Contrary to how it may seem, the state of Illinois isn’t all just the Windy City of Chicago and its deep-dish pizza, Chicago Red Hots (hot dog on a poppy seed bun with all the fixings), tall buildings, and exclusive shopping. In fact, it’s actually farmland that makes up almost 80% percent of the state.
Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States and is also home to the nation’s oldest public zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Nabisco factory, the largest bakery in the world. The Prairie State is also home to the Chicago River, the only river in all the world that flows backwards and the main headquarters for McDonald’s is in Oakbrook.
The Land of Lincoln, given that nickname due to the sixteenth president’s personal connection to the state, has quite a lot to offer both its residents and tourists, as well as movie crews looking for exclusive settings and areas to film scenes for their movies. Here is a list of some of the most famous that owe thanks to the 21st state:
Movies Filmed in Illinois
Home Alone (1990)
The movie that gave Catherine O’Hara and John Heard the award for “Worst Parents Ever” and of course put 10-year-old Macaulay Culkin, who had already been in four movies, on the Hollywood map, was set in Chicago and also shot in Illinois. Locations included Wilmette and Oak Park. The McAllister’s home is on Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka.
1 h 42 min | PG
The Breakfast Club (1985)
This movie about a Saturday detention of teenagers from varying walks of life was John Hughes’ second seat in the director’s chair. It was set in fictional Shermer, Illinois and also filmed there (Maine North High School in Des Plaines). It stands as the most popular movie of the 7 he directed. It also launched the term “Brat Pack” for its cast.
1 h 37 min | R
Based upon Veronica Roth’s sci-fi dystopian trilogy, this movie, starring Shailene Woodley, was set in Chicago, although this Chicago is post-apocalyptic. Some notable areas used include the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, the University of Chicago’s Mansueto Library, famed Michigan Avenue, Lake Street Bridge, and LaSalle Street Bridge.
2 h 19 min | PG-13
Gone Girl (2014)
Director David Fincher’s highest-grossing film, this thriller neo-noir was based on a 2012 book by Gillian Flynn. When Rosamund Pike’s Amy goes missing, it’s Ben Affleck’s Nick, her husband, who ends up being the prime suspect in the case. The story itself is set in Missouri, with some Illinois shots done in Makanda and Thebes.
2 h 29 min | R
Uncle Buck (1989)
John Candy’s thirty-first movie, this John Hughes comedy about the last person you should call in to stay with your kids was set in Missouri; however, most of it was shot in Illinois, in Chicago, Evanston, Cicero, Skokie, Northbrook, Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Riverwoods. Macaulay Culkin also appeared in this movie as Miles.
1 h 40 min | PG
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Another John Hughes comedy starring Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, while not as popular as The Breakfast Club, its impact goes beyond the norm; it’s very likely you know someone either named or who named their son none other than Jake Ryan. The movie was also set in “Shermer” and shot in Evanston, Skokie, Highland Park, and Glencoe.
1 h 33 min | R
This movie was a based on horror icon Clive Barker’s “The Forbidden”. It starred Virginia Madsen as Helen, a young woman studying urban legends, who finds that some aren’t actually legends. The movie moved the setting from Liverpool to Chicago, and filmed on the North and West side as well as the University of Illinois at Chicago.
1 h 38 min | R
Batman Begins (2005)
The first movie in the Dark Knight trilogy with Christian Bale donning the batsuit, this origin movie takes place in Gotham City. But since that doesn’t actually exist, for this movie, filmmakers used various locations in the UK, Iceland, and some scenes within Chicago, such as the Board of Trade Building and the Franklin Street Bridge.
2 h 19 min | PG-13
High Fidelity (2000)
Before it was a Hulu TV show, it was a movie starring John Cusack, which had been adapted from Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel. Hornby, himself a Brit, set his tale in London. The film moved it to Chicago, where it was also shot. Locations include Wicker Park, Soiree Bar, the Music Box Theatre, and the Kinzie Street Bridge, among many others.
1 h 53 min | R
The Amityville Horror (2005)
This is the ninth version of the fake/true story of the Lutz family, who moved into a house on Long Island, NY where a son had previously murdered his family. This one featured a lot more shirtless Ryan Reynolds scenes than previous movies and was filmed in several Illinois spots throughout Chicago, Antioch, Buffalo Grove, and Fox Lake.
1 h 29 min | R
Groundhog Day (1993)
Don’t be fooled by this Bill Murray-led comedy: it not filmed where the groundhog ceremony is in Punxatawney, nor was it even done in the state of Pennsylvania. Every morning, Phil Connors was waking in Woodstock. The quirky movie sparked not only a musical, but also a video game, and helped establish Murray as a more serious actor.
1 h 41 min | PG
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise began in 1984 with director Wes Craven. This version is actually a remake of that original, although meant to be scarier and more sinister. The movie is set in the fictitious town of Springwood, Ohio, but was filmed partly in Chicago, Elk Grove Village, and Arlington Heights, as well areas of Indiana.
1 h 35 min | R
How the West Was Won (1962)
One of Hollywood’s greatest epics, this movie starred Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, and John Wayne, among many other top stars. The highly-acclaimed movie won three Oscars. It was filmed in Kentucky, California, and Utah, as well in Cave-in-Rock State Park and the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois.
2 h 44 min | G
Child’s Play (1988)
This was the first of six horror movies starring serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who to escape the police, uses voodoo to transfer his demonic soul into a Good Guys doll, thus birthing Chucky. The movie was both set in Chicago and also filmed there, with the well-known Brewster Apartment building used as young Andy’s and his mother’s home.
1 h 27 min | R
Fred Claus (2007)
When you think of places to shoot Christmas-themed movies, Illinois might not be the first place you’d guess. However, for this fantasy comedy starring Paul Giamatti as Santa Claus and Vince Vaughan as his polar opposite brother, Chicago was the perfect setting for Fred to live. When he wasn’t living at the North Pole, of course.
1 h 55 min | PG
Risky Business (1983)
This was Tom Cruise’s fifth movie of his career, and also one of four released that year that he appeared in. Joel Goodson lived in Glencoe, so it made natural sense to film the movie there as well. There were locations used throughout Chicago, including shots of Lake Michigan and at O’Hare International Airport.
1 h 39 min | R
Bored with their current state of life, medical students played by Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, and Oliver Platt begin playing very closely with death in order to get more out of life, only to find that what lies in between is terrifying. The film was done at Loyola University in Chicago.
1 h 54 min | R
With its five state forests, two national forests, and forty-three state parks, there is plenty of beautiful settings to choose from in Illinois. And of course, for filmmakers looking for a more urban setting, the city of Chicago is another prime spot. With all this and more, there are many good reasons why it’s chosen time and time again.