Five Hilton Chicago cameos on the big screen
// By Jacqueline Brennan
/ By Jackie Brennan /
We recently had a lot of fun mapping out a list of iconic landmarks within blocks of Hilton Chicago, where Upswell is happening this November. That gave us an opportunity to set the scene of the city’s downtown area, known as the Loop. It also gave us an opportunity to explore Chicago’s development into an urban center with most of its attractions tracing back to two major plot points in the city’s past: the 1871 fire and the 1893 Columbian Exposition. At the end of that list, we teased a forthcoming piece about the Hilton Chicago’s own claims to fame. It turns out it has many—one being a track record of notable cameos in several iconic 90s movies, plus one from the early 2000s.
While we hope you’ll find some time to wander the Loop and check out any of the number landmarks not far from Hilton Chicago, we’d be remiss not to share this list of movies, because should you feel the need to reenact any of them, you won’t even have to leave Upswell Chicago’s home base. As a salute to the Windy City’s place in the greater tradition of cinema, we’ve included the rating Roger Ebert gave each of these films in his contemporaneous reviews. For the uninitiated, Ebert was the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 to his death in 2013 and is still the best-known of American film critics in history. With that, here are five movies featuring the Chicago Hilton, ordered by release year.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Ebert rating: ★★☆☆
Although the story of this second Home Alone movie is set in New York, many scenes were shot on location in Chicago. Notably, Chicago’s iconic Rookery Building (which also got a shout-out in our list of Loop landmarks) was the frontage of Duncan’s Toy Chest in the film, and the store’s interior was shot inside the Uptown Theatre. The luxury suite where Kevin and his family reunite on Christmas Day in the final scene of the movie is Hilton Chicago’s Conrad Hilton Suite.
The Fugitive (1993)
Ebert rating: ★★★★
Of the movies on this list, Hilton Chicago’s role is most overt in The Fugitive. Coincidentally, it’s also the only flick on this list that notched a coveted four-star rating from Rog. So, you know, don’t be surprised if you see this one again if (ahem, when) we go on to hash out our favorite movies overall set in Chicago (legend has it our pizza aficionado also has a take or two on movies, so no promises, but don’t be surprised if he weighs in). Far from a generic stand-in for a scene that could’ve been shot elsewhere, the hotel’s branding is on plain display in the climax of this movie—a confrontation during a pharmaceutical convention that takes place in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom.
Primal Fear (1996)
Ebert rating: ★★★½
Hilton Chicago makes the briefest of cameos in Primal Fear, as it is where lawyer Martin Vail is dropped off two minutes into this film, which notably earned a young Edward Norton the first of his three Oscar nominations, as well as his first Golden Globe for supporting actor. Check out the top of this breakdown of the filming locations to see the still from the opening and the S. Michigan Ave entrance of the Hilton in daylight.
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
Ebert rating: ★★★☆
Within this lineup, My Best Friend’s wedding may very well be the movie that samples the city of Chicago most extensively. But the hotel specifically gets screen time in two places. A hotel elevator is the site of a conversation between Julianne (Julia Roberts) and Kimmy (Cameron Diaz), and later, the same suite that accommodated the McCallister family at the end of Home Alone 2 becomes the setting where Julianne meets Kimmy’s mother.
Road to Perdition (2002)
Ebert rating: ★★★☆
While the exterior of the Hotel Lexington in Road to Perdition is the Wrigley Building—also on Michigan Ave, but on the opposite bank of the Chicago River—the interior of the building was shot inside Hilton Chicago (which you can see at about the 2:40 mark in this clip). For the record, we don’t necessarily condone convincing reenactments of any of these movies, but especially not this one. At least the cinematography is sleek. Sleek enough, even, to earn Conrad L. Hall a posthumous Oscar in the category.
That’s our rundown of Hilton Chicago’s iconic big screen appearances. The hotel’s Wikipedia page features an even longer list of the spot’s appearances in prominent movies and TV shows, but maybe you know of a Hilton Chicago cameo that’s not even on that list. If you want to share your trivia with us, leave us a comment, drop us a line (email@example.com), or get in touch with us on the socials (@weareupswell). Stay close for Upswell news and fun Chicago-themed content between now and November because registration is open, and this tide is picking up momentum by the day.
Jackie Brennan is the associate of social media and web at Independent Sector.