Chicago films show up in Around the World in 80 More Movies following travel musings about the great museums in the city. With my last name on a city street (Honorary Holabird Place) I always feel at home there, never alone.
The Blues Brothers, 1980, with Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi pursuing a “mission from God” in Chicago. With soul in their hearts, Ackroyd and Belushi created a jamming duo on Saturday Night Live that proved popular enough to put on film. No matter that
the big screen story gets convoluted and improbable—the characters make it work. They sing classic rhythm and blues songs well enough, but better yet, perform with the greats, including a terrific rendition of Think with Aretha Franklin. Complicated location filming broke records, costing millions of dollars to feature the movie’s signature Bluesmobile in a downtown chase culminating at the Richard J. Daley Center. The Center features the Chicago Picasso Sculpture, donated to the city by the artist and standing 50-feet tall. As a classic Chicago movie, The Blues Brothers also stops at Wrigley Field. Despite decades passing since its release, the movie inspires its own organized tour where visitors ride a bus to see key locations, including Shelly’s Loan Company, which stood in as a music store run by Ray Charles.
Chicago, 2002, with Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones making headlines on death row. Pre-dating reality show obsessions, tabloid fascination with Jazz Age murders in Chicago quickly transformed into plays and movies, turning real-life killers Beaulah Annan and Belva Brown into Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly for various incarnations. Ginger Rogers made a popular Roxie Hart in 1942, and the character returns in Rob Marshall’s lavishly produced and thoroughly entertaining Best Picture winner Chicago. Zeta-Jones took home a deserved (and expected) acting statue for singing All That Jazz, but everyone in the cast puts in razzle-dazzle ‘em performances. Director Marshall makes effective cinematic changes in bringing the Broadway hit to screen, especially by turning musical numbers into a mix of Roxie’s reality and fantasies. Still, the movie owes its look, sound, and feel to the three-punch powers of stage director-choreographer Bob Fosse, composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb—whose movie creds include Cabaret. Making a Chicago Chicago pilgrimage proves one of spirit rather than reality since the movie mostly filmed in Toronto, Canada, where fans can tour Billy Flynn’s law office at Casa Loma, check out the National Historic site known as the Distillery District,or find stage interiors at the Elgin Theater. When it comes to using the actual Windy City, the movie features period stock footage, computer effects, and a quick establishing shot of the Chicago Theater exterior at 175 North State Street.
Chi-raq, 2015, with Samuel L. Jackson as a choir master of sorts, illuminating classical action on Chicago’s South Side. Music cries out “Chicago” in many forms, whether through a Frank Sinatra hit, as the title of a Best Picture Oscar winner, or in Pray 4 My City as Chi-Raq’s opening tune. The movie features Nick Cannon rapping lyrics of outrage and love in Spike Lee’s reboot of a Greek play by Aristophanes. Those Greeks knew about gang warfare, and a Chi-raq characterplayed by Angela Bassett comments on Chicago’s long history as a “gangsta town”—Al Capone knew about that, shown in 1987’s The Untouchables and its various iterations. The Windy City’s crime rate and the South Side also play a major part in 2018’s Widows. Director Steve McQueen reset the heist story, first told in a 1983 British television mini-series. He jettisoned England and replaced it with Chicago, where he found enough elements of race, politics, corruption, and religion to give his film a global resonance. Off the beaten path for many tourists ,Chicago’s South Side offers sites worth checking in on, including the Obama Kissing Rock at 53rd Stree tand South Dorchester in Hyde Park .A plaque commemorates the location of America’s former First Couple’s first kiss, which followed a date at Baskin- Robbins. Hyde Park also features Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1910 Robie House, labeled as one of the 20th Century’s most significant structures by the American Institute of Architects.
The Dark Knight trilogy, 2005-2012, with Batman fighting evil forces in a Gotham
City that looks a lot like Chicago. The popular DC Comics superhero Batman first showed up on screen in serials from the 1940sand kept a strong fanbase encouraged by a 1960s television series and star turns by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney—along with an animated variation involving Lego toys. But no one nails it like director Christopher Nolan and his casting of Christian Bale as the human superhero whose bat-caped entity also goes by the names Bruce Wayne and The Dark Knight.
Played straight and with edge, Nolan’s reboot put humanity into characters, often bypassing computer-generated effects for a more intense sense of reality—hence use of actual city locations in Chicago. In an Oscar-winning turn as Batman nemesis The Joker for The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger starts his rampage with at Gotham National Bank,
a.k.a. Chicago’s old post office building on 404 West Harrison. The trilogy’s first entry, Batman Begins, joins The Dark Knight in using a parking garage at 200 West Randolph Street. And, joining the Blues Brothers, Batman finds himself at the Richard Daley Center—only he claims it for himself, calling it Wayne Enterprises.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986, with Matthew Broderick ditching school but learning plenty in downtown Chicago. Writer-director John Hughes bypassed teen angst by creating happy-go-lucky Ferris Bueller, wise beyond his years with the realization that life and learning involve more than school. Comfortable in the region where he grew up, Hughes used Chicago in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. He lets Ferris Bueller expand his Chicago appreciation by visiting iconic city locations ranging from Wrigley Field to the Chicago Institute of Art.