ROCKFORD — With the 94th Academy Awards ceremony being celebrated on Sunday, what better time to reflect on the Forest City's ties to major motion pictures.
From an Oscar-winning documentary to an action-packed franchise, Rockford’s fingerprints are on several notable and popular films.
Here's an inside look at some of them.
“Minding the Gap” (2018)
Not only was “Minding the Gap” directed by Bing Liu, who grew up in Rockford and attended Rock Valley College, it was almost entirely filmed in the Forest City. The documentary won a Peabody Award, among others, and follows three Rockford friends who form a bond through their love of skateboarding.
“Groundhog Day" (1993)
This now-classic movie starring Bill Murray, Andy McDowell, and Chris Elliott was primarily filmed in Woodstock. But the climactic scene where Phil Connors (Murray) and Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog) are in a police chase that ends when their pickup truck sails into a gravel pit and bursts into flames was shot at Nimtz Quarry in Loves Park.
“A League of Their Own” (1992)
Although the story of the Hinson sisters and their inebriated coach is fictional, there’s nothing made up about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and the Rockford Peaches. The film has kept the AAPBL in the professional baseball conversation and Rockfordians in Peaches gear for the past 30 years. It also sparked the renovation of Beyer Stadium and plans to build the International Women's Baseball Center in Rockford.
Nominated for four Academy Awards, “Philomena” is the true story of Philomena Lee, an Irishwoman who embarks on a nearly 50-year journey to find her son, Michael Hess, a 1970 Boylan High School graduate. Lee gave birth to Hess in 1951 in Ireland and was forced to give him up for adoption. From Ireland, Hess made his way to St. Louis before landing in Rockford with his adopted parents.
Co-directed by T. J. Martin and Rockford native Daniel Lindsay, “Undefeated” follows a Tennessee high school football team that, after years of losing, overcomes an array of socio-economic challenges to emerge as a top program in the state. The documentary’s score was composed by Canadian guitarist Michael Brook and Rockford musicians Miles Nielsen and Daniel McMahon. “Undefeated” won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
“A Thousand Acres” (1997)
Filmed almost entirely near Rochelle, “A Thousand Acres”, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Academy-Award winners Jessica Lange and Jason Robards, contains an Easter egg that may interest Rockford movie buffs. Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the film is the story of a Midwestern farming family with a dark secret. Coming to terms with her past, Ginny Cook Smith (Jessica Lange), leaves the farm for a new life. Where she ends up, according to a few seconds of B-roll, is downtown Rockford.
“Come Out Fighting” (2022)
Currently in post-production, “Come Out Fighting” was almost entirely shot at Rockford’s Midway Village Museum last year. The World War II movie set in 1944 stars Kellan Lutz and Michael Jai White and was filmed between late June and July 11. Some of the movie’s extras were participants in Midway’s annual World War II Days. The film is due out later this year.
“The Blacklight” (2022)
Not to be confused with “Blacklight”, starring Liam Neeson, “The Blacklight” was produced by Byron native Don Hatton and his cousin, Nick Snow. It’s a supernatural thriller partially shot in Rockford. The film premieres Friday, March 25, at AMC Showplace 16 in Rockford.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” Franchise
Indiana Jones, played by Academy Award nominee Harrison Ford, has been captivating movie audiences around world since the release of 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and three successive films. The franchise’s untitled fifth project is scheduled for a 2023 release. But what does that have to do with Rockford?
George Lucas always wanted to make a movie about an adventurer archeologist as he had an appreciation for the field. Also drawing from his fascination with the story of the Ark of the Covenant, Lucas teamed with Steven Spielberg and looked to famous archeologists to put the pieces of the story together. Legend has it that one of those archeologists was James Henry Breasted, a Rockford native who became a University of Chicago professor and one of the world’s leading Egyptologists. Breasted died in 1938 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
Did we miss any movies with Rockford ties? If so, let us know.
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: These 9 big movies all have Rockford ties. What ones have you seen?