The ultimate filmed in Toronto city tour
Even if you’ve never been to Toronto, you’ve likely seen it often—as it’s a regular star on the silver screen. Thanks to a favourable local filming tax credit and the fact Toronto can easily stand in for cities like New York and Chicago, Canada’s largest metropolis is a very popular filming location.
On this Ultimate Filmed in Toronto City Tour, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the most popular movies made in town, and highlighted some of the most notable locations from each one. If any of these Hollywood hits interest you, you can design your own unique Toronto city tour based on the specific sites you’d like to see!
A Toronto City Tour…of Chicago
This jazzy musical is steeped in the Windy City, but from a filming perspective the movie should be more accurately called Toronto—as it was entirely shot here. To get the most bang for your sightseeing buck, head to the Distillery District on the east side of downtown. Because it’s one of the most well-preserved Victoria-era communities in the world, it’s a very popular movie location in various period pieces mentioned in this blog post, including Chicago set in the 1940s. Wandering through this charming pedestrian area is a staple on any Toronto city tour.
Most of the buildings are red brick, but the south-west corner is home to the grey stone fermenting cellar building that stood in as the Cook County Jail where Roxie Hart is incarcerated and where innocent inmate Hunyak is hanged. The main drag of the Distillery District is also where police drag our heroine away after she shoots her lover.
North of downtown stands Casa Loma, an incredibly ornate mansion whose Oak Room played the role of Billy Flynn’s office. After Flynn takes on Roxie’s case, the courthouse where he presents her made-over image to the public is the Ontario provincial legislature, known as Queen’s Park. Socialite Kitty Baxter’s luxurious apartment is the Parkwood Estate at 270 Simcoe Street in Oshawa. Finally, for the big final number Toronto’s Elgin Theatre stands in for the famous Chicago Theater. The Elgin is still in good use, so if you have time while in the city, consider taking in a performance to see its opulent interior.
Where Tommy Boy begins and ends
This Chris Farley-David Spade cult classic was filmed in many different cities and towns across Ontario and the United States, as is befitting a movie built around a road trip. The Queen City has a large role to play though, so you can definitely make a nice Toronto city tour out of some of the more iconic locations. The Distillery District is back, this time as Tommy’s family business, Callahan Auto Parts.
The opening sequence featuring Farley running late to class is set on the city’s most important campus at the University of Toronto. You can see Hart House and Sigmund Samuel Library as Tommy runs frantically by. Devotees might notice the clock he looks up at in the movie, supposedly on the Hart House clocktower, is actually on a building behind him called Soldiers’ Tower. After a series of foibles across the country, the movie returns to ‘Chicago’ for its final scene. You can tell it’s actually Toronto, however, because our streetcars make it into some of the final shots along with the back of the city’s heavily-photographed Gooderham Building.
The X-Men: The Distillery District and Casa Loma return
Toronto has the opportunity to show off its cinematic versatility in this 2000 film, filling the role of not only modern-day New York but also 1940s Poland and northern Alberta. The European concentration camp where Magneto first discovers his powers is actually—perhaps you can guess!—the Distillery District, with its smokestack looming ominously in the background. The neighbourhood is also home to the lowlife bar in ‘northern Alberta’ where we first meet a cage-fighting Wolverine.
Professor X and Magneto first acknowledge each other inside Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto’s main concert hall, while the exterior of Dr. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is Parkwood Estate (previously, Kitty Baxter’s apartment in Chicago) and the interior is Casa Loma. Like Billy Flynn, Professor X has his office in the Oak Room.
A Toronto City Tour that goes everywhere: The Incredible Hulk
Toronto has been in a few action movies including Suicide Squad, the 2014 Robocop reboot, and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. While you might want to simply run through the streets of Toronto pretending you are the Hulk to get the best effect, stop at a few of the standout locations. The University of Toronto is back as the fictional ‘Culver University, Virginia’ where Bruce Banner goes in search of his past records. Posing as a pizza delivery guy, he cons his way into Culver’s theological school, i.e. U of T’s Knox College. When the police turn up and Hulk gets mad, the subsequent battle takes place in the Knox College quad.
A comprehensive tour of Hulk filming locations takes you into the heart of underdeveloped and industrial Toronto. Enroute to ‘Manhattan’, Banner and Betty Ross cross over the Cherry St. Bridge in Toronto’s Port Lands. Today the Port Lands are a massive construction zone that will someday house tens of thousands of people, but for now there’s admittedly not much to do there—save for getting one of the best photos of the Toronto skyline from across the water (and re-enacting your favourite Hulk scenes, of course). When Banner and Ross finally get to Grayburn College to meet up with cellular biologist Samuel Sterns, they’re actually back at…U of T! This time, at Convocation Hall and King’s College Road (right beside Knox College) when they confront General Ross and his troops.
You don’t want to miss the Hulk’s final battle scene on this Toronto city tour, which takes place at one of the city’s most famous sites, Yonge-Dundas Square—and in the movie you can see our landmark Sam’s record store sign as proof of where you are.
Good Will Hunting’s ‘Toront-ah’ tour
This Ben Affleck-Matt Damon classic may be unabashedly Bostonian, but a number of its Beantown scenes actually come to you from Toronto. Unlike some of the movies mentioned above, a good portion of Good Will Hunting was filmed on location in Massachusetts; however, when Harvard University and MIT were unwilling to permit too much action on their campuses, the University of Toronto happily filled the role. Wycliffe College was the site of Skylar’s dorm room, and its exterior is in the background as Matt Damon struggles to slip his pants on while storming out after their fight. The U of T’s science centre, McLennan Hall, is where you’ll find MIT’s lecture halls and the hallway where Will Hunting solves Professor Lambeau’s math problem.
The unforgettable scene where Will humiliates the Harvard student hitting on Skylar takes place in a quintessential Cambridge college bar—that’s actually the former Upfront Bar and Grill at 106 Front St. East in downtown Toronto. The bar has since become the F45 training gym, so if you go inside, expect to find a spin class rather than a pint.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding turns Greektown up to 11
This cult hit written and starring Canadian Nia Vardalos was, as you should expect by now, set in Chicago but filmed in Toronto. None of the filming was done in any of the aforementioned hot spots like the Distillery District or Casa Loma, so if you’re designing a Toronto city tour around MBFGW, you’ll have the opportunity to discover some other neighbourhoods.
The director shot many of the film’s outdoor scenes in Greektown, down Danforth Ave. east of Pape Ave.; but given the sitcom feel of the movie, they chose some slightly over-the-top names for the local establishments—such as Mount Olympus Travel Agency and Aphrodite’s Palace restaurant—so the business signs were set pieces. Still, no Toronto city tour would be complete without exploring some of its culinary diversity, so a trip to Greektown for lunch is worthwhile even though it doesn’t look exactly like the film.
Thanks to the magic of cinema, the ‘Greek Orthodox’ church where Toula and Ian get married wasn’t Greek, or even a single church! The interior was St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church at 770 Queen St. West, and the exterior was Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church at 23 Henry St.
Perhaps the coolest building to see is Toula’s family home, which does exist—although it went through an extensive renovation for the film, including the addition of a fake second floor. Owned by a proud Greek-Canadian named Paul Viaros, the house already had a strong Greek feel, but the set dressers turned the Hellenic overtones up to 11. To see the alterations, you can check out this cool New York Times photo essay on the transformation!
From period musicals to superhero flicks to rom coms, we hope you now have a flavour for Toronto’s excellent acting versatility, and if you are a cinephile, can have fun exploring our city through some of its iconic Hollywood sites!