A Definitive Ranking of the Best Movies Ever Filmed in Vancouver

Thanks to B.C’s lucrative tax credits and the bumper crop of sound stages/studios located in the metro Vancouver area—and the rise of Netflix and Amazon—we’re back in boon land in the film industry in this city. The Canadian Media Producers Association reported that B.C represents a whopping 40 percent of Canada’s overall film and television production, with most of the filming occurring in the Vancouver area.

That’s right — Vancouver has Hollywood covered for all their depressing rainy and forested scenes.

There are plenty of blockbusters, critical darlings and Razzie award winners filmed in Vancouver, and I’m here to break the best ones down. For the record, this isn’t a list of the highest grossed films filmed here, or the ones that showed the most of the city. This is a definitive (subjective) rankings of the five best films ever filmed in/around Vancouver. So sorry Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, but you didn’t come close to cracking this list.

I took in account the film’s Rotten Tomato Scores, IMBd ratings, award success, and my (unqualified) film expertise. I have deemed myself worthy of creating such list because I’m an avid moviegoer and I took not one, but two film classes during my university undergrad (so you’re in great hands, people).

Let the arguments commence!

Honourable Mentions:

Deadpool, Tully, Hot Rod and Watchmen

Brace yourselves, because I’ve got a hot take for you. I believe that the downtown Vancouver-shot film Deadpool is… extremely overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I, like 99.3% of the world, adore Vancouver-born actor Ryan Reynolds. That being said, his superhero movie is overstuffed with (already outdated) pop-culture references and unmemorable action sequences. The rest of the honourable mentions were solid B-level films, but they weren’t funny or consistent enough to crack the list.

5) Happy Gilmore (1996)

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
IMBd Rating: 7.0

“It’s all in the hips!” — Chubbs

Adam Sandler has made a lot of terrible movies (the Ridiculous Six, Pixels, Jack and Jill), but Happy Gilmore isn’t one of them. The film follows wannabe hockey player Happy Gilmore (Sandler), who joins a professional golf tournament to save his grandmother from eviction, and the only person standing in Gilmore’s way is top-ranked golfer, Shooter McGavin (in discussion for best movie villain name). It’s 22 years old at this point, but the film has stayed pretty relevant with its quotability (“You’re gonna die, clown!”) and timeless humour. Sandler’s physical comedy is outstanding here — he’s a child stuck in an adult’s body. He sulks around the golf course like a spoiled nine-year-old, taunting the crowd in victory, or crawls along the ground toward a golf ball to angrily shout it home into the hole (“Are you too good for your HOME? ANSWER ME!”). Happy Gilmore followed a winning movie formula that more comedies should follow (I call it The Triple H Formula for Comedic Success: Humour + High stakes = High Entertainment).

4) The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
IMBd Rating: 7.3

“And I say to myself, everyone is as miserable as I am. They’re just better at pretending.” – Mona

Unfortunately, this film often gets forgotten because of the recent surge of teenage/high school-themed films (I blame Netflix). The premise is both simple and relatable: high-school girl Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), struggling with teenage awkwardness, gets into a fight with her best friend Krista after she learns that she’s dating her older brother. Nadine ends the friendship and turns to her teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), for support. Though Krista’s chemistry with Nadine’s brother is decent, the real joy comes from the acting chops of Harrelson and Steinfield: every scene feels effortless, a genuine interaction between a tired teacher and an anxious high school student. In the one scene, Nadine storms into Mr. Bruner’s classroom and interrupts his lunch break. Teary eyed, she informs him, “Look, I don’t wanna take up a ton of your time…But I’m gonna kill myself. I just thought that someone should know.” Bruner deadpans that he was just drafting his own suicide note, influenced by his lunch beaks being continually interrupted by his annoying student. It’s an endearing moment, and Nadine and Bruner continue bicker and spar throughout the movie, though not without genuine affection.

Fun fact: The Edge of Seventeen was set in Portland but it was primarily shot at Guildford Park Secondary School in Surrey.

3) Okja (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
IMBd Rating: 7.3

“She lacks vision beyond her next round of golf.” – Lucy Mirando

It’s the weirdest movie on this list, but I’m in the camp that says it’s the best Netflix Original film made to date. The two stars are a computed generated super-pig (Okja) and first time actor, Seo-hyun Ahn (Mija). Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal are the villains — their characters are responsible for taking Okja away from Mija (his caretaker), and transporting him to their multinational corporation in New York. This movie is both original, hilarious and sad — it’s centred on the tough themes of animal cruelty and the ethics of slaughterhouses. I’m going spoiler-free for this list, and it’s difficult to discuss the specifics of this film without spoiling the plot — just know that it features a bonkers, adrenaline-filled Gyllenhaal performance that’s worth the entire movie.

Rare is the flick that gets me to sympathize with a super-pig, but that I did.

2) 50/50 (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
IMBd Rating: 7.7

“See, but… that’s bullshit. That’s what everyone has been telling me since the beginning. “Oh, you’re gonna be okay,” and “Oh, everything’s fine,” and like, it’s not… It makes it worse… that no one will just come out and say it. Like, “hey man, you’re gonna die.” – Adam

I believe this is the most under-appreciated film that (Vancouver’s own) Seth Rogen has ever produced or starred in.

The Golden-Globe nominated film is both touching and hilarious — it follows a health-conscious Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who grapples with life and death after learning that he has a tumour in his spine. The cast (featuring a charming Anna Kendrick performance) and script are terrific, there’s a good mixture of wit and sincerity in the main two characters’ dialogue. Kyle (Rogen), for example, attempts to convince Adam that cancer isn’t that bad. “You’re young. Young people beat cancer all the time. Every celebrity beats cancer: Tom Green, the guy from Dexter, Lance Armstrong — he keeps getting it!”

1) Juno (2007)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
IMBd Rating: 7.5

“Can’t we just like kick this old school? You know, like I stick the baby in a basket, send it your way, like Moses and the reeds?” – Juno

Yes, Juno was filmed here, starring two Canadian actors (Michael Cera and Ellen Page) and was directed by Montreal-born director, Jason Reitman. But I didn’t get rank it number one because of its Canadianness.

The three main reasons I choose Juno as the best movie ever filmed in Vancouver:
1) It features a memorable soundtrack (including songs from Kimya Dawson, and a closing tune called “Anyone Else But You” performed by Page and Cera)
2) It’s extremely re-watchable (8 times and counting for myself).
3) Ellen Page. Always Ellen Page.

Juno had four Oscar nominations (including one for best picture, and of course, for Ellen Page in her breakout role) and it’s the only film in the top five that won an Academy award (best original screenplay).

After having a one-time sexual encounter with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), 16-year-old Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) finds out that she’s pregnant. She contemplates an abortion, but decides to give up her baby for adoption to Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). Juno is both funny and sweet — it features superb supporting acting performances from J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney (who play Juno’s father and stepmother), and a concise, witty screenplay by former blogger, Brook Busey-Maurio (better known by her pen name, Diablo Cody). It’s the kind of sparkling, breaking new ground writing that gave us such gems as, “‘Katrina’s not my girlfriend alright?,’ Paulie sputters to Juno. ‘And I doubt she gave you the stink-eye, that’s just how her face looks, you know? That’s just her face.'” It’s remarkable to think that this was Cody’s first screenplay (it was followed up by fellow gems and critical successes, Young Adult and Tully, both directed by Jason Reitman).

Bravo Juno, you finished at number one.