Grab some popcorn and watch your favorite movies come to life in Chicago. The city has been featured on the silver screen for over a century, including starring roles in classics like The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Dark Knight, and more. Here are just a few ways to go behind-the-scenes while you’re here.
Check out famous film locations in Chicago
The Blues Brothers
On a mission from God? This Blues Brothers guide will set you on the trail of the most recognizable locations from The Blues Brothers — like the Soul Food Cafe and Ray’s Music Exchange. Just don’t forget your Fedora and sunglasses.
The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan transformed Chicago into Gotham City for his 2008 blockbuster. Wayne Enterprises was actually the former IBM building at 330 N. Wabash Ave. And, in an especially intense aerial shot, Batman surveys Gotham City from the top of the Willis Tower. Don’t leave without taking a cab through Lower Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, where the highly explosive chase scenes between Batman and the Joker were shot.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Ferris evaded the suspicious Principal Rooney during an action-packed day off in Chicago. You can see where Bueller browsed masterpieces in the Art Institute of Chicago, caught a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, peered down from the 103rd floor at Skydeck Chicago, and led a spontaneous rendition of Twist and Shout while parading down Dearborn Street. Check out more Ferris Bueller’s Day Off movie locations in Chicago.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
In the third installment of this blockbuster franchise, downtown Chicago gets destroyed in a battle between Autobots and Decepticons. But, lucky for you, the city has fully recovered. You’ll recognize the Jeweler’s Building and Trump International Hotel & Tower along the river, which were heavily featured in the movie.
Wrongfully convicted of murder, Dr. Richard Kimble shakes U.S. Marshalls by running around downtown Chicago (and happening by some of its most iconic sights). Kimble runs past The Picasso statue in Daley Plaza, escapes the Feds at the Chicago Hilton Hotel, and makes an ill-fated phone call to the U.S. Marshalls from beneath the Wells Street Bridge. Another location to check out: the Kimble residence at 336 W. Wisconsin St. in Lincoln Park.
Rob Gordon went on a personal journey by reliving each of his romantic failures. He was dissed at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Roscoe Village, denied by Peggy outside the Music Box Theatre in Lakeview, and waxed poetic about Laura at The Green Mill in Uptown.
Who needs a security system when you have a clever 9-year-old? Kevin McCallister sabotaged a home invasion with a couple of paint cans and the help of his misunderstood neighbor. The film featured the McCallister home in beautiful suburban Winnetka, shots of the Trinity United Methodist Church in suburban Wilmette, and a memorable scene of a panicked, family-wide sprint through Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
Johnny Depp as John Dillinger meets his demise outside the Biograph Theater in Lincoln Park, the actual site of the notorious gangster’s death. Today, it’s home to Victory Gardens Theatre. Then make your way to the main hall at Union Station in the Loop, where the anti-Dillinger crowd gathered in the movie.
The Color of Money
Fast Eddie Felson ran Chicago area pool halls alongside his star pupil Vincent Lauria. The film featured shots inside Chris’s Billiards on the far North Side, while the purported tournament in Atlantic City was actually shot in Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom.
The classic crime drama featured Chicago as it was during the height of Prohibition, with memorable scenes shot at the Chicago Board of Trade, Michigan Avenue Bridge, and Union Station. You can also pay a visit to the Rookery Building, the location of the Untouchables’ offices, the lobby of the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, where Elliot Ness confronts Capone. Oh, and Capone’s infamous pep talk about “teamwork”? It was shot in the historic Blackstone Hotel.
Take a Chicago movie guided tour
Go “on location” at various Chicago movie hotspots with Free Tours By Foot. See where the Bluesmobile crashed through Daley Plaza, visit two Bruce Wayne Enterprises headquarters, and walk Ferris Bueller’s parade route through Federal Plaza. You’ll also learn about the history of moviemaking in Chicago and how to be an extra in productions around the city. Or hop onto a guided tour aboard Chicago Film Tours’ luxury motorcoach. You’ll feel just like a Hollywood star — minus the craft service and paparazzi.
Watch movies under the stars
Catch a new or classic movie (for free!) in one of Chicago’s beautiful parks. The Chicago Park District’s Movies in the Park hosts free film screenings in community parks all over the city. Check out the latest schedule.
And on Tuesday evenings from June through August, visitors and locals head to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for the Millennium Park Summer Film Series. Kick back, picnic, and watch blockbusters, family favorites, and cult classics surrounded by the lit-up skyline. Check out the current line up.
Water Flicks features movie screening at another iconic Chicago attraction — Navy Pier. This free series takes place at the Lake Stage in Polk Bros Park, with Lake Michigan as a backdrop. As the sun goes down, the lights come up on the big screen and the surrounding pier, including its famous Centennial Wheel. Screenings are on Monday evenings from June through August. Check out the current schedule.
Attend a film festival
It makes sense that a city with a long film history is also home to tons of groundbreaking film fests — almost 40 throughout the year that showcase everything from LGBTQ+ to underground to international films and more. The main event is the Chicago International Film Festival in October. It’s been going strong for over 55 years, making it North America’s longest-running competitive film festival. The fest showcases more than 150 films from over 50 countries, plus filmmaker Q&As, red carpet galas, tributes, panels, and, of course, an awards ceremony. Check out more of Chicago’s annual film festivals.