The windy city of Chicago is famous for its sports teams, world-class museums, and vast array of shopping choices. The city remains a popular tourist destination. However, Chicago is also famous as a setting for numerous holiday films. While it may be called the Second City, Chicago is the king of holiday movies.
There are some obvious reasons why so many iconic Christmas movies are filmed in Chicago. Downtown provides incredible backdrops and lights, and the suburbs offer huge homes and mansions. And then there is the staple of winter weather – snow. And during the winter months, there’s a pretty good chance there is snow on the ground in Chicagoland. There are also tax rebates, cheaper permits, and a large supply of local actors and crew members that can attract filmmakers and producers.
The list of Christmas movies filmed and/or set in Chicago is robust. The two most popular movies that many people would recognize are Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Home Alone (1990) featured young child Macauley Culkin as the lead actor, with the backdrop being his family’s sprawling Winnetka home. Christmas Vacation (1989), with lead actor Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, was set at a house in the Chicago suburbs. However, the actual filming was done mostly in the Warner Brothers studios in California.
One top 11 listing of Chicago-themed Christmas movies has Home Alone and Christmas Vacation at the top, followed by:
- Happy Christmas (2014), which was filmed on-site at a Chicago residence. The film can be streamed free on YouTube.
- Nothing Like the Holidays (2008) was shot mostly in Humboldt Park and other areas of the neighborhood. The movie can be streamed free on YouTube.
- The Princess Switch (2018) is a romantic comedy based in Chicago, though only two scenes were shot there. The film was released by Netflix and can be streamed there.
- The Christmas Chronicles (2018) was released by Netflix and featured Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. The movie was shot in Canada, though there are brief shots of the city and CTA stations. A sequel has also been released by Netflix.
- Office Christmas Party (2016) featured well-known actors Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn and Jason Bateman. Scenes were filmed in both Chicago and Georgia. The film is available for rent on Amazon Prime.
- A Bad Moms Christmas (2017) is the sequel to Bad Moms and is described as a ‘over-the-top raunchy gal-pal comedy.’ It is set in the Chicago suburbs but filmed in Georgia. The movie is available for streaming on Netflix.
- Christmas with the Kranks (2004) has a very low score on Rotten Tomatoes but nonetheless features stars Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. It is set in the suburb of Riverside, and was filmed on location in Illinois, California, and Canada. The movie can be found on Hulu.
- The Holidate (2020) includes shots of Michigan Avenue and local name-drops, but it was filmed on location in Georgia. It can be streamed on Netflix.
- Fred Claus (2007) features Chicago-area native Vince Vaughn as Santa Claus’ down-on-his-luck brother. It was filmed in Chicago on Michigan Avenue and other areas nearby. The movie can be rented on various platforms.
The list of movies does not stop there, as there’s also While You Where Sleeping, starring Sandra Bullock. This movie was filmed in several parts of Chicago, including Northwestern Memorial Hospital and La Grange. Mean Girls is set in the suburbs and starts Rachael McAdams, Lacey Chabert, and Amanda Seyfried. The movie, of course, was shot in Canada. Surviving Christmas is a comedy featuring Ben Affleck, Catherine O’Hara, Christina Applegate, and the late James Gandolfini. It was filmed at various locations around Chicago.
Holiday movies made in recent years with Chicago themes include Christmas Lost and Found (2018). Christmas Under the Stars (2020) was shot in Richton Park, and An Unexpected Christmas (2021) was set in Illinois but filmed in Canada. Christmas With Felicity (2021) was shot in Long Grove, and Christmas Again is a family movie set and shot in Chicago. A Christmas Witness (2021) was filmed in Naperville and other Chicagoland locations, and The Christmas Pitch (2021) was filmed in various locations in the Loop and suburbs.