Today marks yet another strange Milwaukee Day – a day for gathering as a city during a time when the concept of gathering is still a question mark for many. But while we're still cautiously tip-toing toward normal, there's another way to explore and pay tribute to our great city: the movies.
Milwaukee has unfortunately never been much of a Hollywood destination, but when it is, Brew City's made quite the big-screen impression in its rare cameo appearances. And while we're still responsibly social distancing and precautions are still in place, it's one of the few ways to see our city in all its (normally mis-attributed, probably called another city) bustling glory.
Here are seven movies you can stream where Milwaukee wasn't the star, but it was in our hearts.
"The Blues Brothers"
Available to stream on: Peacock
Chicago gets most of the shine from this '80s comedy classic about two brothers on a mission from God to save their childhood orphanage from foreclosure, battling seemingly the entire city in the process. But Milwaukee gets to play the perfect backdrop to one of the movie's more iconic moments: the freeway chase that ends up launching the Neo-Nazis off the then-incomplete 794 freeway spur to their much-deserved demise. It's a bit part, but the Brew City backdrop – oh hi, the current U.S. Bank building – looks great, and the movie as a whole is a joyful, chaotic time. Plus, while we're still mostly staying inside, what better way to get some air than this iconic airborne scene?
Available to stream on: Peacock
After the year we've had, we all need a laugh – and this Oscar-nominated modern comedy favorite even wraps those big laughs in some Brew City flavor. Sure, we're portrayed as Chicago's little brother, complete with seemingly a backroad to get to and fro, but at least the movie got some legitimate Milwaukee landmarks into the film – from the Milwaukee Public Market to the Art Museum and even a few Bay View locales popping up in the B-roll. And, most importantly, the movie is really funny, featuring an impossible number of star-making turns – most notably Melissa McCarthy, who, if you remember, actually got nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role here. We can put up with some mild Milwaukee slander as long as we laugh along the way – and also if you give us a Chris O'Dowd as a handsome and kind state patrol officer with an Irish brogue.
"Give Me Liberty"
Available to stream on: Prime Video and Mubi
"Give Me Liberty" easily ranks as one of the smallest movies on this list – but thanks to national critical acclaim and multiple nominations (and a win!) at last year's Independent Spirit Awards, writer-director Kirill Mikhanovsky's film left quite a big impact. The indie drama also has big love for Milwaukee, using the streets and neighborhoods as the lived-in backdrop for its Milwaukee medical transport driver's particularly crazy day on the job, zipping across the town and providing audiences a true glimpse into life in a truly unique American city with all its beauty and bruises. It's a 4-1-four-star way to celebrate this Brew City day.
Available to stream on: FuboTV, Starz, DirecTV and Starz with Amazon
In case watching the Brewers beat up the Cubs wasn't satisfying enough, you can follow that up by watching one of the best baseball movies ever made – and we're not just saying that because they filmed right here at Milwaukee's own County Stadium and a few other locations around town. This '80s sports comedy has fun performances – mainly from, of course, Brewers icon Bob Uecker – timelessly funny and quotable jokes, and solidly tense action on the diamond. It's a sports movie so good, we'll even allow that they used Milwaukee's stadium to house a Cleveland sports team – unlike our next movie ...
Available to stream on: The Roku Channel and Hoopla
Sure, "Mr. 3000" isn't a great movie. The jokes are mild, the baseball action is middling and you can probably predict just about every character and plot beat after about five minutes. But you know what? I've missed American Family Field (then Miller Park), and I sure as hell missed watching people play baseball at American Family Field. And while the game's back in Brew City now, after a long time away, I demand more – and "Mr. 3000," filmed at the then-brand new stadium – offers me that. And while the movie is by no means a hall-of-famer, it stars one: the late, great comedian Bernie Mac, who can turn even the limpest punchlines into fastballs with his sharp, wildcard delivery. If you need a laugh, a little bonus baseball action and a step back inside our home ballpark, "Mr. 3000" worth a swing.
Available to stream on: Amazon Prime, Vudu Free (with ads) and Tubi (with ads)
This 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival closing night selection stars Sean Astin ("Rudy," "Lord of the Rings") and Chris Mulkey ("Captain Phillips") as two strangers trapped alone on a small boat miles upon miles in the middle of the unpredictable Lake Michigan waters. Talk about taking social distancing seriously. The independent film also took filming in Milwaukee seriously, thanks to screenwriter and co-producer Jeff Gendelman, who grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan and worked hard to bring the production back to his hometown.
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
Available to stream on: FuboTV, FX NOW and DirecTV
We know the Milwaukee Art Museum is a gorgeous and one-of-a-kind artistic achievement all on its own – and who would've expected the only person to realize it, and take advantage of it, would be bombastic braindead blockbuster director Michael Bay? "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," like the rest of these Hasbro-inspired explosion fests, is an aggressively stupid movie, but if you've got a big screen and a good sound system, it'll help reminder you of the big-screen spectacle you've been missing – AND you'll get to see our gorgeous Art Museum get a deserving shot in the spotlight. Plus, it doesn't even get destroyed by a robot! That's rare in one of these movies!
Bonus Brew City on the big screen
The following movies weren't actually filmed in Milwaukee, but they do heavily reference the city – and they're now available to stream.
"BASEketball": After watching the Brewers and Bucks, cheer on the Milwaukee Beers in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's 1998 cult comedy about a start-up sports league of screwups. And as you might be able to predict from Milwaukee's prominent placement, it was directed by Brew City native David Zucker. Available to stream on Peacock
"Michael Clayton": There's not much action in this star-studded Oscar-nominated legal drama, but one of the key moments – a massive mental breakdown in a deposition room – takes place in Milwaukee. Or "Milwaukee" since the movie filmed in New York and Iowa. Available to stream on HBO Max and Tubi (with ads)
"Wayne's World": Have a good time learning about "The Good Land" with this iconic '80s comedy starring Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and an essential Alice Cooper cameo. Available to stream on Tubi (with ads)
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.