The 1980 film The Blues Brothers opens with aerial shots of heavy industry and pollution, almost a dystopia, before fading to the Joliet Correction Center, showing the release of Jake.

Why does the film open with these shots?

What are these shots meant to establish? Given that some other scenes — such as Elwood quitting his job — were cut, these opening shots must've been important.

Has John Landis or anyone else involved in the production of the film ever explained it?

2 Answers 2


Aykroyd wrote the original 'script' (if you can call 324 pages a script). It took Landis two weeks to edit it down into a screenplay. Exactly whose idea this scene was I don't know, but as an aging resident of Chicago I can tell you (it puts my blue-collar-self right at home every time), that's what 1980s south side Chicago looked like.

The rest of the scenes were filmed on a set, in the far north suburbs, or downtown... because in 1980, you didn't want to be in south side Chicago. The entire movie (Maxwell Street, anyone?) is a shout-out to its greatest character :

"Chicago is one of the stars of the movie. We wrote it as a tribute," Dan Aykroyd told the Chicago Sun-Times in an article written to mark the film's 25th-anniversary DVD release.


Don't forget these people were all Second City before they were on SNL. This is their sweet home away from home: Chicago.


Blues Brothers is, in large part a tribute to the American Soul and Blues music of the 60s and 70s, including Motown (strictly a specific record label but strongly associated with a whole style of music) , which is itself a term derived from 'Motor Town' ie Detriot where much of the US motor industry was located.

This music scene had strong roots with the working class in industrial areas and was indeed built on roots of musical styles which evolved in agricultural laborours.

With this in mind the opening shot is probably a deliberate bit of scene setting in that the major theme of the movie is based in the industrial working class.

  • Seems plausible, but I'm looking for comments on the matter by someone actually involved in production of the film.
    – SQB
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 16:32

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