Arguably the greatest perhaps the only action-musical-comedy film ever made, The Blues Brothers owes much of its spirit to the use of genuine Chicago locations to depict Chicago and not the sites City Hall wants the world to see, like Navy Pier and Millennium Park, but instead the grimy underbelly: the steel mills, flophouses, and back alleys that make up the real character of the city.
Not only did this movie utilize the city more extensively than any other film before or since, it captured images that will never again be seen in a movie, such as hundred-plus-mile-an-hour drives down Lake Street and madcap police car pile-ups under the tracks of the ‘L’. Certainly today the massive invasion of Daley Plaza could never take place, and would be relegated to the phony world of CGI special effects.
Many of the sites listed here have changed significantly since 1979, and some have been lost forever. So next time you watch the movie, enjoy the music, the laughs, the wild car chases but also watch the backgrounds to see a moment in time of a great American city.
Several sources were brought together to create this map:
Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100 Years of Chicago and the Movies by Arnie Bernstein is an excellent overview of Chicago film history and lists the locales of dozens of films shot in Chicago. (The 2013 second edition is greatly expanded over the first, and includes more recent additions such as High Fidelity, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, etc.)
Chris Rossi of the former Blues Brothers Central website provided lots of help and many of the image scans seen here. Alas, the web’s most in-depth source for all things BB has been replaced with a Facebook page.
The Chicago Sun-Times ran a special series of articles by Dave Newbart for the 25th anniversary of the film’s U.S. release (20 June 2005).
Sites you won’t see here: