It’s not because I think it’s the best movie ever. It’s not because I have some fuzzy memory of watching it as a kid (I didn’t see it until I was in junior high school). It isn’t because of the soundtrack, or Matthew Broderick, or any of the usual reasons.
I love watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” because it’s a Chicago movie, and moreover, it depicts the Chicago of my childhood. Although I moved around a lot as a kid, bouncing between neighborhoods and suburbs, going downtown was always an amazing experience. The parade scene alone is packed with the things I remember seeing with my grandma when we went downtown right before the first time she took me to see Lake Michigan–the seemingly-dizzying heights of the elevated tracks, ever-present celebrations, and Calder’s Flamingo in Federal Plaza. The faces in the crowd are also faces I might have seen on the city streets as a child, because the extras weren’t cast from Hollywood head shots but are actual locals recruited with radio ads.
Then there’s the Art Institute scene, featuring great works including Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, The Child’s Bath by Mary Cassat, Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz by Amedeo Modigliani, and Marc Chagall’s America Windows. Making this scene even closer to my art nerd heart, it contains an instrumental version of The Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.”
The vast majority of this movie was filmed in the greater Chicago metropolitan area, including many extant locations you can visit today. For a closer look and information about how to find them, visit this page on movie-locations.com.
There’s so much to love about this film, even if you’re not a big John Hughes fan. This week, Comedy Central is airing one of the less bowdlerized versions I can remember seeing on basic cable if you’d like to watch it yourself.