was still open it hosted film crews for Battlestar Galactica, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and more recently, Lucifer, The Flash, iZombie, Supergirl, and Batwoman.
The Marine Building
The Marine Building is a 1930 skyscraper located on Burrard Street in the heart of the Financial District in Downtown. Taken out of context, it's one of the buildings that could be most easily mistaken for New York. It plays New York in a forgotten Angelina Jolie project called Life or Something Like It and has guest starred in multiple other films and TV shows, including Fantastic Four again, Heath Leger's final film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Blade: Trinity, Watchmen, Smallville, and many more.
There's something entirely cinematic about an aquarium. And while the Vancouver Aquarium is relatively humble in size compared to the ones in Toronto and San Diego, it has appeared in several movies. Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky discuss their break up in the second instalment of To All the Boys I Loved Before there; in this case, the aquarium is supposed to be in Portland. Josie and the Pussycats visit the aquarium in the 2001 movie that was filmed all over the downtown core. The second revival of the Twilight Zone also featured the aquarium as did TV series such as Prison Break, The X-Files, and The 100.
Ridge Theatre/Bowling Alley
Did you really think we were going to make it through this list without mentioning the Twilight Saga? Think again. The now-demolished Ridge Theatre and Bowling Alley was a classic Vancouver filming location and even inspired a local teacher to start compiling clips of movies filmed around Vancouver throughout history. It was used for the movie theatre scene in New Moon, the second Twilight film as well in the 1980s film Out of the Blue, and as a location for the long-running TV series Supernatural (which probably has shot in every conceivable locale in Vancouver).
Most recently, the 2400 Motel on Kingsway has starred in the breakout hit TV series Yellowjackets but it has also historically been home to creepy TV shows The X-Files, Supernatural and Bates Motel, and the horror movie Halloween: Resurrection. The motel was built in 1946 and largely hasn't changed. It's proud of its time capsule status and is very connected to vintage car culture, even encouraging enthusiasts to gather in its parking lot with their vehicles.
Mountain View Cemetery
Over a dozen TV shows have filmed scenes at Vancouver's only cemetery near the Riley Park neighbourhood. Most of the scenes are, of course, funerals. Legends of Tomorrow, Charmed, Battlestar Galactica, Batwoman, Supergirl, The Flash, The X-Files, and Stargate SG-1 all buried at least one person at Mountain View. The site is 106 acres and approximately 92,000 grave sites and 145,000 interred remains according to the city of Vancouver which manages the property. It also has stunning views thanks to the high elevation.
We're back to Twilight again, this time Breaking Dawn Part 1. The flashback to Edward's hunting days in the 1920s was filmed in the Orpheum Theatre which is fitting since the space is over 90 years old having been built in 1927. The opulent setting has been the backdrop for several scenes you may not have realized. The Ali Wong romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe had a scene there, as did the parade of CW shows filmed in Vancouver, especially Arrow, which was one of the first. The L Word was also filmed here, as was, Fringe, Hellcats, MacGyver, The Magicians, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to name a few.
The PNE and Playland are iconic locales in Vancouver that have been around for decades. The PNE was introduced in 1910 and Playland has been through a few iterations over the years so it's only fitting that they've seen their fair share of filming. The classic Adam Sandler film Happy Gilmore was shot all over Metro Vancouver and the scene where he's practising how to play golf at 'Happy Land' was actually shot at Playland (incidentally, Happy Land was the original name of playland before it was changed in the 1950s). You won't recognize the PNE when you're watching the 2003 Christmas classic Elf, but the North Pole was built indoors at the exhibition grounds. (Bonus: They also filmed at Vancouver's downtown Bay store, and outside of the city proper at the iconic Riverview Hospital building.)
The 1996 psychological thriller Fear starring Mark Whalberg and Reese Witherspoon has a scene filmed at Playland, as does Final Destination 3, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Rocky IV, Smokin' Aces 2, Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2, the Kurt Russell hockey film Miracle, and over a dozen more.
Assorted high schools
Vancouver high schools are interchangeable in movies. Both Jump Street movies starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill were filmed in Metro Vancouver at 12 different high schools. Twilight, Riverdale, John Tucker Must Die, Pretty Little Liars, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, She's the Man and any other show set in a high school also jump between the interiors and exteriors of different secondary schools around Vancouver.