As we ride down Lower Wacker in downtown Chicago, Elwood from the Blues Brothers appears on the video screen, delivering his classic line, “Well this is definitely Lower Wacker Drive… If my estimations are correct, we should be very close to the honorable Richard J. Daley Plaza!”
Fortunately, unlike the Blues Brothers, we aren’t trying to outrun the police. We’re passengers on the Chicago Movie Tour, which shuttles visitors to three dozen famous movie sites all across the Windy City, from the Chicago Hilton, the hotel featured in multiple scenes in The Fugitive, to the Biograph Theater, where mobster John Dillinger was killed, both in real life and as portrayed by Johnny Depp in Public Enemies.
Guests boarding the bus are greeted by the voice of Frank Sinatra singing his famous ode to Chicago, “My Kind of Town.” In between giving the inside info about Chicago’s most noteworthy silver screen locations, our guide, a local film critic, sings along with Ferris Bueller’s “Twist and Shout” and dances with Ally Sheedy’s character from The Breakfast Club.
I expect to learn about maybe 10 or 20 Chicago-based movies, but the tour touches on more than 80 films over the course of two hours. An early highlight is the ride past the Marina City and Towers, the twin cylindrical buildings along the Chicago River that were the site of the final movies ever filmed by the late Steve McQueen (Hunter) and Jackie Gleason (Nothing in Common). The Marina Towers also sustained major damage from alien robots in 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, one of the newest additions to the ever-changing tour.
One of the coolest parts of the tour is being able to watch clips from the original Hollywood films on the TV sets inside the coach as we drive past the exact spots where Home Alone, Batman Begins, Little Fockers, and Uncle Buck were shot. The tour takes guests to Wrigley Field, the Green Mill Lounge, North Avenue Beach and Union Station, all of which are familiar spots to any movie buff.
The tour also visits famous locations that aren’t necessarily movie-related but carry historic significance, like the 1960s Playboy Mansion and Chess Records, a former music studio on the South Side where legends like Etta James and the Rolling Stones recorded.
From Lincoln Park to Uptown and from Lakeview to Chinatown, the Chicago Film Tour passes through some of the Windy City’s most popular neighborhoods, so it’s a good way to get to know the city even if you’re not a film fan. But movie fanatics will especially appreciate the chance to relive some of the most memorable moments in Chicago cinematic history.
Photos courtesy of Scott Shetler.
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– Scott Shetler