The second-most populous city on the East Coast, only behind NYC, Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the US, with its municipality founded way back in 1682. In fact, it was also the country’s largest city until 1790. The city that has clocked many firsts for the nation — from the first hospital, library, and medical school to the first business school, stock exchange, and even the first capital of the nation, — Philadelphia is easily one of the most influential cities to have played its part in the growth of the United States as a country. Well, it comes as no surprise then that over the centuries, the city has evolved in many ways and has developed a unique personality that instantly comes across in all things Philly! And this is something that reflects in its heritage and culture as well as its entertainment industry. So, to bring you some of the greatest movies that are close to the hearts of the people of Philadelphia as they are to moviegoers who associate these movies with the city, here we are with our list of Ten Awesome Movies Straight Out of Philadelphia!
The Rocky Franchise
As one of the greatest boxing legends in entertainment history, and one that tells us the story of the underdog winning the day often, the Rocky franchise is more than just a bunch of movies. It is a story that is told to bring out the best in you no matter what the circumstances, and from the movies themselves to the soundtrack that even today motivates the athletes and sportsmen to give it their best shot, there are so many elements in the franchise that teach you all about never backing down. And of course, there’s the Philadelphia connection! The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the most prominent locations featured in the franchise, and the long flight of steps leading up to the museum’s door has been featured and integrated into the storyline of the movie quite a few times. While quite a few angles of the storylines in many Rocky movies have the city in their midst, one of the most poignant scenes is the statue of Rocky being erected at the museum. While this was a part of a sequence in the movie, what Sylvester Stallone did after the scenes were shot was donate this statue to the City of Philadelphia. Even today, you can find Rocky in his famous pose standing at the foot of the museum, where fans of the movies as well as tourists to the city can be seen thronging to click pictures. And of course, a run up the museum’s steps and the re-enacting of the famous pose of Rocky Balboa is yet another tradition diligently followed by most visitors. Well, if it’s a Philadelphia movie franchise you’re looking for, you just can’t go wrong with the Rocky franchise!
M. Night Shyamalan is a diehard Philadelphia fan and has uninhibitedly and openly confessed on several occasions that he loves filming all his movies in Philadelphia, one of the many reasons why you will find quite a movies of this brilliant director’s on our list! Let’s begin with Glass! In fact, the premise of the movie begins with a particularly disturbing incident at the Philadelphia Zoo, paying homage to the city right away. A highly successful movie, raking in $247 million against the $20 million it took to produce it, the film is a part of a trilogy that the filmmaker took his own sweet time in making, but that has been recognized as a great platform for a brilliant performance from James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb aka The Horde, Glass has several prominent locations and references from Philadelphia that make it an integral part of the city’s entertainment scene. The Allentown State Hospital is one of the locations that city dwellers and even visitors to Philadelphia would be able to recognize immediately.
Law Abiding Citizen
Law Abiding Citizen is a film that has its entire storyline based in the city of Philadelphia, and as a vigilante action thriller, is one of the most acclaimed films of its kind. Starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler in the lead roles, it has Bruce McGill, Colm Meaney, Leslie Bibb, Michael Irby, and Regina Hall lending their support to the cast. The film revolves around the revenge of a husband and father who has to bear the shortcomings of the legal system and see one of his wife’s and daughter’s murderers walk free. A fast-paced film with loads of twists and turns, this one makes for quite the thrilling ride. Of course, the mind games that go on between the two main characters in the film, Nicholas “Nick” Rice and Clyde Alexander Shelton, played by Jamie and Gerard, make for one of the most interesting clashes. As for the other Philadelphia angle, some of the most famous Philadelphia landmarks you will see in the movie include the City Hall, the Holmesburg Prison, and the Laurel Hill Cemetery. Those who have visited the Holmesburg Prison, which is now closed, will notice the Thunderdome command center which is immediately noticeable in the movie.
A film that has actors like Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis playing some of the quirkiest roles of their careers, 12 Monkeys makes for quite the departure from the usual storylines we are accustomed to seeing from the production stables of Hollywood. A commercial and critical success — gaining $168.8 million at the box office against the $29.5 million it took to produce — this one is a bit of a jumble when it comes to the plot but nevertheless makes for quite a visionary piece of work that sets it apart from the usual. On the location and setting front, some of the Philly locations you may notice in the film include the Pennsylvania Convention Center — you may also know this building by its former name Reading Terminal — the Eastern State Penitentiary, and Girard College. Of course, in addition to the filming locations, since most scenes from 12 Monkeys have a Philadelphia connection, it makes for quite the valid addition to our list.
The Sixth Sense
Yet another supernatural psychological thriller from the M. Night Shyamalan banner, The Sixth Sense revolves around the life and apparent afterlife of a child psychologist from Philadelphia who comes home one day to find one of his patients, now. a young man, breaking into his house, firing a gun at him, and then killing himself. Thus begins one of the most thrilling of storylines from one of the most brilliant filmmakers of our times, and soon enough, audiences are so enthralled by all that is happening that it is difficult to tear your eyes away even for a moment. Adequately supported by a brilliant performance from child actor Haley Joel Osmont, the film is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed ones of the late 90s. There are several shots in the film that Philadelphians would immediately recognize as streets and locations they’ve often frequented, including the St. Augustine Church and other streets in the Southwest Center City area. A movie that often comes up in discussions on how psychological thrillers should be made for an intelligent audience, The Sixth Sense turns out to be one that is loved by critics and audiences alike.
The city of Philadelphia is big on sports, and ever since one can remember, has been extremely passionate about its many affiliations with sports of different kinds. And of course, football tops the list for many from the city! And all this makes Invincible a perfect Philadelphia film that has been tailor-made to appeal to audiences from the city as well as from around the world who love a good sports drama. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, and Michael Rispoli as part of the lead cast, the film tells the story of Vince Papale, the underdog who everyone refused to bet against but a few, and who ended up being the driving force behind the Philadelphia Eagles, the football team that represents the city at the NFL, from 1976 to 1978. Football fans will be quick to point out the presence of several well-known football locations in the film, ranging from the Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania and the Delaplaine McDaniel Middle School to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in South Philadelphia and of course, nostalgic sights from the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade. With positive reviews and a good run at the box office that saw it make almost twice the amount it took to produce, Invincible remains a great Philadelphia movie that has loads of reasons to attract sports fans from around the world too.
We told you there would be a lot of M. Night Shyamalan on this last — after all, the famed filmmaker is a self-confessed lover of all things Philadelphia — so here’s another movie from his banner — Unbreakable. The first of the trilogy we mentioned earlier in the list, this movie explores the uncanny superhuman abilities of David Dunn, played by Bruce Willis, a former football player who, after surviving a train accident with no injuries whatsoever, also has the ability to go into the minds of those he touches and witness the crimes they have committed. With Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass playing the perfect addition to a brilliant cast of actors, the film revolves around Elijah’s pursuits to manipulate David into doing what he wants and exploring a side of him he refuses even exists. The film had both Bruce and Samuel hooked from the word go and the duo worked closely with M. Night Shyamalan to add various touches to it with the aim to make the overall premise and every tiny detail more convincing to audiences. With all the filming done in various locations in Philadelphia, Unbreakable is yet another film that has a lot of the city and its people.
In the Shadow of the Moon
Set in the city of Philadelphia, In the Shadow of the Moon is a sci-fi thriller from 2019 that explores the sudden and mysterious deaths of several Philadelphians at once, with nothing more than a few puncture wounds and brain hemorrhages to connect them. And then, years after the unsolved deaths, it all seems to be happening all over again with way too many loopholes in the explanations to make any sense of it at all. And while this is the premise of the movie, the fast-paced action sequences and the mysterious happenings that leave the audiences wondering where all this will take them, are elements that make it even bigger than life. Of course, there’s a lot of Philadelphia in the movie, from the mention of Market Street to other sequences and locations that the people from the city will immediately relate to, and that’s another reason why In the Shadow of the Moon makes it to this list!
Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linings Playbook is a film that made quite a few headlines in 2012, the year of its release, and then long after too, thanks not only to the movie’s success but also due to the brilliant performances by the star cast as well as a storyline that was endearing yet real. A romantic comedy-drama with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Anupam Kher, and Chris Tucker leading the way, the film was especially a good one thanks to the quirky yet heartfelt performances from Jennifer as Tiffany Maxwell, and Bradley, as Patrizio ‘Pat’ Solitano Jr. Based on Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel be the same name, the film revolves around two equally crazed individuals trying to find their own way out of losing their partners, one to death and the other to a divorce that involved cheating. What transpires is a beautiful friendship and love story, no less aided by those around the duo even if it is for their own selfish needs but bringing to fore the spark that these two always seemed to have. With quirky confrontations and a romantic storyline that only befuddles and hooks the audience even more. Silver Linings Playbook, thanks to its Philadelphia Eagles connection and more, does indeed make for a heartfelt addition to this list.
An emotional and heart-wrenching legal drama from 1993 that speaks of a time when the world and its people were particularly up in arms against all things homosexual and where those with HIV and AIDS were frowned upon, ridiculed, and even cast aside, Philadelphia is a touching movie that shows both the ugly and cruel as well as caring and loving sides of human beings. A film that won Tom Hanks the Academy Award for Best Actor and more, the film depicts the legal struggle of a man who was fired from his job only because he was a homosexual and had contracted AIDS. Supported by a cast consisting of the equally talented Denzel Washington, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, Antonio Banderas, Joanne Woodward, and more, the film takes the audience through the motions in a divided courtroom and also shows us the emotional implications of living a life where your very presence is frowned upon by others. The Philadelphia connection of the film, in addition to the setting of the storyline in the city itself, is also portrayed by the appearance of the then Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell playing himself. Philadelphia is one movie that leaves you in thought.
Let’s Wave Philadelphia Goodbye For Now!
In a city with roots deeply entrenched in culture and entertainment, it is no surprise that filmmakers often head to Philadelphia either to shoot at its many film-friendly locations or to set their stories in the city or on its people. From comedies and action movies to psychological thrillers and even sci-fi films, the city has had its share of movies set in it and continues to serve as an inspiration to those in the entertainment industry. So until we bring to you another list from another city, we hope you enjoyed the ones we brought on our list of Ten Awesome Movies Straight Out of Philadelphia!