Lights, camera, Milwaukee!
Is Milwaukee the next L.A.? Probably not. But this list of films (and a television show) that were shot and/or took place in the city reveals Milwaukee’s sizable screen presence.
This smash cringe-comedy was set in Milwaukee and filmed in various places throughout the city. Not only do the opening aerial shots feature Milwaukee staples like the Art Museum, some hilarious scenes were filmed here too, like the one in a jewelry store where Kristen Wiig’s character argues with a preteen.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
For one minute of screen time, Milwaukee is a stand-in for Chicago in this iconic film. Watch the scene where the brothers are fleeing Illinois Nazis closely, and you’ll see that the exit signs on the freeway are Milwaukee’s, not the Windy City’s.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
The Milwaukee Art Museum made its mark on this continuation of the Transformers franchise, which, in turn, made its mark on the box office, though critics can’t see why. But no matter the movie’s quality, Milwaukeeans appreciate seeing their beloved winged building take center stage.
Public Enemies (2009)
Among many other cities, Milwaukee makes an appearance in this bank-robber thriller starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. The interior building that is now the Milwaukee Historical Society is a bank that gets robbed, and the “Art Deco Building” is the exterior of Depp’s character John Dillinger’s Chicago apartment.
Happy Days (1974-1984) and Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983)
This would not be a “Milwaukee on Screen” list without at least a mention of Happy Days and its spinoff Laverne & Shirley. Though the seminal television shows weren’t actually filmed in Milwaukee, they took place here, leaving a huge mark on the city in the form of the “Bronze Fonz.”
Tommy Boy (1995)
The late and extraordinarily famous Marquette University alumni Chris Farley brings the Milwaukee University to life in this hilarious small-town-Wisconsin comedy. The movie begins with Farley’s character decked out in blue and gold, ready to graduate from Marquette after a seven-year term.
Milwaukee, historically, hasn’t been on screen for happy reasons like graduating college. Many a film have been made about the infamous Milwaukee serial killer, like this version starring a young (and very creepy) Jeremy Renner.
Milwaukee 53206 (2016)
Equally unsettling, though for different reasons, is this documentary about the United States’ most incarcerated zip code, our very own 53206. The film tackles the issue of mass incarceration and is an absolute must for all Milwaukeeans and, really, all Americans.
Major League (1989)
Back when Milwaukee County Stadium was still around and home to the Brewers and sometimes the Green Bay Packers, it was the stadium of the “Cleveland Indians,” a fictional baseball team. Why the whole film wasn’t set in Milwaukee remains a mystery.
Mr. 3000 (2003)
Unlike Major League, Bernie Mac’s Mr. 3000 made the right choice and was set in Milwaukee. Mac’s character is a retired Brewers player and scenes were shot in the then-partially-constructed Miller Park.