That’s a plush Ewok in front of the Chicago skyline – fun no? In any event, here’s the long awaited “movies set in Illinois” article – well long awaited by my Chicago friends anyway. However, before we get to the Windy City, let’s touch upon the rich history of films set in other places in Illinois, like Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and Halloween (1978).
Nah…let’s jump right in.
Chicago Crime Movies
Chicago has had crime problems since, well since some settlers came and decided the current residents didn’t live there anymore. Most of the cinematic tradition of the Chicago crime film comes in during the age of Prohibition, when a bunch of holy rollers convinced the American government that outlawing alcohol would be a fantastic thing for some reason.
The Untouchables (1987) is typically the first film that comes to mind in this genre, but films like The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932) initiated the genre of the American Gangster Movie. Equally mentionable is the 2002 adaptation of the Broadway musical Chicago. Barely mentionable was the disappointing John Dillinger biopic Public Enemies (2009).
Chicago Suburban Movies
There are also a number of films set in the more suburban areas of Chicagoland. Home Alone (1990) is one of the most popular films of all time and Mean Girls (2004) is one of the most quoted. John Hughes films like Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), and Weird Science (1985) are set in and around suburban Chicago as well. Even the Chicago airports get into the action in 1980’s classic “Airplane.”
Chicago Sports Movies
Chicago has a rich sports history. Eight Men Out (1988) chronicles the darkest chapter in that history where eight White Sox players were banned from baseball for allegedly throwing the World Series for the profit of legendary gangster Arnold Rothstein, so that kind of touches on our first category. The Natural (1984) is another fine baseball film about a very different topic – the magical powers of Robert Redford.
Let’s Cut to the Chase Already
Okay, hundreds of movies are set in and around Chicago. One in particular comes to mind in taking advantage of every aspect of the city, however, and that’s 1993’s The Fugitive. It isn’t directed by a legendary auteur (Andrew Davis is a working man’s director focused primarily on action movies) but it might as well have been.
It’s well known that Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones give career defining performances here (or “it is known” as certain horselords might say). The film also puts all the Chicago movie pieces together. The film is an essential crime movie. There are fancy suburban houses. Much of the film takes place in the area outside of Chicago. There’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade, Chicago-based jokes, even the magical ability to tell the difference between the El and a regular, earthbound train. Perfect right?
Anyway, next time – the Greater Midwest.
(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe