After Los Angeles and New York, Vancouver is the third most popular filming location in the world for movies and TV shows. Now, you might think that would make its landmarks and geography readily recognizable, but that’s really not the case. In fact, you’d probably never notice it was even Vancouver on screen, since the city is almost always disguised as another location.
If you’re a cinephile who also happens to know Vancouver pretty well, this can get kind of annoying. But it’s also quite intriguing to look at how filmmakers use camera tricks and special effects to disguise parts of the same city as everything from iconic New York landmarks to desolate Alaskan villages.
7. Detroit (RoboCop)
Since Detroit has more of a frosty industrialized look, filming for the 2014 remake of RoboCop was originally supposed to take place in Toronto. However, in order to accommodate the lead actor, Joel Kinnaman, production was moved to Vancouver where he was filming a TV show at the same time. The most notable location was the Vancouver Convention Centre, which was transformed into the headquarters of the powerful tech giant Omnicorp where RoboCop has an explosive battle with the ED-209 units.
6. Connecticut (Happy Gilmore)
Vancouver and its surrounding area masquerade as Connecticut in the Adam Sandler sports-comedy Happy Gilmore. Some notable filming locations include Happy’s apartment, located at 101 East 7th Avenue; Grandma’s house, located at West 19th Avenue between Maple Street and Cypress Street; the Michelob Invitational which was filmed at the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt; and the Happy Land Mini Golf course scene that was filmed at Vancouver’s Playland amusement park.
5. Alaska (Man of Steel)
Three major scenes from the first half of Man of Steel were filmed on location in Vancouver. First, the scene where Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is a fisherman working in an Alaskan town was shot in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. Next, the scene of Clark Kent at the loggers bar was filmed in Nanaimo at the Cassidy Hotel. And lastly, the pivotal scene where a shirtless Clark Kent leads a rescue in the stormy seas to save workers on an oil rig was all shot on a massive green screen stage at the Vancouver Drydocks in North Vancouver.
4. San Francisco (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
Although some of this prequel was filmed in the real San Franscico, most of it was filmed in Vancouver. The ‘Gen-Sys’ research facility, where Will Rodman (James Franco) conducts his experiments to help treat Alzheimer’s, is actually the British Columbia Institute Of Technology’s Aerospace campus, located right next to the Vancouver Airport. The home that Rodman shares with his ailing father is one of Vancouver’s landmark Victorian houses. The exterior of so-called “ape sanctuary” that Caesar gets sent to is a Vancouver sports facility known as the Agrodome. And the scenes when Rodman takes Caesar to the zoo were filmed at what’s left of the now-closed Vancouver Zoo in Stanley Park.
3. North Korea (The Interview)
Not only was The Interview created and directed by Vancouver natives Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, it was also filmed entirely in Vancouver even though much of the movie is set in North Korea. The Pyongyang Airport scene was filmed at Abbotsford Airport. The basketball court where Kim Jong-un keeps his personal collection of tanks and luxury cars is actually a part of Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibit (PNE). Exterior shots of Kim Jong-un’s presidential palace were filmed at the steps in front of the Law Courts at Robson Square. And that climactic scene featuring helicopters, tanks and a nuclear launch, well, that was really just a gravel field right next to the Sea to Sky Highway.
2. Seattle, Russia, and India (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol)
The globe-hopping spy thriller Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol did quite a lot of filming in Vancouver. The scene with Tom cruise doing his trademark run through the streets of Mumbai was shot just outside the Vancouver Convention Centre. The scene where Josh Holloway’s character dies in an alley was filmed between the Dunsmuir and Georgia Viaducts. The Moscow scene where the team gets its Kremlin mission is really a location beneath the Burrard Bridge. The chase through a crowded Arab market during a Dubai sandstorm was shot at a gravel field near the Fraser River path. And that exciting fight scene in the Mumbai automated car park actually took place inside a vast Vancouver Drydocks warehouse.
1. New York (Rumble in the Bronx)
As the title implies, Rumble in the Bronx is a movie set in New York, but it was actually filmed almost entirely in Vancouver. In his autobiography, I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action, Jackie Chan admits to the difficulty associated with filming a movie in Vancouver that is set in New York. The production team had to put up a lot of fake graffiti during the day and then take it all down during the evening, while simultaneously making sure that no images of mountains made it into the background since that would be a dead giveaway that the characters aren’t actually in New York. However, in the end, Chan thought it was best that the production team focus more on the action and not worry so much about scenery. If you ever take the time to watch (or re-watch) Rumble in the Bronx, look closely, you’ll notice that a few mountains did, in fact, make it into the final cut. Oh well, it’s still a great kung fu movie.