Chicago — AKA Hollywood, Illinois.
It’s no secret that because of Rahm-dog’s great film tax breaks, a lot of productions have come to the Windy City to film. But I’m not just interested in movies that were merely filmed in Chicago, I love a good movie set in Chicago. One that harnesses the life and culture of the city and puts it on the silver screen.
And while everyone can argue whether or not the Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was supposed to be Chicago (100 percent was), it’s good to know of another handful of flicks you can find on Netflix when you’re feeling in the mood for some local fare.
Not even joking, at least one of the Belushi brothers appears in half of these.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
This is pretty much a no-brainer with a slew of obvious indicators that it’s set in Chicago, including the Museum of Modern Art and The Sears/Willis Tower. If you missed those two, you may not want to take up a career in police work.
While You Were Sleeping
I’ve honestly never watched this, but apparently the L Train has a big part to play in this (probably forgettable) rom-com starring Sandra Bullock and the guy who played the president in “Independence Day.”
The struggle of a suburban Chicago family dealing with the loss of a son was Robert Redford’s directorial debut—and earned four Academy Awards in the year of its release.
It’s probably one you should have on your list.
A “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” Chicago flick, this solid romantic comedy has very subtle hints to it’s Chicago setting, the most notable being that the main characters work at Revolution Brewing in the Logan Square neighborhood. Add to the fact that star Jake Johnson is a Chicago native himself, Anna Kendrick swigging beers at The Broken Bottle, and Olivia Wilde ripping Malört shots, and you begin to put the pieces together.
You may not be big into documentaries, but if you call yourself a basketball fan, a movie fan, or even a Chicago fan, this is a must-see. Watch the story of William Gates and Arthur Agee, two young athletes from the Cabrini-Green and Garfield Park neighborhoods of Chicago as they’re recruited to play ball at predominantly white high schools and how the system affected them both in different ways.
The Front Page
The original grumpy old men, Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau, play two manic reporters covering the last few hours of a Death Row inmate in increasingly insensitive and hilarious ways. A classic comedy that’s as screwball and sarcastic as Chicago itself.
The Blues Brothers
Another, “No Shit” selection, but if you haven’t seen this classic starring SNL vets John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, you’re first and foremost a loser, and any critiques you have of other films on my list are invalid.
A thriller based on the real-life story of burglar John Seybold finds a jewel thief played by James Caan who gets tied up with the mob, trying to get out and into a more normal life while necessity pulls him back in. Added bonus: Jim Belushi plays his sidekick, Barry.
Only The Lonely
For both you baseball fans and John Candy fans out there, “Only The Lonely” is the story of a Chicago cop looking for love who is constantly hindered by his overbearing mother, who eventually falls for a die-hard White Sox fan—who herself is stuck living at Clark and Roscoe just steps away from the friendly confines of Wrigley. Jim Belushi plays his sidekick, Sal.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, original star of “To Catch and Kill a Predator,” plays a badass Moscow narcotics officer sent to apprehend a Georgian drug dealer who killed his partner in 1980s Chicago. Jim Belushi plays his sidekick, Art.
About Last Night
Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, two ageless vampire-people from Hollywood, star in a quintessential Chicago love story, featuring everything from 16-inch softball games in the park to late night boozing at Mother’s Too. Jim Belushi plays his sidekick, Bernie.
Return to Me
The X-Files’ David Duchovny’s attempt at romantic leading man results in a relatively forgettable and predictable rom-com—if not for the authentic Chicago insights. The writer/director Bonnie Hunt, a native Chicagoan, dropped in all sorts of inside nods to famous restaurants (Twin Anchors), dishes (Chicken Vesuvio), and even Cubs references like only a native can. Jim Belushi plays a character unrelated to a sidekick role, Joe.
While mainly set on the road, the climax of this Farley/Spade buddy comedy ends up along the Chicago river with a factory-saving showdown featuring a Mr. Zalinski, played by Dan Aykroyd. That counts in my book.
Robert DeNiro as Al Capone and Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Andy Garcia as the special FBI agents dedicated to taking him down in 1930s Chicago. While no Goodfellas or Godfather, unforgettable scenes, phenomenal dialogue, excellent performances and a legendary score make this a top 5 mobster movie. Keep an eye out for the Board of Trade, Union Station, the Chicago Theatre and more iconic locations. Plus, the unbeatable Sean Connery line about the Windy City:
“He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. THAT’S the Chicago way.”