Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Vancouver and get you in the mood for travel
The Accused (1988)
Jodi Foster won the 1989 Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar for her performance in this dark depiction of a Massachusetts rape case. Vancouver’s gray dreary winter gave the film a perfect backdrop, and the Vancouver Art Gallery posed as the courthouse.
Look Who’s Talking (1989)
Vancouver city stands in for New York in this family comedy where we hear the internal monologue of a baby (Bruce Willis). His mom (Kirstie Alley) finds friendship (and a babysitter) in a “New York City” cab driver, played by John Travolta.
Best in Show (2000)
Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum hosts the prestigious Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show in this wacky mockumentary about dog show contestants and their owners.
3000 Miles to Graceland (2001)
With coifed hair and rhinestone-studded outfits, a gang of Elvis impersonators robs a Las Vegas casino during an Elvis convention. Most of the scenes were filmed in Vancouver.
Eight Below (2006)
Vancouver’s surrounding mountains become the Antarctic in this heart-pounding Disney drama about a team of huskies forced to survive on their own.
Shot in Vancouver for its first five seasons, this sci-fi TV drama explored conspiracy theories and paranormal phenomena as it followed FBI detectives Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), who were charged with investigating the bureau’s unsolved “X-Files.” Director Chris Carter once called Vancouver the show’s third star.
The Concubine’s Children, by Denise Chong (1994)
This true-life family history follows a Chinese peasant who left his family in China in 1913 and came to Vancouver in search of gold. Always intending to return to China, he starts a family with his concubine, echoing the experience of many Chinese immigrants.
The Jade Peony, by Wayson Choy (1995)
Award-winning novel set in Vancouver’s Chinatown in the 1930s. Tells the story of three siblings’ search for separate identities as they struggle against history, culture, family, and poverty.
The Love of a Good Woman, by Alice Munro (1998)
Arguably one of Canada's finest short story writers, Munro lived in and around Vancouver for 22 years. This collection travels from Vancouver to Toronto, capturing both the splendor and aching limitations of love.
Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists, and Visionaries Changed the World, by Rex Weyler (2004)
With some friends in a Vancouver living room, Weyler co-founded Greenpeace. This book chronicles how the environmental organization grew from a grassroots protest group to an international force for change.
JPod, by Douglas Coupland (2006)
Building on the themes he developed inGeneration X and Microserfs—of the influences, burdens, and ridiculousness of pop-culture—Coupland follows a quirky Vancouver video-game developer, fluent in Internet vernacular but unfulfilled in his corporate job.
Bryan Adams rocked the world with this album, which featured the rock anthem “Summer of ‘69” and other hits, including “One Night Love Affair.” His later single, “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” made the Guinness Book of World Records for longest running number one single on British pop charts (16 weeks).
Known for producing radio-friendly pop music and wearing tight leather pants, Vancouver’s Loverboy set loose this 1980 self-titled album, which included hits “Kid is Hot Tonight” and “Turn Me Loose.”
The Green Album
With a loyal local following, the alternative-rock band 54•40 produced this 1986 album that included the songs “Baby Ran” and “I Go Blind”—the latter becoming a major hit in the U.S. for Hootie & the Blowfish. The band’s name derives from U.S. President James Polk’s 1844 expansionist slogan, “Fifty-four forty or fight!”
A staple of Vancouver’s jazz and blues scene since the 1970s, the Powder Blues Band still rocks out at local clubs. This album features such gritty hits as “Thirsty Ears” (“Doin’ It Right” was on the album Uncut in 1979, before the Thirsty Ears album came out.)
Chilliwack is one of Vancouver’s most successful pop-rock bands. It started rockin' the airwaves in the 1970s, but this 1982 album brought the world the catchy “Whatcha Gonna Do (When I'm Gone).”
Fumbling Toward Ecstasy
Although born in Nova Scotia, Sarah McLachlan moved to Vancouver in the ’80s when signed by Vancouver’s Nettwerk Productions. This album launched her sweet voice into homes all over the world, making her one of Canada’s most successful artists. McLachlan also launched the successful, all-woman summer festival Lilith Fair.
Save This House
Go to any party in Vancouver and eventually a song from this 1989 album by much loved Spirit of the West will get locals stomping and singing along to the Celtic-inspired songs about Vancouver, and its beauty, politics, beer, and surrounding islands.
Silver Side Up
Few Canadian bands managed to even appear on U.S. pop music charts, but the Alberta-born, Vancouver-based Nickelback is another matter. From this 2001 album, “How You Remind Me” solidified the band’s arrival and told the world Nickelback wasn’t just going to appear on the charts, it was going to top them, again and again.
Over the years, some obscure songs have captured the Vancouver essence—from the building of the Second Narrows Bridge to draft dodging to reminiscing over sunsets:
1. “Emily Carr” by The Wheat Pool
2. “Junkie Song” by The Be Good Tanyas
3. “My Uncle” by Flying Burrito Brothers
4. “The Bridge Came Tumbling Down” by Stompin’ Tom Connors
5. “Vancouver, BC” by The Smugglers
6. “English Bay” by Blue Rodeo
7. “Expo 86” by Death Cab for Cutie
8. “The Crawl” by Spirit of the West
9. “Vancouver Divorce” by Gordon Downie (of The Tragically Hip)
10. “Vancouver” by Jeff Buckley
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