Movies in Chicago: John Hughes Films

ferris bueller house
Photo Credit

John Hughes may have been born in Lansing, Michigan, but he is a Chicagoan at heart. Where’s the proof? In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Breakfast Club, Home Alone, Sixteen Candles, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Pretty in Pink, and Uncle Buck. Hughes moved to Northbrook, Illinois when he was 12 years old, and if he hadn’t, some of the classic movies of the 80s and 90s would not be what they are today.

Hughes certainly had a talent for scripting some of the most memorable characters.   Whether it was a kid ditching school for the day, a group of students in Saturday detention or a young boy left at home by accident and forced to defend himself when burglars try to rob his house, Hughes’ characters are relatable. Okay, maybe the last one isn’t as relatable as the others, but the majority of Hughes characters depict a person we Chicagoans have encountered at some point in our lives. Hughes used his experience of growing up in a suburb of Chicago to capture the essence of the people and the city itself. 

There is no denying the Chicago influence in the majority of Hughes films. He filmed The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles at several different high schools in the northern suburbs including Maine North in Des Plaines, New Trier in Winnetka, and Niles East in Skokie, and his alma mater, Glenbrook High School.

The Breakfast Club is set in a fictional town called Shermer, Illinois named after the street address of Glenbrook High School. The 90s classic, Home Alone, was filmed primarily in Winnetka, as well as in Evanston, Oak Park, Wilmette — not to mention that famous scene in O’Hare Airport. The “Home Alone House” is currently (Summer 2011) for sale for an asking price of 2.4 million dollars. Uncle Buck, starring John Candy and Macaulay Culkin, was filmed all over the Chicagoland area and surrounding suburbs. His comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles was set to be filmed in Kankakee, but a lack of snow forced production to New York.

No movie captures Hughes’ love for Chicago like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In fact, Hughes once said this movie was his “love letter to the city.” He wanted to capture what Chicago really was and what better way to do that than to ditch a day of high school and explore. Not all of the scenes were filmed in the city itself, though. The scenes filmed in the suburbs alternated between Winnetka, Northbrook, Oak Park, River Forest, and Lake Forest. Hughes also used footage of Glenbrook North for the interior shots of the high school, and the majority of the extras in the film were actual high school students.

Other famous locations seen throughout the film are The Sears (ok, Willis) Tower, Wrigley Field, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Board of Trade, Ben Rose Auto Museum, various streets in the Loop including Dearborn and Adams, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on 30 S. Wacker Drive.     

Hughes was often criticized for favoring the Windy City, but he didn’t let it deter him. He wanted to portray Chicago in a way that showed audiences what the city had to offer.  After leaving Hollywood, Hughes moved back to Chicago with his family. While on vacation in New York in 2009, Hughes died suddenly from a heart attack. He was laid to rest in the city he knew and loved.

Leave a comment

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *