11 Films Where Vancouver Is Basically Its Own Character

Hollywood North comes to life in 'Deadpool,' 'Juno,' 'The X-Files' and more

BY Alex HudsonPublished Jul 29, 2021

Vancouver is known as Hollywood North for good reason. Although it barely ever plays itself — with some notable exceptions, a couple of which are on this list — Vancouver is a frequent stand-in for Seattle, San Francisco or even Virginia. Unlike our recent list of Toronto flicks, few of these movies ever mention their filming location by name.

It's ironic, because Vancouver is so distinctive-looking that you can almost always tell when it's being used a backdrop. One quick glimpse of those mountains or rainforests and you're immediately situated in Vancouver.

With that in mind, we invite you to join us on this tour through Vancouver, as depicted on the big screen.

Hard Core Logo (1996)
Directed by Bruce McDonald
Most iconic location: Commodore Ballroom

Punk mockumentary Hard Core Logo is a road movie about a Canadian tour, but it's rooted in Vancouver. Interviews take place at Save On Meats and a suspension bridge (possibly Capilano Suspension Bridge or Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge — it's tough to tell), real-life locals D.O.A. and Art Bergmann make cameos as themselves, and there's a big show at the Commodore Ballroom.

Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
Directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan
Most iconic location: Pacific Coliseum

Archie will be forever linked to Vancouver thanks to the TV show Riverdale — but a couple decades earlier, Josie and the Pussycats brought the Archie universe to YVR with scenes set at the Vancouver Aquarium and the fountain in front of the downtown art gallery. For anyone who happened to be in high school at the turn of the millennium, the most memorable moment is the concert scene filmed at Pacific Coliseum. The arena doesn't look particularly distinctive on the screen, but the context around that scene — which involved a free b4-4 concert attended by thousands of local teens — was unforgettable.

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Most iconic location: 2400 Motel

Was Halloween: Resurrection a memorable instalment in the long-running horror franchise? Nope! But we simply must include it because of the appearance of Kingsway's iconic 2400 Motel, known for its appearance in many locally filmed TV shows like The X-Files, Motive and Smallville.

The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber
Most iconic location: UBC

The Butterfly Effect imagines how our lives are shaped by the smallest moments — like, what if Ashton Kutcher had been an actor instead of an investment bro? In one of the film's alternate realities, Kutcher finds himself pining for his unrequited crush outside of UBC's Koerner Library with the clocktower in the background. It's relatable because I have, quite literally, done the same thing in the same place.

I, Robot (2004)
Directed by Alex Proyas
Most iconic location: Ovaltine Cafe

I, Robot — one of the final films in Will Smith's decade-plus run of amazing action blockbusters — is set in the year 2035. That's good news for the longevity of the Downtown Eastside's Ovaltine Cafe, which looks pretty much unchanged during a scene in which Smith pops in for a beer. The surrounding buildings have been digitally edited to look like a futuristic metropolis, but the Ovaltine's distinctive neon sign remains.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Directed by Brett Ratner
Most iconic location: Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre

A bunch of X-Men films have been shot in Vancouver, but we chose 2006's The Last Stand (a.k.a. X3) for this list — mostly because of the scene where Angel (Ben Foster) smashes through a window and emerges from downtown's rather yonic-looking Wall Centre. He then flies away over, um, the San Francisco Bay? Other scenes feature some unmistakably British Columbian beaches.

Juno (2007)
Directed by Diablo Cody
Most iconic location: South Surrey Athletic Park

Stars Elliot Page and Michael Cera hail from Halifax and Brampton, respectively, but Juno is pure Vancouver. Even though this twee pregnancy comedy is set in Minnesota, it was filmed in YVR and its surrounding suburbs. This includes high school shots at Eric Hamber Secondary School and a mall scene at Coquitlam Centre. As for those iconic shots on the athletic track, they were captured at the nearby South Surrey Athletic Park.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
Directed by Chris Carter
Most iconic location: Pemberton Valley

Here's a lukewarm take: The X-Files is Vancouver's quintessential on-screen role, and the show went downhill after it left the rainy Pacific Northwest and relocated to Los Angeles after its sixth season. The creators clearly knew it, because six years after the show ended, they returned to Vancouver for the follow-up film I Want to Believe. This dark, snowy film mostly takes place in areas surrounding Vancouver, including Pemberton and the North Shore mountains.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson
Most iconic location: Chan Centre

Fifty Shades of Grey is brutally bad, and its toxic depiction of BDSM sex means that it's not even bad in a fun way. But! Check out all the nifty shots of Vancouver, which stands in for Seattle throughout the terrible film trilogy. UBC's Chan Centre is the setting for a university graduation scene at what is supposed to be Washington State University — and since that scene supposedly takes place in Vancouver, WA, there's even a "Vancouver" sign right in the foreground.

Deadpool (2016)
Directed by Tim Miller
Most iconic location: Georgia Viaduct

Ryan Reynolds is a proud Vancouverite — his Twitter handle is @VancityReynolds — so it's only fitting that his superhero movie Deadpool was filmed in his hometown. The movie's big first-act action sequence takes place on what is unmistakably the Georgia Viaduct, with clear shots of the Skytrain (although nearby landmarks like B.C. Place, Rogers Arena and Science World seem to have been digitally edited out). See also: 2018's Deadpool 2, with its beautiful shot of the Lions Gate Bridge.

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019)
Directed by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn
Most iconic location: East Vancouver

The stark, striking drama takes viewers on an almost voyeuristic tour of East Van, as two women grapple with the intersectional complexities of life in colonial Canada. The camera follows characters in long, unbroken shots, venturing onto TransLink busses, down streets and on car rides. Note the East Van Cross spray painted on the wall in the background of the above image.

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