Detroit, with its riveting blend of cultural diversity, the soul-stirring rhythm of Motown, and a history deeply intertwined with the rise of the automobile industry, offers an enticing palette for filmmakers across the globe. Thus a variety of extraordinary movies set in Detroit…
Detroit, with its riveting blend of cultural diversity, the soul-stirring rhythm of Motown, and a history deeply intertwined with the rise of the automobile industry, offers an enticing palette for filmmakers across the globe. This vibrant city, renowned for its eclectic contributions to the world of art, architecture, and design, serves as an intriguing setting for a multitude of captivating movies.
Known for its storied past and distinctive urban landscape, Detroit has etched its mark as an evocative backdrop for innumerable films. From poignant dramas that tug at your heartstrings, to adrenaline-infused thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat, the city’s unique charm has spellbound audiences while providing filmmakers a visually arresting milieu to weave their tales.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into a curated selection of the finest movies set in Detroit, journeying through a vibrant array of genres and styles that have brilliantly exploited the city’s iconic landmarks and rich local culture to craft unforgettable cinematic narratives.
Prepare yourself for a thrilling cinematic tour that showcases Motor City’s most iconic moments on the silver screen! These films set in Detroit draw heavily on their milieu as much as their lead characters, offering viewers a unique, directorial perspective of this renowned city. From the performances of Detroit natives like Tom Selleck and Diana Ross to directors like Francis Ford Coppola who have been inspired by the city’s spirit, these films capture the essence of Detroit.
In keeping with the tradition of cinematic travel, we’ve also compiled lists of our favorite films shot in some of our most adored travel destinations: Latin America, Hollywood, Hong Kong, Ukraine, and Australia. This cinematic journey promises to provide a fascinating glimpse into these cities, inspiring you to pack your bags and experience their unique cultures firsthand.
Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.
You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.
Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best.
While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.
The Irishman (2019)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Irishman is a cinematic masterpiece delving into organized crime’s dark and intriguing world. Scorsese, a legendary director known for his iconic films such as Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and The Departed, brings his signature style and storytelling prowess to this film, making it a must-watch for any film lover.
The film boasts an all-star cast, including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, who deliver outstanding, captivating, and haunting performances. De Niro plays the lead role of Frank Sheeran, a truck driver turned hitman, while Pacino portrays the notorious union leader, Jimmy Hoffa. Pesci gives a standout performance as Russell Bufalino, a mob boss with a commanding presence.
The plot of The Irishman follows Frank Sheeran’s life as he becomes embroiled in the inner workings of the Italian mafia, and his relationship with Hoffa, which ultimately leads to Hoffa’s disappearance. The film masterfully weaves together different timelines, spanning several decades, to tell a gripping tale of loyalty, betrayal, and the consequences of a life of crime.
The movie offers an introspective approach to the gangster genre. Scorsese explores the toll that a life of violence and crime takes on an individual, delving deep into the psyche of the characters and their moral dilemmas. The film also provides a unique perspective on Detroit, depicting the city as a battleground for organized crime in the mid-20th century.
The Irishman is a cinematic gem showcasing a legendary director’s talents and an incredible cast. Its engaging plot, powerful performances, and unique perspective on Detroit make it a must-watch for any fan of crime dramas or Scorsese’s work.
I, Tonya is a captivating biographical dark comedy-drama film directed by Craig Gillespie, known for his diverse body of work in the film industry. Gillespie has previously directed films like Lars and the Real Girl and The Finest Hours, showcasing his versatility as a director.
The film stars Margot Robbie as the titular character, Tonya Harding, who was a renowned figure skater in the 1990s. Robbie’s portrayal of Harding is exceptional, as she captures the controversial figure’s vulnerability and resilience. Supporting actors include Allison Janney, who delivers an outstanding performance as Tonya’s abusive mother, LaVona Golden, and Sebastian Stan, who plays Tonya’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, with depth and complexity.
The film delves into Tonya Harding’s tumultuous life, exploring her rise to fame as a figure skater, her troubled relationships, and the infamous incident involving her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. The plot is presented in a mockumentary style, using multiple perspectives and unreliable narrators, which adds an intriguing layer to the storytelling. The film masterfully balances humor and drama, creating a unique tone that keeps the audience engaged from start to finish.
The film showcases the harsh realities of Tonya’s upbringing in Detroit, including her socioeconomic struggles and the impact of her surroundings on her life choices. Detroit serves as a backdrop that reflects the socio-cultural context of Tonya’s story, adding depth and authenticity to the film.
I, Tonya is a must-watch film for its exceptional performances, compelling storytelling, and unique style. It is easily one of the best movies set in Detroit. It offers a fresh take on a well-known story, challenging preconceived notions and shedding light on the complexities of Tonya Harding’s life. With its powerful performances, engaging plot, and thought-provoking themes, I, Tonya is a must-see for fans of biographical dramas and anyone who appreciates a well-crafted film.
Directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows is a chilling and captivating horror film that is sure to leave audiences on the edge of their seats. Mitchell, known for his unique visual style and storytelling techniques, brings a fresh perspective to the horror genre in this critically acclaimed film.
The plot centers around Jay, a young woman who becomes the target of a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter. She soon discovers that the entity, which takes on different forms, will relentlessly follow her until it catches and kills her. Desperate to escape, Jay enlists the help of her friends to find a way to break the curse and survive the haunting.
It Follows offers a unique blend of psychological horror and coming-of-age themes. Mitchell skillfully uses horror elements to create a sense of dread and tension throughout the film, while also exploring the anxieties and vulnerabilities of adolescence and young adulthood. The film subverts traditional horror tropes and expectations. It avoids jump scares and gore, instead relying on a constant sense of impending doom and a creeping sense of unease that lingers long after the credits roll.
Furthermore, the film’s representation of Detroit is noteworthy. The city serves as a character in itself, with its abandoned buildings, decaying landscapes, and desolate streets adding to the film’s overall atmosphere. The use of Detroit as a backdrop adds a unique aesthetic to the film and provides social commentary on the decline of urban America.
It Follows is a standout horror film that offers a fresh take on the genre. With its captivating storytelling, strong performances, unique visuals, and social commentary, it is a must-watch for horror enthusiasts and those looking for a thought-provoking and immersive cinematic experience.
Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch, is a mesmerizing and unconventional vampire film that is a true work of art. Known for his distinctive and offbeat style, Jarmusch has built a reputation as one of his generation’s most influential independent filmmakers. Only Lovers Left Alive is a testament to his unique vision and storytelling prowess.
The film features a star-studded cast, with Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as the lead characters, Adam and Eve, respectively. Both actors deliver outstanding performances, fully immersing themselves in their roles as ancient vampires who have been living for centuries. The chemistry between Hiddleston and Swinton is palpable, and their portrayal of immortal, sophisticated, and world-weary characters is captivating.
The plot of Only Lovers Left Alive revolves around Adam and Eve’s eternal love story and their struggle to find meaning and purpose in an ever-changing modern world. Jarmusch masterfully weaves together themes of art, science, history, and existentialism, creating a thought-provoking and introspective narrative that challenges traditional vampire lore.
One of the film’s unique elements is its portrayal of Detroit as a decaying, post-industrial city. Jarmusch uses the city’s abandoned buildings and desolate landscapes to create a hauntingly beautiful backdrop for the story. Detroit serves as a metaphor for the protagonists’ own sense of decay and disillusionment and a reflection of the transience of human existence.
Only Lovers Left Alive is a visually captivating, intellectually stimulating, and thought-provoking film that pushes the boundaries of the vampire genre. Jarmusch’s unique direction, coupled with outstanding performances by Hiddleston and Swinton, make this film a must-watch for those who appreciate unconventional storytelling and visual artistry. Highly recommended for cinephiles and fans of Jarmusch’s work, as well as anyone looking for a fresh take on the vampire genre.
Gran Torino is a powerful drama film directed by Clint Eastwood, who is known for his impressive career as an actor, director, and producer. Eastwood has been a prominent figure in the film industry for decades, and his directing style is characterized by his gritty and realistic approach to storytelling. In Gran Torino, Eastwood not only directs but also stars in the film, showcasing his exceptional acting skills.
The film follows the story of Walt Kowalski, a grizzled Korean War veteran and retired auto worker living in Detroit, brilliantly portrayed by Eastwood. Kowalski is a no-nonsense, prejudiced man who becomes an unlikely hero when he confronts a Hmong gang that tries to steal his prized possession, a 1972 Gran Torino. As Kowalski forms an unlikely friendship with his Hmong neighbors, especially a young boy named Thao, he begins to question his deeply ingrained prejudices and learns the true meaning of redemption.
One of the strengths of Gran Torino is its raw and unflinching portrayal of the racial tensions and cultural clashes in Detroit, a city known for its history of racial segregation and social struggles. The film sheds light on the challenges the Hmong community faces in Detroit and explores themes of racism, family, and forgiveness with thought-provoking authenticity. Eastwood’s performance as Kowalski is captivating, and the supporting cast, including Bee Vang as Thao, delivers outstanding performances as well.
Gran Torino is a must-watch film showcasing Clint Eastwood’s director and actor prowess. Its powerful story, authentic portrayal of Detroit, and exceptional performances make it a standout film in Eastwood’s illustrious career. Highly recommended for those who appreciate thought-provoking dramas that tackle relevant social issues with depth and sincerity.
Directed by Kent Alterman, Semi-Pro is a comedy sports film that brings together a star-studded cast including Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin, and Maura Tierney. Alterman, known for his background in television production, makes his directorial debut with this film, bringing his unique comedic sensibilities to the big screen.
Set in the 1970s, Semi-Pro follows the story of Jackie Moon (played by Ferrell), a struggling owner/player/coach of the fictional ABA basketball team, the Flint Tropics. With the ABA on the brink of merging with the NBA, Jackie must find a way to save his team from folding.
Semi-Pro’s over-the-top humor and Ferrell’s impeccable comedic timing set it apart. The film is filled with slapstick gags, absurd situations, and Ferrell’s signature improvisation, which keeps the audience laughing. The chemistry between the cast members is also a highlight, with Harrelson and Ferrell bouncing off each other’s energy hilariously.
In addition to its comedic elements, Semi-Pro also pays homage to the city of Detroit, where the film is set. The film captures the gritty and colorful vibe of 1970s Detroit, from its rundown arenas to its rough-and-tumble basketball culture. The film also incorporates the city’s musical heritage, with a groovy soundtrack featuring funk and soul tunes that enhance the overall nostalgic feel of the film.
Semi-Pro is a hilarious and entertaining film that showcases Ferrell’s comedic talents and delivers a fun-filled viewing experience. While not a critical success, the film’s outrageous humor and unique setting make it stand out in the sports comedy genre. Fans of Ferrell’s previous work and those who appreciate offbeat comedies with a retro vibe will likely enjoy Semi-Pro. Recommended for a lighthearted laugh!
8 Mile is a gripping and raw drama film directed by Curtis Hanson, known for his remarkable work in L.A. Confidential and Wonder Boys. Released in 2002, the film stars the iconic rapper Eminem in his acting debut, delivering a powerful performance as the lead character, Jimmy Smith Jr., also known as Rabbit. The film also features a talented cast, including Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer, and Kim Basinger.
The film is set in Detroit, Michigan, and follows Rabbit, a young man from a working-class background who aspires to be a rapper. Rabbit faces numerous challenges, including poverty, racism, and personal setbacks, as he struggles to make a name for himself in the fiercely competitive hip-hop scene. The film’s plot revolves around Rabbit’s journey as he battles his inner demons, confronts his insecurities, and overcomes the obstacles in his path to pursue his passion for music.
What sets 8 Mile apart is its authenticity and grittiness. The film portrays the harsh realities of life in Detroit, capturing the city’s socio-economic struggles and the resilience of its inhabitants. The depiction of the hip-hop culture and the rap battles that Rabbit engages in are intense and electrifying, showcasing Eminem’s rap skills and the film’s dynamic soundtrack. The screenplay, penned by Scott Silver, is poignant and thought-provoking, delving into identity, class, and self-expression themes.
8 Mile is a captivating and gritty film that delves into the harsh realities of life in Detroit and the challenges of pursuing one’s dreams in a cutthroat industry. With its powerful performances, authentic portrayal of hip-hop culture and thought-provoking themes, 8 Mile is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates compelling dramas. I highly recommend this film for its raw and authentic depiction of Detroit’s rap scene and Eminem’s standout performance.
Detroit Rock City is a cult classic comedy film released in 1999, directed by Adam Rifkin, known for his work in the comedy genre. Rifkin has a unique style of blending humor with pop culture references, and Detroit Rock City is a perfect example of his directorial skills.
The film stars Edward Furlong, Sam Huntington, Giuseppe Andrews, and James DeBello as the lead characters, four teenagers who are passionate about the rock band KISS. The film is set in the 1970s, during the height of KISS’ popularity, and follows the misadventures of these teenagers as they try to attend a KISS concert in Detroit, facing various obstacles along the way.
The plot of Detroit Rock City is a wild ride filled with hilarious antics, absurd situations, and unforgettable characters. The film captures the spirit of teenage rebellion, the passion for rock music, and the importance of friendship. The actors’ comedic timing is spot-on, and their chemistry on screen is palpable, making for an enjoyable viewing experience.
One of the standout elements of Detroit Rock City is its representation of Detroit. The city serves as a backdrop for the film and is depicted as a gritty, vibrant, and rebellious place that perfectly complements the rock and roll theme of the film. The film also features a killer soundtrack filled with KISS songs, which adds to the overall experience and nostalgia for fans of the band.
Detroit Rock City is a unique and fun film that perfectly captures the spirit of the 1970s rock and roll era. It’s a must-watch for fans of KISS, rock music, or anyone who enjoys raunchy comedies with a rebellious twist.
The Crow is a visually stunning and darkly poetic film directed by Alex Proyas, known for his distinctive visual style and innovative storytelling. Proyas, an Australian director, gained international recognition with this film as it marked a significant breakthrough in his career.
The film stars the talented and late Brandon Lee in his iconic role as Eric Draven, a rock musician who returns from the dead to seek revenge on those who brutally murdered him and his fiancée on Devil’s Night in Detroit. Lee’s performance is haunting and captivating, showcasing his versatility as an actor and adding an eerie layer to the film.
The plot is a perfect blend of action, fantasy, and romance, as Eric Draven navigates through a dark and gothic world to avenge his death. The film’s visually striking cinematography, combined with its atmospheric soundtrack featuring bands like The Cure and Nine Inch Nails, creates a unique and immersive experience for the viewers.
Detroit, known for its gritty and industrial aesthetic, serves as a distinctive backdrop for the film. The city’s abandoned buildings, desolate streets, and a sense of decay add to the film’s overall atmosphere, amplifying the dark and brooding tone.
What makes The Crow truly special is its thematic exploration of love, loss, and redemption. It delves into deeper philosophical questions about life, death, and the power of eternal love, portrayed through Eric Draven’s journey.
The Crow is a visually stunning and emotionally resonant film that has rightfully earned a cult following over the years. Proyas’ direction, Lee’s mesmerizing performance, the film’s unique visual style, and its exploration of deeper themes make it a must-watch for gothic fantasy, action, and romance fans. Highly recommended.
Bird on a Wire is an action-comedy film directed by John Badham, known for his expertise in directing high-energy, adrenaline-pumping films. Badham has a prolific career with several notable films, including Saturday Night Fever and WarGames, showcasing his versatility as a filmmaker.
The film stars the dynamic duo of Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn, who bring their undeniable chemistry to the screen. Gibson plays Rick Jarmin, a former federal witness in a case against a crime lord living under a new identity. Hawn plays Marianne Graves, Rick’s ex-girlfriend and the one who inadvertently blows his cover, setting off a chain of hilarious and thrilling events.
The plot of Bird on a Wire revolves around Rick and Marianne trying to outrun both the criminals who are after Rick and the FBI agents who are trying to protect him. The film is filled with exciting chase sequences, witty banter, and comedic mishaps that keep audiences on the edge of their seats while making them laugh out loud.
One of the film’s highlights is its representation of Detroit, which serves as a backdrop for many of the action-packed scenes. The gritty urban setting of Detroit adds a layer of authenticity to the film, creating a unique atmosphere for the story to unfold.
Bird on a Wire is a must-watch film for action-comedy enthusiasts. With its engaging plot, talented cast, and the directorial prowess of John Badham, it delivers an entertaining cinematic experience. The film’s representation of Detroit adds a distinct flavor to the story, making it a unique entry into the genre. Highly recommended for a thrilling and laughter-filled movie night!
Staying Connected While Travelling
In today's increasingly connected world, staying online while traveling has become essential for a seamless experience. That's where eSIMs come into play, revolutionizing the way we access mobile networks during our global adventures. Say goodbye to hunting down local SIM cards at the airport; eSIMs provide instant activation the moment you land, sparing you the fortune usually spent on international roaming and allowing you to genuinely travel like a local (without getting hopelessly lost!).
With eSIMs, tasks like restaurant recommendations and reservations, up-to-the-minute public transport instructions, checking opening hours, and accessing further information become a breeze. And, of course, sharing your journey on social media is easier than ever. To stay connected wherever you roam, consider using either Airalo or Holafly. Airalo boasts the most extensive range of destinations worldwide, offering smaller data bundles tailored to your needs, while Holafly provides unlimited data packages and fantastic EU data deals.
So why wait? Embrace the future of travel connectivity with eSIMs and make your next journey effortlessly smooth.
Further Things To Consider Before Any Adventure
Now you're all set and prepared to explore our big wide world, why not sort out everything else out all in one go? If necessary for your travel plans make sure you have brought proper travel insurance, protected your privacy by getting a secure VPN, compared all the top hotel booking sites to find just what you're after, reserved an unbeatable rental car price and - of course - booked the best flight deals!
Many budget travelers (including me) indulge in worldwide airport lounge access, so we can experience luxury while still slumming it in economy. Naturally, we would never leave home without a more general travel guide since we couldn’t possibly cover everything here!
Just add an adventurous attitude and plenty of smiles - they go a long way - and that about covers it all! Now go out, find your own path and don't forget to share your best inspiration stories with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram...I'd love to hear from you!