Welcome to a cinematic journey through the heart of Chicago, where the streets come alive not just with the sounds of marching bands and the vibrant colors of parade floats, but also with the magic of movie-making. Chicago, a city renowned for its architectural beauty and rich cultural tapestry, has also played a starring role in some of the most memorable moments in film history. Among these, its parades have offered a spectacular backdrop, turning ordinary scenes into unforgettable cinematic experiences. From the laughter-filled escapades of a high schooler’s day off to a thrilling chase that weave through the crowds, Chicago’s parades have become more than just events; they’ve become iconic settings that bridge the gap between reality and the silver screen.

Join us as we embark on a nostalgic trip down State Street and beyond, exploring how our beloved Chicago Thanksgiving Parade and other city parades have been immortalized in film. Dive into the stories behind the scenes, discover the magic behind the camera, and celebrate the intersection of Chicago’s parade tradition with the art of filmmaking. Whether you’re a film buff, a parade enthusiast, or simply in love with Chicago, there’s a story here for you. So, let the cameras roll and the parade begin!


If you mention a Chicago Parade in the movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off might be the first one you think of.  Matthew Broderick singing “Danke Schoen” before really livening up the massive crowd with “Twist and Shout” at the annual Von Stuben Parade.

Did you know that Matthew couldn’t do a lot of the choreography for the parade?  While filming the scenes where he ran through his neighbors back yards, he hurt his knee.  This limited what he could do while on the float.


The other Chicago Parade movie that you might think of is The Fugitive.  Harrison Ford’s character (Dr. Richard Kimble) is able to escape Tommy Lee Jones’ character by dipping into the march at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Filmmakers worked directly with the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 UA (organizers of the parade) to pull off the shot.  


John Hughes directed a number of classics, including the first movie in our list.  He also directed the remake of Miracle on 34th Street, revitalizing the.classic story into its own beloved movie.  Hughes grew up in the Chicago area, and moved back to the area in the mid 1990’s.  

The opening scenes of Miracle on 34th Street are a mixture of shots from New York as well as our parade, back when we were known as the Brach’s Holiday Parade and our route was on Michigan Avenue.  Many other scenes were shot in the Chicago area as well.  


If you’ve followed the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, you may remember seeing SpongeBob Squarepants.  This actually had to do with the film production of The Weatherman starring Nick Cage.  Although Nick Cage wasn’t in the Parade itself, a bit of movie magic brought our parade route to the movie.  


This Hallmark movie is full of Chicago, and is about Parade Coordinator Emily Jones (played by Autumn Reese).  Her career has been dedicated to producing the parade, and hopes that she will receive a long-awaited proposal from her long-distance boyfriend.  In comes a development consultant to try and increase profits who could potentially ruin the joyful spirit of the parade.  

A majority of the parade scenes were filmed on site at our parade in our staging area and the southern-most portion of our route, featuring groups getting ready for our actual parade. You can also see the inflation of our favorite balloon – Teddy Turkey.  

This year, as we prepare for another spectacular parade, we invite you to be a part of this tradition that has captured the hearts of moviegoers and parade enthusiasts alike. Whether you’re a Chicago native or a fan from afar, tuning into the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade on Pluto TV offers you a front-row seat to the magic that unfolds on our streets. Join us in celebrating the rich tapestry of stories, both on screen and in the streets, that make our parade a cornerstone of Chicago’s cultural heritage.

Don’t let the parade pass you by. Tune in, get involved, perform, or become a corporate sponsor and be part of the legacy that continues to make the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade a highlight of the holiday season. Remember, you might just catch a glimpse of our parade in your other favorite TV shows and movies, weaving the fabric of our city into the tapestry of popular culture. Let’s celebrate together, creating new memories while reliving the magic of parades past. See you at the parade!

Dan Mulka is the Executive Director of the Chicago Thanskgiving Parade Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization charged with keeping the tradition of keeping Chicago’s holiday parade entertaining millions worldwide.