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Filming locations from the best thrillers shot in Chicago

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August 22, 2022
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Filming locations from the best thrillers shot in Chicago

Chicago has played a major role in the film industry since the early 1900s, when it claimed the most cinemas per capita in the United States and distributed over three-quarters of the nation's silent films. With significant tax credits, a sturdy infrastructure, and reservoirs of local cast and crew talent, Illinois has long been a leader in incentivizing filmmakers to make their movies there.

The White City also claims many recognizable landmarks, including the Chicago River's boardwalk and bridges, the L, the John Hancock building, Wrigley Field, and Millennium Park, to name just a few. The energy of the city, along with its unique and diverse neighborhoods, has made it a prime site for commensurately high-energy filmmaking, notably thrillers.

For that reason, Giggster looked at noteworthy shooting locations you can visit from the best thrillers shot in Chicago. To qualify as one of the best, the film had to have at least a 7.5 user rating on IMDb. Some, like Emmit's Pub, are now relegated to the wistful past, but several more haven't seemed to age a day since they graced the silver screen in these films.

Exterior view of the Hilton Chicago
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Christian Heinz // Shutterstock

The climactic Grand Ballroom in 'The Fugitive'

- Location: Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S. Michigan Ave.

When the Chicago Hilton and Towers opened in 1927 (then known as the Stevens Hotel), it was akin to the Titanic of the hotel world—boasting the most guest rooms in the world, rooftop miniature golf, a bowling alley, a hospital, and more—only to be sunk by financial difficulties brought on by the Great Depression. Unlike the infamous ship, however, the distinctive lakeside property survived and eventually thrived under new ownership.

Centrally located to high-traffic destinations, the Chicago Hilton and Towers is the perfect endpoint for the tightening cat-and-mouse game between a man wrongfully convicted of murder, Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford), and U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) in 1993's "The Fugitive." The doctor corners the back-stabbing friend who really killed his wife at a physicians' gala in the hotel's Grand Ballroom. Although it's a jaw-dropping space lit up in purple and adorned with chandeliers and French Baroque accents, the camera's focus is entirely on the wanted man finally clearing his name.

A street view of Emmit's bar in Chicago
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The bar where Danny talks Linus into the heist in 'Ocean's Eleven'

- Location: Emmit's Pub, 495 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Underground tunnels, dwarf-tossing, cops, and attempted robbery—the history of Emmit's Pub practically begs for a thriller to be shot there. Formerly a police hangout known as O'Sullivan's Public House, the beloved Windy City tavern transforms into a watering hole for con men in 2001's "Ocean's 11" (and shows up in its sequel, "Ocean's 12").

After seeing Linus (Matt Damon) pickpocket an unsuspecting straphanger on the L, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) returns the favor, leaving in place of the stolen wallet a business card telling Linus to meet at Emmit's. Although the corner sign out front is unmistakable, once inside, the camera trains closely on the two hustlers, and the neon beer signs, whiskey on the rocks, and dimly lit interior could belong to any bar. But locals don't need movie cameos to remember Emmit's, which closed in June 2022; they've got their own memories, from bartenders who married regulars to those who attended the chess club or the women-only cigar club hosted there.

The interior of Chicago theater
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The Lexington Hotel in 'The Untouchables'

- Location: Chicago Theatre, 175 N State St

From 1928 to 1932, Alphonse "Scarface" Capone called the Lexington Hotel home and headquarters and took advantage of its amenities accordingly. The building boasted 11 secret staircases—one behind a mirror next to Capone's bathtub—and he and his crew used the underground tunnels to travel freely. Before it was demolished in 1995, the Lexington Hotel hosted a brothel, an international women's museum and research center, and "The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults," a two-hour TV special hosted by Geraldo Rivera that garnered 30 million views.

With such an illustrious history in mind, the creators of 1987's "The Untouchables" chose a fittingly lavish setting for the hotel in their historical crime drama: the Chicago Theatre, called "the Wonder Theatre of the World" when it opened in 1921. The morning after Eliot Ness' (Kevin Costner) failed liquor raid, a hotel attendant grabs the daily newspaper and walks up the Chicago Theatre's red-carpeted grand staircase, modeled after that of the Paris Opera House, to deliver the good news and breakfast to Al Capone (Robert De Niro) in bed.

The exterior of Hotel Florence
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Raymond Boyd // Getty Images

Where Daniel Craig's character lives in 'Road to Perdition'

- Location: Hotel Florence, 11111 S. Forrestville Ave.

In 1881, George Pullman built a hotel named after his oldest daughter in what is now the South Side's Pullman Historic District, a neighborhood encompassing the railroad magnate's groundbreaking attempt to build a utopian community in the 1880s. Nearly a century later, the Historic Pullman Foundation saved the 50-room establishment from demolition. Although the interior of the Hotel Florence is closed to visitors as of July 2022, those watching 2002's "Road to Perdition" can glimpse the cherry woodwork and stately fireplaces in one of the film's early scenes.

Irish mafioso John Rooney (Paul Newman) hosts a wake for his associate's brother at the mansion where he lives with his son, Connor (Daniel Craig), and Rooney's hitman, Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), attends with his family. Seeing the 120-year-old rooms animated by cigar-smoking actors and extras decked out in formal wear gives an idea of what the Hotel Florence must have been like at its height of glory.

The exterior of Richard J Daley Center
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Chicago History Museum // Getty Images

Wayne Enterprises headquarters in 'The Dark Knight'

- Location: Richard J. Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St.

Unlike the original Wayne Tower in "Batman Begins," brought to life using the Chicago Board of Trade dressed up in a CGI facelift and Wayne logo, the Richard J. Daley Center wears no makeup to act as the new Wayne Enterprises headquarters in 2008's "The Dark Knight." The 31-story skyscraper's distinctive look is due to some unique attributes: It's the first to be built with corrosive tensile steel, which intentionally rusts for aesthetic and structural purposes, and has nearly half the standard number of floors for a building of its height, owing to the high ceilings necessary for courtrooms. But knowing that background information isn't necessary to appreciate the Daley Center's striking appearance in "The Dark Knight" as an onyx-black blot on an otherwise illuminated skyline.

Although Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and his alter-ego, Batman, are forces for good in Gotham, the visual is an ominous foreshadowing of bad things to come for the fictional city. For about three seconds, Daley Center gets to be a much more exotic locale than the real-life location for court records and archives, public notaries, and the Cook County Comptroller, among other municipal services.

This story originally appeared on Giggster and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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