Katie Sagal

Chicago for Movie Fans

Chicago has been the inspiration for and the site of dozens of major films over the years, as well as a number of television shows like the ever-popular Chicago Fire, etc., franchises. In fact, nearly 200 films have been produced in Chicago. This makes it one of the most popular cities for the American film industry. If you’re a movie buff looking to explore the settings of your favorite films from The Blues Brothers to Divergent, pencil in Chicago as your next getaway. We’ve put together a quick rundown of Chicago for movie fans with some tips on which attractions feature in what movies, and other fun facts about filming in Chicago.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

This 1986 cult favorite from John Hughes was set and filmed in Chicago. The adventures of a teen, his friend, and his girlfriend as they skip out on high school, this enduring 80s classic featured shots of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Willis Tower (at that point, known as the Sears Tower). Hughes himself has said that the film was intended to honor the city of Chicago and was filmed to showcase as much of the city as he could, including Wrigley Field, downtown Chicago (host to the parade scene), and the Chicago River.
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Divergent is a 2014 dystopian film based on a popular novel of the same name. It imagines a kind of post-apocalyptic Chicago where the city has been abandoned and only the bravest dare to roam its streets. In this sci-fi film, the protagonist Tris and her companions explore everything from the Navy Pier Ferris wheel to (fake) elevated rail tracks. Shots from the film include places in downtown, locations near the University of Chicago, and spots on the Chicago River.
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The Untouchables

A 1987 gangster film that’s become a cult classic in the years since its debut, The Untouchables tells the story of Eliot Ness and his quest to take down Al Capone and his seemingly invincible crime syndicate. The movie begins in Chicago. Ness recruits his team of so-called “untouchables” to pursue Capone, whose criminal activities were largely based in the city. They filmed a lot in Chicago, although they filmed some famous scenes in Montana.

The Blues Brothers

This is arguably the most famous Chicago film of the twentieth century. The 1980 musical comedy recounts the adventures of the jailbirds/blues musicians Jake and Elwood Blues (played by John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd). The filming takes place in and around Chicago, with real shots of the Joliet Correctional Center, the Richard J. Daly Center, and much of downtown. Elwood gives the address of Wrigley Field as his home address to distract some of the baddies, so the entrance to the famous ballpark also appears.

Home Alone

This 1990 Christmas comedy classic is all about a young kid whose parents leave him behind in a Chicago suburb. Played by Macaulay Culkin, Kevin fends off two would-be burglars with his wits and his endless supply of inventive traps. Filming takes places in Winnetka, Illinois, which is only about 16 miles north of downtown Chicago.
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This 2002 film is all about the criminal world of Chicago and is based upon the Broadway musical of the same name. The Academy Award-winning movie explores celebrity and scandal in Chicago of the 1920s. It features several major stars like Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere. The film itself was shot primarily in Ontario, but the contents are all Chicago.

My Best Friend's Wedding

Chicago is the setting for this 1997 award-winning film which is one of Julia Roberts’ best comedies. Roberts’ character Julianne flies to Chicago to stop her best friend from marrying the daughter of the Chicago White Sox owner. A few Chicago landmarks star in the film. You can see Chicago’s Union Station and Comiskey Park (the former name of the White Sox stadium).
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Risky Business

Usually considered Tom Cruise’s break-out film, Risky Business is a beloved 1983 comedy about the misadventures of a young man on the verge of growing up. It’s set largely in the North Shore area of Glencoe, Illinois, although they filmed some of it in downtown spots. The Chicago mass transit system the “L” features heavily in one scene. In another pivotal moment, a Porsche rolls into Lake Michigan.

Planes Trains and Automobiles

This delightful comedy features Steve Martin and John Candy. The 1987 romp across America recounts the story of these two unlikely companions desperately trying to get Neal (Martin) home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. It takes the bulk of the film for the two men to actually make it to Chicago. But the conclusion of the story sees the two men meet at an “L” station. Then, they both go to Thanksgiving dinner together (albeit two days late).

Public Enemies

The 2009 crime drama slash biographical film focusing on John Dillinger’s last years, Public Enemies was filmed largely in the Midwest with Chicago among its filming locations. The story focuses on the infamous bank robber and his compatriots as the tireless FBI pursue them.

Save on Chicago Attractions

Inspired by any of these films to visit some top Chicago attractions? Snag a Go Chicago pass to save up to 55% on admission to these and other exciting activities, tours, and cruises. Indulge your inner movie buff with a trip to Chicago for your next vacation!

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