Establishing shots of the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field, and the Lakefront are mandatory to any film based and filmed in Chicago, but the best Chicago movies go much deeper than those beauty shots.
Chicago movies have produced a raft of indelible characters, from the Blues Brothers to multiple Al Capones to the teens of both John Hughes’s suburbs and Cooley High. The city has inspired filmmakers since the days of Essanay Studios, and continues to spawn new screen stories today (even if some are filmed in Canada—looking at you, movie literally called Chicago). But which Chicago-set movies are the most essential?
Brian De Palma’s 1987 take on the dueling forces of Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) and Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) has a screenplay by Chicago scribe David Mamet; the creative team’s vision is full of violence and style—witness the famous scene in which the pair turn a Union Station shootout into an homage to Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin; for nearly two and a half minutes all you hear in the soundtrack are gunshots, Ennio Morricone’s urgent score, and the sound of a baby carriage’s wheels speeding down a staircase.