Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Chicago and get you in the mood for travel
About Last Night (1986)
Romantic comedy adapted from David Mamet’s play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” in which a Chicago couple adjust to cohabitating.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Teen comedy in which a high school senior played by Matthew Broderick skips school to spend the day in downtown Chicago, including Wrigley Field, the Sears Tower, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
The Oscar-nominated documentary follows two high school boys in their quest to become professional basketball players.
Road To Perdition (2002)
Violent, Prohibition-era gangster drama with Paul Newman and Tom Hanks filmed in the historic Pullman district on the South Side.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Musical comedy starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as Jake and Elwood Blues, musicians on the run from the law; includes a legendary car chase under the L tracks.
The Untouchables (1987)
Kevin Costner as G-man Eliot Ness brings down Robert DeNiro’s legendary mob boss Al Capone in a film largely located and shot in Chicago.
Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware (2000)
This highly praised graphic novel covers four generations and a century of change in Chicago. “Captures urban isolation.”—Jessa Crispin, founder and editor, Bookslut.com.
The Coast of Chicago, by Stuart Dybek (1990)
Poetic short stories concerning immigrant characters on the gritty South Side.
The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson (2003)
Based on true events, the book tells the twin stories of Daniel Burnham, architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer, depicting the beauty and the horror of the city in the late 19th century.
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair (1906)
Socialist author exposes the working conditions in the Chicago stockyards. “It revealed the beaten-down underclass.”—Victoria Lautman, radio host, Writers on the Record with Victoria Lautman.
The Man With the Golden Arm, by Nelson Algren (1949)
Drug addict Frankie Machine struggles to stay straight on Chicago’s mean streets. “There’s hardly any glamour to Chicago; Algren’s work reflects that.”—Jessa Crispin.
The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)
Unusual love story about a man who time-travels to different periods in his own life. “Set in the Newberry Library, a quirky setting of Chicago for a fun book.”—Victoria Lautman.
Another Polka Celebration, Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones (1986)
Multiple-Grammy-nominees, the Chicago-based Versatones led by Eddie Blazonczyk, won the prize in 1986 with this record, delighting the city’s large Polish populace.
Electric Mud, Muddy Waters (1968)
Mississippi-born Muddy Waters moved to Chicago and electrified the blues with songs like “I Just Want to Make Love To You” and “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man,” both on this 1968 recording.
Hoodoo Man Blues, Junior Wells (1965)
Classic early recording from Chicago-based vocalist and harmonica player Junior Wells with backing from guitarist Buddy Guy.
The Chicago Principal: First Chair Soloists Play Famous Concertos (2003)
Classic compositions by Mozart, Schumann, and Ravel played by Chicago Symphony Orchestra leads directed by long-time conductors Sir Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim.
Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago (1969)
Sixties rock band Chicago named itself after the city’s public transit system with the launch of their first album including “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings.”
The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings, Louis Armstrong (2000)
Jazz innovator Louis Armstrong in his Chicago period records classics like “Potato Head Blues” and “West End Blues” with a group of jazz all-stars.
The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965, Miles Davis (1965)
The downstate-born Miles Davis recorded standards like “My Funny Valentine” at a two-night gig at a former Chicago jazz club. Herbie Hancock contributes on piano.
From down-home blues to crooner classics and Sixties protest songs, Chicago has been the subject or backdrop of these 10 favorites:
- “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” by Frank Sinatra
- “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)” by Frank Sinatra
- “The Lincoln Park Pirates” by Steve Goodman
- “Baseball Dreams” by Ralph’s World
- “Take Me Back to Chicago” by Chicago
- “Via Chicago” by Wilco
- “Chicago (We Can Change the World)” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
- “Goin’ to Chicago Blues” by The Count Basie Orchestra
- “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson (or The Blues Brothers)
- “Tonight, Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins
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