Northwestern on the big screen: Seven movies featuring Northwestern and Evanston


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Northwestern and Evanston have been featured in many movies throughout the years.

Anita Li, Reporter

This article contains spoilers.

If you’re looking for a way to relax this summer while still “preparing for college,” or just trying to soak up everything related to Northwestern, these are some movies — I mean, learning modules — related to the University and its surrounding area.

“Mean Girls” (2004)

Maybe your high school says it’s based off of “Mean Girls,” but we’re the only ones actually mentioned in the movie. That’s right: Evanston is explicitly mentioned five minutes into the film. Main character Cady Heron’s (Lindsay Lohan) parents (Ana Gasteyer and Neil Flynn) are NU alumni and her eventual boyfriend Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett) also becomes a Wildcat at the end of the movie. Some even say the movie’s fictional North Shore High School was inspired by New Trier High School, about 4 miles away from the University. We might not have Spring Fling king and queen, but you can run to be crowned Homecoming Wildcat in senior year. But in typical “Mean Girls” fashion, there’s some drama: NU says the filmmakers never asked for or received permission to include the University’s name in the movie. 

“The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

This one’s especially for all y’all Medill kids. Protagonist Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) went to NU and was editor in chief of The Daily. So if any of you are trying to be the next Anna Wintour or, more precisely, the next assistant to Anna Wintour, you’re on the right track. 

“The DUFF” (2015)

This movie is about high school senior Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman), who discovers she’s known as the DUFF, or “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” Not only does the movie end with a nice pep talk about self-worth, but Bianca Piper also gets into NU. 

“The Intern” (2015)

You won’t be able to put this movie on your LinkedIn, but the main character, Ben Whittaker, (Robert De Niro) is an NU alum. This Wildcat decides to return from retirement and become a personal assistant to the CEO (Anne Hathaway) of an online shopping website. Yup, there’s some parallels to “The Devil Wears Prada.”

“Sixteen Candles” (1984)

A “sweet 16” story with twists and turns, “Sixteen Candles” is a classic, but also notorious for its insensitivity written off as “comedy.” The movie is set in the Chicago suburbs and was partially filmed in Evanston. The house used as main character Samantha Baker’s (Molly Ringwald) home is located fewer than 3 miles from The Arch.

“Princess Cyd” (2017)

This indie movie actually has a scene filmed in Norris University Center. It’s a queer coming–of-age movie about Cyd Loughlin (Jessie Pinnick), a teenager spending the summer in Chicago with her aunt (Rebecca Spence).

Year One (TBD)

This indie film bleeds purple through and through. Not only was it filmed in University buildings like Deering Library and Kresge Hall, it’s about Ruby’s (Elizabeth Yu) first year at NU and features University alumni in front of and behind the camera. The movie hasn’t been released yet, so audiences will have to wait to see this one.

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