Given that so many of us in Chicago are stuck at home for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus, we decided to change things up this week for the Neighborhood News and focus on things to do inside. So without further ado, here is our list of some of the best Chicago-based films over the years that we recommend you check out or revisit since we are all cooped up at home at the moment. The majority of these films are available on Netflix or to rent/buy on Amazon.
The Blues Brothers: Is there a movie that shows off the city more and is so quintessentially Chicago as this 1980 flick from director John Landis? Starring Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi as Elwood and “Joliet” Jake Blues, this beloved Chicago film virtually covers the whole city with scenes ranging from Southside churches to the climactic and hysterical downtown ending. From the comedic stylings of the former SNL favorites to the music and locals showing off 1980s Chicago, The Blues Brothers rank high on any list of best Chicago-based films.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Another Chicago cinematic gem from the 80s, this Matthew Broderick flick, directed by the late great John Hughes, captures the city beautifully on celluloid. In what is basically a love letter to Chicago, Hughes takes Bueller’s decision to skip class (and the comedic hijinks that ensue) to give us iconic scenes featuring Wrigley Field, the Art Institute, and of course, the downtown parade scene. This 1986 movie increased the workload of school attendance officer’s across the city and burbs as hordes of high school students ditched class and did their best to recreate these iconic scenes.
Home Alone: This holiday popcorn film starring Macaulay Culkin was a massive hit when it opened in 1990. Directed by Chris Columbus and written by Chicagoan John Hughes, Home Alone focuses on Culkin’s Kevin McCallister character as he attempts to thwart off two robbers after being left home alone by his family during Christmas break. The flick filmed the majority of its scenes in suburban Winnetka with the residential home located at 671 Lincoln Avenue serving as the primary setting for this beloved Chicago-based comedy classic.
Road to Perdition: Tom Hanks stars in this 2002 mob revenge film directed by Sam Mendes. Taking place during the Great Depression, the film utilizes plenty of Chicagoland locations ranging from the University Club of Chicago downtown and the Charles G. Dawes House in Evanston to the Chicago Pullman neighborhood and the suburb of Geneva. Hanks plays a mob hitman whose son witnesses a murder he shouldn’t have. This results in Hanks having to take on the mob to protect his son after the rest of his family is murdered by his former boss’s henchmen. This beautifully shot film highlights the Chicago of the early 30s and features standout performances by Hanks, Jude Law, and, in his last movie, Paul Newman.
Thief: Off the beaten path a bit, this 1981 film starring James Caan and directed by Michael Mann shows off Chicago without bothering to hit the tourist traps. Caan stars a skilled jewel thief trying to pull one last job for his gangster boss (when is it ever the second to last job in these films?). Of course, things don’t’ go as planned as Caan has to get down and dirty to free himself from a crime syndicate that won’t let him be. The film features the late, great, and former Chicago cop Dennis Farina in his first role. Thief showcases a gritty, damp, and dreary Chicago setting that perfectly mirrors the dark characters and tone of the film.
The Untouchables: No Chicago movie list would be complete without Brian De Palma’s 1987 mob masterpiece for which Sean Connery took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The story depicts G-man Elliot Ness (played by Kevin Costner) as he assembles a team to take down Al Capone (played by Robert De Niro) during Prohibition-era Chicago. From the unforgettable Union Station shootout to scenes showing off the Michigan Avenue Bridge underpass and the film’s police headquarters located at 209 S. LaSalle Street, The Untouchables shows off a Chicago of a bygone ear with unique style and scope. And of course, who can forget Connery’s famous “That’s the Chicago way” speech?
That does it for this week’s list of great Chicago-based movies, but it is by no means a final tally. Next week we will focus on more films that highlight the city of big shoulders. Since staying indoors is a smart move presently, check out these flicks that display the beauty of Chicago in the comfort of your own home.
ERIC KAPLAN AND DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO