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The 10 Best Movies Set in Philadelphia

It's the City of Brotherly Love and (kind of) the place I call home — Philadelphia.

I should clarify. Ask anyone from the general mid-Atlantic area of the United States, and there's about an 80 percent chance they'll say they are from "right outside Philadelphia." So yes, I'm from right outside Philadelphia, even though it's about an hour drive (if the Eagles aren't in town). 

Still, with Silver Linings Playbook upon us, a movie that takes place in and has a lot to do with Philly, it only seemed appropriate that I take a look at the cinematic history of a city that really is a like a second hometown to me. After all, Robert De Niro's Eagles-obsessed grouch is me in 40 years ...

So without further ado, the 10 best Philadelphia films. Grab a Pat's cheesesteak (not Geno's, unless you're crazy) and enjoy. 


This one was a little predictable, but it's as worthy as any other film on this list. Tom Hanks won his first of two consecutive Oscars for playing Andrew Beckett, an AIDS-afflicted lawyer who's fired from his job and sues for discrimination. Denzel Washington plays his lawyer, while Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen sing you to tears.

Twelve Monkeys

One of the Philadelphias in Terry Gilliam's sci-fi classic is one you won't recognize at all. That's because it's underground. In the future, 99 percent of the human race has been wiped out by a disease. Bruce Willis is sent back in time to find the source of it and prevent our near extermination. No word if he swung by the Liberty Bell while in town.

The Philadelphia Story

Another fairly obvious choice, but this is quite an old film, which means there's a chance you haven't heard of it. Please stop what you're doing now, watch it, and come back to read the rest of this after those two blissful hours with Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and James Stewart end.

The Sixth Sense

M. Night used to be Philly's golden child, but everyone who follows sports knows how quickly the city turns on its own during hard times. Word is the guy didn't set foot on the streets of Philly for weeks after The Happening came out. OK, that isn't true, but he damn sure shouldn't have; that film was a disaster. The Sixth Sense, as you probably know, is infinitely better. 

Blow Out

Brian DePalma is another Philadelphian filmmaker with an up-and-down resume, but it was up, up, UP following this insanely good 1981 conspiracy thriller starring John Travolta.


OK, maybe this 2006 football flick isn't a "great" film, but Vince Papale is quintessential Philly, and the Eagles aren't likely to ever feature so prominently in major studio picture again, unless Universal options that family comedy I pitched them about Andy Reid adopting a pet walrus who happens to be named Andy Reid. But they probably won't, so you'll have to take my word for it when I tell you it's good stuff.

Trading Places

Speaking of Trading Places, this film came right in the middle of Eddie Murphy's run as king of Hollywood, and thus, it often gets overlooked. Maybe it's not as good as a Beverly Hills Cop, but it's still a damn funny flick.

National Treasure

Though it's as ludicrous as any film from the last 10 years, National Treasure is, I think, a guilty pleasure for a lot of people — yours truly included. It doesn't take place entirely in Philly, but there's a key sequence at Independence Hall that's a great reminder of Philadelphia's importance in our national history. 


Another film that's not exclusively Philly, this one at least stays in the general area. Lancaster, Pa.—in case you're not a Breaking Amish fan — has pretty sizable Mennonite and Amish populations, and in Peter Weir's 1985 film, one of these individuals witnesses a murder on the streets of Philly. What ensues (Harrison Ford steps in as a grizzled law enforcement officer to protect her) sounds silly, but this is an underrated film and, surprisingly, a Best Picture/Best Director/Best Actor nominee.


And you probably thought I forgot old Sly and his total knockout of a boxing movie. No film on this list or any other future incarnation of this list could ever ignore Rocky and its unequivocal "Philadelphia-ness." Of course, you know the scene of Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You might also know that there's know a statue of Stallone as Rocky that sits beside those steps. What you probably don't know is that a Philadelphia official declared at the unveiling of the statue that Stallone — specifically, as Rocky — had done more for the city's image than anyone since Ben Franklin. The truly crazy thing? It's tough to disagree.


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