When Ferris Bueller belted out Danke Schoen from the Von Steuben Day parade float, it was a shining moment for Chicago. Not that we hadn’t had them before, but native John Hughes’s shots of the Art Institute, Mercantile Exchange, and Wrigley Field captured the glory that is a perfect, sun-drenched afternoon in the Windy City. For decades, filmakers have viewed Chicago as location catnip. The gritty and glamorous neighborhoods, luxe hotels, sports obsession, mob culture, lakefront, EL, iconic old school eateries, and crazy cool skyline have served as excellent cinematic backdrops for coming-of-age-flicks (Risky Business, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller), comedies (High Fidelity, My Best Friend’s Wedding), crime dramas (The Fugitive, The Sting, The Untouchables), and adventure blockbusters (The Dark Knight, Divergent). Exploring film locations is actually pretty easy. You can take public transportation to most of them, or if you crave more structure, there are guided tours available.
The Blues Brothers
This cult-classic tale of comedic redemption definitely shows the grittier side of the Windy City. There are iconic shots of the neo-Nazi parade at Jackson Park, musical numbers by Ray Charles, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin on the south side of Chicago and, of course, the storming of City Hall.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Beloved for its plot—a high school senior skips school to spend a perfect spring day in downtown Chicago with his friends—this coming-of-age film by John Hughes is also celebrated for its glorious depiction of Chicago landmarks like Wrigley Field, the former Sears Tower, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Though much of this classic 80’s film—which launched a young Tom Cruise into superstardom—takes place in Chicago’s suburban North Shore neighborhood, there are a few juicy scenes involving pimps, prostitutes, and a Steuben glass egg that were shot in downtown Chicago at the iconic Drake Hotel.
This most excellent catch-me-if-you-can action flick has a falsely accused Harrison Ford racing all over the city to avoid US Marshalls and bring the real criminals to justice. Iconic Chicago shots include The Loop, the Four Seasons Hotel, Cook County Hospital, and a St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Dearborn Street.
The Dark Knight
Chicago pulled double-duty as sinister Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s incarnation of the blockbuster Batman franchise. Dozens of iconic buildings—the Chicago Theater, Mies Van der Rohe’s IBM building (now The Langham Hotel), the Richard J. Daley Center, Trump Hotel, and the Chicago Post Office—were featured prominently in this action film.