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7 Film Posters That Capture the Essence of Chicago

7 Film Posters That Capture the Essence of Chicago

Picture of Kelsey Grace Pfeifer
Updated: 10 September 2017

No one does Chicago justice like filmmakers. Many have captured the town in its darkest and lightest moments, creating some of the most iconic films in urban settings. While the films speak for themselves, Chicago is also exemplified in the clever design of the following film posters.


You can’t talk about films in Chicago without mentioning the Academy-Award winning musical, Chicago (2002). The poster is the essence of the Chicago of the 1920s, with a nod to the jazz culture that still runs deep in the city. The neon “C” resembles that of the Chicago Theatre marquee, which is one of the Windy City‘s most recognizable landmarks. Between that and the black-and-white characters and skyline, this poster oozes the bloody and gritty history of the city.

Chicago (2002) | Courtesy of Miramax

Hoop dreams

Basketball isn’t a sport in Chicago, it’s a lifestyle. Producing phenomenal players such as Michael Jordan and Dwayne Wade, the Chicago Bulls are a staple of the city, so Hoop Dreams (1994) had to feature the sport on its movie poster. The silhouette of the boys playing basketball on a derelict hoop is the perfect image to represent inner-city Chicago, where the main characters hail from. However, the bright contrast of the sunset and Chicago skyline represent moving up into the big city. The downtown area of Chicago is definitely a gleaming city, and it signifies success to many, so it is natural to make it look as picturesque as possible on this poster.

Hoop Dreams (1994) | Courtesy of  KTCA Minneapolis

The Untouchables

Al Capone is the lynchpin of Chicago history, and his story has been told countless times. However, in The Untouchables (1987), Director Brian De Palma shows how much Capone really influenced the lifestyle in the city. It’s only fitting that this film poster boasts a cigar-smoking, fedora-wearing, Robert De Niro as the main focus. His portrait steals the eye immediately, representing his ‘lording’ over the Windy City. In smaller size, there is Kevin Costner and the rest of the characters dressed in 1920s garb and flaunting Tommy guns – another Chicago mainstay sometimes known as “Chicago Typewriter”, “Chicago Piano”, or “Chicago Style”.

The Untouchables (1987) | Courtesy of Paramount Pictures


Though a box office disappointment, Chi-raqs (2015) movie poster is anything but. The artistically styled poster mirrors the urban street art peppered around the city. The film focuses mainly on inequality on the South Side of Chicago, which has existed for most of the city’s history. The eye-contact portrait of Teyonah Parris strongly resembles the Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park, which is an instillation purposefully designed with social relevance to the city. Other nods include the six-point stars, which mirror those on the Chicago Flag, and the protestors and police, which point to many civil rights movements on the South Side.

Chi-raq (2015) | Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The Dark Knight

Though Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight (2008) was set in Gotham City, much of it was filmed and based in the city of Chicago. Some of the best scenes feature Chicago’s streets, and there were even calls from concerned citizens about a car chase filmed on the popular Lake Street. The film poster alludes to the underbelly of crime that Chicago has been known for throughout history. It takes a beautiful building and sets it on fire, signaling destruction before rebirth, which follows the timeline of Chicago crime from the 1920s to the present day.

The Dark Knight (2008) | Courtesy of Warner Bros., Entertainment

The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers (1980) was the brainchild of one of Chicago’s comedy darlings, John Landis. Landis made sure all details in this film were quintessentially Chicago, and that includes the poster! Jake and Elwood Blues are dressed in classic Chicago Fedoras with sunglasses and suits and are the physical embodiment of the jazz and blues era in Chicago. A Chicago PD car is behind them, which is not only a huge trope in the film, but also represents how notable the Chicago PD is in the history of the city. Lastly, the bridge raising in the background refers to a specific scene in the film, and also shows off one of Chicago’s landmarks, the lifting bridges of the Chicago River. 

The Blues Brothers (1980) | Courtesy of Universal Pictures


Author Veronica Roth knew what she was doing when she picked Chicago as the city to survive an apocalypse – it’s filled with some pretty resilient people! So when it comes to Divergent (2014), it was pertinent that the city would be featured. The Navy Pier Ferris Wheel makes an appearance, as does the John Hancock Center. The poster features the two main characters standing about the skyline wearing futuristic suits, all representing a strength in Chicagoans. After all, Chicago would definitely be a safe, albeit dystopian, haven, right?

Divergent (2014) | Courtesy of Summit Entertainment