Five Great Suspense Movies Set in Chicago

When I'm not hunched over a manuscript or my nose isn't in a book, I'm watching movies (over the holidays, I saw “American Hustle” and downloaded “Prisoner” on iTunes.  Both good, though “Prisoners” really stayed with me.).  I'm a huge movie buff.  Huge – check out my movie board over at Pinterest.  I'm prone to chick flicks/rom-coms, thought-provoking dramas, suspense/mysteries (duh) and foreign and independent films.

When I began to write my suspense novels, I decided I wanted them to have some tie to Chicago, the city I've called home off and on for well... let's just say a while.  I've read so many books set in New York, it almost became a cliché to me.
So along those lines, I thought I'd share Five of My Favorite Suspense Movies set in Chicago.  Mind you, not my five favorite Chicago movies (flicks like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “High Fidelity” share that distinction.  Hmm.  Sounds like a future blog post.).

And the winners are:

The Fugitive
I can (and do) watch this movie over and over again.  It's exactly what a thriller should be; brimming with crackling suspense, intelligence and pulse-pounding action.  Harrision Ford's wrongly accused murderer, Dr. Richard Kimble, is exactly the kind of protagonist I like; smart, ingenious and dogged.  Tommy Lee Jones is the perfect foil and well-deserving of that Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  While movies like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” showcase Chicago as a bright and sunny playground, its urban grit is on full display in "The Fugitive."  Several our city's most notable news reporters have cameos, the El (our subway) is prominently featured and the Loop (our financial district) is the backdrop for most of the action.  Gold standard in action thrillers.

I have yet to read the James Siegel book this is based on, but I loved the twists and turns this movie offered, so the book will make it onto my TBR pile one of these days.  Clive Owen is just terrific as Charles, a would-be adulterer who's menaced by the creepy Vincent Cassel, who knows all about the former's almost slip, and is using it to his full advantage.  Jennifer Aniston is great as Lucinda, Charles's almost-lover and a victim of Cassel's blackmail scheme.  Like I said, lots of twists and turns or "derailments" in this one, right up to the end.  I also liked that the North Shore (an affluent cluster of suburbs along Lake Michigan) was showcased.

A creepy and unusual thriller about a blind violinist (Madeline Stowe) who has an operation to restore her sight and during her recovery, witnesses (she thinks, as she’s suffering from “retroactive hallucinations” as a result of her operation) a suspicious man leaving her neighbor’s apartment, leading her to believe her neighbor’s been murdered.  What follows is a tense cat-and-mouse game that plays out among the edgy cum trendy North Side Chicago neighborhoods of Bucktown/Wicker Park and Lakeview/Wrigleyville as opposed to the now standard shots of the Oak Street Beach, the downtown skyline or Magnificent Mile we’ve come to expect of movies filmed in Chicago.

Primal Fear
“Primal Fear” delves into the politics around the Archbishop of Chicago (subbing for the Archdiocese), which plays a prominent role in the fabric of the city.  Richard Gere is an arrogant defense attorney who takes on the case of Edward Norton, who’s been accused of murdering the Archbishop, who it turns out was far from a choir boy.  Trying to untangle the psychological, sexual and ethical motives behind the crime is enthralling and Edward Norton gives a powerhouse performance as the accused murderer.  John Barleycorn, a local Wrigleyville bar (which I’ve seen in the daylight and nighttime) has a cameo as do the industrial yards of the city’s South Side.  Like “The Fugitive,” many of our city’s most prominent newscasters are featured, along with the city corruption and political players we’re known for.  Richard Gere and Laura Linney are outstanding and I love that another facet of this city’s complicated make-up is examined.
North by Northwest
Okay, I'm cheating here a little bit, as North by Northwest isn't based in Chicago, but rather only makes a pit stop here.  Still, Chicago plays a prominent role in Cary Grant's flight from the bad guys (it’s on a train bound for Chicago from New York that Cary Grant meets Eva Marie Saint, who aids his escape) and Hitchcock is an undisputed master of the suspense genre, so of course, I can’t have any type of post about suspense movies without including the maestro.






  1. I was looking at some of the movies you have posted here and thinking these are some of the greatest movies ever made! Love Cary Grant :)


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