Reel Toronto's Cult Classics and Guilty Pleasures
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Reel Toronto’s Cult Classics and Guilty Pleasures

For its fifth anniversary, Reel Toronto assembles a true Torontonian's guide to the coolest films ever shot here.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

In celebrating Reel Toronto’s fifth anniversary, we’ve already talked about some of the best and worst shot-in-Toronto movies. But there are some movies that don’t fall into either of those categories—movies that, regardless of whether they were made well, you just can’t help but enjoy.

Accordingly, here are a few of the films we just can’t shake, whether anyone else likes ’em or not.

1   Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Who could have guessed this humble production would become a veritable franchise? Even while the lead actors, John Cho and Kal Penn, have gone on to more serious work (Star Trek, House, etc.), it seems clear they will forever be known as “Harold and Kumar,” even if no one knows that the “New Jersey” in which they have their adventures is actually the GTA.

From their apartment on Avenue Road…

…to a cruise on the Queensway…

…and some quality time at U of T’s Knox College, they do the city proud.

2   PCU

Speaking of U of T, PCU really lets the campus shine. The movie is basically supposed to be a ’90s version of Animal House (we can’t have fun because everything’s so politically correct!) and some of it is as dated as MC Hammer’s parachute pants. But it’s elevated by Jeremy Piven and Jon Favreau, each with radically different hair than they have now. They come together for one our favourite movie scenes/life lessons ever.

The fictional Port Chester University is largely played by the St. George Campus’s more historic buildings, including University College…

…and Victoria.

Also, the movie was directed by Hart Bochner, a Torontonian perhaps best known for his turn in Die Hard. (As we noted in the original column, he was “Ellis, the coke-snorting jerk hitting on Holly McClane,” who unwisely tries to bargain with Hans Gruber.)

3   Billy Madison and Tommy Boy

While some of them are undoubtedly funny, it would be a real stretch to say Adam Sandler has made any actual good movies. Similarly, it takes a special kind of person to admit that s/he, say, owns the entire David Spade/Chris Farley movie collection on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray. And yet these SNL alums have undoubtedly made some funny films.

Billy Madison isn’t really a good movie, but it sure is a great dumb, funny movie. If you’re going to have a rich buffoon you need the right mansion. Enter Oshawa’s much-used Parkdale Estate.

Whether visiting Black Creek Pioneer Village…

…or schools like John Ross Robertson P.S. …

…and Western Tech, Billy Madison gives Toronto a great, stupid legacy.

Similarly, Chris Farley’s Tommy Boy is no classic, but you can’t spend two hours watching it and not crack a smile. You can do it at U of T…

…or in the Distillery District…

…or even on Front Street, which is supposed to be a street in Chicago.

4   The Wrong Guy

Out of sheer patriotism, we thought maybe we should put The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy here. It’s got some nice Toronto bits, no doubt, but despite some genuine laughs, it’s just so disappointing. The Kids all hated one another and Dave Foley didn’t even want to be in the darned thing, so (segue!) we thought you’d be willing to meet us halfway if we just went with Foley’s The Wrong Guy instead.

It’s a bit obscure (hence cult classic!), but it’s probably twice the movie Brain Candy is, and it tours all over the GTA, from the Brookfield Place atrium…

…to the Cherry Street drawbridge…

…to Richmond Hill’s slightly-seedy Emerald Isle hotel.

Plus, it’s got Colm Feore as an assassin, and the erstwhile Barenaked Ladies as singing policemen. Come on!

5   The Boondock Saints

After Quentin Tarantino got big, there were a whole bunch of movies about crazy gangsters with “personality.” Most of them weren’t very good. One could argue that The Boondock Saints belongs in that heap, but there’s something about it that touched a nerve. There are those who just love it.

Both Boondock Saints and its sequel, Boondock Saints II: All Saints’ Day, are supposed to be awash in Boston-ness. Yet you can see the Henry’s store at Church and Queen streets…

…this Green P sign, across from the Lakeview Restaurant…

…Old City Hall…

…and McVeigh’s Pub, among its Toronto locales.

So, we’ve had some good movies and some bad ones. But, hey, some cool ones too!

We also just have to throw an honourable mention out to Tom Cruise’s Cocktail. It’s more “guilty” than “pleasure,” but it contains one of the most horrible scenes in movie history. It all took place in a bar they built in the old Don Jail. It behooves us to let you know. “The Last Barman Poet,” folks. Love it. Know it. Live it.

Next week: The fifth-anniversary celebrations wrap up with a pop-culture parade.