It Follows(2014) and Don't Breathe(2016) are newer horror/suspense thrillers set in Detroit, but there aren't any big names in them. They don't exactly show the best of the city either, like many movies actually set in Detroit, but it's always fun to see places you recognize on the big screen.
Also, Vanishing on 7th Street(2010) is another thriller set in Detroit, starring John Leguizamo and Thandie Newton. They mention a couple Detroit-area places (albeit very awkwardly), but much of it takes place inside so there isn't much to see.
Ok. On to it.
10. Action Jackson - 1988 (Carl Weathers, Vanity, Craig T. Nelson)
Carl Weathers stars as the titular Jericho "Action" Jackson, and is hell-bent on bringing criminal businessman Peter Anthony Dellaplane to justice. The movie is reminiscent of 70's blaxploitation films, and gets downright ridiculous at times. The acting is a bit over the top, but it's not the worst movie you'll see. 80's star Vanity plays the love interest. She's a lounge singer. And a heroine addict. "Now you've pissed me off!"
9. The Crow - 1994 (Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson) IMDb: 7.6/10
Some would say this movie is haunting, knowing that Brandon Lee was actually killed while filming the scene in which his character dies. It's a very dark film, beginning on Devil's Night (or Angel's Night, which we now prefer), revolving around visually stylish mayhem. It's based off a comic, and has a cult following, telling the story of a man seeking to avenge his fiancee's - as well as his own - death. None of the movie is actually filmed in Detroit, however.
8. Assault on Precinct 13 - 2005 (Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo)
Where's Ja?!? Making Fyre Festival-level bad decisions in this remake of the 1976 John Carpenter film of the same name. The movie is set in a Detroit precinct (13th, maybe?) during a snowstorm on New Year's Eve, as officers try to protect/turn over a crime lord (played by Fishburne) from dirty cops who want him dead. There's a lot going on, plus some recognizable DPD buildings.
7. Zebrahead - 1992 (Michael Rappaport, N'Bushe Wright, Kevin Corrigan)
Zebrahead is one of a few movies around this time tackling interracial relationships, with this one coming from the perspective of high-school students. Rappaport plays a young Jewish kid interested in a black girl (Wright) from New York. The film uses this focus to cover many race-related topics. The acting is sometimes laughable, but the messages about interracial dating and urban violence ring loudly. Also, you see Belle Isle! Interestingly enough, MC Serch auditioned for the male lead, which ultimately went to Rappaport.
6. Detroit Rock City - 1999 (Edward Furlong, Sam Huntington, Lin Shaye)
Ok. If you're wondering why this is even on the list, it's because its formula is a favorite of mine. Friends like something (ALOT), thing they like is coming to town, they can go but issues, everything goes to hell, hilarity ensues. It's four kids in a KISS cover band trying their very best to see the real KISS live. The movie is random and features some fun cameos. The title comes from the KISS song, which is a pretty dope song. U of M alum Lin Shaye plays one of the four boys' moms.
5. Blue Collar - 1978 (Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto)
A film that was wholly shot in Detroit and its surrounding cities, the premise revolves around three auto worker friends who hatch a plan to rob a safe at their local union. Things do not go well for them, and new problems arise. The acting is amazing, but there is very little to laugh about in this crime drama. If you're looking to see what Pryor could really in terms of acting, look no further.
4. Four Brothers - 2005 (Mark Wahlberg, Terrance Howard, Chiwetel Ejiofor)
"THAT'S WHAT'S UP!" I can't be the only person who thoroughly enjoyed that line of the movie. Four Brothers has a pretty strong cast and is quite the violent movie. The movie has some very cliché moments but is pretty entertaining, overall. There are gunfights, fistfights, and Tyrese verbally fights with his GF (did you know that's Sofía Vergara?) the whole movie. Also features André 3000, er, Benjamin. Basically, it has everything.
A couple more honorable mentions before we get into the Top 3:
These two were put together because reasons. First, Bird on a Wire (1990) stars Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn and is an action/comedy set in Detroit, with Gibson under witness protection. I haven't seen this one, and can predict I never will.
Gran Torino (2008) is a Clint Eastwood film set in - as well as shot in - Highland Park, a neighborhood of Detroit. Eastwood plays what I assume is himself, old and angry at the world changing around him. It's a well-acted movie, but I found it hard to get behind the premise. Is he racist? Hell if I know.
3. RoboCop - 1987 (Peter Weller, ummm... Kurtwood Smith?)
RoboCop is a classic movie, for sure, but it's safe to say that people aren't watching it for the cast. Set in (but not filmed in) a "future" Detroit, Alex Murphy is a cop selected for the RoboCop program after being slain by gang members. Themes of the movie range from media influence to gentrification, and is quite the commentary on political corruption. It won an Academy Award, too!! Best sound editing is a good one, right? Does the main character deserve a statue? Short answer: No. Long answer: Also, no.
2. Beverly Hills Cop - 1984 (Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton)
Despite most of the movie actually taking place in Beverly Hills, California, it is easily one of the most notable for its ties to Detroit (Mumford High School, too). It features then-DPD inspector Gil Hill as Murphy's boss, Inspector Todd. Beverly Hills Cop is, undoubtedly, the role that shot Eddie Murphy to super-stardom. There isn't much that needs to be said about the success of this movie, but did you know both Mickey Rourke AND Sylvester Stallone were once signed on as Axel Foley? I think we got the best possible result.
1. 8 MIle - 2002 (Eminem, Mekhi Phifer, Anthony Mackie)
This should be no surprise. 8 Mile has become one of the most known roads in the world since the movie's release, and nabbed an Oscar and a couple Grammy awards on the way. Everyone in Michigan saw 8 Mile, probably. It's a classic underdog tale set to hip-hop in the streets of Detroit. Drama. We've also got the late Brittany Murphy and a few cameos from Detroit emcees. The movie is gritty and was loosely based on Eminem's own efforts to become a rapper. One of the best hip-hop movies of all time, according to anyone, and if you haven't seen it are you even really from Detroit?
What do you think? Any movies I missed? Would you rearrange the order? Let's talk about it!
I completely forgot to mention Out of Sight (1998). My mistake! It starred George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, and a few others. It was based off of the Elmore Leonard book of the same name, and takes place throughout Detroit.