Just go ahead and call Toronto "Hollywood Northeast." Canada's largest city is also its most movie-obsessed. Each September, Hollywood and international superstar filmmakers converge and unveil new works at the Toronto International Film Festival. Toronto is also home to an incredible amount of TV and movie productions (second only to Vancouver, aka "Hollywood Northwest"). In 2019, Netflix acquired a 25,000-square-foot studio production and office hub, while the city and greater metropolitan area has stood in for numerous North American and international locales including New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, while it also serves as the fictitious, dystopian Gilead in Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale and, of course, plays itself in the beloved DeGrassi franchise and films like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
If interested in "movie peeping" on current productions, there are a couple of Twitter accounts to follow. Toronto Filming (@TOFilming_EM) includes specific street addresses and shooting times, while What’s Filming (@WhatsFilmingON) includes hot tips and location details for shows and movies throughout the Ontario province. The City of Toronto's website also lists some current and upcoming shoots, and University of Toronto Libraries hosts an interactive online Toronto Film Map, pinned with locations for productions both set and shot here. To get a jump on some of the musts, here are seven locations used in some of the most iconic TV and movies.
Fairmont Royal York, Shazam!
Having celebrated its 90th birthday in 2019, the sprawling, 898-room Fairmont Royal York hotel is such a favorite and prolific location for movie, TV, commercial, and music video production that it employs two full-time staff members dedicated to booking and coordinating shoots. Last year's hit DC Comics superhero movie, Shazam!, featured the Royal York's lobby and shopping arcade in several memorable scenes (both doubling as New York, which Toronto frequently does), while The Handmaid's Tale has also utilized numerous spaces within the Royal York, including the ballroom and Library Bar, the latter serving as Jezebel's, during its run. Other notable films and shows over the years that have rolled here include Spotlight, Molly's Game, Red, Designated Survivor, Cinderella Man, and Syfy's The Expanse. Having completed a massive, property-wide renovation project in summer 2019, which includes redesigned and refreshed rooms, railway hotel-styled grand lobby, and the brand new CLOCKWORK Champagne & Cocktails bar and REIGN restaurant, we're sure to see even more of this grand dame on screens large and small soon.
Massey Hall, The Shape of Water
Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Guillermo Del Toro's atmospheric, heartfelt homage to classic horror movies like The Creature From The Black Lagoon featured numerous Toronto locations prominently, including Massey Hall, an historic, 2,765-seat performance venue. In the 1962-set film, the Massey's exterior plays the fictitious Baltimore Orpheum movie theater that Elisa (Sally Hawkins) lives above, to which a marquee was added by production designers; the Orpheum's interior, however, was shot in Yonge Street's 100+ year old Edwardian-style Elgin Theatre. The Shape of Water isn't the first Del Toro film to be shot in Toronto; in fact, the Guadalajara, Mexico-born director shot his first Hollywood film (1997's Mimic) here, and has not only returned to lens many projects since (including Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, and FX series The Strain), but also bought multiple Ontario homes. Fun fact: Massey Hall also served as a Tribeca neighborhood vampire lair in The Strain.
Union Station, Suicide Squad
Silver Streak, a 1976 action comedy, saw a train engine car bore through Union Station, and 30 years later DC Comics' 2016 Suicide Squad tore it up during a major climactic battle between the antihero team (which includes Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn) and supernatural baddie Enchantress. Fortunately, the station has more or less made it intact during its scenes in Orphan Black, Cosmopolis, and Wonderfalls, while other DCEU movies and series shot in and around Toronto include Titans and Shazam!.
City Hall, The Handmaid's Tale
Late Finnish architect Viljo Revell is credited with creating one of Toronto's most unique landmarks and popular locations for sci-fi and alternate universe-set productions. It served as setting for a scene in Star Trek: The New Generation (specifically, its 37th episode, which was shot in 1989), and more recently in The Handmaid's Tale. Locals were especially excited to spot the familiar red cloak-clad and white bonnet-wearing characters, including stars Elizabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, and Yvonne Strahovski scattered around the iconic structure, its sloping exterior pathways, and adjacent Nathan Philips Square plaza in 2019 (check out the series' third season for this scene). While Toronto is quite a progressive, diverse city, almost every section of town stands in for the repressive, futuristic dystopia of Gilead (with assist from production and art departments, of course). Other familiar sights to fans should include the exterior of St. Lawrence Market, the Fairmont Royal York, Trinity-St. Paul's United Church, Pearson airport, and the Puente de Luz Bridge. Keep an eye out for the CN Tower as well!
University of Toronto, Mean Girls
A highly-rated university, the University of Toronto campus has also stood in for elite Ivy league colleges like Harvard and MIT (1998 Oscar-winner Good Will Hunting) and Princeton (2004's Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), and served as fictitious school settings for many other hit movies including 1994's PCU, 2012's Total Recall remake, Ang Lee's 2008 Marvel movie The Incredible Hulk, and Tina Fey's cult 2004 comedy Mean Girls, starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, and Fey herself. Numerous buildings and exteriors on the campus were put to use for the Illinois-set hit, including Convocation Hall (other Toronto area locations used include Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, Malvern Collegiate's auditorium, and the CF Sherway Gardens shopping mall).
Roy Thomson Hall, The Boys
Home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and sister venue to Massey Hall, this 38-year-old, glassy, circular structure is one of Toronto's architectural icons, and the handiwork of Canadian architects Arthur Erikson (a Vancouver native) and Toronto's own Mathers & Haldenby. Also a favored venue for events during the Toronto International Film Festival, the Roy Thomson Hall, both its exterior, interior, and glorious 2,630-seat auditorium (which underwent a six-month, $20 million upgrade in 2002 for optimal acoustics), is often on screens itself: most recently, it appeared in Amazon's outrageously dark, wryly comic superhero series about a deeply corrupt superteam, The Seven, and the underdog vigilantes determined to bring them to bloody justice, The Boys.
The Hall doubles as the headquarters of the fictitious Vought International, a shady company that founded The Seven. Hughie can be seen within its glassy lobby during the first season's second episode, which will look familiar to fans of the X-Men movie franchise, as this also serves as the congressional hallway where Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier briefly confronts Ian McKellen's Magneto during an early scene in the first film in 2000. The Expanse also has set scenes in this stunningly designed, skylit interior, while the Hall also numerates among the many Toronto locations that serial killer Hannibal Lecter and criminal profiler Will Graham played cat and mouse around in the three-season series Hannibal.
Financial District, Suits
When Wall Street and midtown corporate Manhattan settings are called for, Toronto's Financial District takes the call. Completing its nine-season run in 2020, law firm drama Suits has created a convincing Manhattan-a-like throughout Toronto (fun fact: only its pilot episode was shot entirely in the Big Apple!), with Bay Street's sleek and towering Bay Adelaide West skyscraper serving as exterior and glass-enclosed marble-walled ground floor lobby of the Zane Specter Litt Wheeler Williams law firm's building, which has a 54th Street address in the show (the firm's office interiors, however, are shot on elaborate, utterly convincing sets replete with city views). The building should also look familiar to fans of 2000's darkly comic cult horror hit, American Psycho; this is where Christian Bale's already unhinged serial killer character, Patrick Bateman, went on yet another, even more unhinged spree late in the film, and the building and district has also appeared in series Orphan Black, Nikita, Conviction, the 2010 elevator-ride-from-hell movie, Devil and 2016 Oscar winner, Spotlight.