As we all know, Chicago is an amazing city. Nothing beats our hospitality or the spectacular views we offer. It’s no wonder Hollywood can’t get enough!
Chicago Monthly rounds up top 15 films that have been filmed in Chicago, taking you back in time to showcase what a gem of a city we are.
15. The Vow
This romantic drama is based on the true love story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. 10 weeks after their marriage in 1993 the couple was in an accident where Krickitt suffered a head injury that erased her memories of her romance with Kim. The couple was able to sustain their love and their marriage survived even though Krickitt never regained her memories. The Vow is the cinematic interpretation of these events. Here Paige and Leo are happily married, and one night on their way home from a movie, they are rear ended by a truck. Paige is ejected from her seat through the front windshield. As Paige and Leo are rushed to the hospital, flashbacks of how the couple met, dated, and married are interwoven with shots of the present situation. The flashbacks heavily feature many Chicago staples, such as their marriage inside the Art Institute of Chicago and their subsequent escape from security through Millennium Park and past the Cloud Gate (more commonly known as “The Bean”). Back in the present, Paige awakens but cannot remember her life with Leo. She believes that she is still engaged to her ex Jeremy and attending Law School. Leo goes to great lengths to help Paige remember their life—taking her on dates, and continuing to live with her in the home they shared. Eventually the stress of the situation becomes too much for Paige to handle and the two decide a divorce is the best option since it appears that Paige will never regain her memories. She goes back to the life she had been previously living, reenrolling in law school and living at home with her parents. After an unsuccessful attempt at reuniting with Jeremy, and a few incidents with her parents, Paige begins a journey down the same path she had made before her accident. She quits law school and enrolls in art classes, moves out of her parents’ home, and starts her life over. At the film’s end, Paige and Leo run into each other and she admits to living in Roger’s Park (shout out!). The two agree to a date and the film fades to black with a brief description of the real couple’s happy ending.
Released: February 10, 2012
Starring: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Scott Speedman, and Jessica Lange.
In the final installment of Michael Bay’s Transformers series, something crazy and supernatural happened in 1961 prompting John F. Kennedy to send the first man to the moon to investigate. What was found on the titular “Dark Side of the Moon” was a spacecraft carrying a device that could end the war between the Decepticons and the Autobots, blah blah blah whatever all you need to know is that this leads to a chain of events resulting in Optimus Prime finding his predecessor Sentinel Prime on the moon and bringing him back to Earth in hopes of reviving him. Elsewhere, Sam Witwicky is living with his new girlfriend (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley subs in for Megan Fox, mostly just standing around looking helpless), trying to find a job and lead a relatively normal life that includes the Autobots. He finally finds work and somehow these two storylines eventually meet, how this happens is unimportant and hard to follow anyway since the soundtrack is so overpoweringly awkward. While the story for the third film is not nearly as strong as the previous two—Dark Side of the Moon does not lose the epic battle scenes so integral to the other two. Bay chooses Chicago as the backdrop for this final battle, and proceeds to annihilate our great city. The Decepticons and the Autobots duke it out until Optimus and the other Autobots are left victorious and resigned to calling Earth home. Just as in any Michael Bay film, this one is worth a watch if only for the final battle which expertly infuses CGI and live action to create an incredible action sequence that highlights the beauty of Chicago, even as it’s being blown to bits.
Released: June 23, 2011
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, and Frances McDormand.
13. Wicker Park
Set in one of Chicago’s coolest neighborhoods on the northwest side, Wicker Park has one of the most beautiful cinematic backdrops. A psychological thriller, based on the French film L’Appartement, the film follows Matt Simon who returns to Chicago after two years away in New York. While at a business dinner with his fiancé, he thinks he sees Lisa (Diane Kruger) a woman he was in love with but who had disappeared without a trace. He puts his planned trip to China on hold to pursue his obsessive quest to find her. His friend Luke does some detective work and through a series of clues, finds her apartment. Upon entering the apartment, Matt finds a different woman claiming to be Lisa (Rose Byrne). She asks him to spend the night out of fear of a man who is supposedly stalking her—and the two end up sleeping together. The next morning she claims to be a nurse and the audience is treated to a flashback that reveals the woman to actually be named Alex, a friend and neighbor of the real Lisa. It turns out that Alex was in love with Matt before he met Lisa but had never spoken up and was then forced to watch from afar as he and Lisa fell in love. In the present Alex is dating Luke, and tries to keep Matt away from Lisa, who is in fact still in town. We eventually learn that Alex is basically an insane person, and had orchestrated the misunderstanding two years ago that resulted in Matt and Lisa’s break up. Lisa had asked Alex to deliver a letter to Matt explaining that she was leaving for Europe, a task Alex never completes. As Matt figures all of this out, he demands that Alex tell him where Lisa is, and discovers that she is leaving for London. Lisa tells Luke to have Matt meet her in Wicker Park at 3, and that he’d know where. Unfortunately Matt is late, and resigns to meeting his fiancé at the airport where he admits to being in love with someone else. Meanwhile, Lisa is also at the airport, and the two reunite in an emotional final scene set to Coldplay’s “The Scientist.”
Released: September 3, 2004
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Diane Kruger, Jessica Pare´, and Matthew Lillard.
12. My Best Friend’s Wedding
The 90’s were really the decade of Julia Roberts. Through a wide variety of romantic comedies (Pretty Woman to Notting Hill), she cemented her status as America’s sweetheart. My Best Friend’s Wedding, however, is a charming subversion of her typical boy meets girl storyline. Julianne is living in New York when her best friend Michael calls to inform her that he’s getting married. The two of them had previously agreed to marry each other if neither had any prospects by their 28th birthdays. This phone call comes in just three weeks before Julianne turns 28. He further explains that his bride to be is a 20-year old University of Chicago student who comes from a wealthy family, and the wedding is in four days. Julianne immediately flies out, and no sooner does she leave O’Hare airport does Kim ask her to be her maid of honor. Desperate to break up the wedding, Julianne agrees to the position since she’d be in no better place to sabotage Kim. Along the way, Julianne and Michael take in a White Sox game at Cellular field—and Julianne realizes just how much she loves him. As the actual wedding day arrives, Julianne has just about missed her chance to tell Michael how she feels. She takes him aside and desperately asks him to choose her, and she kisses him—unbeknownst to either of them, Kim sees the whole thing and flees the wedding. Michael chases after her, and Julianne chases after him. When Michael arrives in Union Station hoping to stop Kim from leaving, he tells Julianne that he really loves Kim and she decides to help win her back. They finally make it to the wedding, and Julianne gives her maid of honor speech, accepting the fact that she and Michael will never be together.
Released: June 20, 1997
Starring: Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz, and Rupert Everett.
Josie Geller is an extremely intelligent, but incredibly awkward copy editor at the Chicago Sun Times. The editor in chief, looking for a fresh new story, assigns Josie to go undercover at a high school for her first real assignment. Her superior Gus expresses doubts in her ability to successfully pose as a high school student but ultimately supports her. When Josie describes her plans to her brother Rob he reminds her of how horrific her actual high school experience was (she was called “Josie Grossie,” a nickname he started). Hoping to change the past, Josie confidently strides into school wearing an all white ensemble—topped off with a white feather boa and white lipstick. Her initial attempts to be accepted by the popular crowd are unsuccessful and she settles into the familiar place of befriending Aldys and “the geeks.” After continued pressure from her boss to find a scandal, Rob enrolls at the school as well to help Josie become popular by association. Throughout her transformation from geek to the most popular girl in school, Josie is attracted to her English teacher, Sam. She also catches the eye of the most poplar boy in school, Guy Perkins (“Yes, you are a guy. Quite a guy!”). As Josie becomes more and more popular she neglects her old friends as well as her job. In an effort to make up for her lack of a story, Gus decides the real story lies in her relationship with Sam and they hatch a plan to record her interactions with him at the Prom. Josie is nominated for prom queen, and wins! Yet, during her dance she realizes her new friends are planning to embarrass her old friends by dumping dog food on Aldys. Josie intervenes and reveals her true identity as a reporter. Sam is furious with her for lying to him, and it appears that she’s lost the chance at getting her first real kiss. To right her wrongs, Josie writes an apology for the newspaper describing her actions and admitting to having never been kissed. She also pleads with Sam to meet her on the pitcher’s mound before the start of the high school’s big baseball game to give her that first kiss. He almost misses his chance, but just after the clock strikes 0; Sam arrives to plant one on Josie in front of the entire stadium.
Released: April 9, 1999
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Michael Vartan, David Arquette, John C. Reilly, Leelee Sobieski, Jessica Alba, Molly Shannon, and Garry Marshall.
10. Man of Steel
The newest reboot of the Superman franchise will not be out for another year, but is the next big film to heavily feature Chicago. From Zach Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer, this film will make a clean break from the 2006 fiasco that was Superman Returns. The story will feature Clark Kent/Kal-El, transported from his dying planet Krypton to Earth; where Jonathan and Martha Kent take him in as their own. As Clark was able to retain his super abilities from his home planet, he struggles to fit in with his peers. Now in his twenties, Clark works as a journalist struggling to understand his presence on Earth. When an insidious evil threatens to plague Earth, Clark is faced with the responsibility to save the planet that has become his home and embrace his destiny to become The Man of Steel. Much of the filming took place in downtown Chicago near the Loop, in Willis Tower, as well as many other Chicago locations. The film will not be hitting theaters until next year, but with influence from Christopher Nolan we can be sure to expect a much more realistic and entertaining adaptation than previous installments.
Release Date: July 14, 2013
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Costner, and Diane Lane.
Based on the stage musical of the same name, the film version won Best Picture at the 75th Academy Awards. In Chicago, 1924, Roxie Hart visits a nightclub to see idol Velma Kelly. After the show Velma is arrested for murdering her husband and sister whom she had caught having an affair. Meanwhile, Roxie is having her own affair with a man she believes can help her to land her own vaudeville gig. When he reveals that he can do no such thing, she kills him in a fit of rage. If that wasn’t enough drama, we soon find out that whoops Roxie’s married! Her husband Amos comes home, and she convinces him to take the blame, claiming that her lover was a burglar. When the police arrive, they point out that the victim had previously sold them their furniture and Amos quickly changes his story. Roxie is sent to Cook County Jail and set up on Murderess’ Row. There she meets Velma and learns the back stories of the other female inmates in the popular number “Cellblock Tango.” Roxie then enlists the help of lawyer Billy Flynn, after witnessing the fame he brought to Velma, and the two attempt to make Chicago fall in love with her. Now Roxie is the new infamous celebrity at the Cook County Jail, which angers Velma. The two become rivals and engage in a war to outshine each other, until an heiress bests them both by murdering her husband and his two mistresses. Eventually Roxie and Velma are released back to a life of anonymity. The two lead their separate lives, until Velma approaches Roxie to costar in a stage show building on their fame as Cook County Jail celebrities, the film ends with the two basking in the glow of their newfound success.
Released: December 27, 2002
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Lucy Liu, and Taye Diggs.
8. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
This sleeper hit, written by and starring Nia Vardalos, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 75th Academy Awards. Toula, a middle class Greek American, feels as if she’s failed at her life. At thirty years old, she still lives at home, works in her family’s restaurant, and is helplessly single. In comparison to her perfect sister, married with three sons, Toula is a disappointment. Set in Chicago, the script perfectly documents Chicagoan lingo (ex: there is a clear reference to The Jewels). One day Toula sets her eyes on Ian Miller, an upper middle class white Anglo-Saxon protestant, basically the complete opposite of everything her parents ever wanted for her. After your typical rom-com makeover: Toula catches Ian’s eye. The two begin dating in secret, until Ian decides to propose, prompting Toula to introduce him to her parents. Culture clash is an understatement for the hilarity that accompanies the meeting of the Millers and the Portokalos’, featuring an awesome cameo by N*SYNC’s Joey Fatone. As the wedding plans move forward, various mishaps threaten to ruin the wedding including: her mother misspelling Ian’s parents names (Rodney and Harry Miller), and her cousins picking out hideous giant blue bridesmaid dresses. Even though the road to the altar was rocky, Toula wakes up with a giant zit on the day, the actual wedding goes off without a hitch. Even Toula’s father offers his blessing and gifts the happy couple with a new house, right next door to his own.
Released: April 19,2002
Starring: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Joey Fatone, and Michael Constantine.
7. Public Enemies
A biographical crime film, Public Enemies, focuses on America’s greatest crime wave of 1933-34 and the birth of the FBI. The Great Depression is this story’s backdrop, and chronicles the latter years of John Dillinger’s crime career. The film also references gangsters such as Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. After the death of Pretty Boy Floyd, agent Melvin H. Purvis is promoted by J. Edgar Hoover to lead investigator in the search for John Dillinger. Dillinger partners up with Billie Frechette and the two become inseparable. She then becomes an integral part to his capture multiple times. When Dillinger is caught in Tucson, Arizona he’s brought to the Lake County Jail in Indiana. He escapes and continues on his crime spree. Various encounters with the FBI ensue, many resulting in the deaths of gangsters and agents alike. Eventually Dillinger escapes to Chicago, where multiple scenes were shot on location as well as in the suburbs such as Aurora, Joliet, and Lockport. Independently, Billie is being held at the police station for questioning about Dillinger’s whereabouts. When she won’t help, during an unsupervised interrogation, she is beaten repeatedly. Purvis eventually intervenes and saves her. While in Chicago, Dillinger stays with madam Anna Sage—who happens to be working with Purvis. She agrees to set up Dillinger after Purvis threatens to deport her. Sage brings Dillinger to the Biograph Theater (still doing business in Lincoln Park) where after the film lets out, he is shot and killed before he can draw his gun. His last words, depicted in the film, were “Tell Billie for me, ‘Bye Bye Blackbird.’” The end of the film describes that Purvis quit the FBI in 1935, and Billie lived out the rest of her days in peace in Wisconsin following her release in 1936.
Released: July 3, 2009
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Billy Crudup, Stephen Lang, Channing Tatum.
In probably the most inspiring sports oriented tearjerkers of all of cinema, Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger grew up in Joliet, a suburb of Chicago, raised as a giant fan of Notre Dame football. Rudy always dreamed of playing football for the Fighting Irish. After some success in high school, many of these scenes were filmed at St. Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago; those close to him repeatedly shoot down his college dreams due to his small size and meager talents. Even so, Rudy never demurs from his dream. After the death of his best friend, Rudy decides to leave for Notre Dame without actually being accepted. However, he does not get discouraged and instead enrolls at Holy Cross the junior college nearby. With help from his new friend D-Bob, Rudy’s grades improve enough to secure his admittance into Notre Dame during his final semester of transfer eligibility. His next move is to try out for the team as a non-scholarship “walk-on” player. He convinces Coach Parseghian to give him a spot on the practice squad. Due to his determination and drive to coach agrees to let Rudy suit up for one game in his senior year. Unfortunately Parseghian steps down and is succeeded by Dan Devine just before Rudy’s final season. After a spectacular show of support from his teammates, Devine agrees to let Rudy suit up for the final home game. His entire family makes it to the game beaming with pride as Rudy leads the team onto the field. After a rousing chant of his name from the entire stadium, Rudy is sent into the game for the final two plays. In the final play of the game Rudy sacks the quarterback and is carried off the field by his teammates on their collective shoulders.
Released: October 13, 1993
Starring: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty, and Vince Vaughn.
5. The Blues Brothers
Many films have been created around SNL characters, but not many as successful as The Blues Brothers. Jake and Elwood Blues were created by John Belushi and Dan Akroyd while the two were cast members on the sketch comedy show. Akroyd has been quoted as describing the film as a tribute to Chicago, as many of the major sequences are filmed on location in Chicago. Jake Blues is picked up from prison by his brother Elwood in the Bluesmobile, an old Mount Prospect police car. The brothers return to their childhood home to find the orphanage they grew up in will be closed unless $5,000 in property taxes is collected. The brothers decide to raise the money by reforming their rhythm and blues band. On their journey to rounding up all of the old band members they hit quite a few obstacles resulting in a trip around Chicago’s most famous landmarks. After angering the police and a rival band, The Good Ol’ Boys, The Blues Brothers secure a gig at the Palace Hotel Ballroom (over 100 miles away from the city). The Bluesmobile runs out of gas and Jake and Elwood are late to their concert. Since the police are in pursuit of the brothers, the two men sneak in and perform two songs on stage—enough to land a recording contract that will pay more than enough to save the orphanage. The brothers then escape back to Chicago in the Bluesmobile with the police hot on their trail. The brothers arrive at the Richard J. Daley Center, where the Bluesmobile promptly falls apart. They run into the Chicago City Hall just as the police, SWAT teams, and military units swarm the building. They pay the tax bill and are immediately arrested for driving without a legal license. In prison, the film ends, as the entire band plays “Jailhouse Rock” for their fellow inmates.
Released: June 20, 1980
Starring: Dan Akroyd, and John Belushi.
4. High Fidelity
This Chicago based film explores Rob, a 30-something record storeowner, getting dumped by his successful girlfriend Laura. Rob’s life is not necessarily to be desired, since his store is steadily losing money due to his and his employees constant mocking of customers who do not share their music tastes. Music snobbery is a large part of Rob’s life, as he and his fellow workers compile various musical “Top 5” lists for any and every occasion. Soon Rob decides to review his Top 5 Breakups in an effort to understand how his relationship with Laura went wrong. After meeting with his exes, he comes to realize that his adolescent love of music and clear refusal to accept responsibility are at fault for the demise of all of his relationships. When two shoplifting skateboarders’ show up in his store, he listens to one of their recordings, and decides to sign them. Rob creates Top 5 Records to release the music of the two delinquents. Throughout all of this, Rob is fruitlessly trying to win Laura back. When her father dies, he attends the funeral for support. He realizes that the problem with their relationship was that he never fully committed to her and promises to make changes. Laura takes him back, and the two move in together. Laura organizes a celebration for the release of his band’s first single and his new found success.
Released: March 31, 2000
Starring: John Cusack, Jack Black, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Joan Cusack.
3. Batman Begins
Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise, takes a fresh look at the origin story of the caped crusader. His interpretation is much darker and far more realistic than any other film based on this masked vigilante. When a mugger connected to the crime boss Carmine Falcone murders Bruce Wayne’s parents, Bruce embarks on a journey of anger and revenge. His childhood friend Rachel Dawes disapproves of his vow for vengeance, and Bruce disappears into the criminal underworld in hopes of learning more to avenge his parents’ death. While in a Bhutanese prison he meets Liam Neeson who introduces him to the League of Shadows and trains him as a ninja. Soon Bruce learns the League’s intention of destroying Gotham City—he burns their temple to the ground killing the leader but leaving Neeson alive. Back in Gotham, he takes a new interest in Wayne Enterprises (Chicago Board of Trade Building) and meets Lucius Fox. He shows him new defense technology in the form of an armored car and protective suit, thus the birth of the batmobile, batsuit, and an insane gravelly voice to further hide his true identity. With that Batman is born! Somewhere in there The Scarecrow appears, bringing Batman and Sgt. Jim Gordon together to bring down Falcone. This is all a red herring of sorts, as it is revealed that the real villain of this story is *gasp* LIAM NEESON! He and his ninjas infiltrate Bruce’s birthday party, burn down Wayne Manor, and begin wreaking havoc on Gotham’s railways. Batman saves Rachel, revealing to her his real identity, and with the help of Gordon destroys the League of Shadows. Batman is a hero, Gordon’s promoted, and Rachel breaks Bruce’s heart: somebody kill this girl off. In the final scene we are set up for the greatest sequel of all time as the Joker cards begin to surface in crime scenes all over the city. Gotham City is comprised of various Chicago locations including Wacker Drive, the Jeweler’s Building, West Lake Street, the Loop, and the Franklin Street Bridge.
Released: June 15, 2005
Starring: Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, and Cilian Murphy.
2. The Dark Knight
We’re back in Gotham City and The Joker has been wreaking havoc all over the city. New district attorney Harvey Dent is now dating Rachel Dawes (boring Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over for bland Katie Holmes). Batman and Lieutenant Gordon decide to include Dent in their plan to tackle the mob, which is in cahoots with The Joker. When Bruce Wayne hosts a fundraiser for Dent, The Joker party crashes calling for the reveal of Batman’s identity and threatening that if he does not comply people will die every day until he does. Later in an attempt to assassinate the mayor, Gordon is shot and pronounced dead—prompting Bruce to plan to reveal himself as Batman. However, Dent beats him to the punch and is taken into protective custody. Eventually The Joker is apprehended and Gordon is revealed to still be alive. In the mean time, Rachel and Harvey disappear. We learn the two are in separate buildings filled with explosives and Batman and the police have to choose which one to save, as the explosives will go off at the exact same time. Harvey and Rachel say their goodbyes through walkie-talkies as they realize everyone will be trying to save Rachel first, but TWIST, The Joker lied about their locations and Batman rescues Harvey, while Rachel is left to die (HURRAY!). The rest of the film is so incredibly complex and amazing that no recap would be able to do it justice. So if you haven’t seen The Dark Knight, and if you haven’t have you been living under a rock? Stop whatever you are doing and go rent this movie immediately. But if you still haven’t seen The Dark Knight, the rest of the plot reveals Harvey Dent as Two-Face, and then promptly kills him off; has Batman capturing The Joker only to leave him alive at the mercy of the police, and Batman taking the fall for Dent’s insanity propelling us into anticipation for the next installment—The Dark Knight Rises out this July.
Released: July 16, 2008
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, and Gary Oldman.
1. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off
Bueller? Bueller? Anybody? Bueller? No list of the greatest movies filmed in Chicago would be complete without this John Hughes classic. As everyone knows John Hughes likes to set most of his films in the quiet, safety of the Chicago suburbs (and if you don’t and have never seen a John Hughes film then you had a terrible childhood). Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Home Alone, and Weird Science all take place in the suburbs of Chicago—however it’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which is Hughes’ true ode to the beauty of downtown Chicago, and one of his few high school films not featuring Molly Ringwald. Ferris Bueller is your typical slacker, extremely bright and clever but bored by the confines of school. When he receives a computer instead of a car for his birthday, he uses the technology at his disposal to create an elaborate scheme to ditch school for the 9th time (“Ninnnne Timmmes”). He recruits best friend Cameron, and girlfriend Sloane to accompany him on the best day anyone could have in Chicago. Hijinks ensue, as the trio take in a Cubs game at Wrigley field, eat a meal at Chez Quis, visit the Art Institute of Chicago, the Sears Tower, and of course take part in the obligatory parade/musical number, a staple of many an 80’s movie, down Michigan Avenue. The group encounters numerous obstacles throughout the day that could mean the discovery of their truancy, but manage to avoid just about all of them. Whether you’ve never seen a John Hughes film before or you know them all by heart, there is no denying that Ferris Bueller is his most fun film and certainly the best Chicago infused tale.
Released: June 11, 1986
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Grey, Jeffery Jones, Charlie Sheen, Alan Ruck, and Mia Sara.
BY MARY CARROLL