Chicago is home to over 2.7 million people and the set home of hundreds of movies. It is the background to several classic films. These films showcase many different sides to Chicago and captures a great deal of it's stunning landmarks. While they're many of films to choose from, I narrowed my list down to ten picks of what I think are the best films shot and/or based in Chicago.
I'll be the first to tell you that I'm no film critic. This list was curated solely off how they stack up in my lifetime. If you haven't seen some or any of the films I've listed please watch and be up to differ. My list starts with some honorable mentions, with my top 10 (10-1) following right after. Description will stand very brief. I don't want to give up the full plot for those who haven't seen any of the films.
The Chicago 8 (2011)
Home Alone (1990)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Soul Food (1997)
These four movies posted above just missed my top 10 list by a few. It was a tough decision for some classics. Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone, and Soul Food are all some of my childhood favorites. They're probably favorites to many more but they couldn't fit in on my top 10.
10) Hoop Dreams (1994)
Hoop Dreams was released in 1994 and written by Steve James and Frederick Marx. The two of them, along with Peter Gilbert produced the film as well. The plot focuses on the upcoming youth basketball talents Arthur Agee (West Garfield Park) and William Gates (Cabrini-Green).
The film captures focuses on an ongoing problem in underprivileged, inner-city communities. The "Hoop Dreams" narrative that is often times cut short due to lack of resources, economic division, and education. This is a film that many Chicagoans and others from mirrored beginnings can relate to. Hoop Dreams stand as a film that reflects near inevitable issues that keeps talented youth strayed from their dreams.
9) Love Jones (1997)
Love Jones released in 1997 as a romantic drama, starring Chicago's own Larenz Tate and actress Nia Long. It was written and directed by Theodore Witcher. Darius Lovehall (Tate) and Nina Mosley (Long) met through what appeared to be destiny, only for some bumps in the road down the stretch.
Lovehall was a poet performing in a nightclub when he cross paths with Mosley, a photographer. The two of them hooked up and gained a miscommunication of love and sex. Mixed feelings came into play with what would be called a "situationship" in today's terms.
The movie captured a somewhat romantic, Chicago based essence. It display's a deal that isn't to far-fetched to have with someone. All in all, it is a true classic and I don't know too many that don't enjoy this movie.
8) Cooley High (1975)
Cooley High is a film written by Eric Monte and directed by Michael Shultz. Monte based the film around the real-life Cooley Vocational High School (permanently closed) that enrolled the primary of the now-demolished Cabrini Green Housing Projects.
The filmis based around North side Chicago friends Leroy "Preach" Jackson and Richard "Cochise" Morris. Preach, a aspiring playwright, and Cochise, an all-city champion go through their fair share of fun and games, drama, and tragedy throughout this film. It's a must see film and that "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye" by Boyz II Men just hit different at the end of the movie.
7) Barbershop (2002).
Barbershop is a story by Mark Brown directed by Tim Story. It captures a thriving barbershop in the community owned by Calvin Palmer Jr., who was played by Ice Cube.
Palmer had a thriving shop that had a legacy that was in jeopardy after financial troubles hit. This left workers in a frenzy and under the table business became risky. This film makes the list due to the emphasis on the hustle in the film. This is a go-getter type of city, and it was reflected in the movie.
6) Divergent (2014)
Divergent is the first installment of the Divergent series, based on the same titled sci-fi novel by Veronica Roth. It's based in future Chicago, which is divided into five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intellectual). Everyone else was factionless, with no real status in set society.
Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Zoë Kravitz, and more star in this film directed by Neil Burger. If you're into sci-fi film with good screenplay, this is one for you.
5) Hardball (2001)
Hardball was directed by Brian Robbins in 2001, with screenplay by John Gatins. Keanu Reeves plays the role of Conor O'Neill, a gambler who falls into debt after a bet. To hustle up money for unpaid wages, he coaches a fifth-grade baseball team from Chicago's ABLA homes.
Conor came in with an different agenda only to gain a close relationship with the boys. Their lifestyle was displayed through the door and Conor ended up playing a big part in their lifestyle was juggling the stresses of his.
4) Tranformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Transformers: Age of Extinction, the 2014 sci-fi film, comes in at number four on my list. The movie was shot in several locations, with Chicago being one of them. The McCormick Place was decorated in the fashion of a city in China, and the movie has a setting in the city as well. Age of Extinction is the fourth Transformers movie based on the toy brand. Ehran Kruger wrote the film and Michael Bay directed it.
Age of Extinction focuses around the removal of Transformers by the government after the Battle of Chicago (Dark of The Moon). Mark Wahlberg starred as Cade Yeager, a struggling Texas inventor.
In the film, Yaeger and his family plays a large role in helping the Autobots once again fend off danger after major destruction in Chicago in the third film. Transformers 4 does a great job in capturing the straightforward action, with a plot that just unravels until the end.
3) I, Robot (2004)
I,Robot is a sci-fi film directed by Alex Proyas with screenplay by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman. The film takes setting in the year 2035 in Chicago. In the future, robots serve common humanity. Will Smith played the role of Del Spooner, a CPD detective who's life saving came at the cost of a 12-year-old girl.
The car crash that could've left him for dead left him with a ill-feeling towards robots. The fact that he has a robotic arm, lung, and ribs, due to the accident doesn't help his hatred either. He was saved by robots and their logic, depending on Spooner's higher chances of survival versus the little girl's slim chances.
Will Smith absolutely bodied this role and it's a great movie outside of a present or past Chicago perspective. It gives good reason on how the advancement and trust in a robot-welcoming society can turn around a bite society on the backside.
2) Batman: The Dark Knight (2008)
Batman: The Dark Knight focuses in the fictional setting of the crime-riddled (no pun intended) Gotham City. The film was shot primarily in Chicago, with filming going on in other places such as Hong Kong. The film is directed by Christopher Nolan, with screenplay from both Jonathan and Christopher Nolan.
The film focuses on Batman trying to put an end to the Joker's damaging reign. In the film, Batman wanted to go into retirement for a life with Rachel Dawes, but that lifestyle soon went out the window. One The Joker placed his target on Dawes, Batman soon reacted and the city of Gotham went into a frenzy.
This movie is perhaps the greatest superhero movie of all time. Christian Bale starred as Batman while the late, Heath Ledger played the role of The Joker. The fact the scenes were shot in Chicago only helps this movie's chances with being a solid ranking on this list.
1) John Q. (2002)
Denzel Washington playing John Q. Archibald in the movie John Q. is my for sure number one. It was written by James Kearns and directed by Nick Cassavetes. John Q. played the role of a Chicago factory worker who had his life flipped upside down. Him and his wife witnessed their son collapse at his baseball game.
When rushed to the hospital they found out their son, Michael, has an enlarged heart and is at risk to die without a transplant. The procedure wasn't an affordable one for John and his wife, Denise. It didn't help his chances once Q was cut down to part-time work in the factory, causing his insurance policy to be cut short. Frustration and a race against time caused John to take matters into his own hands in this drama.
This movie measures the stakes of high-risk situations where people feel like there's no other option. John Q. did what he felt he had to do for his son. Ultimately it costed him his own freedom. This is one of those movies that'll make you thinking about what would you have done if you were in the Archibald's shoes.