It’s common knowledge in Hollywood that if you want to shoot New York on the cheap, you’d do it in Toronto — and for fake Europe, use Old Montreal. Countless ‘90s films, supposedly set in the Big Apple, feature scenes in buildings that were once Toronto landmarks: the intelligent Johnny 5 robot from Short Circuit 2speed-reads at the World’s Greatest Bookstore, and Geena Davis throws Samuel L. Jackson out of a car in front of Honest Ed’s in The Long Kiss Goodnight.
The Long Kiss Goodnight also happens to take place, like many of Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black’s scripts, around Christmastime. Here are some other Christmas movies shot in Ontario well worth watching over the holidays.
Hallmark Christmas movies have become a staple of the season, regardless of quality. The repetitive plots and recognizable names from ‘90s television offer a kind of comfortable familiarity. More significantly, they’re an economic boon to the country. They aren’t masterpieces; they’re just harmless fun.
If there’s a contender for best, it’s likely The Christmas Setup, the first LGBTQ-themed Christmas film. Shot in Ottawa and Almonte, it tells the story of an uptight lawyer who falls in love with his high school crush after getting a job offer in London. It’s no different from any other Hallmark film, and that’s the point.
Let It Snow
In recent years, Hallmark’s Christmas lineup has seen some fierce competition from Netflix, also choosing to shoot in and around Ontario. Their output has fared slightly better critically than Hallmark’s, with Let It Snow being a surprisingly winning holiday romance. Taking a Love Actually approach to the season, Snow is based on several short stories by different authors, weaving the narratives together only in the Christmas party finale.
A Christmas Story
One of the most well-known seasonal films of the ‘80s uses suburban Toronto as a stand-in for small-town Indiana. The reputation of versatile director Bob Clark’s second Christmas film (his first was early slasher Black Christmas) has grown over time as a cult classic, and the appeal is easy to understand. It’s told through a series of simple vignettes, much like the scattered memories of our youths. It may not be the funniest film, but it manages to capture some of the smaller, heartfelt moments of the season and of childhood, as messy as they are.
The Silent Partner
Perhaps the least festive Christmas movie on the list is also the best. The debate about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie has long been settled (it is) — it’s time to start a new one. After realizing his bank at Toronto’s Eaton Centre is going to be robbed by a man in a Santa outfit (Christopher Plummer), a bank teller (Elliot Gould) schemes to steal the money for himself beforehand, only to draw the homicidal ire of the real thief. It’s a thriller Roger Ebert declared worthy of Hitchcock, perfect for anyone who’s still not over Halloween.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer