Filmmakers have established a long history of tapping Toronto as an alternative shooting location for big American cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston, and its visually diverse cityscape has even allowed it to stand in for environs as far-flung as Poland. Read below for our list of films that have – with varying degrees of success –embraced Toronto as a location just waiting to be lit up and disguised.
The Boondock Saints (1999)
Don’t believe the accents. A lot of the Boston in Boondock Saints is all Toronto. That epic courtroom speech? That was at the original council chambers at Old City Hall. The meatpacking plant in the opening credits? St. Clair West’s Corsetti Meat Packers. The police station? That was U of T’s Mineral Engineering building.
Amongst many other things, John Waters is a notorious supporter of Baltimore, Maryland culture, but much of Adam Shankman’s rom-com based on the Broadway musical based on Waters’s 1988 mainstream musical breakthrough set in 1960s Baltimore, was shot at the corner of Dundas West and Roncesvalles, the Lakeview restaurant, and along Queen Street East.
Mean Girls (2004)
While no one could have succeeded in making “fetch” happen, Mean Girls succeeded in dressing Toronto up as the Chicago suburbs. Sourcing Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, Malvern C.I., and Givins Shaw Public School to create its North Shore high school setting, the residential scenes were shot in the city’s east end, and the Mathletes competition was shot at U of T’s Convocation Hall.
Network is a sneering satire following a New York television network’s struggle with poor ratings. You know that “I’m mad as hell” rant? That was shot at CFTO’s Scarborough offices. There you have it. The media is lying to you.
Saw sequels (2005 through 2010)
The ruinous interior environs of the lethal puzzles victims spend most of this franchise navigating might make it difficult to tell, but following the 2004 original, every remaining Saw feature was filmed entirely in Toronto. The most recognizable shot of the city comes in the opening of the franchise’s final, seventh entry, Saw 3D, when onlookers watch two young men fight a bloody tug-of-war in David Pecaut Square.
Short Circuit 2 (1988)
Toronto subs in for New York City in this sequel to the 1986 original about a military weapon turned happy-go-lucky robot personality, giving lots of face time to easily recognizable locations like Yonge-Dundas Square, Roy Thompson Hall, and Bay and Bloor. There’s even a visit to the World’s Biggest Bookstore, an iconic, sorely missed Toronto business.
Toronto is all over Bryan Singer’s original X-Men film. It made use of the then dormant Distillery District’s brick-paved streets and warehouse spaces to create the Poland Nazi concentration camp in the film’s prologue and the bar Wolverine roughs up shortly thereafter, Rouge Park stands in for an Alaska winterscape, a US Senate debate takes place in the council chamber at Metro Hall, and Professor Xavier and Magneto have their own debate in front of Roy Thompson Hall. Along with Casa Loma, both halls were also used to shoot interior scenes for Professor X’s school.